On the afternoon of March 14, 2013, in the Sistine Chapel, Pope Francis celebrated the Missa Pro Ecclesiae (the Mass for the Church), which brought to an end the conclave that had elected Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio as the 266th pope of the Catholic Church. In the course of the Mass, the Holy Father offered his first homily as pope—a homily notable for, among other things, being entirely unscripted.
In his homily, Pope Francis makes reference to the three readings from the Mass. The first reading, Isaiah 2:2-5, speaks of a future in which all the nations of the earth will approach the mountain of the Lord and, joined together in worship of the true God, will "turn their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into sickles." The second reading, 1 Peter 2:4-9, sets out the image of Christ as the cornerstone, and yet a stumbling block to those who do not believe, and the Church of the faithful as "called out of darkness" to be "a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people." The Gospel, Matthew 16:13-19, recounts Peter's declaration of faith and Christ's assurance that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church He would build upon the rock of Peter.
Pope Francis, an Argentinean whose parents were first-generation immigrants from Italy, speaks fluent Italian and delivered the homily in Italian. The English translation below is the official text provided by the Vatican.
The Text of Pope Francis's First Homily:
In these three readings, I see a common element: that of movement. In the first reading, it is the movement of a journey; in the second reading, the movement of building the Church; in the third, in the Gospel, the movement involved in professing the faith. Journeying, building, professing.
Journeying. "O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord" (Is 2:5). This is the first thing that God said to Abraham: Walk in my presence and live blamelessly. Journeying: our life is a journey, and when we stop moving, things go wrong. Always journeying, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with the blamelessness that God asked of Abraham in his promise.
Building. Building the Church. We speak of stones: stones are solid; but living stones, stones anointed by the Holy Spirit. Building the Church, the Bride of Christ, on the cornerstone that is the Lord himself. This is another kind of movement in our lives: building.
Thirdly, professing. We can walk as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord. When we are not walking, we stop moving. When we are not building on the stones, what happens? The same thing that happens to children on the beach when they build sandcastles: everything is swept away, there is no solidity. When we do not profess Jesus Christ, the saying of Léon Bloy comes to mind: "Anyone who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil." When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil, a demonic worldliness.
Journeying, building, professing. But things are not so straightforward, because in journeying, building, professing, there can sometimes be jolts, movements that are not properly part of the journey: movements that pull us back.
This Gospel continues with a situation of a particular kind. The same Peter who professed Jesus Christ, now says to him: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. That has nothing to do with it. I will follow you on other terms, but without the Cross. When we journey without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly: we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.
My wish is that all of us, after these days of grace, will have the courage, yes, the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Lord’s Cross; to build the Church on the Lord’s blood which was poured out on the Cross; and to profess the one glory: Christ crucified. And in this way, the Church will go forward.
My prayer for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother, will grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ crucified. Amen.