Conversion


Pope Francis     24.03.19      Angelus, St Peter's Square         Luke 13: 1-9 
Pope Francis   24.03.19  Conversion

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,

The Gospel for this third Sunday of Lent (cf. Lk 13: 1-9) speaks to us about God’s mercy and of our conversion. Jesus recounts the parable of the barren fig tree. A man has planted a fig tree in his vineyard, and with great confidence, each summer, he goes in search of its fruits, but he finds none because that tree is barren. Spurred by this disappointment which has recurred for at least three years, the man considers cutting down the fig tree in order to plant another. So he calls the field hand who is in the vineyard and tells him of his disappointment, ordering him to cut down the tree so as not to use up the ground needlessly. But the vinedresser asks the master to be patient and asks him for one more year during which the vinedresser himself would take special and delicate care of the fig tree, so as to stimulate its productivity. This is the parable. What does this parable symbolize? What do the characters in this parable symbolize?

The master represents God the Father and the vinedresser is the image of Jesus, while the fig tree is the symbol of an indifferent and insensitive humanity. Jesus intercedes with the Father in favour of humanity — and he always does so — and implores him to wait and to give it more time so that it may bring forth the fruits of love and justice. The fig tree that the master in the parable wants to uproot represents a sterile existence that is incapable of giving, incapable of doing good. It is the symbol of one who lives for himself, sated and calm, enjoying his own comforts, incapable of turning his gaze and his heart to those beside him who find themselves in conditions of suffering, poverty and hardship. This attitude of selfishness and spiritual barrenness, is compared to the vinedresser’s great love for the fig tree. He asks the master to wait. He is patient, knows how to wait, and devotes his time and his work to it. He promises the master to take special care of that unfortunate tree.

And this vinedresser’s likeness manifests the mercy of God who leaves us time for conversion. We all need to convert ourselves, to take a step forward; and God’s patience and mercy accompanies us in this. Despite the barrenness that marks our lives at times, God is patient and offers us the possibility to change and make progress on the path towards good. However, the deferment requested and received in expectation of the tree bearing fruit also indicates the urgency of conversion. The vinedresser tells the master: “Let it alone, sir, this year also” (v. 8). The possibility of conversion is not unlimited; thus, it is necessary to seize it immediately; otherwise it might be lost forever. This Lent, we can consider: what do I have to do to draw nearer to the Lord, to convert myself, to “cut out” those things that are not good? “No, no, I will wait for next Lent”. But will I be alive next Lent? Today, let us each think: what must I do before this mercy of God who awaits me and who always forgives? What must I do? We can have great trust in God’s mercy but without abusing it. We must not justify spiritual laziness, but increase our commitment to respond promptly to this mercy with heartfelt sincerity.

During the time of Lent, the Lord invites us to convert. Each of us must feel addressed by this call, and correct something in our lives, in our way of thinking, of behaving and of living our relationships with others. At the same time, we must imitate the patience of God who trusts in everyone’s ability to “rise again” and to continue the journey. God is Father and does not extinguish the weak flame, but rather, accompanies and cares for those who are weak so that they may gain strength and bring their contribution of love to the community. May the Virgin Mary help us to live these days of preparation for Easter as a time of spiritual renewal and trusting openness to the grace of God and his mercy.




Pope Francis      21.08.19  General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall, Rome    Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles -  General Audience     Acts 4: 32-37,   5: 1-10

Pope Francis 21.08.19  General Audience

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning!

The
Christian community is born from the superabundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit and it grows thanks to the leaven of sharing among brothers and sisters in Christ. There is a dynamism of solidarity which builds up the Church as the family of God, for whom the experience of koinonia is central. What does this strange word mean? It is a Greek word which means “pooling one’s goods”, “sharing in common”, being a community, not isolated. This is the experience of the first Christian community, that is, “communality”, “sharing”, “communicating, participating”, not isolation. In the primitive Church, this koinonia, this communality, refers primarily to participation in the Body and Blood of Christ. This is why when we receive Holy Communion, we say that “we communicate”, we enter into communion with Jesus, and from this communion with Jesus we reach a communion with our brothers and sisters. And this communion in the Body and Blood of Christ that we share during Holy Mass translates into fraternal union and, therefore also into what is most difficult for us; pooling our resources and collecting money for the mother Church in Jerusalem (cf. Rm 12:13, 2 Cor 8-9) and the other Churches. If you want to know whether you are good Christians, you have to pray, try to draw near to Communion, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But the sign that your heart has converted is when conversion reaches the pocket, when it touches one’s own interests. That is when one can see whether one is generous to others, if one helps the weakest, the poorest. When conversion achieves this, you are sure that it is a true conversion. If you stop at words, it is not a real conversion.

