Pope to priests: Never separate truth, joy, mercy from the Gospel

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Always preach the whole truth of
the Gospel with humility and respect and never be afraid to offer that truth just
“one sip at a time,” Pope Francis told the world’s priests.

The Gospel is truth, “brimming with joy and mercy.
We should never attempt to separate these three graces of the Gospel: its
truth, which is non-negotiable; its mercy, which is unconditional and offered
to all sinners; and its joy, which is personal and open to everyone,” he
said April 13 during the chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Presiding over the first of two Holy Thursday liturgies,
Pope Francis blessed the oils that will be used in the sacraments of baptism,
confirmation, ordination and the anointing of the sick.

With Holy Thursday commemorating the day Jesus shared his priesthood
with the apostles, Pope Francis led the more than 1,500 priests, bishops and
cardinals in a renewal of their priestly vows and dedicated his homily to the
importance of preaching with a joy that touches people’s hearts.

“The priest makes the message joyful by his whole
being,” he said, and it is in “little things” that this joy is
best shared.

For example, he said, by stepping into today’s “no
man’s lands” to bring God’s mercy to forsaken situations, by picking up
the phone and scheduling a needed meeting, by patiently allowing others “to
take up our time.”

The “good news” of the Gospel is not a thing,
he said, but a mission that brings “delightful and comforting joy” to
the evangelizer.

The truth of the good news can never be an abstract truth
for those who do not let it fully and concretely shape people’s lives just
“because they feel more comfortable seeing it printed in book,” he
said in a homily delivered in Italian.

“The mercy of the good news can never be a false
commiseration, one that leaves sinners in their misery without holding out a
hand to lift them up and help them take a step in the direction of change,”
Pope Francis said.

And the good news “can never be gloomy or
indifferent, for it expresses a joy that is completely personal,” coming
from a father who cannot bear to have even one of “his little ones be lost.”

The Holy Spirit always helps communicate the joys of the
Gospel in many, different ways for every age, every person and every culture.
he said.

These joys “need to be poured into new wineskins,”
so that “the good news is kept fresh — and preserving it is necessary — without
turning sour but being poured out in abundance.”

The pope then offered priests three images of “three
new wineskins” so that the good news may be full and contagious, inclusive
and concrete, meek and truthful.

Like Mary and the stone water jars at the
wedding feast of Cana, be “filled to the brim,” ready and willing to do
God’s will and courageously go out to assist others, the pope said.

Like St. Teresa of Kolkata and the Samaritan woman who
drew water at the well for Jesus, be concrete and help Jesus in his mission, he

Just as Jesus called to the Samaritan woman, “I am
thirsty,” he calls to everyone, and Mother Teresa heard him calling her to
take him to the poor and be his light.

Mother Teresa was concrete with her smile and the tender way
she touched people’s wounds, the pope said. Priests need to be like this —
concrete and tender, he added.

The last image is the “fathomless vessel of the
Lord’s pierced heart, his utter meekness, humility and poverty which draw all
people to himself,” he said.

Priests have to learn from Jesus that “announcing a
great joy to the poor can only be done in a respectful, humble, and even
humbling, way.”

“Evangelization cannot be presumptuous. The integrity
of the truth cannot be rigid,” he said, because the truth was made flesh,
was born a tender baby, and was a man who died on the cross.

The Holy Spirit teaches the whole truth, but “he is
not afraid to do this one sip at a time.”

Let the Spirit tell “us in every situation what we
need to say to our enemies” as he illuminates every small step forward.

“This meekness and integrity gives joy to the poor, revives
sinners, and grants relief to those oppressed by the devil,” the pope

Later in the day, the pope was scheduled to celebrate the
Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper at a prison 45 miles from Rome, housing
men and women who testified as a witness for the state against associates or
accomplices. He was scheduled to wash the feet of 12 inmates.

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Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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