Catechesis of S.S. Francisco

By: S.S. Francisco

El Papa Francisco en la Audiencia General Foto: Daniel Ibáñez / ACI Prensa

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

After so many months we resume our face-to-face encounter and not screen-to-screen. Face to face. This is nice! The current pandemic has highlighted our interdependence: we are all linked, with each other, both in good and evil. Therefore, to get better out of this crisis, we must do it together. Together, not alone, together. Not alone, because you can’t! Either it’s done together or it’s not done. We must do it together, all of us, in solidarity. Today I would like to underline this word: solidarity.

As a human family we have the common origin in God; we live in a common house, the planet-garden, the land on which God has put us; and we have a common destiny in Christ. But when we forget all this, our interdependence becomes dependence on one another—we lose this harmony of interdependence in solidarity—increasing inequality and marginalization; weakens the social fabric and impairs the environment. It’s always the same as acting.

Therefore, the principle of solidarity is now more necessary than ever, as John Paul II has taught (cf. Enc. Sollicitudo rei socialis, 38-40). In an interconnected way, we experience what it means to live in the same “global village”. This expression is beautiful: the great world is nothing but a global village, because everything is interconnected. But we do not always transform this interdependence into solidarity. There is a long way between interdependence and solidarity. Selfishness — individual, national and power groups — and ideological rigidities feed, on the contrary, “structures of sin” (ibid., n. 36).

“The word ‘solidarity’ is a little worn out and is sometimes misinterpreted, but it is much more than some sporadic acts of generosity. That’s more! It involves creating a new mindset that thinks in terms of community, of priority of everyone’s life over the appropriation of goods by some” (Exhortation ap. Evangelii Gaudium, 188). This means solidarity. It is not just a matter of helping others—this is fine to do so, but more so—it is about justice (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1938-1940). Interdependence, in order to be supportive and fruitful, needs strong roots in humanity and in the nature created by God, it needs respect for faces and earth.

The Bible, from the beginning, warns us. Consider the passage from the Tower of Babel (cf. Gen 11:1-9) which describes what happens when we try to reach heaven—our goal—ignoring the link with humanity, creation, and the Creator. It’s a way of speaking: this happens every time you want to go up, up, regardless of the others. I just! Let’s think about the tower. We built towers and skyscrapers, but destroyed the community. We unify buildings and languages, but we mortify cultural wealth. We want to be amos of the Earth, but we ruin biodiversity and ecological balance. I told you at some other audience of those fishermen from San Benedetto del Tronto who came this year and said, “We’ve taken 24 tons of garbage out of the sea, half of which was plastic.” Think! These have the spirit of picking up the fish, yes, but also the garbage and taking it out to clean the sea. But this [pollution] is to ruin the land, not to have solidarity with the land which is a gift and an ecological balance.

I remember a medieval story describing this “Babel syndrome”, which is when there is no solidarity. This medieval story says that, during the construction of the tower, when a man fell—they were slaves—and died no one said anything, at best: “Poor thing, he’s made a mistake and he’s fallen.” However, if a brick fell, everyone lamented. And if anyone was guilty, he was punished! Why? Because a brick was expensive to make, to prepare, to cook. It took time and work to make a brick. A brick was worth more than human life. Each of us thinks about what’s going on today. Unfortunately, something similar can happen today, too. Financial market share falls—we’ve seen it in the papers these days—and the news is in every agency. Thousands of people fall for hunger, misery and no one talks about it.

Diametrically opposed to Babel is Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:1-3), we have heard it at the beginning of the hearing. The Holy Spirit, descending from the high as wind and fire, sees the gated community in the Upper Room, infuses it with the power of God, impels it out, to proclaim jesus the Lord to all. The Spirit creates unity in diversity, creates harmony. In the history of the Tower of Babel there is no harmony; there was that going forward to win. There, man was a mere instrument, mere “force-work”, but here, at Pentecost, each of us is an instrument, but a community instrument that participates with all its being to the building up of the community. St Francis of Assis knew this well, and encouraged by the Spirit he gave to all people, more, to the creatures, the name of brother or sister (cf. LS, 11; cf. Saint Bonaventure, Legenda maior, VIII, 6: FF 1145). Also the werewolf brother, let’s remember.

With Pentecost, God becomes present and inspires the faith of the united community in diversity and solidarity. Diversity and solidarity united in harmony, this is the way. A solidarity diversity possesses the “antibodies” so that the uniqueness of each one — which is a gift, unique and unrepeatable — does not become sick with individualism, selfishness. Solidarity diversity also possesses antibodies to heal social structures and processes that have degenerated into systems of injustice, in systems of oppression (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 192). Solidarity today is therefore the way to travel to a post-pandemic world, towards the healing of our interpersonal and social diseases. There’s no other. Either we move forward with the path of solidarity or things will be worse. I want to repeat it: from a crisis it doesn’t go the same as before. The pandemic is a crisis. From a crisis comes out or better or worse. We have to choose ourselves. And solidarity is precisely a way out of the crisis better, not with superficial changes, with such a coat of paint and everything is fine. Better!

In the midst of the crisis, faith-led solidarity allows us to translate God’s love into our globalized culture, not by building towers or walls—and how many walls are being built today—that divide but then fall, but by weaving community and supporting truly human and solidarity growth processes. And solidarity helps for this. I ask a question: do I think about the needs of others? Everyone who responds in his heart.

In the midst of crises and storms, the Lord challenges us and invites us to awaken and activate this solidarity capable of giving strength, support and a meaning to these hours when everything seems to be wrecking. May the creativity of the Holy Spirit encourage us to generate new forms of family hospitality, fruitful fraternity and universal solidarity.

A Grace.

Then, as he greeted the Spanish-speaking pilgrims, the Pope said:

Dear brothers and sisters:

Today’s pandemic has shown that everyone, as members of the same human family, is connected in good or evil, because we have the same origin, we share the same common house and the same destiny in Christ. This interdependence teaches us that only by being supportive can we succeed, otherwise inequality, selfishness, injustice and marginalization arise.

Solidarity is a matter of justice, a change of mindset that leads us to think in terms of community, of priority of everyone’s life over the appropriation of goods on the part of a few. Our interdependence, in order to be supportive and bear fruit, must be based on respect for our fellowmen and creation.

In order not to repeat the drama of the Tower of Babel, which generated only rupture and destruction at all level, the Lord invites us to settle into the event of Pentecost. It is there that God becomes present with the power of his Holy Spirit, which inspires the faith of the united community in diversity and solidarity, and impels it to heal the structures and social processes sick with injustice and oppression. Solidarity is therefore the only possible path to a post-pandemic world, and the remedy to cure the interpersonal and social diseases that afflict our world today.

I cordially greet the Spanish-speaking faithful. I’ve seen several Spanish flags there, welcome. And also Latin American people on this part, so don’t get angry. I ask the Lord to grant us the grace of faith-led solidarity, so that love for God will move us to generate new forms of family hospitality, fruitful fraternity and welcome to the most fragile brothers and sisters, especially those discarded by our globalized societies. God bless you.


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