Rome, Italy, Apr 15, 2018 / 10:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis visited a Roman parish, telling Mass-goers to allow themselves to be moved by the immense joy of the resurrection, which overcomes sin and renews believers, allowing them to have a youthful heart.
Noting how the disciples had a hard time believing it was really Jesus who appeared to them in the day's Gospel, Francis asked “why didn't they believe? Why did they doubt?”
“There is a word in the Gospel that gives us an explanation: While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed.”
The disciples, he said, couldn't believe it was Jesus because “they couldn't believe that there was so much joy, the joy that brings Christ.”
He said the same thing happens to each person when they receive news that seems too good to be true, and urged Catholics to allow the joy of Christ's resurrection to enter their hearts and to be transformed by the renewal he offers.
Pope Francis spoke during his April 15 visit to the parish of St. Paul of the Cross in the western quarter of Rome. After arriving around 4 p.m. local time, he was greeted by the Vicar of Rome, Archbishop Angelo de Donatis; Bishop Paolo Selvadagi, auxiliary bishop for Rome's western sector, and the pastor Fr. Roberto Cassano, among others.
During his visit, the pope met with and took four questions from youth involved in catechesis at the parish. He then met with the elderly, sick and the poor before hearing the confession of three parishioners and celebrating Mass.
In his homily, which focused on the day's Gospel reading from Luke in which Jesus appears to the disciples after his resurrection, Francis noted that even though they doubted, the disciples knew Jesus had risen.
They knew, he said, because by that time they had heard the testimonies of Mary Magdalene, Peter and the disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus, yet they still had a hard time believing Jesus when he appeared to them in the upper room.
“They knew…but that truth didn't enter into their heart. That truth, yes, they knew, but they doubted, and the preferred to have that truth in the mind,” he said, noting that perhaps “it's less dangerous to have truth in the mind than to have it in heart.”
Eventually the disciples believed, he said, explaining that this faith and the joy of Christ's resurrection is “the renewed youthfulness that the Lord brings us.”
Sin makes the heart grow old and tired, he said, whereas faith makes the heart grow young. However, referring to the day's second reading from the First Letter of Saint John, he said that when a person sins, “we have an advocate with the Father.”
The Father, he said, “forgives,” and Christ in his death and resurrection wants “to defend us” and make each person young again with the joy of being freed from sin and death.
Pope Francis closed his brief homily asking for the grace to believe that Jesus is truly alive and risen, because “other things are secondary” in life.
If a person does not believe that Christ is risen and present in the world, “we will never be a good Christian, we can't be,” he said, and prayed for the grace to encounter the Risen Jesus in prayer, the Eucharist and the forgiveness of sins.
“Let us ask for the grace to be a joyful community,” he said, asking that each person would be “sure in the faith of encountering the Risen Christ.”
In his Q&A with youth before Mass, Pope Francis said his favorite bible verse is the calling of Matthew, because it shows “the strength Jesus has to change the heart.”
He also told the children that even if someone is not baptized, they are still a child of God. This, he said, goes for the good, the bad and even the mafia, who he said need to be prayed for “so that they return to God.”
When asked about how he felt after being elected pope, Francis said he didn't feel anything special, but he had a strong sense of peace. “When the Lord calls you, he gives you peace, and you feel it when there is a true call from the Lord,” he said, explaining that this is also true when God calls one to a consecrated vocation.
Finally, the pope embraced a young boy named Manuele whose father recently died, and who was an atheist, but allowed each of his four children to be baptized in the Catholic Church. In his question, Manuele said his father was a good person, and asked if he was in heaven, even if he didn't believe in God.
Pope Francis answered by praising Manuele's courage to cry and to ask the question, and said that if a man can raise a child the way that Manuele's father had, then this man is indeed a good person, and good people are never far from God.
“It's a great witness that the child can say [his father] was good,” he said, explaining that God never abandons his children, and encouraged Manuele to talk to his father, because “surely God loved him.”
He then prayed an Our Father with the children before meeting briefly with the elderly, sick and poor of the parish, telling them that they are “the center of the Gospel.”
“I know that each one of you have many problems, sicknesses, pains, the family, each one has their own pain, their own wound, everyone, but may this not take your hope or your joy, because Jesus came to pay for our wounds with his wounds,” the pope said.
He closed his brief greeting by encouraging them to do good to those around them and led them in praying a Hail Mary. He then spent time greeting them personally before hearing confessions and saying Mass.