Jesus thirsts for unity among his disciples. This was the focus of Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus address today in St. Peter’s Square, at the conclusion of the Church’s annual celebration of the Week of Christian Unity.
Speaking to the faithful from the window of his study in the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis reflected on the Gospel account of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well. Jesus, the Pope said, is the fulfillment of the divine promises, since he gives us the true “living water”, i.e. the Holy Spirit, who alone “quenches our restless hearts which thirst for life, love, freedom and peace: which thirst for God.”
But he also told pilgrims that “Jesus of Nazareth thirsts for us, for our hearts, for our love”, and for the unity of his disciples.
“We find it expressed in the prayer he raised to the Father before his Passion: ‘that they may all be one’ (Jn 17:21). That is what Jesus desired: the unity of all.”
This evening Pope Francis will pray Vespers [Evening Prayer] with religious leaders from the various Churches and ecclesial communities, at the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, which is built on the tomb of the Great Apostle to the Gentiles.
Following today’s recitation of the traditional Marian prayer of the angelus, Pope Francis also made an appeal for peace amid escalating violence in Eastern Ukraine, after Pro-Russian rebels launched a massive offensive against Ukrainian government troops, leaving at least 30 civilians dead.
Here below we publish the full text of the Pope’s address.
Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Today’s Gospel presents us with the beginning of Jesus’ preaching in Galilee. St. Mark underscores that Jesus began to preach “after John [the Baptist] was arrested” (1:14). Just when the prophetic voice of the Baptizer — who was announcing the coming of the Kingdom of God — is silenced by Herod, Jesus begins to walk through streets of his land to bring “the Gospel of God” (ibid.) to all, especially the poor.
The proclamation of Jesus is similar to that of John, the major difference being that Jesus no longer points to another who is to come: Jesus himself is the fulfillment of the promises; he is the “good news” to believe, welcome and communicate to the men and women of all times, in order that they too might entrust their lives to him. The Person of Jesus Christ is the living and active Word in history. Those who hear and follow Him enter into the Kingdom of God.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the divine promises, because he it is who gives to man the Holy Spirit, the “living water” that quenches our restless hearts which thirst for life, love, freedom and peace: which thirst for God. How many times do we feel, or have we felt our hearts thirsting. He himself revealed this to the Samaritan woman whom he encountered at Jacob’s well, to whom he said: “Give me to drink” (Jn 4:7).
These words of Jesus, addressed to the Samaritan, were the theme of the annual Week of Christian Unity which concludes today. This evening, with the faithful of the diocese of Rome and with representatives of the various Churches and ecclesial Communities, we will gather in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls to pray intensely to the Lord to strengthen our commitment to the full unity of all Christians. It is a dreadful thing that Christians are divided. Jesus wants us to be united: to be one Body. Our sins, and history, have divided us, and therefore we must pray much that the Holy Spirit unite us once again.
God, in becoming man, made his own our thirst, not only for physical water but above all the thirst for a full life, a life free from the slavery of evil and death. At the same time, with his Incarnation God places his thirst — for God also thirsts — in the heart of one man: Jesus of Nazareth thirsts for us, for our hearts, for our love, and he has put this thirst into the Heart of Jesus. Therefore, in Jesus’ Heart, human thirst and divine thirst meet. And the desire for the unity of his disciples is part of this thirst. We find it expressed in the prayer he raised to the Father before his Passion: “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). That is what Jesus wanted: the unity of everyone.
The devil, as we know, is the father of division. He is one who always divides, who always makes war, he does so much evil.
May the thirst of Jesus increasingly become our thirst. Let us continue, therefore, to pray and commit ourselves to the full unity of the disciples of Christ, in the certainty that he himself is at our side and is supporting us with the power of his Spirit so that this goal may be attained. And let us entrust our prayer to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church, that she might unite us as a good mother does.
After the Angelus:
Appeal for Peace in Ukraine
I am following with deep concern the escalation of the fighting in eastern Ukraine, which continues to cause many casualties among the civilian population. As I assure you of my prayers for all who are suffering, I renew my heartfelt appeal that attempts at dialogue be resumed and that hostilities be put to an end.
Now let us continue together [two young people from Catholic Action of Rome stand at the Pope’s side].
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today we celebrate the World Day of Leprosy. I express my closeness to all people who are suffering from this disease, and to all those who care for them, and those who fight to remove the causes of the disease, that is, living conditions unworthy of man. Let us renew our commitment to solidarity with these brothers and sisters.
I warmly greet all of you, dear pilgrims from the various parishes of Italy and other countries, as well as associations and school groups.
In particular, I greet the Filipino community in Rome. Beloved, the Filipino people are wonderful in their strong and joyous faith. May the Lord always sustain you who live far from your homeland. Thank you very much for your witness! And thank you for all the good you do here among us, because you sow faith among us, you offer a beautiful witness of faith. Thank you very much.
I wish all of you a lovely Sunday and a good lunch. And please, please don’t forget to pray for me. Arrivederci.
Translation by Diane Montagna of Aleteia’s English edition.