Pope Francis on Monday met with priests and students from the Pontifical Mexican College in Rome.
Addressing those present for the audience in the Vatican, the Pope recalled the encounters he had during his Apostolic Visit to Mexico in 2016 which, in a certain way, are renewed every year with the celebration of the Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Vatican Basilica.
The Holy Father also acknowledged the challenges for the evangelization of Mexico and the entire American continent amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which the College’s Rector – Fr. Victor Ulises Vasquez Moreno – had highlighted in his address to the Pope on behalf of those present.
God’s gaze of love, tenderness
In light of the numerous challenges, Pope Francis said today’s problems require that priests conform themselves to the Lord and the gaze of love with which He contemplates us.
“By conforming our gaze to His, our gaze is transformed into a gaze of tenderness, reconciliation and fraternity,” the Pope explained.
He noted that we need to have the “gaze of tenderness” with which God sees the problems that afflict society, including “violence, social and economic inequalities, polarization, corruption and lack of hope especially among the youngest.”
In this regard, the Pope said the Virgin Mary serves as an example, reflecting the tender love of God, welcoming everyone without distinction through her motherly tenderness.
“An ever-deeper configuration with the Good Shepherd awakens in every priest an authentic compassion, both for the sheep entrusted to him and for those who have gone astray,” said the Pope. It is only by allowing oneself to be modeled by Him that pastoral charity is intensified and no one is excluded from the Church’s solicitude and prayer.
Moreover, he added, “this prevents us from secluding ourselves at home, in the office or [with our] hobbies, and encourages us to go out to meet people, not to stand still.”
In the face of social difficulties, enormous differences and corruption, Pope Francis stressed the importance of the gaze of reconciliation.
He notes that this will make us “capable of weaving together the different threads that have been weakened or cut in the multicolored fabric of cultures that make up the social and religious fabric of the nation, paying attention, above all, to those who are discarded because of their indigenous roots or their particular popular religiosity.”
The Pope further highlights that pastors are called to help rebuild respectful and constructive relationships between persons, groups and cultures within society, inviting everyone to “allow themselves to be reconciled by God,” and to commit themselves to the restoration of justice.
“Our present time urges us to have a fraternal outlook,” the Pope said. “The challenges we face are so wide-ranging that they encompass the social fabric and the globalized reality interconnected by social networks and the media.”
It is for this reason that, “together with Christ, Servant and Shephard, we must be capable of having a vision of the whole and of unity, which impels us to create fraternity and allows us to highlight the points of connection and interaction in the heart of cultures and the ecclesial community.”
This vision also facilitates communion and fraternal participation that guides the faithful to be respectful of our common home, and to become builders of a new world in collaboration with people of good will.
To be able to see in this way, the Pope explained, “we need the light of faith and the wisdom of those who know how to ‘take off their sandals’ to contemplate the mystery of God, and, from this perspective, to read the signs of the times.” At the same time, we need to be aware of our personal and community shortcomings and the faults we need to correct in our own lives.
Pope Francis stressed that, in order for this to happen, “it is indispensable to harmonize the academic, spiritual, human and pastoral dimensions of formation.”
“We are called not to underestimate the worldly temptations that can lead us to insufficient personal knowledge, to self-referential attitudes, to consumerism and multiple forms of evasion of our responsibilities,” the Pope said.
Deepen roots of faith, devotion to Our Lady
Concluding his address, the Holy Father encouraged them not to fail to deepen the roots of the faith they have received in their various particular churches, which come from a rich process of inculturation of the Gospel.
He reminded them that Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose image is venerated in the chapel at the Mexican College, reminds us of the love of her Son who makes us sharers in His priesthood. “We can therefore turn to her and ask for what we need, knowing that she has us under her shadow and shelter.”
Appealing for prayers for himself also, Pope Francis invoked God’s blessings and entrusted the clergy of Mexico and of the community of the Pontifical Mexican College to Our Lady and to Saint Joseph, whose year we are celebrating, and who is “a model of participation in the redemptive mystery with his humble and silent service.”