VATICAN CITY (CNS) – During Lent this year, residents of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where Pope Francis lives, decided to clean out their closets and give away things other people could use. “You can’t imagine how much stuff there was,” the pope said.

Leading his weekly general audience April 5, the pope said Holy Week is the perfect time to simplify one’s life and let go of things, especially of wounds, sin and past offenses that keep one from living in hope.

“Look at the wardrobe of your soul: How many useless things do you have, how many silly illusions?” he asked.

Pope Francis said that in his “other diocese,” Buenos Aires, when he would go around the city — “now I can’t do that because they won’t let me” — he would look at people’s faces and always was struck by how many seemed sad or completely distracted, “without peace, without hope.”

Pope Francis greets a young woman as he rides in the popemobile in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican during his weekly general audience April 5, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

So, he said, the sadness and disappointment of Jesus’ disciples after his arrest and death are completely understandable to most people.

People wonder, “Why is there so much evil in the world – look, there is evil in the world. Why do inequalities continue to increase and why is that long-awaited peace not arriving? Why are we so attached to war, to hurting one another?” the pope said. “And there is the feeling that times gone by were better and that in the world, perhaps even in the church, things are not going the way they once were.”

Such thoughts, he said, are signs that “hope sometimes seems to be sealed behind the stone of mistrust” just as Jesus was sealed behind the stone of his tomb.

For Jesus’ disciples, then and now, the cross is the key to restoring hope.

The cross, “the most terrible instrument of torture,” is the greatest sign of God’s love, he said. “Having become the tree of life, that wood of death reminds us that God’s beginnings often begin with our ends.”

“In the black holes of our disappointed expectations,” the pope said, God’s love fills believers with a hope that never disappoints.

With the hope born of the cross, he said, people can be “healed of the sadness with which we are sick, be healed of the bitterness with which we pollute the church and the world.”

Through Jesus’ wounds God heals sinful humanity, Pope Francis said.

“We, too, are wounded; who isn’t wounded in life?” he said. “Who does not bear the scars of past choices, of misunderstandings, of hurts that stay inside and that we struggle to overcome?”

“God does not hide from our eyes the wounds that have pierced his body and soul. He shows them to show us that a new passage can be opened at Easter: to make of one’s wounds holes of light,” the pope said, before imagining someone responding, “But, Your Holiness, don’t exaggerate.”

Pope Francis told the crowd it was not an exaggeration.

“I ask you, what do you do with your wounds, the ones that only you know? You can let them fester in resentment, in sadness, or I can unite them with Jesus’ wounds, so that my wounds also become bright,” he said.

“Yes, our wounds can become springs of hope when, instead of feeling sorry for ourselves or hiding them, we dry the tears shed by others,” the pope said.

The choice, he said, is either to “lick my own wounds” or to reach out “to heal, to help others.”

At the end of the audience, Pope Francis asked people to spend time in Holy Week praying for the conversion of those who foment war.

And, thinking of Mary standing at the foot of the cross, he prayed for “the mothers of Ukrainian and Russian soldiers who have fallen in the war. They are mothers of dead sons. Let us pray for these mothers.”

SCRANTON – The liturgies of Holy Week began with the celebration of Mass for Palm Sunday, April 2, in parishes around the Diocese of Scranton.

At the Cathedral of Saint Peter, hundreds gathered as the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant for the 12:15 p.m. liturgy.

“God is love, and the cross of Christ, which looms over the message of the scriptures this day, is the supreme proof, the historical demonstration of this reality,” Bishop Bambera said during his homily. 

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, begins the blessing of the palms in the Cathedral Prayer Garden April 2, 2023.

On Palm Sunday, the Church celebrates Christ’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem to accomplish the Paschal Mystery of His death and resurrection. The Gospels record the arrival of Jesus riding into the city on a donkey, while the crowds spread their cloaks and palm branches on the street and shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

The bishop began the Mass by blessing palms in the Cathedral Prayer Garden and then processing down Wyoming Avenue to enter the Cathedral.

“We’re reminded in Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians that although He was God, Jesus emptied Himself and took the form of a slave, a servant,” Bishop Bambera explained. “He sought, according to His Father’s plan, to embrace the brokenness and suffering of our world in order to save us from ourselves and to give us a way forward in life.”

Bishop Bambera will also celebrate Masses for the Sacred Paschal Triduum at the Cathedral of Saint Peter.

On Holy Thursday, April 6, the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which marks the day on which Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist and the priestly Order, will be celebrated at 5:30 p.m.

On Good Friday, April 7, the Commemoration of the Passion and Death of the Lord will begin at 12:10 p.m.

Holy Saturday, April 8, is the day that the Church waits at the Lord’s tomb in prayer, meditating on His passion and death and awaiting His resurrection. Bishop Bambera will be the principal celebrant and homilist of the Easter Vigil Mass at the Cathedral beginning at 8 p.m.

