On the occasion of his apostolic journey to Sri Lanka and the Republic of the Philippines, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Tacloban City, Leyte, where Typhoon Yolanda had wrecked havoc in November 2013, killing over 6,000 people. Although he had a prepared address he delivered the following off-the-cuff homily, owing to the high wind and rain. After the Mass he was forced to cut short his stay on the Island of Leyte due to an approaching typhoon.
In the first reading, we heard that we have a great priest capable of sympathizing with our weakness, who in every respect has been tempted as we are. Jesus is like us. Jesus lived as we do. He is like us in everything. In everything but sin, for he was not a sinner. But to be even more like us, he took upon himself our sins. He became sin! This is what Paul tells us, and it was something that he knew well. Jesus goes before us always; when we experience any kind of cross, he was already there before.
If today all of us are gathered here, fourteen months after the passage of Typhoon Yolanda, it is because we are certain that we will not be disappointed in our faith, for Jesus has gone before us. In his passion He took upon himself all of our sorrows, and – let me tell you something personal – when I witnessed his disaster from Rome, I felt that I had to be here. That is when I decided to come here. I wanted to come to be with you. Maybe you will tell me that I came a little late; that is true, but here I am.
I am here to tell you that Jesus is Lord; that Jesus does not disappoint. 'Father', one of you may tell me, 'He disappointed me because I lost my house, I lost everything I had, I am sick'. What you say is true and I respect your feelings, but I see Him there, nailed to the cross, and from there He does not disappoint us. He was consecrated Lord on that throne, and there He experienced all the disasters we experience. Jesus is Lord! And He is Lord from the cross, from there He reigned. That is why, as we heard in the first reading, He can understand us: He became like us in every way. So we have a Lord Who is able to weep with us, Who can be at our side through life’s most difficult moments.
So many of you have lost everything. I do not know what to tell you. But surely He knows what to tell you! So many of you have lost members of your family. I can only be silent; I accompany you silently, with my heart.
“Many of you looked to Christ and asked: Why, Lord? To each of you the Lord responds from His heart. I have no other words to say to you. Let us look to Christ: He is the Lord, and He understands us, for He experienced all the troubles we experience.
With him, beneath the cross, is His Mother. We are like that child who stands down there, who, in times of sorrow and pain, times when we understand nothing, times when we want to rebel, can only reach out and cling to her skirts and say to her: 'Mother!'. Like a little child who is frightened and says: 'Mother'. Perhaps that is the only word which can express all the feelings we have in those dark moments: Mother!
Let us be still for a moment and look to the Lord. He can understand us, for He experienced all these things. And let us look to our Mother, and like that little child, let us reach out, cling to her skirts and say to her in our hearts: 'Mother'. Let us make this prayer in silence; let everyone say it whatever way he or she feels.
We are not alone; we have a Mother; we have Jesus, our older brother. We are not alone. And we also have many brothers and sisters who, when the disaster struck, came to our assistance. We too feel more like brothers and sisters whenever we help one another, whenever we help each other.
This is all that I feel I have to say to you. Forgive me if I have no other words. But be sure that Jesus does not disappoint us; be sure that the love and tenderness of our Mother does not disappoint us. Clinging to her as sons and daughters with the strength which Jesus our brother gives us, let us now move forward. As brothers and sisters, let us take up our journey. Thank you!
[Original delivered in Spanish]
[Provided by Vatican Press Office]