During the annual Chrism Mass for Holy Week Pope Francis told priests to always convey the truth and mercy of the Gospel with joy, saying the “Good News” brought by Jesus can never be rigid or presumptuous, but is rather meek and humble.
“Everything (Jesus) proclaims, and we priests too proclaim, is good news,” the Pope said April 13. “News full of the joy of the Gospel – the joy of those anointed in their sins with the oil of forgiveness and anointed in their charism with the oil of mission, in order to anoint others in turn.”
The phrase “good news” can at times appear as just another way of saying “the Gospel,” he said, but in reality, the words “point to something essential: the joy of the Gospel.”
“The Gospel is good news because it is, in essence, a message of joy,” he said, explaining that just as Jesus did, a priest makes the Gospel message joyful “with his entire person.”
When a priest preaches, “briefly, if possible,” the Pope jested, “he does so with the joy that touches people’s hearts with that same word with which the Lord has touched his own heart in prayer.
With the symbol of anointing being a strong presence throughout the Mass, the Pope typically directs his homily to priests, using it as an opportunity to offer a special message for them and their ministry in particular.
In his homily, Francis told priests that when the word “Gospel” is spoken, it “becomes truth, brimming with joy and mercy.”
“We should never attempt to separate these three graces of the Gospel: its truth, which is non-negotiable; its mercy, which is unconditional and offered to all sinners; and its joy, which is personal and open to everyone,” he said.
The truth “can never be abstract” or lack concreteness in people’s lives, he said, but at the same time cautioned that mercy can never be “a false commiseration” that leaves people in misery “without holding out a hand to lift them up and help them take a step in the direction of change.”
Similarly, the message of the Good News “can never be gloomy or indifferent, for it expresses a joy that is completely personal,” he said, and offered priests three “icons” of how to keep the Gospel fresh in every age without going sour or being poured out.
The first icon the Pope pointed to were the stone jars used at the wedding feast in Cana, which he said “clearly reflect that perfect vessel which is Our Lady herself, the Virgin Mary.”
Mary, he said, “is the new wineskin brimming with contagious joy. She is the handmaid of the Father who sings his praises.”
As someone who promptly responded to the angel’s announcement by going to visit her cousin Elizabeth, Mary helps us overcome fear and “the temptation to keep ourselves from being filled to the brim, the temptation to a faint-heartedness that holds us back from going forth to fill others with joy.A second image the Pope pointed to was the jug and wooden ladle carried by the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well.
The image of the jug and ladle point to the crucial importance “of concrete situations,” Francis said, explaining that since Jesus had no way to draw water, the woman with her jug and ladle was able to quench the Lord’s thirst.
“She sated it even more by concretely confessing her sins,” he said, and pointed to Mother Teresa as another example of a new wineskin filled with “inclusive concreteness.”
In starting her mission with one concrete person, Mother Teresa, “thanks to her smile and her way of touching their wounds, brought the good news to all,” he said.
Pope Francis then pointed a third image of the Good News, which he said is “the fathomless vessel of the Lord’s pierced heart: his utter meekness, humility and poverty which draw all people to himself.”
“From him we have to learn that announcing a great joy to the poor can only be done in a respectful, humble, and even humbling, way,” he said, stressing that “evangelization cannot be presumptuous. The integrity of the truth cannot be rigid.”
In every situation, the Holy Spirit tells us what we need to say to our enemies and guides our steps forward, he said, adding that “this meekness and integrity gives joy to the poor, revives sinners, and grants relief to those oppressed by the devil.”
Pope Francis closed his homily praying that as priests contemplate these three “icons” of the Gospel, the Good News would find in them “that contagious fullness which Our Lady radiates with her whole being, the inclusive concreteness of the story of the Samaritan woman, and the utter meekness whereby the Holy Spirit ceaselessly wells up and flows forth from the pierced heart of Jesus our Lord.”