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.




Pope Francis  06.05.20 Holy Mass Casa Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)    Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter     John 12: 44-50

Pope Francis From Darkness to Light 06.05.20

Let us pray today for the men and women who work in the media. In this time of pandemic they risk a lot and the work is a lot. May the Lord help them in this work of always transmitting the truth.

This passage of the Gospel of John (John 12: 44-50) shows us the intimacy that was between Jesus and the Father. Jesus did what the Father told him to do. And for this reason he says: "Whoever believes in me believes not only in me, but also in the one who sent me" (12: 44). Then he spells out his mission: "I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness" (12: 46). He presents himself as light. Jesus' mission is to enlighten: light. He himself said, "I am the light of the world"(John 8:12). The prophet Isaiah had prophesied this light: "The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light"(Mt 4:16 and Is 9:1). The promise of light that will enlighten the people. And, also, the mission of the apostles is to bring light. Paul said this to King Agrippa: "I was chosen to illuminate, to bring this light – which is not mine, it is of another – but to bring light" ( Acts 26:18). It is Jesus' mission: to bring light. And the mission of the apostles is to bring the light of Jesus. To enlighten. Because the world was in darkness.

But the drama of Jesus' light is that it had been rejected. At the beginning of the Gospel, John says it clearly: "He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him." (John 1: 10-11) They loved darkness more than light. Getting used to darkness, living in darkness: they cannot welcome light, they cannot; they are slaves to darkness. And this will be Jesus' struggle, he continues: to enlighten, to bring the light that makes things seem as they are; makes us see freedom, shows the truth, shows the way to go, with the light of Jesus.

Paul had this experience of the transition from darkness to light, when the Lord met him on the road to Damascus. He was blinded. Blind. The light of the Lord blinded him. And then, after a few days, with baptism, the light came back (Acts 9: 1-19). He had this experience of the passage from the darkness in which he was in, to the light. It is also our passage, which we received sacramentally in baptism: for this reason baptism was called, in the first centuries, the Enlightenment because it gave you the light, it "made one enter". For this reason in the baptism ceremony we give a lit candle, a lit candle to the father and mother, because the child, the little girl or boy, is illuminated. Jesus brings light.

But the people, the people, his people rejected it. They are so accustomed to darkness that the light dazzles them. And this is the drama of our sin: sin blinds us and we cannot tolerate the light. We have sick eyes. And Jesus says it clearly, in the Gospel of Matthew: "If your eye is ill, your whole body will be ill. If your eye sees only darkness, how much darkness will there be within you?" ( Mt 6: 22-23) Darkness... And conversion is to move from darkness to light. But what are the things that make our eyes ill, the eyes of faith? Our eyes are sick: what are the things that "pull them down", that blind them? The vices, worldly spirit, and pride.

The vices that "pull you down" and also, these three things – vices, pride, the worldly spirit – lead you to associate with others to stay safe in darkness. We often talk about the mafia: it's that. But there are "spiritual mafias", there are "domestic mafias", always, looking for someone else to cover up and stay in darkness. It is not easy to live in the light. Light makes us see so many ugly things within us that we do not want to see: vices, sins. Let us think of our vices, we think of our pride, we think of our worldly spirit: these things blind us, distance us from the light of Jesus. But if we begin to think of these things, we will not find a wall, no: we will find an exit, because Jesus himself says that he is the light and: "I came into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save the world" ( John 12: 46-47). Jesus himself, the light, says: "Have courage: let yourself be enlightened, let yourself be seen for what you have inside, because I am the one who brings you forward, to save you. I am not going to condemn you. I want to save you".
 
The Lord saves us from the darkness that we have inside, from the darkness of daily life, of social life, of political life, of national, international life. So much darkness is in it. And the Lord saves us. But he asks us to see them first; have the courage to see our darkness so that the light of the Lord might enter and save us.

Let us not be afraid of the Lord: he is very good, he is gentle, he is close to us. He came to save us. Let us not be afraid of the light of Jesus.





Pope Francis        27.09.20 Angelus, St Peter's Square         26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A        Matthew 21: 28-32

Pope Francis Conversion, changing the heart 27.09.20 Angelus

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

In my land we say: “A good face in bad weather”. With this “good face” I say to you: good morning!

With His preaching on the Kingdom of God, Jesus opposes a religiosity that does not involve human life, that does not question the conscience and its responsibility in the face of good and evil. This is also demonstrated by the parable of the two sons, which is offered to us in the Gospel of Matthew (cf. 21:28-32). To the father's invitation to go and work in the vineyard, the first son impulsively responds “no, I'm not going”, but then he repents and goes; instead the second son, who immediately replies “yes, yes dad”, does not actually do so; he doesn't go. Obedience does not consist of saying “yes" or “no”, but always of acting, of cultivating the vineyard, of bringing about the Kingdom of God, in doing good. With this simple example, Jesus wants to go beyond a religion understood only as external and habitual practice, which does not affect people's lives and attitudes, a superficial religiosity, merely “ritual”, in the ugly sense of the word.

