Shame before God; prayers to implore divine mercy and unreserved trust in the Lord. Pope Francis' reflection at the Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Martae on the morning of Wednesday 25 September, was based on these. The Holy Father concelebrated with Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, and with Cardinal Béchara Boutros Raï, Patriarch of Antioch for Maronites, together with a group of Maronite Bishops from Lebanon, Syria and the Holy Land as well as from various other countries on every continent.
In commenting on the Readings of the Liturgy (Ezra 9:5-9; Lk 9:1-6), the Pope said that the passage from the Book of Ezra in particular had reminded him of the Maronite bishops and, as usual he summed up his thoughts on three concepts. First of all Ezra's shame and embarrassment before God which was so acute that he could not raise his eyes to him. Shame and consternation are common to all of us, because of the sins we have committed that have brought us into bondage for serving idols that are not God.
Prayer is the second concept. Following the example of Ezra who falling upon his knees spread out his arms to God, beseeching him for mercy, we must do likewise in reparation for our innumerable sins. It is a prayer, the Pope said, which we should also raise to God for peace in Lebanon, in Syria and throughout the Middle East. Prayer, always and everywhere, he explained, is the road we must take in order to face difficult moments as well as the most dramatic trials and the darkness which at times engulf us in unforeseeable situations. To find our way out of all this, the Pontiff emphasized, it is necessary to pray ceaselessly.
Lastly, boundless trust in God who never abandons us. This was the third concept presented by the Holy Father. We may be certain, he said, that the Lord is with us, and therefore we must be persevering on our journey, thanks to hope which instils fortitude. The pastors' word will become reassuring to the faithful: the Lord will never abandon us.
After communion, Cardinal Béchara Raï expressed his gratitude to the Holy Father and a deeply cordial greeting on behalf of the participating bishops, of all Maronites and of the whole of Lebanon, confirming their faithfulness to Peter and to his Successor, “who sustains us on our all too often thorny path”. The Cardinal thanked the Pope in particular for the strong impetus he has given to the quest for peace: “His prayers and his exhortations for peace in Syria and in the Middle East have sown hope and comfort”.