On the Solemnity of Christ the King, Pope Francis said Jesus, through his death on the cross, opened his arms to embrace all people and everything about them, including their death, pain, and weakness.
“Only by entering into [Christ’s] embrace do we come to realize that God went to this extreme, even to the paradox of the cross, in order to embrace everything about us, even what was furthest from him: our death — he embraced our death — our pain, our poverty, our weakness, and our frailties. He embraced all of that,” the pope said Nov. 20 in the Asti Cathedral in northern Italy.
Pope Francis visited the Italian province of Asti, 30 miles east of Turin, Nov. 19-20.
The pope’s father, Mario José Bergoglio, lived in the Diocese of Asti before migrating to Argentina in 1929. Pope Francis’ maternal grandparents also immigrated to Argentina from northern Italy.
In his homily for the final Sunday of the liturgical year, Pope Francis said he wanted, in the land of his own roots, to reflect on “the roots of our faith.”
“Those roots are planted in the barren soil of Calvary, where Jesus, like the seed that falls to the earth and dies, made hope spring up,” he said.
Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to ask themselves: “Is this king of the universe also the king of my life? Do I believe him? How can How can I celebrate him as the Lord of all creation, unless he also becomes the Lord of my life?”
Today, Jesus our king looks at us from the cross, the pope said. “It is up to us to choose whether we will be onlookers or involved.”
“Am I a spectator or do I want to be involved?” he said. “We see the crises of the present time, the decline of faith, the lack of participation… What are we to do? Are we content to theorize and criticize, or do we roll up our sleeves, take life in hand, and pass from the ‘if’ of excuses to the ‘yes’ of prayer and service?”
The pope said: “All of us think we know what is wrong with society, all of us; we talk every day about what is wrong with the world, and even with the Church — many things are wrong with the Church. But then what do we do? Do we soil our hands like our God, nailed to the cross? Or do we stand with hands in our pockets, as mere onlookers?”
The 85-year-old Francis traveled to the northern region of Piedmont to celebrate the 90th birthday of his second cousin, Carla Rabezzana, with his Italian relatives.
On Saturday, besides lunch in his cousin’s home in Portocomaro, he also stopped at a church and visited a nursing home and residence for the elderly.
The pope stayed overnight in the town of Asti, where he celebrated Mass at the cathedral and ate lunch with Bishop Marco Prastaro, before flying back to the Vatican by helicopter on Sunday afternoon.
Christ became a slave “so that each of us could become a son,” Francis said at Mass Nov. 20. “He let himself be insulted and derided, so that whenever we are brought low, we will never feel alone. He let himself be stripped of his garments, so that no one would ever feel stripped of his or her rightful dignity. He ascended the cross, so that God would be present in every crucified man or woman throughout history.”
“Today, as Jesus, naked on the cross, unveils God and destroys every false image of his kingship, let us look to him and thus find the courage to look at ourselves, to follow the path of confident trust and intercession, and to make servants of ourselves, in order to reign with him,” he said.
At the end of Mass, Pope Francis addressed a few words to teenagers and young adults for the diocesan celebration of World Youth Day before praying the Angelus.
The theme of this year’s local World Youth Day, he said, is the same as the global gathering, which will take place in Lisbon, Portugal in August 2023: “Mary arose and went with haste.”
Pope Francis said he likes to ponder the Virgin Mary going “in a hurry” to visit her cousin Elizabeth, and sometimes, when he is asking for her intercession in prayer, he asks Our Lady “to hurry up and solve this problem.”
Mary’s haste, the pope said, encourages us not to waste our lives “chasing after comfort or the latest fads, but to aim for the heights.”
“Today, we need young people who are truly ‘transgressives,’ non-conformists,” he urged, “who are not slaves to their mobile phones, but who change the world like Mary, bearing Jesus to others, taking care of others, building fraternal communities with others, realizing dreams of peace.”