ROME — Journeying to Rome to meet with Pope Francis and pray at the tombs of the apostles is an occasion for grace, growth and renewal, said Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services.

In the day’s readings at Mass Dec. 3, “We hear a simple invitation, ‘Come to me'” and follow Christ, who “restored us to life,” the archbishop said in his homily, addressing bishops of U.S. Region IV — the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands, West Virginia and the Archdiocese for the Military Services.

A very real example of resurrection was all around them, he said, indicating the vast, ornate surroundings inside the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. Though founded by Constantine in the fourth century, the basilica — Rome’s second largest — had to be completely rebuilt after a devastating fire in the 1800s.

“For us, it remains a great symbol of the possibility of rebuilding, of the effectiveness of a new evangelization, and of the importance not to be daunted by what seem to be insurmountable odds,” the archbishop said.

“If we hear the voice of despair with a temptation not to respond to the urgings of the Word,” he said, “we must recognize in them the work of the evil one and draw strength and sustenance from the word and sacrament.”

The call, “Come to me,” is for those who realize they cannot do anything without God, and only then “can we enter into communion with him, taking up his light yoke,” he said.

“So often in our ministerial lives, this yoke does not seem so light: there are many requirements if we want to remain faithful, so many demands are made upon our time. Of late we almost seem to be assailed from all sides,” Broglio said.

For this reason, he said, it is good to remember that for Christians, freedom “is never ‘from’ anything, but always ‘for’ something. It is that freedom that allows us to fulfill the charge entrusted to us.”

The Region IV bishops’ ad limina visit to the Vatican Dec. 2-6 included a nearly three-hour meeting Dec. 3 with Francis, who “urged us all to become missionary disciples,” Broglio said.

“The verb from which ‘disciple’ is derived means both ‘to teach’ and ‘to learn.’ We know that we must do both if we are to preach the Gospel effectively to our contemporaries,” he said, and that they must draw continually from God’s word in order to “make all things new in Christ.”

“Even in prison, Paul did not cease to make the Gospel known, to confirm the faith of those evangelized and to count his sufferings as nothing because they filled up what was lacking in him of the cross of Christ,” he said.

Reflecting on the day’s memorial of St. Francis Xavier, co-founder of the Jesuits and a “tireless missionary,” the archbishop said, “we beg to be renewed in our enthusiasm for the mission.”

“We are challenged by those who have abandoned the practice of the faith, by the young who claim they have no religious affiliation, by the scandals of the past or by the mere length of the day,” he said, but the example of both St. Paul and St. Francis Xavier urge them to “spring forward and to shout in the squares” proclaiming the Good News.

The bishops are asked to be “constantly vigilant to preserve a great balance in their life, to maintain it ever in the simplicity of the present moment and in the living out of the Gospel,” he said.

Those “learned in theology” should meditate on “spiritual realities” and listen attentively to what God is saying to them, the archbishop said. By doing so “they would forget their own desires, their human affairs and give themselves over entirely to God’s will and his choice.”

“They would cry out with all their heart, ‘Lord, I am here; what do you want me to do?'”

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