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Pope Francis celebrates Friday morning Mass


(Vatican Radio) The problem is not that we are sinners, but that we do not allow ourselves to be transformed by the encounter with Christ in love: this was the main focus of Pope Francis’ remarks at Mass on Friday morning in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae residence in the Vatican, which was attended by employees of the Vatican Museums. Listen: RealAudioMP3

At the center of the homily was the day's Gospel reading, in which the Risen Jesus thrice asks Peter if Peter loves Him. “It is,” said Pope Francis, “a dialogue of love between the Lord and his disciple,” one that retraces the whole history of Peter’s meetings with Jesus, from Peter’s first calling and invitation to follow the Lord, to his receiving the name of Cephas – the Rock – and with the name, his peculiar mission, “which,” said Pope Francis, “was there, even if Peter understood nothing of it [at the time].” Then, when Peter recognized Jesus as the Christ and went on to reject the way of the Cross, and Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan!” and “Peter accepted this humiliation.” Peter often “believed himself to be a good fellow,” was “fiery” in the Garden of Gethsemane, and “took the sword” to defend Jesus, but then denied him three times – and when Jesus looked on him with that look, “so beautiful [it was],” said the Pope, that Peter weeps. “Jesus in these meetings is maturing Peter’s soul, Peter's heart,” helping Peter to grow in love. So Peter, when he heard Jesus three times ask him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” was ashamed, because he remembered the time when, three times, he said he did not know the Lord:

“Peter was saddened that, for a third time, Jesus asked him, “Do you love me?” This pain, this shame – a great man, this Peter – [and] a sinner, a sinner. The Lord makes him feel that he is a sinner – makes us all feel that we are sinners. The problem is not that we are sinners: the problem is not repenting of sin, not being ashamed of what we have done. That's the problem. And Peter has this shame, this humility, no? The sin, the sin of Peter, is a fact that, with a heart as great as the heart Peter had, brings him to a new encounter with Jesus: to the joy of forgiveness.”

The Lord did not abandon his promise, when said, “You are rock.” In the episode recounted in Friday’s Gospel, we saw Jesus saying, “Feed my sheep,” and the Lord “[gave] over His flock to a sinner.”:

“Peter was a sinner, but not corrupt, eh? Sinners, yes, everyone: corrupt, no. I once knew of a priest, a good parish pastor who worked well. He was appointed bishop, and he was ashamed because he did not feel worthy, he had a spiritual torment. And he went to the confessor. The confessor heard him and said, ‘But do not worry. If after the [mess Peter made of things], they made him Pope, then you go ahead! .’ The point is that this is how the Lord is. That’s the way He is. The Lord makes us mature with many meetings with Him, even with our weaknesses, when we recognize [them], with our sins.”

Pope Francis went on to say that Peter let himself be shaped by his many encounters with Jesus, and that this, he said, “is something we all need to do as well, for we are on the same road.” The Holy Father stressed that Peter is great, not because he is good, but because he has a nobility of heart, which brings him to tears, leads him to this pain, this shame - and also to take up his work of shepherding the flock”:

“Let us ask the Lord, today, that this example of the life of a man who continually meets with the Lord, and whom the Lord purifies, makes more mature through these meetings, might help us to us to move forward, seeking the Lord and meeting Him, allowing us [really] to encounter Him. More than this, it is important that we let ourselves encounter the Lord: He always seeks us, He is always near us. Many times, though, we look the other way because we do not want to talk with the Lord or allow ourselves to encounter the Lord. Meeting the Lord [is important], but more importantly, let us be met by the Lord: this is a grace. This is the grace that Peter teaches us. We ask this grace today. So be it.”