Cross

Pope Francis    24.03.13          Celebration of Palm Sunday the Passion of our Lord     Luke 22:14 - 23:56


Why does Jesus enter Jerusalem? Or better: how does Jesus enter Jerusalem? The crowds acclaim him as King. And he does not deny it, he does not tell them to be silent (cf. Lk 19:39-40). But what kind of a King is Jesus? Let us take a look at him: he is riding on a donkey, he is not accompanied by a court, he is not surrounded by an army as a symbol of power. He is received by humble people, simple folk who have the sense to see something more in Jesus; they have that sense of the faith which says: here is the Saviour. Jesus does not enter the Holy City to receive the honours reserved to earthly kings, to the powerful, to rulers; he enters to be scourged, insulted and abused, as Isaiah foretold in the First Reading (cf. Is 50:6). He enters to receive a crown of thorns, a staff, a purple robe: his kingship becomes an object of derision. He enters to climb Calvary, carrying his burden of wood. And this brings us to the second word: Cross. Jesus enters Jerusalem in order to die on the Cross. And it is precisely here that his kingship shines forth in godly fashion: his royal throne is the wood of the Cross! It reminds me of what Benedict XVI said to the Cardinals: you are princes, but of a king crucified. That is the throne of Jesus. Jesus takes it upon himself… Why the Cross? Because Jesus takes upon himself the evil, the filth, the sin of the world, including the sin of all of us, and he cleanses it, he cleanses it with his blood, with the mercy and the love of God. Let us look around: how many wounds are inflicted upon humanity by evil! Wars, violence, economic conflicts that hit the weakest, greed for money that you can’t take with you and have to leave. When we were small, our grandmother used to say: a shroud has no pocket. Love of power, corruption, divisions, crimes against human life and against creation! And – as each one of us knows and is aware - our personal sins: our failures in love and respect towards God, towards our neighbour and towards the whole of creation. Jesus on the Cross feels the whole weight of the evil, and with the force of God’s love he conquers it, he defeats it with his resurrection. This is the good that Jesus does for us on the throne of the Cross. Christ’s Cross embraced with love never leads to sadness, but to joy, to the joy of having been saved and of doing a little of what he did on the day of his death
Let us ask the intercession of the Virgin Mary. She teaches us the joy of meeting Christ, the love with which we must look to the foot of the Cross, the enthusiasm of the young heart with which we must follow him during this Holy Week and throughout our lives. May it be so.




After hearing the Lord's words, Peter asked him: “all right, but us? We have left everything for you. What will be our recompense? What will our reward be?”. Jesus' answer perhaps “is a little ironic: but of course, you too and all who have left house, brothers, sisters, mother, children and lands will receive a hundredfold”. He warns that they will have to face “persecution”, described as the wages, or rather “the disciples’ payment”.

Jesus assures all those who follow him a place among “the family of Christians” and recalls that “we are all brothers and sisters”, but warns that “there will be persecutions,
difficulties”. "Whoever follows me, must take the same route that I took”. It is a way, which leads to humbling oneself and which “ends on the Cross. There will always be difficulties and persecutions that come from the world, for he took this path first. When a Christian does not have difficulties in life and all goes well, something is not right”. One might think that he succumbed to the temptation to follow the spirit of the world instead of Jesus. Let us ask for this grace: to follow Jesus on the path which he has shown to us and taught us. This is beautiful: He never leaves us alone, never. He is always with us.




Jesus was involved in many activities and everyone marvelled at everything he did. He was the leader at the time. All Judea, Galilee and Samaria were talking about him. And Jesus, perhaps in a moment when the disciples were rejoicing in this, said to them: 'Let these words sink into your minds: the Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men'”.

In a moment of triumph, Jesus announces his Passion. The disciples, however, were so taken by the festive atmosphere that “they did not understand this saying; and it was concealed from them, that they should not perceive it”. They did not ask for explanations. The Gospel says: 'they were afraid to ask him about this saying'”. Better not to talk about it. Better “not to understand the truth”. They were afraid of the Cross.

The truth is that even Jesus was afraid of it. However, he could not deceive himself. He knew. And so great was his fear that on the night of Holy Thursday he sweat blood. He even asked God: 'Father, remove this cup from me'. However, he added: 'Thy will be done'. And this is the difference. The Cross scares us”.

This is what also happens when we commit ourselves to being witnesses of the Gospel and to following Jesus. “We are all content,” but we do not ask any further questions, we do not speak about the Cross. And yet, just as there is a rule which states that “a disciple is not greater than his master” (a rule we respect), so too there is also a rule that states that “there is no redemption without the shedding of blood”. And “there is no fruitful apostolic work without the Cross”. Each one of us, might think: what will happen to me? What will my cross be like? We do not know, but there will be a cross and we need to ask for the grace not to flee when it comes. Of course it scares us, but this is precisely where following Jesus takes us. Jesus' words to Peter at his papal coronation come to mind: “Do you love me? Feed … Do you love me? Tend … Do you love me? Feed … (cf. Jn 21:15-19), and these were among his last words to him: 'They will carry you where you do not wish to go'. He was announcing the Cross”.

This is precisely why the disciples where afraid to ask him. It was his mother who was closest to him at the Cross. Perhaps today, on the day when we pray to her, it would be good to ask her for the grace, not to take away our fear since this must be. Let us ask her for the grace not to run away from the cross. She was there and she knows how to remain close to the Cross.





