Pope Francis: Put People Above Things; Evangelize by Conveying That God Is Love Highlights of the Sept. 22 Angelus and a Sept. 21 papal address. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA
VATICAN CITY — People and relationships are more valuable than things, and the truly wealthy are those who are rich in friends, Pope Francis said during the Angelus Sunday. “Wealth can encourage the erection of walls, create divisions and discrimination,” the Pope said Sept. 22, adding: “Jesus, by contrast, invites his disciples to change course.”
“It is an invitation to know how to transform goods and riches into relationships, because people are worth more than things and count more than the wealth they possess,” he explained.“ In life, in fact,” he continued, “it is not those who have so many riches who bear fruit, but those who create and keep so many bonds, so many relationships, so many friendships through the different ‘riches,’ that is, the different gifts with which God has endowed them.”
In his message before the Angelus, Pope Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel passage from St. Luke. The Pope said the lesson is “to transform riches into instruments of fraternity and solidarity.” “Faced with our shortcomings and our failures,” he added, “Jesus assures us that we [can] heal the evil done with good. He who has caused tears makes someone happy; he who has embezzled [gives] gifts to those in need.” This is to act, he continued, with the wisdom of someone who knows his or her identity as a child of God.
Concluding, Francis prayed for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary to help people be “crafty” in seeking eternal life, “so that, at the time of the final judgment, the needy persons we have helped may testify that we have seen and served the Lord in them.”
On Saturday, the Pope addressed evangelization, saying it means first helping people to know God and to know his immense love for them, which is done in part through the witness of one’s life and joy. “Proclaiming the Lord is witnessing the joy of knowing him, helping to live the beauty of meeting him,” he said Sept. 21. “God is not the answer to an intellectual curiosity or a task of the will, but an experience of love, called to become a story of love.”
“Because — it applies to us above all — once we have met the living God, we need to look for him again,” he stated. “The mystery of God is never exhausted; it is as immense as his love.”
Pope Francis reflected on the evangelization of those who do not know God in a meeting with the participants of an event from the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, which took place Sept. 19-21 and was called “To Meet God: Is It Possible? Paths of the New Evangelization.” In his message, the Pope asked how many of one’s neighbors live as if they are slaves to the very objects which should serve them.
People forget the “flavor of life: the beauty of a large and generous family, which fills the day and the night but expands the heart; the brightness found in the eyes of children, which no smartphone can give; the joy of simple things; the serenity that prayer gives,” he said.
“What our brothers and sisters often ask us, perhaps without being able to ask the question, corresponds to the deepest needs: to love and to be loved, to be accepted for what we are, to find peace of heart and a longer lasting joy of entertainment.” Those present have experienced this in Jesus. “We, who, though frail and sinful, have been flooded by the river in the fullness of God’s goodness, we have this mission: Meet our contemporaries to let them know his love.”
Francis said that it is important, therefore, to face and be challenged by others’ questions, not pretending to have easy, ready-made answers. Sharing God with others cannot just be speaking about him, as even the devil knows God exists, the Pope said, but must be about sharing life-giving words that leave room for the work of the Holy Spirit. God is close to everyone, he said, but, oftentimes, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, people just do not recognize him.
Francis shared an anecdote: “It is said that once upon a time Pope John, meeting a journalist who told him he did not believe, answered him: ‘Don’t worry! You say that! God doesn’t know and considers you a child to love just the same.’”
“‘God is love,’ as Scripture says,” Pope Francis pointed out. “God is like that; he does not vary depending on how we behave: He is unconditional love; he does not change.” This is a beautiful thing to be able to announce to those who have grown lukewarm, who have lost their first enthusiasm for Jesus Christ, he said. Explaining that because faith is born and reborn from encountering Jesus, he said encounters with Christ help grow faith.
“Draw closer to those in need; build bridges; serve those who suffer; take care of the poor; ‘anoint with patience’ those around us; comfort those who are discouraged; bless those who harm us,” he urged. “Thus, we become living signs of the Love we proclaim.”