Pope Francis celebrated his first Mass in Sistine Chapel

Vatican City Mar 14, 2013 - To walk in Christ, to build the Church, to witness Jesus with his cross, said Pope Francis. "When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil . [. . . ] When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly; we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord."

This afternoon, Pope Francis celebrated Mass with the 114 Cardinal electors in the same Sistine Chapel where he was elected yesterday. He entered the hall, his hand on the pastoral cross that once belonged to Benedict XVI, to deliver his first homily off-the cuff in Italian.

Inside, like an ordinary priest, he went to the ambo to comment the readings. The first one was about Isaiah announcing the coming of the Kingdom of God. The another was from the First Letter of Peter, "Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God/ and, like living stones, let yourselves be built". And the third was from Matthew when Jesus told Peter, "you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it ."

"In these three readings I see that there is something in common: it is movement. In the first reading, movement is the journey [itself]; in the second reading, movement is in the up-building of the Church. In the third, in the Gospel, the movement is in [the act of] profession: walking, building, professing.

"The first thing God said to Abraham, 'Walk in my presence and be blameless'," a sign that "our life is a journey and when we stop, there is something wrong. Walking always, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with that blamelessness, which God asks of Abraham, in his promise.

"Building: to build the Church. There is talk of stones: stones have consistency, but [the stones spoken of are] living stones, stones anointed by the Holy Spirit. Build up the Church, the Bride of Christ, the cornerstone of which is the same Lord."

In the end, "we can walk as much we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ. When one does not walk, one stalls. When one does not build on solid rocks, what happens? What happens is what happens to children on the beach when they make sandcastles: everything collapses, it is without consistency. [. . .] When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil .

"Walking, building-constructing, professing: the thing, however, is not so easy, because in walking, in building, in professing, there are sometimes shake-ups - there are movements that are not part of the path: there are movements that pull us back.

"The same Peter who confessed Jesus Christ, says, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. This has nothing to do with it.' He says, 'I'll follow you on other ways, that do not include the Cross.' When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly; we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

"I would like that all of us," the pope said in concluding, that "after these days of grace, [we] might have the courage - the courage - to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward.

"My hope for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, that the prayer of Our Lady, our Mother, might grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ Crucified. So be it." (FP)

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