By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Thousands of the faithful gathered together in St Peter’s Basilica, responding to Pope Francis’ invitation to participate in “24 Hours for the Lord.” The Pope’s homily focused on the readings chosen for the penitential celebration: 1 John 3:1-10, 19-22 and Matthew 26:69-75.
God’s love surpasses our imagination
Pope Francis says that John’s words provide us with a source of “joy and consolation,” knowing that God’s love for us is so deep that we are his children. That love surpasses our imagination and “reaches beyond any sin with which our conscience may charge us. His is an infinite love, one that knows no bounds.” It is God’s grace that we can rely on in order to strengthen our hope that we will never lack his love, “in spite of any sin we may have committed by rejecting his presence in our lives.”
Jesus wants Peter to allow him to love him
Peter teaches us that “at times our life has lost its direction,” the Pope continues. Peter is startled by a cock crowing. This reminds him of Jesus’ words. And Peter understands. Through his tears, Peter begins to see God revealing himself through Christ. “Peter, who wanted to die for Jesus, now realizes that he must let Jesus die for him.” This is when Peter experiences the Lord’s charity. “Finally he understands that the Lord loves him and asks him to let himself be loved,” and that he has actually been refusing his love, refusing “to let himself be saved by Jesus alone.”
It is difficult to let God love us
Pope Francis then says that it is truly difficult for all of us to allow Jesus to love us. “We would always like a part of us to be freed of the debt of gratitude, while in reality we are completely indebted, because God loved us first and, with love, he saves us completely.”
The celebration continued after the Pope’s homily with time for an examination of conscience, the recitation of the Act of Contrition, Intercessory Prayer, individual confession and absolution, and period of thanksgiving for the gift of God’s Mercy.
More about “24 Hours with the Lord”
As announced in Pope Francis’ annual Lenten message, 9 and 10 March have been selected for the celebration of this Lenten event on an international level. The event in St Peter’s Basilica is organized and promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. This is the 5th time that “24 Hours with the Lord” has been celebrated. At least one church in every diocese is remaining open for a consecutive 24 hours to provide the faithful with an occasion to spend time before the Eucharist, and to approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation.