Pope Francis presides at Mass with the Catholic community in Athens, Greece, and encourages them to remain hopeful despite the “existential deserts” in our lives, because the Lord is always there to fill our emptiness if we make room for Him .
By Vatican News Editor
On Sunday afternoon, the second day of his visit to Greece, Pope Francis celebrated Mass with the local Catholic community at the Megaron concert hall in Athens.
Around 2,000 worshipers were present in two different rooms, in accordance with Covid social distancing rules. The pope had returned to Athens hours earlier after his morning visit to the Greek island of Lesbos, where he met with refugees and migrants in a moving show of solidarity with leaders of the Greek Orthodox Church, the president and the Greek authorities.
In his homily for the mass of the second Sunday of AdventThe Pope reflected on the evangelical reading of the day, which speaks of St. John the Baptist in the desert calling for conversion.
The Pope observed that the image of the desert makes us understand that the path to redemption did not begin in the context of worldly places of power, which one might expect, but in a “poor” place and simple and, paradoxically, inaccessible. and dangerous.
But it is precisely in the vast and arid expanse of the desert that “the glory of the Lord has been revealed”. It is a surprise for human expectations, but a beautiful message to appreciate, since the Lord values what is small and humble, and we need to be internally poor, without pride, “as the desert is poor”.
The Lord visits our existential deserts
John the Baptist prepares for the coming of Christ in the desert by preaching the need for conversion, the Pope observed, adding that, then as now, God turns his gaze where we face trials or difficulties. sadness, capable of reaching us if we let it fill our interior emptiness by visiting “our existential deserts”.
In our lives, it often happens that we feel lost in the desert, he observed, and “this is precisely where the Lord makes his presence felt”, provided that our pride does not prevent us from letting him enter.
The Lord visits us “with words of closeness and compassion and tenderness,” and John’s preaching in the desert shares this message that God visits us wherever we are, reaching out “with love to our littleness and to refresh our dry minds.” The Pope notably asked his audience not to fear being small or being a minority, but above all to “open themselves to God and to others”.
To convert is to “think beyond”
John the Baptist’s emphasis on preaching “conversion” may make us uncomfortable at first, the Pope observed, as we realize how changing our ways can be so frustrating and difficult, and yet this is often because we view it only in terms of arriving at a morality. perfection, something we can never achieve on our own.
Our problem, he stressed, is to think that everything depends on us. And we need to look at the full meaning of “convert” or “metanoéίn“, the original Greek work used for this in the Gospel. The literal meaning of the word is “Think beyond“, said the Pope, which means going beyond our usual ways of thinking, beyond our usual vision of the world.
He explained that this means abandoning our belief in our own self-sufficiency, or thinking only about ourselves and how we do things. “In calling us to conversion, John exhorts us to go ‘beyond’ where we currently are,” he said, because “the reality is that God is greater.”
God is always present
Conversion is knowing that “God is always present”, that we must trust in Him, “because He is our beyond, our strength”. He said we only need to open the door for Christ to “let him in and do his wonders.” in us, “just as the desert and the preaching of John were sufficient for Christ to come into the world”.
With God, things really change
In conclusion, the Pope prayed for grace so that we can all believe “that with God things really change,” because He can banish our fears, heal our wounds and “transform our dry places into springs of water.”
We ask for the grace of hope, he added, because it nourishes our faith and our effort to help each other. “It is for this hope that the deserts of the world today thirst.”