15 February 2018 - Pope Francis celebrated Mass this afternoon at the Fraterna Domus, in Sacrofano, outside Rome, to mark the opening of a three-day ‘Liberi dalla paura’ (Free from fear) meeting promoted and organised by the Migrantes Foundation, Caritas Italy and the Centro Astalli.
In his homily, the pontiff made a strong, heartfelt plea to welcome migrants, urging people not to be afraid, for Jesus is in the migrant knocking at our door. It is Jesus, even if it is difficult to recognise him because of his “ragged clothes, dirty feet, deformed face, wounded body, unable to speak our language”.
As he addressed the migrants and volunteers from Catholic associations dedicated to helping and integrating migrants, Francis centred his reflection on ‘Don’t be afraid’, which Moses said to the Jews when, on the shores of the Red Sea, they saw pharaoh’s army approach, and which Jesus said to the apostles when he moved towards them walking on the water.
"Through these biblical episodes, the Lord speaks to us today and asks us to let him free us from our fears. 'Free from fear' is precisely the theme chosen for your meeting. Free from fear. Slavery is rooted in fear and so is every dictatorship, because the violence of the dictators grows out of people's fear."
"Confronted by the wickedness and ugliness of our time, we too, like the People of Israel, are tempted to abandon our dream of freedom. We feel legitimate fear in front of situations that seem to us to have no way out. The human words of a ruler or a prophet are not enough to reassure us when we fail to feel God’s presence and are unable to abandon ourselves to his providence. Thus, we turn inward, into our fragile human security, the circle of our loved ones, our reassuring routine. In the end, we give up the journey to the Promised Land and return to the slavery of Egypt."
"This withdrawal into ourselves, a sign of defeat, increases our fear of others, the outsiders, the marginalised, the foreigners. Who, however, are the privileged of the Lord. This is particularly visible when migrants and refugees arrive and knock on our door seeking protection, security and a better future. It is true, fear is legitimate, partly because nothing prepares us for this encounter.”
“As I said last year, on the occasion of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees,’ It is not easy to enter into another culture, to put oneself in the shoes of people so different from us, to understand their thoughts and their experiences. As a result, we often refuse to encounter the other and raise barriers to defend ourselves.’ In fact, we are called to overcome fear by opening ourselves to the encounter. Forsaking encountering [others] is not human. To do this, rational justifications and statistical calculations are not enough. Moses told the people in front of the Red Sea, with a brutal enemy pursuing them, ‘Don’t be afraid’, because the Lord does not abandon his people, but mysteriously acts in history to realise his plan of salvation. Moses spoke thus because he trusted God."
"Encountering others then is also encountering Christ. He told us this himself. He is the one knocks on our door hungry, thirsty, a foreigner, naked, sick and imprisoned, asking to be met and assisted. If we still had any doubts, here are his clear words: ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me’ (Mt 25:40). The Teacher’s encouragement to his disciples can also be understood in this other sense: ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid’ (Mt 14:27).
“It is truly Him, even if our eyes find it hard to recognise him: ragged clothes, dirty feet, deformed face, wounded body, unable to speak our language . . . We too, like Peter, could be tempted to put Jesus to a test, ask him for a sign. And maybe, after some hesitant steps towards him, we would remain victims of our fears again. Yet, the Lord does not abandon us! Even though we are men and women of little faith, Christ continues to extend his hand to save us and allow us to meet him, an encounter that saves us and gives us back the joy of being his disciples."
"If this is a valid interpretation of our history of today, then we should begin to thank those who give us the opportunity of such an encounter, that is, the 'others' who knock on our doors, offering us the possibility of overcoming our fears so as to meet, welcome and assist Jesus in person."
"And those who had the strength to allow themselves to be freed from fear, those who have experienced the joy of this encounter, are called today to announce it on the roofs, openly, to help others do the same, preparing themselves to the encounter with Christ and his salvation. This grace brings with it a mission, the fruit of total reliance on the Lord, who for us is the only true certainty. For this reason, as individuals and communities, we are called to make our own the prayer of the redeemed people: ‘My strength and my refuge is the LORD, and he has become my saviour’ (Ex 15:2).”