Addressing the faithful in Saint Peter’s Square for the Sunday Angelus, Pope Francis says we need an “ecology of the heart” developed through “rest, contemplation and compassion”. And the summer is a good time to do this.
After a two-week absence, Pope Francis appeared once again at the window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking Saint Peter’s Square for the noontime Sunday Angelus. A week ago he led the Angelus prayer from Rome’s Gemelli Hospital, greeting crowds below from the tenth floor balcony where he was recovering from intestinal surgery that took place a week earlier. The Pope returned to the Vatican on Wednesday.
In his reflections before leading the recitation of the Angelus, the Pope drew from the Gospel of the Sunday liturgy, which recounts when the Apostles return enthusiastically from their missionary labors and Jesus invites them to “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while” (Mk 6:31). Jesus offers us an important teaching here, the Pope observed, as He is concerned about their wellbeing due to the physical or interior tiredness, even though He rejoices on seeing their happiness over the success of their preaching.
We too can get caught up in the rush of all our activities and be focused always on doing things and achieving results, the Pope said, and this presents a risk of thinking we are the prime protagonists. We see this at times in the Church, he noted, where we are very busy, thinking everything “depends on us”, but we risk overlooking Jesus. Jesus’ invitation to take time out to rest is “not only physical rest, but also rest for the heart” he added.
To truly rest, we need to “return to the heart of things”, the Pope said, and that requires stopping our activities and remaining in silence and prayer to help us stop focusing on all that we have done and need to do. Jesus always served others, but each day He would “withdraw in prayer, in silence, in intimacy with the Father”, the Pope said, and “His tender invitation – rest a while – should accompany us.” The Pope added, let us learn how to take a break, “to turn off the mobile phone” and look at one another, “cultivate silence, to contemplate nature, to regenerate ourselves in dialogue with God”.
As we read further in today’s Gospel, the Pope noted, we learn that Jesus and the disciples could not take any rest in the end, given all the crowds coming to them for help. The Lord was moved with compassion, he said, dedicating His time to help the people. The Pope said this may seem a contradiction, but it is not, since a heart that is not overtaken with busyiness and focusing only on itself, is a heart that “is capable of being moved” to be being aware of others and their wounds and needs.
“Compassion is born from contemplation”, the Pope said, and by learning to truly rest we can be authentically compassionate. By staying close to the Lord and true to who we are, all of our activities and outreach will not have the better of us, the Pope said, summarizing it by saying “We need an ‘ecology of the heart’, that is made up of rest, contemplation and compassion”.