“Celebration is a precious gift from God. It's a precious gift God has made for the human family. Let's not ruin it,” the Pope said August 12.
He spoke to pilgrims gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall for his second general audience after taking a break for the month of July.
As part of his continued series of catecheses on the family, Francis announced he would shift focus to the different rhythms of family life, such as celebration, work and prayer.
Beginning with celebration, the Pope noted that it is God’s own invention, as can be seen in the biblical account of creation when God himself rested from his work on the seventh day.
God teaches us the importance “of dedicating time to contemplating and enjoying the fruits of our labors, not only in our employment or profession, but through every action by which we as men and women cooperate in God’s creative work,” he said.
Francis emphasized that to celebrate doesn't mean “to escape or be overcome by laziness,” but rather involves returning our gaze to the fruits of our labor with both gratitude and benevolence.
Celebration, he said, “is above all a loving and grateful look at work well done,” and means taking time to pause and be with friends and loved ones. He added that celebration is a time to watch our children grow, to look at the home we have built, and think: “how beautiful!”
The Pope observed that it is also possible to celebrate in times of difficulty, even if it means celebrating “with a lump in the throat.”
Pope Francis turned to the workplace, explaining that – without interrupting our work – celebrations can “infiltrate” the environment when we honor events such as a birthday, a marriage, a new baby, a farewell or a welcome.
Such moments of familiarity put a brief stop to “the gear of the production machine: they do us good!” he said.
True moments of celebration make us take a break from the daily grind and remind us that we have been created in the image and likeness of God, who is not a slave of work, but the Lord of work, the Pope observed.
“We must never be slaves to work but rather its master,” he stressed, and lamented how millions of men, women and children are exploited and forced to work as slaves due to an obsession with economic profit.
This over-emphasis on gain and technical efficiency “attacks human rhythms of life and denies man the time for what's really important,” he said, explaining that God wants to set us free from these vices.
“Life has human rhythms,” the Pope added. “Let us banish this idea of a celebration centered on consumption and on debauchery and let us regain its sacred value, seeing it as a privileged time in which we can encounter God and others.”
Francis pointed to Sundays as a particularly important time for rest, because “in them we find God.”
Going to Mass brings the grace of Jesus Christ to each of our celebrations, he said, since it is in the Eucharist that we encounter his presence, love and sacrifice. The Eucharistic celebration, he said, is Jesus’ way of being with us and forming us into a community.
“Everything is transfigured by his grace: work, family, the joys and trials of each day, even our sufferings and death.”
Pope Francis cautioned that the ideologies of profit and consumption want to “eat up” the celebration, and turn it into another way to make and spend money.
“But is this why we work? The greed of consuming, which leads to waste, it's a bad virus which, among other things, in the end makes us more tired than before,” he said.
Francis concluded by praying that the family always be recognized as a privileged place where the gifts that come from our celebrations are understood, guided and sustained, particularly Sunday Mass.
“May the Lord allows us to live the time of rest, celebrations, the Sunday feast, with the eyes of faith, as a precious gift which illuminates family life,” he said.