Vatican City, 20 September 2015 (VIS) – After spending the night in the apostolic nunciature in Havana, the Pope began his second day in Cuba by greeting the thousands of people who lined the streets on his journey by popemobile to Plaza de la Revolucion Jose Marti, dedicated to the poet and writer who fought for Cuban independence. The square, where the Holy Father celebrated Holy Mass attended by more than 200,000 faithful, is a strongly symbolic location for the island, and has provided the backdrop to important demonstrations.
Francis, who before the Eucharistic celebration met with the representatives of other Christian confessions present in Cuba in a provisional sacristy, devoted his homily to the importance of serving the weakest and frailest among us. “Let us not forget the Good News we have heard today: the importance of a people, a nation, and the importance of individuals, which is always based on how they seek to serve their vulnerable brothers and sisters. Here we encounter one of the fruits of a true humanity. Whoever does not live to serve, does not ‘serve’ to live”.
The Pope commented on the Gospel passage in which Jesus asks a seemingly indiscreet question of His disciples: “What were you discussing along the way?” to which they did not answer because on the way they had been arguing about who was the most important, and were ashamed.
“Who is the most important?”, continued the Pope. “This is a life-long question to which, at different times, we must give an answer. ... The history of humanity has been marked by the answer we give to this question. Jesus is not afraid of people’s questions; He is not afraid of our humanity or the different things we are looking for. On the contrary, He knows the 'twists and turns' of the human heart, and, as a good teacher, He is always ready to encourage and support us. As usual, He takes up our searching, our aspirations, and he gives them a new horizon … He somehow finds an the answer which can pose a new challenge, setting aside the 'right answers', the standard replies we are expected to give. As usual, Jesus sets before us the 'logic' of love. A mindset, an approach to life, which is capable of being lived out by all, because it is meant for all”.
“Far from any kind of elitism, the horizon to which Jesus points us is not for those few privileged souls capable of attaining the heights of knowledge or different levels of spirituality. The horizon to which Jesus points us always has to do with daily life, also here on “our island”, something which can season our daily lives with eternity. Who is the most important? Jesus is straightforward in His reply: 'Whoever wishes to be the first among you must be the last of all, and the servant of all'. Whatever wishes to be great must serve others, not be served by others”.
“Here lies the great paradox of Jesus”, emphasises the Pope. “The disciples were arguing about who would have the highest place, who would be chosen for privileges ... in order to stand out in the quest for superiority over others. Who would climb the ladder most quickly to take the jobs which carry certain benefits. Jesus upsets their 'logic', their mindset, simply by telling them that life is lived authentically in a concrete commitment to our neighbour. That is, in serving”.
But the call to serve “involves something special, to which we must be attentive. Serving others chiefly means caring for their vulnerability. Serving means caring for the vulnerable of our families, our society, our people. Theirs are the suffering, fragile and downcast faces which Jesus tells us specifically to look at and which He asks us to love. With a love which takes shape in our actions and decisions. With a love which finds expression in whatever tasks we, as citizens, are called to perform. People of flesh and blood, people with individual lives and stories, and with all their frailty: these are those whom Jesus asks us to protect, to care for, to serve. Being a Christian entails promoting the dignity of our brothers and sisters, fighting for it, living for it. That is why Christians are constantly called to set aside their own wishes and desires, their pursuit of power, and to look instead to those who are most vulnerable”.
“There is a kind of 'service' which truly 'serves' others, yet we need to be careful not to be tempted by another kind of service, a 'service' which is 'self-serving'. There is a way to go about serving which is interested in only helping 'my people', 'our people'. This service always leaves 'your people' outside, and gives rise to a process of exclusion. All of us are called by virtue of our Christian vocation to that service which truly serves, and to help one another not to be tempted by a 'service' which is really 'self-serving'. … Without looking to one side or the other to see what our neighbour is doing or not doing. Jesus tells us: Whoever would be first among you must be the last, and the servant of all. He will be the servant of all. He does not say: if your neighbour wants to be first, let him be the servant! We have to be careful to avoid judgemental looks and renew our belief in the transforming look to which Jesus invites us. This caring for others out of love is not about being servile. Rather, it means putting our brothers and sisters at the centre. Service always looks to their faces, touches their flesh, senses their closeness and even, in some cases, 'suffers' in trying to help. Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people”.
“God’s holy and faithful people in Cuba is a people with a taste for celebration, for friendship, for beautiful things”, he concluded. “It is a people which marches with songs of praise. It is a people which has its wounds, like every other people, yet knows how to stand up with open arms, to keep walking in hope, because it has a vocation of grandeur. This is how it raised its heroes. Today I ask you to care for this vocation of yours, to care for these gifts which God has given you, but above all I invite you to care for and be at the service of the frailty of your brothers and sisters. Do not neglect them for plans which can be seductive, but are unconcerned about the face of the person beside you. We know, we are witnesses of the incomparable power of the resurrection, which 'everywhere calls forth the seeds of a new world'”.