In his Sunday Angelus message, Pope Francis told crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square to unite prayer and action in Christian life.
“Prayer that doesn’t lead to concrete action toward our brothers is a fruitless and incomplete prayer,” the Pope said July 21. “But at the same time, when ecclesial service only attends to work, not reserving time for dialogue with God in prayer, it risks serving itself rather than God who is present in the brother in need.”
He added, “prayer and action must always be profoundly united.”
Pope Francis reflected on the Gospel story of Martha and Mary, the two sisters and “faithful disciples” who welcomed Jesus into their home. Martha worked to prepare a meal, while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus “listening to his word.”
Jesus lovingly reproached Martha for her preoccupation with work because she was overly concerned with “doing,” which is only one aspect of Christian life.
Mary and Martha’s different responses to Jesus demonstrate two fundamental aspects of Christian life: action and prayer, the Pope said. Together, they are “essential.” Prayer and action “should never be separated, but lived in profound unity and harmony.”
The Pope reminded his audience of St. Benedict, the father of monasticism, whose motto was “ora et labora,” — “prayer and work.”
While the two are inseparable, prayer acts as the foundation for all charitable work. Pope Francis explained, “From contemplative prayer, from a strong friendship with the Lord, is born in us the capacity to live and carry forth the love of God, His mercy, and His tenderness toward others.”
Yet when we act in charity toward our neighbor out of love for Jesus, “our service towards those in need brings us to God.”
“In a Christian,” said Pope Francis, “the works of service and charity are never detached from the main source of all our actions: listening to the Word of the Lord, staying – like Mary – at the feet of Jesus, in the attitude of a disciple.”
As he greeted the various groups gathered in St. Peter’s square, Pope Francis tied his gospel reflection to the upcoming World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where young people from around the globe will gather in prayer and celebration this week.
“All those who are going to Rio want to hear to the voice of Jesus,” said Pope Francis. “Listen to Jesus. Ask, ‘Lord, what should I do with my life? What is the path for me?’ And you youth who are standing here in the piazza must ask the same questions of Jesus!”
In greeting the cheering crowds, the Pope spotted one particular banner wishing him safe travels in Italian.
“I see written there, ‘buon viaggio.’ Thank you!” he said. “I ask you to accompany me spiritually in prayer on my first Apostolic Journey, which I will leave for tomorrow.”
Pope Francis will depart on Monday July 22, for the 28th World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The events begin on Tuesday, July 23, but do not end until Sunday, July 28.
Originally published at Catholic News Agency on 21 July 2013. Used by permission, all other rights reserved.