Sunday Sermon Of Pope Francis In Mongolia: “Christian Faith Quenches Thirst”

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Steppe Arena, Ulaanbaatar

Sunday, September 3, 2023

The central event of Pope Francis’ 43rd apostolic trip to Mongolia was the Sunday Service, which the Pontiff performed at the Steppe Arena ice palace in the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar. Together with hierarchs from various countries and the Holy Father, Jesus was celebrated by the Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar, Cardinal Giorgio Marengo, and the President of the Episcopal Conference of Central Asia, Monsignor José Luis Mumbiela Sierra, Ordinary of the Diocese of the Most Holy Trinity in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
At the Sunday Service at the Steppe Arena stadium in Ulaanbaatar, the Pope recalled that the “heart of Christianity” lies not in any form of greatness, but in generosity, which becomes a gift to others: in the deserts of life we are “God’s nomads,” and He quenches every inner thirst.
As reported by the Vatican News agency, the Pope addressed thousands of gathered believers, Catholics, Orthodox, and Buddhists with a sermon. “Only love,” said the Pontiff, “truly quenches the thirst of the human heart. What kind of love? The gratuitous love of God for man and the one that man, with the same gratuitousness, knows how to give to others for the sake of God.” Pope Francis has made this most important Christian truth the core of his sermon.
As Vatican News writes, Pope Francis began his sermon addressed to more than 2,000 pilgrims with the Responsorial Psalm, sounded in the Liturgy with the words: “God!.. My heart thirsts for you, my body longs for you in a land parched and exhausted, where no water can be found.” (Ps 63:2). “This wonderful proclamation,” the Pope explained, “accompanies our life’s journey in the midst of the deserts that we must cross, and it is on this parched land that the Good News overcomes us: on our path we are not alone.” We are all “called to recognize that there is a thirst within us: the psalmist cries out to God because his life is like a desert.” These words have a special echo on Mongolian soil, a vast territory rich in history and culture, but also marked by the aridity of steppes and deserts.
“Many of you,” the Pope addressed the faithful, “are accustomed to the beauty and burden of walking, an activity that reminds of an essential aspect of biblical spirituality, represented in the figure of Abraham and, in a broader sense, the people of Israel, as well as in every disciple of the Lord: in fact, we are all ‘God’s nomads,’ pilgrims in search of happiness, wanderers thirsting for love.”
“Dear brothers and sisters, the Christian faith quenches this thirst; takes it seriously; does not cancel it, does not try to pacify it with the help of palliatives or surrogates. For in this thirst lies our great secret: it reveals us to the living God, the God of Love, who comes to meet us so that we become his children and brothers and sisters for each other.”
It is love that quenches thirst: God takes care of us and offers us clean water, the living water of the Holy Spirit, and this water renews us, rescuing us from lack of water. The Pope referred to St. Augustine, who asserted: if we recognize ourselves as thirsty, then we recognize ourselves as having quenched our thirst. In our lives we often go through the experience of desert, loneliness, barrenness, and the consolation in this desert is, in the words of St. Augustine, “the preachers of His Word.” Although Mongolian Catholics are a small community, there is no shortage of this water of the Word of the Lord, especially thanks to preachers and missionaries.
The Sunday Gospel tells how the Apostle Peter did not accept the fact of Jesus’s suffering and contradicted Him. Jesus responds by saying, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matt 16:24-25).
“Brothers, sisters, this is the best way: to embrace the cross of Christ. There is this amazing, extraordinary news at the heart of Christianity: when you lose your own life, you give it generously, when you risk it in love, when you give it unselfishly for others, it comes back to you in abundance.”
At the end of the Holy Mass, the Pope thanked the faithful of Mongolia for being “good Catholics and honest citizens”, thanked the bishops, religious and clergy who also arrived from other Asian countries, in particular the hierarchs from Hong Kong, conveying warm greetings to Chinese Catholics on this occasion. The Pope noted that in the Mongolian language the word for gratitude comes from the word “joy,” and the Holy Father gives it this meaning. The Mass is the Eucharist, thanksgiving, the Pope further said and mentioned the Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who a hundred years ago was engaged in geological excavations in nearby lands. Father Teilhard wanted to celebrate Holy Mass, but he had neither bread nor wine. Then he composed the famous “Mass over the World,” expressing his offering thus: “Accept, Lord, this total host, which the Creation, moved by Your attraction, brings to You at the new dawn.” He offered a similar prayer during the First World War, when he served as a porter orderly. “This priest, often misunderstood, realized that the Eucharist is always celebrated, in a certain sense, on the altar of peace,” the Pope clarified and suggested prayer in the words of Father Teilhard: “You are the luminous Word, You are the fiery force, You sculpt multiplicity in order to breathe into it the spirit of Your life; I pray to You, touch us with Your hands, Your caring, omnipresent hands.”
At the end of the service, the Pope addressed words of gratitude to all brothers and sisters in Mongolia and added: “You are in my heart and will remain in my heart.”