ROME, Vatican, November 27, 2015
In the sports field of the St. Mary School, belonging to the archdiocese of Nairobi and founded in 1939 by the Felician Sisters, the Holy Father met with clergy, men and women religious, and seminarians of Kenya, to whom he addressed an extemporaneous discourse in his native Spanish, including many expressions and idioms typical of his homeland Argentina. An interpreter translated into English, one of Kenya’s official languages.
Francis said that he was struck by the passage in St. Paul’s letter in which he says, “And I am sure of this, that He Who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”, and added, “All of you were chosen by the Lord; He chose each one of us. He began His work on the day He looked at us in Baptism, and then later when He looked at us and said: ‘If you wish, come with me’. So we lined up and began our journey. But it was He Who began the journey, not us. In the Gospel we read about one of the people Jesus healed, who then wanted to follow Him. But Jesus told him, ‘No’. If we want to follow Jesus Christ – in the priesthood and or consecrated life – we have to enter by the door! And the door is Christ! He is the one Who calls, Who begins, Who does the work. Some people want to enter by the window. It doesn’t work that way. So please, if any of you has friends who came in by the window, embrace them and tell them it would be better to leave and go serve God in another way, because a work which Jesus Himself did not begin, by the door, will never be brought to completion”.
“There are people who do not know why God calls them, but they know that He has. Go ahead in peace, God will let you know why He has called you. Others want to follow the Lord for some benefit. We remember the mother of James and John, who said, ‘Lord, I beg you, when you cut the cake, give the biggest slice to my sons. … Let one of them sit at your right and the other at your left’. We can be tempted to follow Jesus for ambition: ambition for money or power. All of us can say, ‘When I first followed Jesus, I was not like that’. But it has happened to other people, and little by little it was sowed in our heart like weeds. In our life as disciples of Jesus there must be no room for personal ambition, for money, for worldly importance. We will follow Jesus to the very last final step of His earthly life, the Cross. He will make sure you rise again, but you have to keep following Him to the end. And I tell you this in all seriousness, because the Church is not a business or an a NGO. The Church is a mystery: the mystery of Jesus Who looks at each of us and says ‘Follow me’”.
“So let this be clear: Jesus is the one Who calls. … He does not ‘canonise’ us. We continue to be the same old sinners. … We are all sinners; starting with me. But Jesus’ tenderness and love keep us going. May He who began a good work in you bring it to completion. … Do you remember any time in the Gospel, when the Apostle James wept? Or when one of the other Apostles wept? Only one wept, the Gospel tells us; he who knew he was a sinner, so great a sinner that he betrayed his Lord. And when he realised this, he wept. Then Jesus made him Pope. Who can understand Jesus? It is a mystery! So never stop weeping. When priests and religious no longer weep, something is wrong. We need to weep for our infidelity, for all the pain in our world, for all those people who are cast aside, the elderly who are abandoned, for children who are killed, for the things we do not understand. We need to weep when people ask us, ‘Why?’. None of us has all the answers to those questions. … There are situations in life for which we can only weep, and look to Jesus on the cross. This is the only answer we have for certain injustices, certain kinds of pain, certain situations in life. … Whenever a consecrated man or woman or a priest forgets Christ crucified, he or she falls into an ugly sin, a sin which disgusts God; it is the sin of being tepid, lukewarm. … What else can I say to you? Never stray from Jesus. In other words, never stop praying. ‘But Father, sometimes it is so tiresome to pray, it wearies us. It makes us fall asleep…’. So sleep before the Lord: that is also a way of praying. But stay there, before Him and pray! Do not stop praying”.
The Holy Father reiterated that “when we let ourselves be chosen by Jesus, it is to serve: to serve the People of God, to serve the poorest, the outcast, living on the fringes of society, to serve children and the elderly. But also to serve people who are unaware of their own pride and sin; to serve Jesus in them. Letting ourselves be chosen by Jesus means letting ourselves be chosen to serve, and not to be served”.
“This is what I wanted to say to you, what I felt when I heard those words of St. Paul, who trusted that the One Who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ’. A cardinal said to me … that when he goes to the cemetery and sees the graves of dedicated missionaries, men and women religious who gave their lives, he wonders, ‘Why don’t we canonise this or that one tomorrow?’, because they spent their lives serving others. … Thank you for your courage in following Jesus, thank you for all the times you realise that you yourselves are sinners, and thank you for all the tender caresses you give to those who need them. Thank you for all those times when you helped so many people die in peace. Thank you for ‘burning’ your lives in hope. Thank you for letting yourselves be helped, corrected and forgiven every day. And as I thank you, I also ask you not to forget to pray for me, as I need your prayers. Many thanks”.
“I must leave now, as there are children suffering from cancer whom I wish to greet and comfort. I thank you, seminarians, whom I have not named but are included in all that I have said. And if any of you do not have the courage to take this path, seek another job, consider marrying and having a family. Thank you”.
Vatican information Service (VIS)