Pope Francis asked young people Sunday to reach out to the elderly, especially those in nursing homes, to send a message of encouragement amid the loneliness of the coronavirus pandemic.
“In the memory of Saints Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus, I would like to invite young people to make a gesture of tenderness towards the elderly, especially the most lonely ones in homes and residences, those who have not seen their loved ones for many months,” Pope Francis said after the Angelus prayer on July 26.
“Dear young people, each of these elderly people are your grandparents. Do not leave them alone. … They are your roots,” the pope added.
Pope Francis suggested that young people can use the “inventiveness of love” to “send a hug” to an elderly person in their community by making a phone or video call, sending a card, or making a visit when safety measures allow.
The Roman Catholic Church commemorates Sts. Joachim and Anne, the parents of the Virgin Mary, on July 26. They have been a part of the Church’s liturgical calendar for many centuries.
The pope said that their memorial is an opportunity to give grandparents “a big round of applause.” Connection with one’s roots is important, he said, quoting the Argentine poet Francisco Luis Bernárdez, who wrote: “The blossom of a tree comes from what it has underground.”
Reflecting on Sunday’s Gospel, Pope Francis said that Jesus “proposes to involve us in the building of the Kingdom of Heaven.”
He pointed to the example of the merchant who finds the pearl of great price and the person who finds treasure buried in a field in Jesus’ parables in the Gospel of Matthew.
“Both the man and the merchant in these two parables sell everything they have, thus renouncing their material security,” he said. “From this it can be understood that the building of the Kingdom requires not only the grace of God, but also the active willingness of humanity.”
“Everything is done by grace, everything! We need only have the willingness to receive it, not to resist grace: grace does everything, but it takes my responsibility, my willingness,” he said.
Today people’s lives can become “mediocre and dull” when a person is content with “attractive but fleeting things” and does not go in search of real treasure, the pope said.
“The Kingdom of Heaven is the opposite of the superfluous things that the world offers, the opposite of a dull life: it is a treasure that renews life every day and leads it to extend towards wider horizons. Indeed, those who have found this treasure have a creative and inquisitive heart, which does not repeat but rather invents, tracing and setting out on new paths which lead us to love God, to love others, and to truly love ourselves,” Pope Francis said.
“We are called upon to assume the attitude of these two Gospel figures, so that we too may become healthily restless seekers of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a matter of abandoning the heavy burden of our worldly sureties that prevent us from searching and building up the Kingdom: the covetousness for possession, the thirst for profit and power, and thinking only of ourselves,” he said.
One sign that a person is on the path to the Kingdom of Heaven is “creativity,” the pope explained. “Creativity is what … gives life,” he said, “And it gives, and gives, and gives… It always looks for many other ways to give life.”
“Jesus, who is the hidden treasure and the pearl of great value, cannot but inspire joy, all the joy of the world: the joy of discovering a meaning in life, the joy of committing oneself to the adventure of holiness,” Pope Francis said.
After his Angelus prayer, Pope Francis said that he was praying that a new ceasefire agreement concerning the Donbass region “will finally be put into practice.”
There have been more than 20 ceasefires declared since 2014 in the ongoing conflict between Russian-backed separatist forces and the Ukrainian military which has killed more than 10,000 people.
“While I thank you for this sign of goodwill aimed at restoring the much desired peace in that tormented region, I pray that what has been agreed will finally be put into practice, also through an effective process of disarmament and mine removal. This is the only way to build trust and to lay the foundations for the much needed and long awaited reconciliation by the population,” the pope said.