Pope Francis at his general audience in the library of the Apostolic Palace March 31, 2021. / Vatican Media.
In the contemplation of Christ’s Passion during Holy Week, Pope Francis said he is thinking also of the innocent victims of war, everyday violence, and abortion who are “crucified in our time.”
“By adoring the Cross, we will relive the journey of the innocent Lamb sacrificed for our salvation. We will carry in our minds and hearts the sufferings of the sick, the poor, the rejected of this world; we will remember the ‘sacrificed lambs,’ the innocent victims of wars, dictatorships, everyday violence, abortions,” Pope Francis said this morning.
“Before the image of the crucified God, we will bring, in prayer, the many, the too many who are crucified in our time, who can only receive from Him the comfort and meaning of their suffering.”
Speaking via live stream on Holy Wednesday from the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, the pope urged Catholics “not to forget today’s crucified ones” because “in them is Jesus.”
Pope Francis said that it is important to remember that “every time the Eucharist is offered” it is “as if we were going to Calvary … to renew the Paschal mystery again.”
“In this Sacrament, Jesus replaced the sacrificial victim — the Paschal lamb — with Himself. His Body and Blood give us salvation from the slavery of sin and death. Salvation from all slavery is found there,” the pope said at his general audience.
Jesus on the cross entered into “the abyss of suffering … these calamities of this world, to redeem and transform,” he said. “And also to free each of us from the power of darkness, from pride, from the resistance to being loved by God.”
“Because the world is in darkness. Let’s make a list of all the wars that are being fought right now, of all children who are dying of hunger, children who have no education, of entire peoples destroyed by wars, by terrorism. Of the many, many people who need medicine to feel a little better, the pharmaceutical industry that kills — it is a calamity, a desert,” Francis said.
The pope added that because “Jesus took upon himself the wounds of humanity and death itself, God’s love has irrigated these deserts of ours, he has enlightened our darkness.”
For nearly a year, Pope Francis has dedicated his weekly Wednesday audiences to reflections on prayer. During Holy Week, the pope looked ahead to the liturgies of the Paschal Triduum, three days of prayer beginning on Holy Thursday and ending on Easter Sunday.
Pope Francis explained that during the Triduum “we will experience the central days of the liturgical year, celebrating the mystery of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of the Lord.”
“On the evening of Holy Thursday, as we enter the Easter Triduum, we will relive what happened at the Last Supper — what happened there at that moment — in the Mass known as ‘in Coena Domini.’ It is the evening when Christ left his disciples the testament of his love in the Eucharist, not as a remembrance, but as a memorial of his everlasting presence,” he said.
“It is the evening in which he asks us to love each other by making us servants of one another, as he did by washing the feet of the disciples — a gesture that anticipates the bloody oblation on the cross. And indeed the Master and Lord will die the next day to purify not the feet, but the hearts and the entire life of his disciples. It was an offering of service to all of us, because with that service of his sacrifice, he redeemed us all,” he added.
Good Friday, the pope explained, is a day of penance, fasting, and prayer.
“Through the texts of Sacred Scripture and liturgical prayers, we will be gathered on Calvary to commemorate the Passion and redemptive Death of Jesus Christ. In the intensity of the rite of liturgical action, we will be presented with the Crucifix to adore,” he said.
“Holy Saturday is the day of silence,” Pope Francis noted. “There is a great silence over the earth; a silence lived in tears and bewilderment by the first disciples, upset by the ignominious death of Jesus.”
“This Saturday is also Mary’s day. She too lived it in tears, but her heart was full of faith, full of hope, full of love. The Mother of Jesus had followed her Son along the Via Dolorosa and remained at the foot of the cross with her soul pierced,” he said.
“But when everything seemed to be over, she kept watch. She watches in anticipation, keeping hope in the promise of God who raises the dead. Thus, in the darkest hour of the world, she became the Mother of believers, the Mother of the Church, and a sign of hope. Her testimony and her intercession support us when the weight of the cross becomes too heavy for each of us.”
From this darkness on Holy Saturday, the light will break out through the liturgy of the Easter Vigil as the faithful sing Alleluia, the pope said.
“It will be an encounter in faith with the risen Christ and the Easter joy will last for all the 50 days that will follow, until the coming of the Holy Spirit. He who was crucified is risen! All questions and uncertainties, hesitations and fears are dispelled by this revelation.”
“The Risen One gives us the certainty that good always triumphs over evil, that life always overcomes death and our end is not to descend lower and lower, from sadness to sadness, but to rise above.”
Pope Francis prayed that the joy of Easter morning would restore hope, trust, and peace amid the difficulties the world currently faces during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Dear brothers and sisters, this year too we will experience the Easter celebrations in the context of the pandemic. In many situations of suffering, especially when people, families, and populations already tried by poverty, calamity or conflict suffer them, the Cross of Christ is like a beacon that indicates the port to ships still offshore in the stormy sea,” he said.
“Christ’s Cross is a sign of the hope that does not disappoint; and it tells us that not even one tear, not one sigh is lost in God’s plan.”