.- During a difficult time, it can be easy to see only the immediate problem; but asking Jesus to be the guide is the key to weathering the storm, Pope Francis said Sunday at a Mass with 6,000 poor and volunteers.
“The boat of our life is often storm-tossed and buffeted by winds. Even when the waters are calm, they quickly grow agitated. When we are caught up in those storms, they seem to be our only problem,” the pope said Nov. 18.
“But the issue is not the momentary storm, but how we are navigating through life. The secret of navigating well is to invite Jesus on board. The rudder of life must be surrendered to him, so that he can steer the route.”
“Today,” he continued, “let us invite Jesus into the boat of our life. Like the disciples, we will realize that once he is on board, the winds die down and there can be no shipwreck.”
Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the World Day of the Poor, which he established in 2016 at the end of the Jubilee of Mercy. The theme for 2018 is taken from Psalm 34: “This poor one cried out and the Lord heard.”
After Mass, he ate a lunch of lasagna, chicken nuggets, mashed potato and tiramisu with poor in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall.
Before the meal, Francis offered a blessing, saying “we thank everyone and pray to God to bless us all. A blessing from God for all, all [of us] who are here. May God bless each one of us, bless our hearts, bless our intentions, and help us to go forward.”
In his homily at Mass, the pope reflected on Matt. 14:22-33, which gives the account of Jesus walking across the water to meet his disciples in the boat, which was being tossed about by waves.
As St. Matthew writes, after the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, Jesus left the crowd of people and his disciples and went up on a mountain to pray.
His disciples set off in a boat for the other side of the Sea of Galilee, “meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, [Jesus] came toward them, walking on the sea.”
There are several lessons that can be taken from this Gospel passage, the pope said; one being to have the courage to leave behind comfort and an easy life. “To go where? To God by praying, and to those in need by loving. These are the true treasures in life: God and our neighbor,” he said.
He explained that Jesus’ disciples were not meant to have a carefree life, “traveling light, ready to leave passing glories behind, careful not to cling to fleeting goods.”
“Christians know that their homeland is elsewhere,” he underlined. “We do not live to accumulate; our glory lies in leaving behind the things that pass away in order to hold on to those that last.”
“Let us ask for the grace to hear the cry of all those tossed by the waves of life,” he said: The unborn, starving children, young people in places of conflict, the elderly, those forced to leave their home and native country.
Taking care of those in need is not a “sociological option, it is not the fad of a pontificate; it is a theological requirement,” he emphasized. “It entails acknowledging that we are beggars pleading for salvation, brothers and sisters of all, but especially of the poor whom the Lord loves.”
After Mass, Pope Francis led the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square. Before the prayer, he reflected on the day’s Gospel passage from Mark. In the passage, the pope explained, Jesus is saying that the story of people and of individuals all have a goal: “permanent encounter with the Lord.”
“We do not know the time nor the ways in which [the end of the world] will happen,” Francis said. “We know, however, a fundamental principle which we must confront: ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away,’ Jesus says.”
At the end he offered a special prayer for everyone affected by the fires that are “scourging California” and for the victims of the winter storm on the east coast.
“May the Lord welcome the deceased into his peace, comfort the family members and support those who commit themselves to help,” he prayed.
The pope also prayed for those who died in a Nov. 15 attack on the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Alindao, in the Central African Republic. At least 42 people died in the attack, including at least one priest, according to local reports. Some unofficial estimates have said the death toll could reach as high as 100. Many of the people killed were refugees sheltering at the church.
Pope Francis said, “we pray for the dead and the wounded and for an end to all violence in that beloved country, which is in great need of peace.”