Appearing on his balcony at St Peter's Square on September 1, Pope Francis prayed the Angelus along with the thousands of people gathered in the historic piazza. Commenting on the Gospel reading of the day, in which the Pope said Jesus, “after having confirmed that Peter and the other eleven believed in Him as the Messiah and the Son of God, began to explain to them that He had to go to Jerusalem where He would suffer greatly, be killed, and rise again on the third day”. The Pope remarked, “It is a critical moment in which Jesus' and the disciples' method of thinking emerges”.
Pope Francis said that Jesus reproved Peter, and sought to put the first pope “back in line” because Peter does not think “as God does, but as human beings do”, and without realising that he is assuming the role of Satan, the tempter.
The Apostle Paul also insists upon this theme in this Sunday's liturgy in his Letter to the Romans, when he affirms that Christians must not conform to this world without transforming it to discern the will of God.
“In effect”, the Pope continued, “we Christians live in the world, fully integrated in the social and cultural reality of our time, and it is right that it is so; however, this carries the risk that we become 'worldly', that the salt loses its flavour, as Jesus would say; that is, that the Christian is 'watered down', losing the inspiration of newness that comes from the Lord and the Holy Spirit. Instead, they should be the opposite: when the strength of the Gospel remains alive in Christians, they can transform “mankind’s criteria of judgement, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life”, he emphasised while quoting Pope Paul VI.
“It is sad to meet Christians who are watered down, like wine; you cannot tell whether they are Christians or worldly, like watered wine; it is impossible to tell whether it is wine or water. It is sad to meet Christians who are no longer the salt of the earth … because they have committed themselves to the spirit of this world, that is, they have become worldly. Therefore, it is necessary to renew oneself continuously, to draw lymph from the Gospel … by reading and meditating the Gospel every day, so the word of Jesus may always be present in our life”, emphasised Pope Francis while he reminded his listeners to always to carry a copy of the Gospel and read a passage every day.
Renewal also comes, he said, from participation in Sunday Mass, “where we find the Lord in the community, listening to His Word and receiving the Eucharist which unites us to Him and one another”, as well as in days of retreat and spiritual exercises.
Concluding, he added, “Thanks to these gifts from the Lord, we can conform not to the world, but to Christ, and to follow Him on His path, the path of 'losing one’s own life' in order to find it. offering it for love and in love – and this involves sacrifice, even unto the cross – to receive it again purified, freed of selfishness and from the debt of death, full of eternity”.
After praying the Hail Mary or Ave Maria, the Pope remarked that September 1 is noted in Italy as the Day for the Protection of Creation. Organized by the bishops of Italy, this year will be for “educating for the protection of creation, for the health of our country and city”.
Pope Francis emphasised its importance and launched an appeal for “strength and commitment on the part of all – institutions, associations and citizens – so that the life and health of people may be protected, also respecting the environment and nature”. He also called upon members of Italy's parliament to “live the delicate role of representatives of the people in conformity with Gospel values”.