“Jesus tells us that in order to follow him, to be his disciples, one must deny oneself – that is, the claims of one’s own selfish pride – and take up one’s very cross,” the pope said Sept. 16. “Then he gives everyone a fundamental rule. And what is this rule? ‘Whoever wants to save his life will lose it.’”
To have faith, he said, must go further than mere words – it must lead to concrete actions and choices, “marked by love of God, by a great life, by a life with so much love for neighbor.”
“But we find happiness only when love, real [love], meets us, surprises us, changes us. Love changes everything! And love can change us too, each of us. The testimonies of the saints demonstrate this,” he said.
Francis said that the Lord wants his disciples to have a personal relationship with him and to make him the center of their lives. Like Jesus asks to his disciples in the day’s Gospel: “Who do you say that I am?”
“Everyone is called to respond, in his own heart, letting himself be illuminated by the light that the Father gives us to know his Son Jesus,” he said. And like Peter, one might confirm enthusiastically, that he is Christ.”
“But when Jesus tells us clearly what he said to the disciples, namely that his mission is accomplished not in the broad road of success, but in the arduous path of the suffering, humiliated, rejected and crucified Servant,” then it can be easy to want to protest and rebel, like Peter did, he said.
He said: In these moments, Christians deserve the same reproof Jesus gave Peter: “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
After the Angelus, in honor of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, celebrated by the Church on Sept. 14, Pope Francis distributed small metal crucifixes to those present in St. Peter’s Square.
Emphasizing that the crucifix is a religious sign for contemplation and prayer, not a merely ornamental object, he said “looking at Jesus crucified, we look at our salvation.”
He added that the cross “is a gift from the pope,” and is free, so to beware if anyone asks them to pay. The crucifixes were handed out by religious sisters, poor, homeless, and refugees. “As always, faith comes from the little ones, from the humble ones,” Francis noted, thanking them.
According to the pope’s charity office, the silver-plated crucifixes, packaged in a transparent envelope, included a card with a quote from Pope Francis in Italian, English, and Spanish. From July 2013 during World Youth Day in Brazil, it says: “In the Cross of Christ there is all the love of God, there is his immense mercy.”
After handing out the 40,000 crosses, the around 300 volunteers and needy were given a sack lunch by Pope Francis.