On the second day of his Apostolic Journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pope Francis celebrates Mass for more than a million people at the “Ndolo” airport in Kinshasa, and urges them to lay down their arms, embrace mercy, and be missionaries of peace.
Lay down your arms, embrace mercy, and be missionaries of peace.
Pope Francis gave this encouragement in his homily at Mass for the nation’s faithful in the capital of Kinshasa on Wednesday, the second day of his Apostolic Visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Addressing the more than one million people gathered at the “Ndolo” airport, the Holy Father’s homily began by expressing his joy to finally be in the DRC and among the Congolese people.
“Esengo, joy: to see and encounter you is a great joy,” he said. “I have very much looked forward to this moment. Thank you for being here!”
The Holy Father recalled the Gospel reading which told of the four simple words Jesus offered to His disciples, on the evening of Easter, “Peace be with you!” These words, the Pope stressed, were “a gift” that enabled them to leave the past behind and start over.
The Pope invited those present to put themselves in the disciples’ place.
“That day they were completely mortified by the scandal of the Cross, interiorly wounded from having fled and abandoned Jesus, dismayed by the way His life had ended and fearful that their lives would end in the same way,” he said. “They were feeling guilty, frustrated, sorrowful and afraid… However, Jesus comes and proclaims peace, even as His disciples’ hearts were downcast.”
Jesus, the Pope said, announces life, even as His disciples felt surrounded by death.
The peace of Jesus, he stated, arrived at the very moment when, suddenly, and to their surprise, “everything seemed to be over for them, without even a glimmer of peace.”
“That is what the Lord does: He surprises us. He takes us by the hand when we are falling. He lifts us up when we are hitting rock bottom.”
With Jesus, the Pope insisted, “evil never wins, evil never has the last word.” Those who belong to Jesus, he continued, “must never yield to sorrow,” nor “permit resignation and fatalism to take hold” of them.
“Even though that atmosphere reigns all around us,” he said, “it must not be so for us.”
“In a world disheartened by violence and war, Christians must be like Jesus,” he added. “As if to insist on the point, Jesus told the disciples once more: Peace be with you!”
The Pope said we are called to make our own “this inspired and prophetic message of peace” and proclaim it before the world.
The Holy Father then encouraged the faithful of DR Congo to ask themselves how to safeguard and cultivate Jesus’ peace, before highlighting three “wellsprings of peace:” forgiveness, community and mission.
Looking at forgiveness, the Pope recalled how Jesus, faced with the sadness and shame of those who had denied him and fled, He shows His wounds and opens up the wellspring of mercy.
He does not “multiply words,” but opens wide his wounded heart, the Pope said.
“Brothers, sisters, when guilt and sadness overwhelm us, when things do not go well,” the Pope reflected, “we know where to look: to the wounds of Jesus, who is ever ready to forgive us with His infinite, wounded love.”
Jesus, the Pope told the country’s faithful, “knows the wounds of your country, your people, your land!”
“They are wounds that ache, continually infected by hatred and violence, while the medicine of justice and the balm of hope never seem to arrive. My brother, my sister, Jesus suffers with you. He sees the wounds you carry within, and he desires to console and heal you,” he said.
Together, the Pope added, “we believe that Jesus always gives us the possibility of being forgiven and starting over, but also the strength to forgive ourselves, others and history!”
“That is what Christ wants,” he said.
“He wants to anoint us with His forgiveness, to give us peace and the courage to forgive others in turn, the courage to grant others a great amnesty of the heart. What great good it does us to cleanse our hearts of anger and remorse, of every trace of resentment and hostility!”
The Pope prayed that today may “be a time of grace for you to accept and experience Jesus’ forgiveness!”
The Pope expressed his wish that those bearing heavy burdens in their heart, to be freed.
“And may it be a good time for all of you in this country who call yourselves Christians but engage in violence,” he said. “The Lord is telling you: ‘Lay down your arms, embrace mercy.'”
The Pope then addressed all the DRC’s wounded and oppressed people, saying that the Lord is urging them to bury their wounds in His.
“Do not be afraid to take the crucifix from your neck and out of your pockets, to take it between your hands and hold it close to your heart, in order to share your wounds with the wounds of Jesus. Then, when you return home, take the crucifix from the wall and embrace it,” he said.
“Give Christ the chance to heal your heart, hand your past over to him, along with all your fears and troubles,” the Pope said.
Pope Francis then turned to the second source of peace: community.
“The Risen Jesus does not speak just to one of his disciples; he appears to them as a group,” he said. “Upon this, the first Christian community, he bestows his peace. There is no Christianity without community, just as there is no peace without fraternity.”
The Pope warned against our tendency, in society, “and even in the Church,” to seek power, a career, our own ambitions.
“We go our own way instead of God’s, and we end up like the disciples: behind locked doors, without hope, and filled with fear and disappointment,” he said. “In spite of this, thanks to the Holy Spirit, we can get past this individualistic tendency which divides us, and find unity.”
While it is easy, he said, to be tempted by worldliness, which corrodes the sense of community, “the Lord shows us the way,” he said.
The third source of peace, the Pope offered, was ‘mission.’
“We are called to be missionaries of peace,” the Pope said, saying this will bring us peace.
“We need to find room in our hearts for everyone; to believe that ethnic, regional, social and religious differences are secondary and not obstacles; that others are our brothers and sisters, members of the same human community; and that the peace brought into the world by Jesus is meant for everyone.”
“We need to believe that we Christians are called to cooperate with everyone, to break the cycle of violence, to dismantle the machinations of hatred. Yes, Christians, sent by Christ, are called by definition to be a conscience of peace in our world.”
The Pope said this cooperation requires not merely critical consciences, “but primarily witnesses of love.”
“‘Peace be with you’ Jesus says today to every family, community, ethnic group, neighbourhood and city in this great country.”
Pope Francis concluded his homily at Mass in DR Congo by praying that our Lord’s words resound in the silence of our hearts.
“Let us hear them addressed to us and let us choose to be witnesses of forgiveness, builders of community, people charged with a mission of peace in our world,” he said.