On the Holy Night of Easter, many individuals who have participated in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) will become fully initiated Catholics by the celebration of their Baptism, Confirmation, and reception of the Eucharist for the first time. This year, 162 people are expected to celebrate in parishes throughout the Diocese. They join tens of thousands of other individuals throughout the world who will become members of the Church that night.

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord is the most joyous day in the Church year. This joy overflows into the 50 days of the Easter season, which concludes on Pentecost Sunday. On Easter Day, Bishop Bambera will celebrate a Pontifical Mass at 10:00 a.m. at the Cathedral.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The unborn, migrants, the elderly and the disabled are “living icons” of Jesus that call Christians to draw close to those who feel abandoned just as Christ did on the cross, Pope Francis said.

In his homily for Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square April 2, the pope reflected on the phrase Jesus uttered on the cross in St. Matthew’s Gospel, and which echoed through the square when sung in the responsorial psalm: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Pope Francis gives his homily at Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 2, 2023. (CNS photo/Chris Warde-Jones)

“Christ, in his abandonment, stirs us to seek him and to love him and those who are themselves abandoned, for in them we see not only people in need, but Jesus himself,” he said.

According to the Vatican gendarmes, some 60,000 people were present in St. Peter’s Square for the Mass.

Fighting off coughs as he began his homily but otherwise speaking without difficulty, Pope Francis said that in his Passion, Jesus experienced the distance of God so he could be “completely and definitively one” with humanity.

The pope was released from the hospital April 1 after a four-day stay for treatment of bronchitis. He processed into St. Peter’s Square on the popemobile wearing his winter coat on an early spring day in Rome.

In his homily, Pope Francis highlighted the many “abandoned Christs” that exist in society: “the poor who live on our streets and that we don’t have the courage to look at, migrants who are no longer faces but numbers.”

He also recalled those who are “discarded with white gloves: unborn children, the elderly left alone, who could be your mom or dad,” as well as the “sick whom no one visits, the disabled who are ignored, and the young burdened by great interior emptiness with no one prepared to listen to their cry of pain and who don’t find another path but suicide.”

Putting his prepared text aside, Pope Francis remembered Burkhard Scheffler, a German homeless man who died in November “alone and abandoned” under the colonnade that surrounds St. Peter’s Square.

“He is Jesus to each one of us,” said the pope.

“So many are in need of our watch, so many are abandoned,” he said. “I also need Jesus to caress me, to come close to me, and that’s why I go to find him in the abandoned, in those who are alone.”

At the beginning of the celebration, Pope Francis stood at the obelisk in the center of St. Peter’s Square to bless the palms carried there by some 400 people. He then proceeded to the altar by car.

The pope delivered the homily after listening to the account of Jesus’ Passion from St. Matthew’s Gospel, but Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, vice dean of the College of Cardinals, was the main celebrant at the altar.

After Mass, the pope prayed the Angelus with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square and thanked them for their prayers that “have intensified in the past days.”

“Thank you, truly,” he said.

WILKES-BARRE – During the Season of Lent, the faithful of Our Lady of Hope Parish have not only been focusing on prayer and fasting – but also almsgiving – and young people in their community will directly benefit.

As Holy Week approached, dozens of bags filled with soap, shampoo, toothbrushes and more filled the side of the Park Avenue church as parishioners continued donating hygiene products for those in need.

Father John Terry, pastor, Our Lady of Hope Parish, Wilkes-Barre, looks over hygiene items donated by parishioners during the Lenten Season. The items will all be distributed to local young people in the community. (Photo/Eric Deabill)

“Every Lenten Season, we always have some encouragement for our people to be able to show some form of almsgiving, the sharing of what they have,” Father John Terry, pastor, said. “Over the years, we’ve always tried to figure out who is in need in our area.”

The parish’s Social Concerns Committee helped spearhead the collection – which will benefit local teenagers.

“As we went along, it went from basic things like toothpaste and shampoo and underarm deodorant to other things as well, like items for young boys and girls going through the change of life,” Father Terry added. “Our parishioners were most responsive. This is a very fine community of people and they respond to all charitable outreach.”

Deacon Joseph DeViza is happy that so many people were generous in responding to the call to help.

“Our Social Concerns Committee has really come alive with all of this and it has been wonderful,” Deacon DeViza said. “It is one person caring for another.”

Deacon DeViza knows first-hand the needs that many local teenagers face having previously worked at the Children’s Service Center in Wilkes-Barre.

“When kids are being supported by community structures, such as this parish community, it makes a big difference,” he added. “The more support that teenagers and families can get, the better off they’re going to be in the long run.”

While Our Lady of Hope Parish is no stranger to helping its community, its leadership is encouraging other religious and charitable groups to join them in providing a helping hand to young people.

“We’ve planted a seed and it is beginning to grow and flower and blossom. It is something really nice and beautiful for our children,” Father Terry said.