Mongolia, an “immense” country, “rich in history and culture”, is yet “marked by the aridity of the steppes and the desert” – an apt metaphor for the thirst for happiness and love that is found in the heart of every human being.
In his homily during Mass on Sunday in Ulaanbaatar’s Steppe Arena, Pope Francis dwelt on this “thirst within us” and “the love that quenches it,” taking his inspiration from the day’s responsorial Psalm: “O God… my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
Only Christ can quench our thirst
This verse invites us first “to acknowledge the thirst within us.” The Psalmist’s words “have a particular resonance in a land like Mongolia, with its traditional nomadic culture,” the Pope explained, adding, “All of us are ‘God’s nomads,’ pilgrims in search of happiness, wayfarers searching for love.”
“Dear brothers and sisters,” Pope Francis said, “the Christian faith is the answer to this thirst… For in this thirst lies the great mystery of our humanity: it opens our hearts to the living God, the God of love, who comes to meet us and to make us his children, brothers, and sisters to one another.”
The Holy Father said, “This is the heart of the Christian faith: God, who is love, has drawn near to you in His Son Jesus, and wants to share in your life, your work, your dreams, and your thirst for happiness.”
If at times in our lives we “experience the desert of loneliness, fatigue, and emptiness,” the Pope said, citing St Augustine, God refreshes us with “the dew of His Word… He has opened for us a highway in the desert, Our Lord Jesus Christ.” God offers us consolation in the preachers of the word, and water in the desert “by filling those preachers with the Holy Spirit.”
The heart of our faith
This Word, Pope Francis said, “always brings us back to the very heart of our faith: allowing ourselves to be loved by God and in turn to make our lives an offering of love. For love alone truly quenches our thirst.”
Turning to the Gospel, which speaks of Peter’s inability to accept Jesus’ Passion and Cross, Pope Francis said the worldliness exemplified by Peter “leads nowhere; indeed, it leaves us thirstier than before.” Only by denying ourselves and taking up our crosses, as Jesus did, will we be able to satisfy the thirst in our lives.
This, the Pope said, “is the truth that Jesus wants us to discover, the truth He wants to reveal to all of you and to this land of Mongolia: You need not be famous, rich, or powerful to be happy. Only love satisfies our hearts’ thirst, only love heals our wounds, only love brings us true joy.”
Pope Francis called on all of us to take to heart the Lord’s words to Peter, to become disciples of Jesus, to walk in his footsteps, and to stop thinking as the world does.
“If we do this,” the Pope said, “we will be able, with the grace of Christ and the Holy Spirit, to journey along the path of love… when we lose our lives for the sake of the Gospel, the Lord gives them back to us abundantly, in the fulness of love and joy for all eternity.”