Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the feast of the Ascension in Genoa Saturday, telling faithful that Jesus never leaves us alone and is constantly praying and interceding for us to the Father.
“Jesus is truly with us and for us: in heaven, he always shows the Father his humanity, our humanity," the Pope said during his May 27 day trip to Genoa.
He noted in the day’s Gospel from Matthew, before he ascends into heaven, tells his disciples, “all power in heaven and on earth has been given to me."
This power and strength “connect heaven and earth," Francis said, explaining that when Jesus ascended into heaven “our human flesh crossed the threshold of heaven: our humanity is there, in God, forever."
A keyword that can be used to describe Jesus’ strength and power, he said, is “intercession," because “Jesus intercedes for us with the Father every day, every moment. In every prayer, in every request of ours for forgiveness, above all in every Mass, Jesus intervenes.
Pope Francis offered Mass to conclude his trip to the Italian diocese of Genoa, which is guided by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, who just finished his term as president of the Italian Bishops Conference, and has been replaced by Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, archbishop of Perugia.
After arriving to the city, Francis immediately had back-to-back meetings with members of the working force in Genoa, with the diocese’s bishops, priests and religious, and with youth, giving off-the-cuff responses to questions asked in each encounter.
He then had lunch with some 100 poor, refugees and prisoners before stopping by the city’s pediatric hospital and making his way to Kennedy Square to offer Mass before heading back to Rome.
In his homily, the Pope said the ability to intercede isn’t just a task Jesus carries out, but is also one that he has entrusted to the entire Church. Each of us has the power to pray for others, he said, asking: “Do I pray? Do we, as a Church, as Christians, exercise this power bringing people and situations to God?"
“The world needs it. We ourselves need it," Francis said, noting that for many people, their days are spent running between work and various commitments. The risk with this, he said, is that “we can get lost, close in on ourselves and become restless about nothing."
In order to avoid this, he said we have to “throw the anchor to God," entrusting to him the burdens, people and situations we deal with on a daily basis.
“This is the strength of prayer, which connects heaven and earth, which allows God to enter into our time," he said, noting that prayer isn’t something we do to find peace or internal harmony for ourselves, but is an active intercession to God.
“It’s not tranquility, it’s charity…It’s to put yourself into play to intercede, insisting assiduously to God for each other," he said, adding that prayerful intercession is “our first responsibility," because it gives us the strength to go forward.
“This is our power: not to prevail or to cry out louder, according to the logic of the world, but to exercise with strength the meekness of prayer, with which wars can be stopped and peace obtained."
A second keyword from the Gospel that shows the nature of Jesus’ strength and power is “announcement," Pope Francis said, pointing to the moment when Jesus invites his disciples to “go forth and make disciples of all nations.
This is “an extreme act of trust in us," the Pope said, noting that Jesus believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. He sends us out despite our shortcomings, knowing that “we will never be perfect and that, if we wait to become better to evangelize, we will never start."
However, one thing that is important to overcome right away is “closure," he said, insisting that “the Gospel cannot be locked up and sealed, because the love of God is dynamic and wants to reach everyone."
“To announce, then, means moving, going out of ourselves," Francis said, adding that with the Lord, “we cannot be quiet, accommodated in your own world or nostalgic for memories of the past; with him it is forbidden to lay down in the securities acquired."
For Jesus, security is moving forward with trust and confidence. Because of this, he prefers “discomfort and constant revivals" to ease and comfort.
“(Jesus) wants us going out, free from the temptations of contenting ourselves when we are doing well and when we have control," the Pope continued.
Pointing to Jesus command to “go," Francis said this going out “into the world" is something the Lord still asks of us today, and which “belongs to the Christian identity."
A Christian is never stationary, but constantly moving with the Lord and with others, Francis said, but cautioned that this doesn’t mean a Christian is a runner that tries to beat others to the finish line.
Instead, a Christian is a pilgrim and a “hopeful marathonist," who is meek, faithful, creative and enterprising, while also being decisive, active, respectful and open, he said.
Pope Francis closed his homily telling faithful to imitate the disciples, and bring the announcement of the Good News to “the streets of the world."
Jesus, he said, “wants the announcement to be carried with his strength: not with the strength of the world, but with the clear and gentle strength of joyful testimony. This is urgent."
He urged faithful to pray for the grace “to not fossilize ourselves" by getting caught up on things that don’t matter, but to work concretely for peace and the common good.
“Let us put ourselves into play with courage, convinced that there is more joy in giving than in receiving," he said, adding that “the Lord is alive and risen, who always intercedes for us, whether in the strength of our going, or the courage our path."
By Elise Harris