MORNING MEDITATION IN THE CHAPEL OF THE
The eve of the Apostle’s life
Friday, 18 October 2013
(by L'Osservatore Romano, Weekly ed. in English, n.
43, 25 October 2013)
Pope Francis commented on the liturgical readings of the day taken from St
Paul's Second Letter to Timothy (4:10-17) and from the Gospel of St Luke
(10:1-9). The Pope began by noting the contrast between the two Scripture
passages. The Gospel, he said, speaks to us about the “beginning of the
apostolic life”; when the disciples were called they were “young, strong and
joyful”; while in his Second Letter to Timothy, St Paul who “had reached the
twilight of life” reflects on the end of his apostolic mission. Pope Francis
explained that the two passages teach us that every apostle experiences a joyful,
enthusiastic beginning, with God within, and yet this does not spare him from
Pope Francis illustrated the point by focusing on the three iconic figures of
Moses, John the Baptist and Paul. When Moses was young, he “was the courageous
leader of God's people who struggled against the people's enemies and even with
God to save them... but in the end he is alone on Mount Nebo looking towards the
promised land” he would never enter.
John the Baptist, too, was spared neither anguish nor distress at the end of
his life. The great forerunner questioned if he had made a mistake, if he had
taken the wrong path, and he even asked his friends to go to Jesus and ask him
“are you the one or must we wait for another?”. Indeed, at the end of his life
“the greatest man born of woman” — as Christ himself had called him — “was
subjected to the power of a weak, drunken and corrupt governor, an adulterous
woman's envy and a dancer's whim”.
Finally, in his Letter to Timothy, Paul confides his bitter disappointment to
his spiritual son. “He was not in the seventh heaven”, the Pope remarked.
Writing to Timothy, the Apostle confided: “Demas, in love with this present
world, has deserted me; Crescens has gone to Galatia; Titus to Dalmatia. Luke
alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you; for his is very useful to me;
bring the cloak that I left, also the books, and above all the parchments.
Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm. Beware of him yourself, for he
strongly opposed our message”. Pope Francis then cited Paul's own account of his
trial: “At my first defence no one took my part; all deserted me. But the Lord
stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the Gospel fully”. St Paul, Pope
Francis said, iconically captures the eve of every apostle's life: “alone,
abandoned, betrayed”; helped only by the Lord who “does not abandon, who does
not betray”, since “he is faithful, and he cannot deny himself”.
Pope Francis then remarked that the greatness of the Apostle consisted in
conforming his life to the words of the Baptist: “He must increase and I must
decrease”. In fact, the apostle is precisely one “who gives his life so that the
Lord might increase, and then he comes to the end of his life”. Even to St Peter
the Lord said: “when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another
will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go”.
Reflecting on the final phase of the lives of these great figures, Pope
Francis continued, made him think of homes for elderly priests and religious
sisters which he called “shrines of apostolic life and holiness”. In these homes,
he said, one will find “good elderly priests and sisters who live under the
weight of solitude, and who wait for the Lord to come to knock at the door of
their hearts”. Unfortunately, he said, we tend to forget about these shrines:
“they are not beautiful places, because there we see what awaits us”. However,
he said, “if we look at them more deeply, they are beautiful” because they house
a wealth of humanity. To visit one is to “make a true pilgrimage to a place of
apostolic life and holiness”. “These sisters and priests wait for the Lord a
little like St Paul did: they are a bit sad, it is true, but they also have a
certain peace, their faces shine with joy”.
The Holy Father concluded by asking the Lord to watch over the priests and
religious who have reached the evening of life so that they might say once more
to the Lord: “yes, Lord, I want to follow you”.