Vatican City, Nov 24, 2013 / 06:19 am (CNA).- In his homily at Sunday Mass on the Feast of Christ the King, Pope Francis emphasized Jesus' crucial place in creation, history, and the Church.
"The attitude demanded of us as true believers is that of recognizing and accepting in our lives the centrality of Jesus Christ, in our thoughts, in our words, and in our works," he preached to a crowded St. Peter's Square on Nov. 24.
The many pilgrims who had come to celebrate the close of the Year of Faith listened attentively as he continued, "When this center is lost, when it is replaced by something else, only harm can result for everything around us and for ourselves."
This historic mass at the "crowning of the liturgical year" was marked not only by being the conclusion of a year dedicated to rediscovering "the beauty of the journey of faith begun on the day of our Baptism." In an unprecedented gesture, Pope Francis had the reliquary containing the bones of St. Peter brought out to the square.
Pope Francis stood clutching the bronze box holding the bones of the first Pope, his head bowed low as throngs of Christians proclaimed their faith in the Son of God made incarnate.
The Pope had also expressed his gratitude for the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches who were present at today's Mass, saying, "the exchange of peace which I will share with them is above all a sign of the appreciation of the Bishop of Rome for these communities which have confessed the name of Christ with exemplary faithfulness, often at a high price."
Such a witness for Christ is the call of every Christian, since Jesus "is the center of all things."
"In him, through him, and for him all things were created," explained the Pontiff.
But Jesus is not only divinely transcendent: he became human, caring "for his people, for all of us, even at the price of his life."
Reflecting on the Old Testament scriptures, Pope Francis noted that "in searching for an ideal king, the people were seeking God himself: a God who would be close to them, who would accompany them on their journey, who would be a brother to them."
"Christ, the descendant of King David, is the "brother" around whom God's people come together."
Thus, "to him we can bring the joys and the hopes, the sorrows and troubles which are part of our lives," he encouraged.
"When Jesus is the center, light shines even amid the darkest times of our lives; he gives us hope," just as he did to the "good thief" on the cross, who begged, "remember me when you come into your kingdom."
"Remember me. Jesus, remember me," Pope Francis repeated. "Let us take a moment to repeat these words in the silence of our hearts," he told the congregation.
"The Lord always grants more than what he has been asked: you ask him to remember you, and he brings you into his Kingdom!" the Pope exclaimed.
At the conclusion of the mass, Pope Francis distributed copies of his new Apostolic Exhortation, "The Joy of the Gospel" to 36 representatives of diverse groups in the Church, including clerics, catechists, families, religious, artists, and journalists.
He then thanked Archbishop Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, and his collaborators for their work during the Year of Faith.
The Pontiff led the congregation in the traditional Angelus Prayer, remembering in a special way those Christians around the world who are persecuted and suffering. "There are many!" he reminded those in attendance.
Prior to mass, a special collection had been taken up for those in the Philippines affected by the recent typhoon.