St. Paul Was a Tireless Evangelizer
by Pope Francis
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
This Audience is done in two groups: the sick are in Paul VI Hall — I was with them, I greeted and blessed them; there are about 250. They are more comfortable there, given the rain — and we here, but they see us on the giant screen. We greet one another in the two groups with applause.
The Acts of the Apostles recount that Paul, tireless evangelizer that he was, after his stay at Athens, characterized by hostility but also by fruits such as the conversion of Dionysius and Damaris, carries forward the course of the Bible in the world. The new stage of his journey is Corinth, capital of the Roman province of Achaia, commercial and cosmopolitan city, thanks to the presence of two important ports.
As we read in chapter 18 of the Acts, Paul is given hospitality in the home of a married couple, Aquila and Priscilla (or Prisca), constrained to go from Rome to Corinth after Emperor Claudius ordered the expulsion of the Jews (Cf. Acts 18:2). I would like to make a parenthesis <here>. The Jewish people have suffered so much in history. They were thrown out, persecuted . . . And in the past century, we saw so many, so many brutalities done to the Jewish people and we were all convinced that this was over. However, today the rebirth begins of the habit of persecuting the Jews. Brothers and sisters, this isn’t human or Christian. The Jews are our brothers! And they must not be persecuted. Understood?
These spouses [i.e. Aquila and Priscilla] demonstrated they had a heart full of faith in God and generous towards others, able to make room for one who, like them, experienced the condition of stranger. Their sensibility led them to be de-centered from themselves to practice the Christian art of hospitality (Cf. Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2) and to open the doors of their home to receive the Apostle Paul. So they not only received the evangelizer but also the proclamation he bore in himself: Christ’s Gospel that is “the power of God for the salvation to everyone who has faith” (Romans 1:16). And from that moment their home was permeated with the perfume of the “living” Word (Hebrews 4:12), which vivifies hearts.
Aquila and Priscilla also shared with Paul his professional activity, namely, that of tent making. Paul, in fact, esteemed manual work very much and considered it a privileged place of Christian witness (Cf. 1 Corinthians 4:12), in addition to being a right way to maintain oneself without being a burden to others (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8), or to the community.
Aquila’s and Priscilla’s home in Corinth not only opens the doors to the Apostle but also to brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul, in fact, can speak of the community that gathers in their home” (1 Corinthians 16:19), which becomes a “home of the Church,” a “domus ecclesiae,” a place of listening to the Word of God and of celebration of the Eucharist. Today also, in some countries where there isn’t religious freedom and there is no freedom for Christians, Christians gather in a house, somewhat hidden, to pray and celebrate the Eucharist. Also today there are these houses, these families that become a temple for the Eucharist.
After a year and a half stay at Corinth, Paul leaves that city together with Aquila and Priscilla, who stop at Ephesus. There also their home becomes a place of catechesis (Cf. Acts 18:26). Finally, the two spouses return to Rome and are the recipients of splendid praise that the Apostle inserts in the Letter to the Romans. He had a grateful heart and Paul wrote thus about these two spouses in the Letter to the Romans. Listen: “Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I but also all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks” (16:4). How many families in times of persecution risk their heads to keep the persecuted hidden! This is the first example: family hospitality, also in awful moments.
Among Paul’s numerous collaborators, Aquila and Priscilla emerge as “models of a conjugal life responsibly committed at the service of the whole Christian community: and they remind us that, thanks to the faith and the commitment in the evangelization of so many laymen, such as them, Christianity has come down to us. In fact, “to be rooted in the land of the people, to develop profoundly, the commitment of these families was necessary. But think that from the beginning Christianity was preached by the laity. You lay people are also responsible, by your Baptism, to take the faith forward. It was the commitment of so many families, of these spouses, of these Christian communities, of the lay faithful that offered the ‘humus” for the growth of the faith” (Benedict XVI, Catechesis, February 7, 2007). This phrase of Pope Benedict XVI is beautiful: the laity gives the humus for the growth of the faith.
Let us ask the Father, who chose to make of spouses His “true living ‘sculpture’” (Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, 11) — I believe there are newlyweds here: listen to your vocation, you must be the true living sculpture — to effuse His Spirit on all Christian couples so that, on the example of Aquila and Priscilla, they are able to open the doors of their hearts to Christ and to brothers and transform their homes into domestic churches. Beautiful word: a home is a domestic church, where communion is lived and worship is offered of a life lived with faith, hope, and charity. We must pray to these two Saints, Aquila and Prisca so that they teach our families to be like them: a domestic church where there is humus so that the faith grows.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I greet the Missionary Sisters of Saint Charles Borromeo (Scalabrinians), who are holding their General Chapter, and I encourage them to put their charism ever more at the service of the Church. I greet the Spiritual Assistants of the Secular Franciscan Order; the Salesian Men and Women Missionaries; the participants in the World Assembly of Guanelliani Co-operators and the parish groups, especially that of Canosa of Puglia. In addition, I greet the Italian Federation of Nursery Schools, the Adisco Association; the diabetology health workers and the Professional Association of Italian Cooks.
Finally, I greet the young people, the elderly, the sick and the newlyweds, in particular, the young couples from the Diocese of Fabriano-Matelica. I invite you all to pray for my forthcoming Apostolic Journey to Thailand and Japan, so that the Lord may grant the peoples visited copious gifts of grace.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
The Holy Father’s Appeal
A special thought goes to dear Burkina Faso, tried for some time by recurring violence and where recently an attack cost the lives of almost one hundred people. I entrust to the Lord all the victims, the wounded, the numerous displaced and all those suffering because of these tragedies. I make an appeal so that the protection of the most vulnerable isn’t lacking; and I encourage the civil and religious authorities and all those animated by goodwill to multiply their efforts in the spirit of the Abu Dhabi Document on Human Fraternity, to promote inter-religious dialogue and concord.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
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