AFRICA/DR CONGO - Pope Francis to Congolese Christians: Jesus knows your wounds. Become missionaries of peace

Wednesday, 1 February 2023

Vatican Media

Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) - Jesus knows the wounds of the Congolese people and of the peoples of the other African lands. Wounds "that ache, continually infected by hatred and violence". He himself tells all the wounded and oppressed to "put your wounds in mine, your wounds in my wounds." "Jesus always gives us the possibility of being forgiven and starting over," but also the strength to forgive ourselves, others and history", asking "to grant others a great amnesty of the heart" that will "cleanse our hearts of anger and remorse, of every trace of resentment and hostility. It is with these and other words, on the second day of his apostolic visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo, that Pope Francis suggested that all the endless tragedies and pains suffered by the Congolese people and the other peoples of so many African countries can find a true light of redemption in the wounds of Christ, in the mystery of his death on the cross for the salvation of all. He did so in his homily during the "Mass for Peace and Justice" celebrated in Kinshasa, on the esplanade of N'dolo airport, in front of more than a million women and men, children, young and old who came jubilantly even from neighboring countries to be confirmed in the faith by the Successor of Peter.
To all those present, and addressing ideally all the baptized on the Continent, Pope Francis asked "not be afraid to take the crucifix from your neck and out of your pockets, to take it between your hands and hold it close to your heart, in order to share your wounds with the wounds of Jesus", to become "missionaries of peace" in every situation and in every context torn by conflict.

The peace of Jesus, "which is also given to us in every Mass", Pope Francis said in the first part of his homily, recalling the Gospel account of the first encounter of the Risen Jesus with his disciples, read during the liturgy, "comes from the resurrection, because the Lord first had to defeat our enemies, sin and death, and reconcile the world to the Father. He had to experience our solitude and abandonment, our hell". In this first encounter, the risen Jesus, greeting them with the words "peace be with you", proclaims and delivers peace to his disciples even as his disciples’ hearts "were downcast". Jesus' peace "arrived at the very moment when, suddenly and to their surprise, everything seemed to be over for them, without even a glimmer of peace. That is what the Lord does: he surprises us; he takes us by the hand when we are falling; he lifts us up when we are hitting rock bottom". In this context, "in a world disheartened by violence and war, Christians must be like Jesus". They keep peace in their hearts and offer it to the world, relying on what Jesus himself - Pope Francis continues - points out to us as the three sources of peace: forgiveness, community and mission.

When the Risen Jesus first meets his disciples, his first gesture is to show them his glorious wounds. "Forgiveness", commented the Bishop of Rome, "is born from wounds. It is born when our wounds do not leave scars of hatred, but become the means by which we make room for others and accept their weaknesses. Our weakness becomes an opportunity, and forgiveness becomes the path to peace". Jesus, faced with the misery of the disciples who denied and abandoned him, "shows his wounds and opens up the wellspring of mercy". And from that moment, in every story, and throughout History, "when things do not go well, we know where to look: to the wounds of Jesus", He, the Pope continued, "knows your wounds; he knows the wounds of your country, your people, your land. With Jesus "there is always the possibility of being forgiven and starting over". And this auspicious possibility applies above all to those who, even in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, call themselves Christians but commit violence: "to you," urged Pope Francis, "the Lord is telling you: “Lay down your arms, embrace mercy”. And to all the wounded and oppressed of this people, he is saying: “Do not be afraid to bury your wounds in mine”."
In the journey begun in History with the forgiveness given by Christ also to his disciples, continued the Successor of Peter, mentioning the second "source" of peace, one does not walk alone: "There is no Christianity without community, just as there is no peace without fraternity. And the community is not bound by the spirit of the world, which can insinuate even in ecclesial aggregations the risk of "giving in to divisiveness, to the temptations of careerism" and "to the false illusions of pleasure and witchcraft that make us become selfish and self-centred". The community recalled by the pope as the source of peace is one gathered by the action of the Holy Spirit, guided by him in the following of Christ, who urges us to "share with the poor" and to always recognize "that all of us need the Spirit of God to free us from the spirit of the world". Following the gracious work of the Holy Spirit, the Pope continued, describing mission as the "third source" of peace, Christians can also imitate Jesus, sent by the Father to offer his life "not just for the righteous, but for everyone". Christians, sent by Christ, continued Pope Francis in the last part of his homily, "are called by definition to be a conscience of peace in our world. Not merely critical consciences, but primarily witnesses of love. Not concerned with their own rights, but with those of the Gospel, which are fraternity, love and forgiveness". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 1/2/2023)