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Pope Francis: “I think of when … I must say good-bye”

Antoine Mekary / ALETEIA

Draws from St. Paul taking leave of the Church of Ephesus to reflect on the mission of the bishop

Pope Francis offered a moving reflection during his homily today in Santa Marta, saying that he thinks of the moment when, as a bishop, he shall say good-bye.

The Holy Father drew from today’s First Reading from St. Paul, when the Apostle says that “compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem.
What will happen to me there I do not know … But now I know that none of you to whom I preached the kingdom during my travels will ever see my face again.”

“When I read this,” Francis said, “I think of myself. Because I am a bishop and I must say good-bye.”

“I ask the Lord the grace to be able to say goodbye like [Paul did.] In my examen of conscience, I won’t be a conqueror like Paul was, but the Lord is good, he is merciful … I think of bishops, of all bishops. May the Lord give to all of us the grace of being able to take our leave like this, with this spirit, with this strength, with this love for Jesus Christ, and with this confidence in the Holy Spirit.” 

Paul’s good-bye message reflects his clear conscience as he says, “I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God.”

Compelled by the Spirit of God

Francis described the passage as one that “touches the heart,” and that “brings us to see the path of every bishop at the hour of saying good-bye.”

Paul feels the Holy Spirit obliging him, the pope noted, saying this is the experience of a bishop who knows how to discern what the Spirit is asking, “who knows how to discern when it is the Spirit of God that is speaking and knows how to defend himself when the spirit of the world speaks.”

Though Paul knows that he is going toward tribulation and the cross, “he offers himself to the Lord, and is obedient. He feels compelled by the Spirit. A bishop must always go forward, but according to the Holy Spirit. This is Paul,” the pope said.

The Holy Father said that Paul’s witness is a testimony, a proclamation, and also a challenge. “I have followed this path; you continue on it,” the Apostle is challenging.

Francis reflected: “How different this is from a last testament (a will) in the worldly sense: ‘I leave this thing to this person, this other thing to this other person …’ So many things. Pablo didn’t have anything. Only the grace of God, apostolic courage, the revelation of Jesus Christ and the salvation that the Lord had given to him.”


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