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‘Remember Our First Encounter With the Lord,’ Reminds Pope at Santa Marta (Full Homily)
April 27, 2020. The Lord always makes one return to the first encounter, to the first moment in which He looked at us, He spoke to us and made the desire to follow Him be born within us’.

We ought to remember our first encounter with the Lord…. According to Vatican News, Pope Francis stressed today, April 27th, during his private daily Mass at his residence Casa Santa Marta.

At the start of the Mass, while remembering all victims of Coronavirus, Francis prayed for artists at this time.

“Let us pray today for artists, for those who have this great capacity for creativity,” and for showing us the way to beauty. He continued: “May the Lord give us all the grace of creativity at this time.”

In his homily, the Holy Father commented on today’s Gospel reading of the day (Jn 6:22-29) in which Jesus redirects the crowd for seeking Him after the multiplication of the loaves and fishes only because their stomachs had been filled by exhorting them “not to work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.”

The Pope stressed how important it is that in the midst of all life’s challenges and temptations, that we keep going back to that first encounter, reminding ourselves.

“This is a grace,” he said, “when faced with temptations.”

We must always ask for that grace of “always returning to that first call, when Jesus looked at us with love,” Francis said, reminding: “Each of us has the experience of that first encounter in which Jesus said: follow me.”

Pope Francis concluded, praying: “Each one of us has our own Galilee within us, that specific moment in which Jesus drew close…looked on me with love, and said to me: ‘follow me.’”

The Pope ended the celebration with Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction, inviting the faithful to make a Spiritual Communion.

The Masses in Francis’ chapel normally welcome a small group of faithful, but due to recent measures’ taken by the Vatican, are now being kept private, without their participation. The Holy Week and Easter celebrations in the Vatican were also done without the presence of faithful, but were able to be watched via streaming.

Likewise, the Pope had a private Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday, with very limited participation by others, at the Roman Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. One could watch via streaming.

It was announced at the start of the lockdowns in Italy that the Pope would have these Masses, in this period, be available to all the world’s faithful, via streaming on Vatican Media, on weekdays, at 7 am Rome time, along with his weekly Angelus and General Audiences.

In Italy where nearly 25,000 people have died from coronavirus, public Masses are still prohibited. To date, in the Vatican, there have been nine cases of coronavirus in the Vatican.

The Vatican Museums are now closed, along with the Vatican’s other similar museums. There have also been various guidelines implemented throughout the Vatican, to prevent the spread of the virus.

FULL HOMILY [translated by ZENIT’s Virginia Forrester]

 The people that has listened to Jesus during the whole day, and then had this grace of the multiplication of the loaves and had seen Jesus’ power, wanted to make Him King. They went first to Jesus to listen to the word and also to ask for the healing of the sick. They stayed the whole day listening to Jesus without getting bored, without getting tired: they were there, happy. Then, when they saw Jesus give them something to eat, something that they didn’t expect, they thought: “But He would be a great ruler for us and He will surely be able to free us from the power of the Romans and take the country forward.” And they were enthusiastic to make Him King. Their intention changed because they saw and they thought: “Well . . . because a person that does this miracle, that gives the people to eat, can be a good ruler.” (Cf. John 6:1-15). However, in that moment of enthusiasm they had forgotten how the word of Jesus was born in their hearts.

Jesus withdrew and went to pray (Cf. v. 15). The people stayed there and the following day they sought Jesus, “because He must be here,” they said, because they saw that He did not get into the boat with the others. And there was a boat there, it remained there . . . (Cf. John 6:22024). However, they didn’t know that Jesus had reached the others walking on the waters (Cf. vv. 16-21). So they decided to go to the other side of the lake of Tiberias to look for Jesus and, when they saw Him, the first word they said to Him was: “Rabbi, when did you come here?” (v. 25), as if saying: “We don’ understand, this seems a strange thing.”

And Jesus makes them turn to their first sentiment, to the one they had before the multiplication of the loaves, when they were listening to the word of God. ”Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (v. 26) Jesus reveals their intention and says: “But it is so, you changed your attitude.” And they, instead of justifying themselves, <say>: “no, Lord, no . . . “ they were humble. Jesus continues: “Do not labour for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give you; for on Him has god the Father set His seal” (John 6:27). And they, <being> good, said: “What must we do , to be doing the works of God?” (v. 28). “That you believe in the Son of God” (Cf. v. 29). This is a case in which Jesus corrects the attitude of the people, of the crowd, because, halfway, they had moved somewhat away from the first moment, from the first spiritual consolation and had taken a way that wasn’t right, a more worldly than evangelical way.

This makes us think that many times in life we begin a way to follow Jesus, behind Jesus, with the Gospel’s values, and, halfway, another idea comes to us, we see some sign and we move away and conform ourselves with something more temporal, more material, more worldly — it can happen — and we lose the memory of that first enthusiasm that we had when we heard talk of Jesus. The Lord always makes one return to the first encounter, to the first moment in which He looked at us, He spoke to us and made the desire to follow Him be born within us. This is a grace to ask of the Lord, because in life we will always have this temptation to move away because we see something else: “But that will be fine, but that idea is good . . . “We move away. <We need> the grace to return always to the first call, to the first moment: I must not forget, I must not forget my story, when Jesus looked at me with love and said to me: “This is your way,” when, through many people, Jesus made me understand what the way of the Gospel was and not other somewhat worldly ways, with other values. Return to the fist encounter.

Among the things that Jesus said on the morning of the Resurrection, it has always struck me that He affirmed: “Go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me” (Cf. Matthew 28:10), Galilee was the place of the first encounter. They met Jesus there.

Each one of us has his own “Galilee” within, our own moment in which Jesus approached us and said to us: “Follow Me.” What happened to these people happens in life — good people because they said then: “But what must we do?” they obeyed immediately — it <also> happens that we move away and seek other values, other hermeneutics, other things, and we lose the freshness of the first call. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews also refers us to this: “Recall the former days” (Cf. Hebrews 10:32). The memory, the memory of the first encounter, the memory of “my Galilee,” when the Lord looked at me with love and said to me: “Follow Me.”

The Pope ended the celebration with Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction, inviting the faithful to make a Spiritual Communion.

Here Is the Prayer Recited by the Pope:

 My Jesus, I believe that You are really present in the Most Blessed Sacrament (of the altar). I love You above all things and I desire you in my soul. As I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As if You have already come, I embrace You and unite myself wholly to You. Do not permit me to be ever separated from You.

 Before leaving the Chapel, dedicated to the Holy Spirit, the Marian antiphon Regina Caeli” was intoned, sung in Eastertide.