Eucharistic life, prayer, the preaching of the Apostles and the experience of communion (cf. Acts 2:42) turn believers into a multitude of people who — the Book of the Acts of the Apostles says — are of “one heart and soul” and who do not consider
their property their own, but hold everything in common (cf. Acts 4:32). It is such a powerful example of life that it helps us to be generous and not miserly. This is why the Book says, “there was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need” (Acts 4:34-35). The Church has always had this gesture of Christians who stripped themselves of the things they had in excess, the things that were not necessary, in order to give them to those in need. And not just money: also time. How many Christians — you for example, here in Italy — how many Christians do volunteer work! This is beautiful. It is communion, sharing one’s time with others to help those in need. And thus: volunteer work, charity work, visits to the sick; we must always share with others and not just seek after our own interests.

In this way, the community, or koinonia, becomes the new way of relating among the Lord’s disciples. Christians experience a new way of being and behaving among themselves. And it is the proper Christian method, to such an extent that Gentiles would look at Christians and remark: “Look at how they love each other!”. Love was the method. But not love in word, not false love: love in works, in helping one another, concrete love, the concreteness of love. The Covenant with Christ establishes a bond among brothers and sisters which merges and expresses itself in the communion of material goods too. Yes this method of being together, of loving this way, ‘up to the pocket’, also brings one to strip oneself of the hindrance of
money and to give it to others, going against one’s own interests. Being the limbs of the Body of Christ makes believers share the responsibility for one another. Being believers in Jesus makes us all responsible for each other. “But look at that one, the problem he has. I don’t care, it’s his business”. No, among Christians we cannot say: “poor thing, he has a problem at home, he is going through this family problem”. But “I have to pray, I take him with me, I am not indifferent”. This is being Christian. This is why the strong support the weak (cf. Rom 15:1) and no one experiences poverty that humiliates and disfigures human dignity because they live in this community: having one heart in common. They love one another. This is the sign: concrete love.

James, Peter and John, the three Apostles who were the “pillars” of the Church in Jerusalem, take a decision in common that Paul and Barnabas would evangelise the Gentiles while they evangelised the Hebrews, and they only asked Paul and Barnabas for one condition: not to forget the poor, to remember the poor (cf. Gal 2:9-10) Not only the material poor, but also the poor in spirit, the people with difficulty who need our closeness. A Christian always begins with him/herself, from his/her own heart and approaches others as Jesus approached us. This was the first Christian community.

A practical example of sharing and communion of goods comes to us from the testimony of Barnabas. He owns a field and sells it in order to give the proceeds to the Apostles (cf. Acts 4:36-37). But beside this positive example, there is another that is sadly negative: After selling their land, Ananias and his wife Sapphira decide to hand over only part of the proceeds to the Apostles and to keep part of the proceeds for themselves (cf. Acts 5:1-2). This deceit interrupts the chain of freely sharing, serene and disinterested sharing and the consequences are tragic. They are fatal (Acts 5:5-10). The Apostle Peter exposes Ananias and his wife’s deceit and says to them: “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? ... You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:3-4). We could say that Ananias lied to God because of an isolated conscience, a hypocritical conscience, that is due to an ecclesial belonging that is “negotiated”, partial and opportunistic.
Hypocrisy is the worst enemy of this Christian community, of this Christian love: pretending to love each other but only seeking one’s own interests.

Falling short of sincere sharing, indeed, falling short of the sincerity of love means cultivating hypocrisy, distancing oneself from the truth, becoming selfish, extinguishing the fire of communion and choosing the frost of inner death. Those who behave in this manner move in the Church like a tourist. There are many tourists in
the Church who are always passing through but never enter the Church. It is spiritual tourism that leads them to believe they are Christians whereas they are only tourists of the catacombs. No, we should not be tourists in the Church but rather one another’s brothers and sisters. A life based only on drawing gain and advantages from situations to the detriment of others, inevitably causes inner death. And how many people say they are close to the Church, friends of priests, of bishops, while they only seek their own interests. Such hypocrisy destroys the Church!

May the Lord — I ask this for all of us — pour over us his Spirit of tenderness which vanquishes all hypocrisy and generates that truth that nourishes Christian solidarity, which, far from being an activity of social work, is the inalienable expression of the Church, the most tender mother of all, especially of the poorest.