Vatican City, 26 July 2014 (VIS) – More than two hundred thousand people attended the Mass celebrated by the Holy Father in the square in front of the Royal Palace of Caserta at 6 p.m. yesterday.
The Pope spoke in his homily about the “kingdom of Heaven”, based on the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl. In the first, the “kingdom” is similar the treasure hidden in a field, that the farmer finds and hides again, full of joy, then sells everything he has to buy the field. In the second, a merchant who seeks fine pearls encounters one of great value and sells everything he owns in order to buy it.
The farmer and the merchant, explains the Pope, have the same sentiment in common: the surprise and joy of the fulfilment of their desires and, through these two parables, “with simple words that everyone can understand”, Jesus explains what the kingdom of heaven is, how it is found and what one can do to obtain it.
Jesus does not concern Himself with describing the “kingdom”, although He has announced it since the beginning of His Gospel; however, He shows it indirectly, through reflection. “He prefers to let it be understood through parables and similarities, especially by revealing its effects: the kingdom of Heaven is able to change the world, like the leaven concealed in the dough”. Both parables help us understand that the kingdom of God is present in the person of Jesus Himself. He is the hidden treasure and the valuable pearl. The joy of the farmer and the merchant are comprehensible – they have found what they sought! It is the joy of each one of us when we discover the closeness and the presence of Jesus in our life. His is a presence that transforms our existence and opens us to the needs of our brethren; a presence that invites us to welcome every other presence, even that of the foreigner or the immigrant”.
To encounter the kingdom of God, each one of us takes his or her own path. For some, the encounter with Jesus is awaited, hoped for and long sought, as we see in the parable of the merchant who travels the world seeking something of value. For others it happens unexpectedly, almost by chance, as in the parable of the farmer. This reminds us that God lets us meet Him anyway, as it is He Who is the first to wish to meet us. ... He came in order to be 'God with us'. … It is He Who seeks us out, it is He Who lets Himself be found even by those who are not looking for Him, at times in unusual places and at unexpected moments. When we find Jesus we are fascinated, we are won over, and it is a joy to leave behind our usual way of life, often arid and apathetic, to embrace the Gospel, and to allow ourselves to be guided by the new logic of love”.
Jesus is very clear that when He refers to the possession of the “kingdom”, enthusiasm and the joy of discovery are not enough. “It is necessary to place the precious pearl of the kingdom before all other earthly goods; it is necessary to put God in first place in our life. According primacy to God means having the courage to say no to evil, to violence, to oppression; to live a life of service to others and in favour of legality and the common good. … One must be a friend of God, love one's brothers, and be committed to the protection of their lives and health, also respecting the environment and nature”. Francis emphasised, “This is particularly important in this beautiful land, which needs to be protected and preserved; it takes courage to say no to every form of corruption and illegality – and we all know the name of these forms of corruption and illegality. It requires that everyone is a servant to the truth and assumes in every situation an evangelical lifestyle, which is manifested in the gift of the self and care for the poor and excluded”.
The Pope went on to speak about the festivity of St. Ann, the patron saint of Caserta, which brought together in the square several components of the diocesan community, the bishop, the civil authorities and the representatives of various social sectors. “I would like to encourage al of you to experience the festivity of your patron saint free of preconceived ideas, as a pure expression of the faith of a people who recognise themselves as the family of God and strengthen the bonds of fraternity and solidarity. St. Ann perhaps heard her daughter pronounce the words of the Magnificat: 'He has brought down rulers from their thrones, but has lifted up the humble; He has filled the hungry with good things'. May she help you to find the only treasure, Jesus, and teach you to discover the criteria of God's action: He turns worldly judgements on their head, coming to the aid of the poor and the least among us, and brings abundance to the humble, who entrust their existence to Him. Have hope, hope does not disappoint. And I like to repeat to you: do not let yourselves be robbed of hope!”
Following the Mass and before the final blessing, Francis gave thanks to all those present for their warm welcome, and to Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, adding, “I have heard that the Neapolitans are a little jealous of this visit, but I wish to assure them them that this year I will certainly visit them too”.
After the Eucharistic celebration, the Pope transferred to the military airport and left for Rome by helicopter.