On the second day of his Apostolic Journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pope Francis celebrated Mass for more than a million people at the Ndolo airport in Kinshasa, and expressed his joy to finally be among the Congolese people; “Esengo, joy: to see and encounter you is a great joy”, he said. “I have very much looked forward to this moment!”.

The Holy Father recalled the Gospel reading which told of the four simple words Jesus offered to His disciples, on the evening of Easter, “Peace be with you!” These words, the Pope stressed, were “a gift” that enabled them to leave the past behind and start over. The Pope invited those present to put themselves in the disciples’ place. 

“That day they were completely mortified by the scandal of the Cross, interiorly wounded from having fled and abandoned Jesus, dismayed by the way His life had ended and fearful that their lives would end in the same way,” he said. “They were feeling guilty, frustrated, sorrowful and afraid…  However, Jesus comes and proclaims peace, even as His disciples’ hearts were downcast.”

Jesus, the Pope said, announces life, even as His disciples felt surrounded by death. 

God lifts us up from ‘rock bottom’

The peace of Jesus, he stated, arrived at the very moment when, suddenly, and to their surprise, “everything seemed to be over for them, without even a glimmer of peace.” 

“That is what the Lord does: He surprises us. He takes us by the hand when we are falling. He lifts us up when we are hitting rock bottom.”

With Jesus, the Pope insisted, “evil never wins, evil never has the last word.” Those who belong to Jesus, he continued, “must never yield to sorrow,” nor “permit resignation and fatalism to take hold” of them. 

“Even though that atmosphere reigns all around us,” he said, “it must not be so for us.”  

“In a world disheartened by violence and war, Christians must be like Jesus,” he added. “As if to insist on the point, Jesus told the disciples once more: Peace be with you!”

The Pope said we are called to make our own “this inspired and prophetic message of peace” and proclaim it before the world.

A great ‘amnesty of the heart’

Jesus, the Pope told the country’s faithful, “knows the wounds of your country, your people, your land!”  

“They are wounds that ache, continually infected by hatred and violence, while the medicine of justice and the balm of hope never seem to arrive. My brother, my sister, Jesus suffers with you.  He sees the wounds you carry within, and he desires to console and heal you,” he said.

Together, the Pope added, “we believe that Jesus always gives us the possibility of being forgiven and starting over, but also the strength to forgive ourselves, others and history!” 

“That is what Christ wants,” he said.

The Pope then addressed all the DRC’s wounded and oppressed people, saying that the Lord is urging them to bury their wounds in His.

“Do not be afraid to take the crucifix from your neck and out of your pockets, to take it between your hands and hold it close to your heart, in order to share your wounds with the wounds of Jesus.  Then, when you return home, take the crucifix from the wall and embrace it,” he said.

“Give Christ the chance to heal your heart, hand your past over to him, along with all your fears and troubles,” the Pope said. 

‘Consciences of peace in our world’

“We are called to be missionaries of peace,” the Pope said, saying this will bring us peace.

“We need to find room in our hearts for everyone; to believe that ethnic, regional, social and religious differences are secondary and not obstacles; that others are our brothers and sisters, members of the same human community; and that the peace brought into the world by Jesus is meant for everyone.”  

“We need to believe that we Christians are called to cooperate with everyone, to break the cycle of violence, to dismantle the machinations of hatred. Yes, Christians, sent by Christ, are called by definition to be a conscience of peace in our world.”

The Pope said this cooperation requires not merely critical consciences, “but primarily witnesses of love.” 

“‘Peace be with you’ Jesus says today to every family, community, ethnic group, neighbourhood and city in this great country.”  

 Pope Francis concluded his homily at Mass in DR Congo by praying that our Lord’s words resound in the silence of our hearts. 

“Let us hear them addressed to us and let us choose to be witnesses of forgiveness, builders of community, people charged with a mission of peace in our world,” he said.

Credit: Vatican News