The Lord works with imperfect situations and imperfect people, so persevere in holiness, Pope Francis encouraged Catholics in Bulgaria Sunday.
“The Lord does not wait for perfect situations or frames of mind: he creates them. He does not expect to encounter people without problems, disappointments, sins or limitations,” the pope said at Mass May 5.
Jesus “himself confronted sin and disappointment in order to encourage all men and women to persevere,” he continued. “In Jesus, God always offers us another chance. He calls us day by day to deepen our love for him and to be revived by his eternal newness. Every morning, he comes to find us where we are.”
Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Sofia, Bulgaria, on the first day of a May 5-7 trip to Bulgaria and North Macedonia. Catholics are a minority in the country; they are estimated to be fewer than 50,000 in a population of over 7 million.
According to organizers, there were an estimated 7,000 people at Mass with Pope Francis.
In his homily, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, when the resurrected Jesus appears to a group of his disciples while they are fishing in the Sea of Galilee.
Peter had returned to his old life as a fisherman, he said. “The weight of suffering, disappointment, and of betrayal had become like a stone blocking the hearts of the disciples. They were still burdened with pain and guilt, and the good news of the resurrection had not taken root in their hearts.”
In the face of failure, hurt, or even the fact that at times things do not go the way we want, there always comes a subtle and dangerous temptation to become disheartened and to give up, he said. This is the tomb psychology that tinges everything with dejection and leads us to indulge in a soothing sense of self-pity that, like a moth, eats away at all our hope.
He emphasized that God is love, and that “love is his language,” which is why “he asks Peter, and us, to learn that language.”
Peter’s answer to the Lord’s question — “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” — reveals that Peter recognizes his own weakness. “He realizes that he cannot make progress on his own. And he takes his stand on the Lord and on the strength of his love, to the very end.”
One of the greatest difficulties today is people who know God is love, but who do not witness to this in the world, so that “for many people, this is not his name,” the pope said.
God makes our lives works of art, “if only we let ourselves be led by his love,” he said. “Many of the witnesses of Easter in this blessed land created magnificent masterpieces, inspired by simple faith and great love.”
He encouraged Bulgarian Catholics to not be afraid of holiness and to not be afraid to become the saints their country needs.
“Today we are called to lift up our eyes and acknowledge what the Lord has done in the past, and to walk with him towards the future, knowing that, whether we succeed or fail, he will always be there to keep telling us to cast our nets,” he concluded.