The exponents of this “façade” of religiosity, of which Jesus disapproves, in that time were “the chief priests and the elders of the people” (Mt 21:23), who, according to the Lord’s admonition, will be preceded in the Kingdom of God by “tax collectors and prostitutes” (see v. 31). Jesus tells them: “the tax collectors, meaning the sinners, and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you”. This affirmation must not induce us to think that those who do not follow God’s commandments, those who do not follow morality, saying “In any case, those who go to Church are worse than us”, do well. No, this is not Jesus' teaching. Jesus does not indicate publicans and prostitutes as models of life, but as “privileged of Grace”. And I would like to underscore this word, “grace”. Grace, because conversion is always a grace. A grace that God offers to anyone who opens up and converts to Him. Indeed, these people, listening to his preaching, repented and changed their lives. Let us think of Matthew, for example. Saint Matthew, who was a tax collector, a traitor to his homeland.

In today’s Gospel, the one who makes the best impression is the first brother, not because he said “no” to his father, but because after his “no” he converted to “yes”, he repented. God is patient with each of us: He does not tire, He does not desist after our “no”; He leaves us free even to distance ourselves from Him and to make mistakes. Thinking about God's patience is wonderful! How the Lord always waits for us; He is always beside us to help us; but He respects our freedom. And He anxiously awaits our “yes”, so as to welcome us anew in His fatherly arms and to fill us with His boundless mercy. Faith in God asks us to renew every day the choice of good over evil, the choice of the truth rather than lies, the choice of love for our neighbour over selfishness. Those who convert to this choice, after having experienced sin, will find the first places in the Kingdom of heaven, where there is greater joy for a single sinner who converts than for ninety-nine righteous people (see Lk 15: 7).
But conversion, changing the heart, is a process, a process that purifies us from moral encrustations. And at times it is a painful process, because there is no path of holiness without some sacrifice and without a spiritual battle. Battling for good; battling so as not to fall into temptation; doing for our part what we can, to arrive at living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes. Today's Gospel passage calls into question the way of living a Christian life, which is not made up of dreams and beautiful aspirations, but of concrete commitments, in order to open ourselves ever more to God's will and to love for our brothers and sisters. But this, even the smallest concrete commitment, cannot be made without grace. Conversion is a grace we must always ask for: “Lord, give me the grace to improve. Give me the grace to be a good Christian”.

May Mary Most Holy help us to be docile to the action of the Holy Spirit. He is the One who melts the hardness of hearts and disposes them to repentance, so we may obtain the life and salvation promised by Jesus.





Pope Francis      11.10.20  Angelus, St Peter's Square         28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A         Matthew 22: 1-10

Pope Francis  No one is excluded from the house of God  - Angelus 11.10.20

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good afternoon!

With the narrative of the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, in today's Gospel passage (cf. Mt 22:1-14), Jesus outlines the plan that God envisaged for humanity. The king who “who gave a marriage feast for his son” (v. 2) is the image of the Father who prepared for the entire human family a wonderful celebration of love and communion around his only begotten Son. Two times the king sends his servants to call the invited guests, but they refuse; they do not want to go to the feast because they have other things to think about: fields and business. So often we too put our interests and material things ahead of the Lord who calls us – and he calls us to a feast. But the king in the parable does not want the hall to remain empty, because he wants to offer the treasures of his kingdom. So he tells his servants: “Go therefore to the thoroughfares, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find” (v. 9). This is how God reacts: when he is rejected, rather than giving up, he starts over and asks that all those found at the thoroughfares be called, excluding no one. No one is excluded from the house of God.

The original term that Matthew the Evangelist uses refers to the limits of the roads, or those points at which the city streets end and the paths begin that lead to the area of the countryside, outside the residential area, where life is precarious. It is to this humanity of the thoroughfares that the king in the parable sends his servants, in the certainty of finding people willing to sit at the table. Thus the banquet hall is filled with the “excluded”, those who are “outside” those who never seemed worthy to partake in a feast, in a wedding banquet. In fact, the master, the king, tells the messengers: “Call everyone, both good and bad. Everyone!”. God even calls those who are bad. “No, I am bad; I have done many [bad things]...”. He calls you: “Come, come, come!”. And Jesus went to lunch with the tax collectors, who were public sinners; they were the bad guys. God is not afraid of our spirits wounded by many cruelties, because he loves us; he invites us. And the Church is called to reach the daily thoroughfares, that is, the geographic and existential peripheries of humanity, those places at the margins, those situations in which those who have set up camp are found where and hopeless remnants of humanity live. It is a matter of not settling for comforts and the customary ways of evangelization and witnessing to charity, but of opening the doors of our hearts and our communities to everyone, because the Gospel is not reserved to a select few. Even those on the margins, even those who are rejected and scorned by society, are considered by God to be worthy of his love. He prepares his banquet for everyone: the just and sinners, good and bad, intelligent and uneducated.

