EGYPT — “The only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity,” Pope Francis told Christians in Egypt on second day of his apostolic visit to the country.
After spending last night at the Nunciature in Cairo, where he met 300 pilgrims, the Pope began day two of his visit celebrating Holy Mass at the “Air Defense Stadium,” a military stadium in the middle of the desert.
The papal Mass with Egypt’s minority Catholic population took place under heightened security. According to the Vatican, an estimated 15,000 clergy and faithful attended.
In his homily, the Pope reflected on the Gospel account of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, which he summarized in three words: death, resurrection and life.
Crucifying our notions of God
“The one on whom they had built their lives is dead,” the disciples thought, and “in his defeat, he brought all their aspirations with him to the tomb,” Pope Francis said. “But in fact, it was they who were dead, buried in the tomb of their limited understanding.”
“How often do we paralyze ourselves by refusing to transcend our own ideas of God, a god created in the image and likeness of man!” the pope continued. “How often do we despair by refusing to believe that God’s omnipotence is not one of power and authority, but rather of love, forgiveness and life!”
Like the disciple of Emmaus, he said, “we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of [him],” especially our understanding of his omnipotence and power.
In order to experience a Resurrection, the pope continued, at times we need to “reach the depths of failure and helplessness,” and “rid ourselves of the illusion that we are the best, sufficient unto ourselves and the center of our world.” It is then that “God reaches out to us to turn our night into dawn, our affliction into joy, our death into resurrection.”
Quoting his predecessor, Benedict XVI, Pope Francis said “the encounter with the Risen Jesus transformed the lives of those two disciples because meeting the Risen One transforms every life, and makes fruitful what is barren.”
Finding true life
“Faith in the resurrection is not a product of the Church, but the Church herself is born of faith in the resurrection,” Pope Francis told clergy and faithful. “The Church needs to know and believe that Jesus lives within her and gives her life in the Eucharist, the scriptures and the sacraments. The disciples on the way to Emmaus realized this, and returned to Jerusalem in order to share their experience with the others: ‘We have seen the Risen One… Yes, he is truly risen!’ (cf. Lk 24:32).”
The Pope continued:
“The experience of the disciples on the way to Emmaus teaches us that it is of no use to fill our places of worship if our hearts are empty of the fear of God and of his presence. It is of no use to pray if our prayer to God does not turn into love for our brothers and sisters. All our religiosity means nothing unless it is inspired by deep faith and charity. It is of no use to be concerned about our image, since God looks at the soul and the heart (cf. 1 Sam 16:7) and he detests hypocrisy (cf. Lk 11:37-54; Acts 5:3, 4)1.) For God, it is better not to believe than to be a false believer, a hypocrite!”
The only acceptable fanaticism
“God is pleased only by a faith that is proclaimed by our lives, for the only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity!” Pope Francis said. “Any other fanaticism does not come from God and is not pleasing to him!”
“Do not be afraid to open your hearts to the light of the Risen Lord, and let him transform your uncertainty into a positive force for yourselves and for others,” he told Egypt’s Catholic minority. “Do not be afraid to love everyone, friends and enemies alike, because the strength and treasure of the believer lies in a life of love!
The Pope concluded, saying: “May Our Lady and the Holy Family, who dwelt in this venerable land of yours, enlighten our hearts and bless you and this beloved country of Egypt, which at the dawn of Christianity welcomed the preaching of Saint Mark, and throughout its history has brought forth so many martyrs and a great multitude of holy men and women.”