Pope says carrying the cross, Jesus asks, 'Do you love me?'

Pope Francis prays during the celebration of the chrism Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican March 28, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As a statue of Jesus bearing his cross is carried through the streets of Sonsonate, El Salvador, on Good Friday, Pope Francis asked Catholics to respond to Jesus' love with contemplation and a renewal of their love for God and for their needy neighbors.

"Brothers and sisters, in spite of our unworthiness, in spite of our continual ingratitude, let us always respond generously, 'Lord, you know that I love you,'" the pope said in a message marking the 420th anniversary of the Confraternity of Jesus the Nazarene of Sonsonate.

The pope's message to Bishop Constantino Barrera of Sonsonate and "all the devotees of Jesus the Nazarene" was published by the Vatican March 28.

As members of the confraternity organize the procession with 17th-century statue, Pope Francis asked what people hope to see when the statue passes by: "a beautiful statue, a valuable work of art or the people's excitement?"

None of those things matter, he said, if people of faith are not moved to think about how the Lord is present in their lives.

Using a term he has coined for people who stand on a balcony watching life go by, Pope Francis said, "How sad it would be if every Good Friday our hearts were simply to remain 'balconizing' a curious scene, without prostrating themselves before the passage of Jesus, without feeling, like Peter, his invitation to follow him."

The ancient Israelites and especially Moses, he said, often felt God's presence with them in the desert, but Christians "can contemplate that divine face and we can feel his feet walk beside us. This is the promise that God makes to us when the footstep of the Nazarene turns to enter our neighborhood, crosses our street and stops at the door of our homes."

Jesus looks at each person, he said, and asks the same question he asked of St. Peter, "Do you love me?"

"Brothers and sisters, like every year, like every moment, the Lord comes to meet us today," the pope said. "Let us follow him, carrying him on our shoulders, comforting him in the open wounds of our suffering brothers and sisters."

"Let us ask him to show us how we must 'glorify God' with our lives, in our daily work, in our family, in our commitment to create a more fraternal society -- in short, in the witness of good that we can all give, regardless of the vocation to which we have been called," Pope Francis wrote.


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