Yesterday evening, I was able to make a phone call to an elderly Italian priest, a missionary in Brazil since youth, but always working with the excluded, with the poor. And he lives his old age in peace: he burned his life up with the poor. This is our Mother Church; this is God's messenger who goes to the crossroads.


However, the Lord places one condition: to wear a wedding garment. Let us return to the parable. When the hall is full, the king arrives and greets the latest guests, but he sees one of them without a wedding garment, that kind of little cape that each guest would receive as a gift at the entrance. The people went as they were dressed, as they were able to be dressed; they were not wearing gala attire. But at the entrance they were give a type of capelet, a gift. That man, having rejected the free gift, excluded himself: the king could do nothing but throw him out. This man accepted the invitation but then decided that it meant nothing to him: he was a self-sufficient person; he had no desire to change or to allow the Lord to change him. The wedding garment – this capelet - symbolizes the mercy that God freely gives us, namely, grace. Without grace we cannot take a step forward in Christian life. Everything is grace. It is not enough to accept the invitation to follow the Lord; one must be open to a journey of conversion, which changes the heart. The garment of mercy, which God offers us unceasingly, is the free gift of his love; it is precisely grace. And it demands to be welcomed with astonishment and joy: “Thank you, Lord, for having given me this gift”.



May Mary Most Holy help us to imitate the servants in the Gospel parable by emerging from our frameworks and from our narrow views, proclaiming to everyone that the Lord invites us to his banquet, in order to offer us his saving grace, to give us his gift.





Pope Francis       08.11.20  Angelus, St Peter's Square        32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A        Matthew 25: 1-13

Pope Francis  Parable of the ten Virgins  08.11.20

Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!

This Sunday’s Gospel passage (Mt 25:1-13) invites us to prolong the reflection on eternal life that we began on the occasion of the Feast of All Saints and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed. Jesus recounts the parable of the ten virgins invited to a wedding feast, symbol of the Kingdom of Heaven.

In Jesus' time it was customary for weddings to be celebrated at night; so the procession of guests took place with lit lamps. Some bridesmaids are foolish: they take their lamps but do not take oil with them; instead, the wise ones take the oil with them together with their lamps. The bridegroom is late, late in coming, and they all fall asleep. When a voice alerts them that the bridegroom is about to arrive, the foolish ones, at that moment, realise that they do not have oil for their lamps; they ask the wise ones for some, but they reply that they cannot give any oil, because there would not be enough for them all. While the foolish virgins go to buy oil, the bridegroom arrives. The wise virgins enter the banquet hall with him, and the door is closed. The others arrive too late and are turned away.

It is clear that with this parable, Jesus wants to tell us that we must be prepared for His coming. Not only the final coming, but also for the everyday encounters, great and small, with a view to that encounter, for which the lamp of faith is not enough; we also need the oil of charity and good works. As the apostle Paul says, the faith that truly unites us to Jesus is, “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6). It is what is represented by the behaviour of the wise virgins. Being wise and prudent means not waiting until the last moment to correspond to God’s grace, but to do so actively and immediately, starting right now. “I… yes, I will convert soon”… “Convert today! Change your life today!” “Yes, yes, tomorrow”. And the same thing is said tomorrow, and so it never arrives. Today! If we want to be ready for the final encounter with the Lord, we must cooperate with Him now and perform good deeds inspired by His love.

We know that it happens that, unfortunately, we forget the purpose of our life, that is, the definitive appointment with God, thus losing the sense of expectation and making the present absolute. When one makes the present absolute, he or she looks only to the present, losing the sense of expectation, which is so good, and so necessary, and also pulls us away from the contradictions of the moment. This attitude - when one loses the sense of expectation - precludes any view of the hereafter: people do everything as if we they will never depart for the other life. And so people care only about possessing, of going about, establishing themselves… And more and more. If we allow ourselves to be guided by what seems most attractive to us, of what we like, by the search for our interests, our life becomes sterile; we do not accumulate any reserve of oil for our lamp, and it will be extinguished before the Lord’s coming. We must live today, but a today that goes towards tomorrow, towards that coming, a present full of hope. If, on the other hand, we are vigilant and correspond to God’s grace by doing good, we can serenely await the bridegroom’s coming. The Lord will be able to come even while we are sleeping: this will not worry us, because we have the reserve of oil accumulated through our daily good works, accumulated with that expectation of the Lord, that He may come as soon as possible and that He may come to take us with Him.

Let us invoke the intercession of Mary Most Holy, that she may help us to live an active faith, as she did: it is the shining lamp with which we can pass through the night beyond death and reach the great feast of life.