Pope Francis    14.09.14 Holy Mass, Vatican Basilica      Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross     Numbers 21: 4B-9,     Philippians 2: 6-11,     John 3: 13-17

Pope Francis Marriage is all about: man and woman walking together 14.09.14

Today’s first reading speaks to us of the people’s journey through the desert. We can imagine them as they walked, led by Moses; they were families: fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, grandparents, men and women of all ages, accompanied by many children and the elderly who struggled to make the journey. This people reminds us of the Church as she makes her way across the desert of the contemporary world, reminds us of the People of God composed, for the most part, of families.
This makes us think of families, our families, walking along the paths of life with all their day to day experiences. It is impossible to quantify the strength and depth of humanity contained in a family: mutual help, educational support, relationships developing as family members mature, the sharing of joys and difficulties. Families are the first place in which we are formed as persons and, at the same time, the “bricks” for the building up of society.

Let us return to the biblical story. At a certain point, “the people became impatient on the way” (Num 21:4). They are tired, water supplies are low and all they have for food is manna, which, although plentiful and sent by God, seems far too meagre in a time of crisis. And so they complain and protest against God and against Moses: “Why did you make us leave?...” (cf. Num. 21:5). They are tempted to turn back and abandon the journey.

Here our thoughts turn to married couples who “become impatient on the way”, the way of conjugal and family life. The hardship of the journey causes them to experience interior weariness; they lose the flavour of matrimony and they cease to draw water from the well of the Sacrament. Daily life becomes burdensome, and often, even “nauseating”.

During such moments of disorientation – the Bible says – poisonous serpents come and bite the people, and many die. This causes the people to repent and to turn to Moses for forgiveness, asking him to beseech the Lord so that he will cast out the snakes. Moses prays to the Lord, and the Lord offers a remedy: a bronze serpent set on a pole; whoever looks at it will be saved from the deadly poison of the vipers.

What is the meaning of this symbol? God does not destroy the serpents, but rather offers an “antidote”: by means of the bronze serpent fashioned by Moses, God transmits his healing strength, namely his mercy, which is more potent than the Tempter’s poison.

As we have heard in the Gospel, Jesus identifies himself with this symbol: out of love the Father “has given” his only begotten Son so that men and women might have eternal life (cf. Jn 3:13-17). Such immense love of the Father spurs the Son to become man, to become a servant and to die for us upon a cross. Out of such love, the Father raises up his son, giving him dominion over the entire universe. This is expressed by Saint Paul in his hymn in the Letter to the Philippians (cf. 2:6-11). Whoever entrusts himself to Jesus crucified receives the mercy of God and finds healing from the deadly poison of sin.

The cure which God offers the people applies also, in a particular way, to spouses who “have become impatient on the way” and who succumb to the dangerous temptation of discouragement, infidelity, weakness, abandonment… To them too, God the Father gives his Son Jesus, not to condemn them, but to save them: if they entrust themselves to him, he will bring them healing by the merciful love which pours forth from the Cross, with the strength of his grace that renews and sets married couples and families once again on the right path.

The love of Christ, which has blessed and sanctified the union of husband and wife, is able to sustain their love and to renew it when, humanly speaking, it becomes lost, wounded or worn out. The love of Christ can restore to spouses the joy of journeying together. This is what marriage is all about: man and woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become ever more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more a man. This is the task that you both share. “I love you, and for this love I help you to become ever more a woman”; “I love you, and for this love I help you to become ever more a man”. Here we see the reciprocity of differences. The path is not always a smooth one, free of disagreements, otherwise it would not be human. It is a demanding journey, at times difficult, and at times turbulent, but such is life! Within this theology which the word of God offers us concerning the people on a journey, spouses on a journey, I would like to give you some advice. It is normal for husband and wife to argue: it’s normal. It always happens. But my advice is this: never let the day end without having first made peace. Never! A small gesture is sufficient. Thus the journey may continue. Marriage is a symbol of life, real life: it is not “fiction”! It is the Sacrament of the love of Christ and the Church, a love which finds its proof and guarantee in the Cross. My desire for you is that you have a good journey, a fruitful one, growing in love. I wish you happiness. There will be crosses! But the Lord is always there to help us move forward. May the Lord bless you!





Pope Francis   03.09.17  Angelus, St Peter's Square        22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A    Matthew 16: 21-27


Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Today’s Gospel passage (cf. Mt 16:21-27) is the continuation of last Sunday’s, which highlighted the profession of faith of Peter, the “rock” upon which Jesus wishes to build his Church. Today, in stark contrast, Matthew shows us the reaction of the same Peter when Jesus reveals to his disciples that He will have to suffer, be killed, and rise again (cf. 21). Peter takes the Teacher aside and reproaches Him because this — he says — cannot happen to Him, to Christ. But Jesus, in turn, rebukes Peter with harsh words: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men” (v. 23). A moment before, the Apostle had been blessed by the Father, because he had received that revelation from Him; he was a solid “rock” so that Jesus could build His community upon him; and immediately afterwards he becomes an obstacle, a rock but not for building, a stumbling block on the Messiah’s path. Jesus knows well that Peter and the others still have a long way to go to become his Apostles!

At that point, the Teacher turns to all those who were following Him, clearly presenting them the path to follow: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (v. 24). Always, today too, the temptation is that of wanting to follow a Christ without the cross, on the contrary, of teaching God which is the right path; like Peter: “No, no Lord! This shall never happen”. But Jesus reminds us that his way is the way of love, and that there is no true love without self sacrifice. We are called to not let ourselves be absorbed by the vision of this world, but to be ever more aware of the need and of the effort for we Christians to walk against the current and uphill.

Jesus completes his proposal with words that express a great and ever valid wisdom, because they challenge the egocentric mentality and behaviour. He exhorts: “whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (v. 25). This paradox contains the golden rule that God inscribed in the human nature created in Christ: the rule that only love gives meaning and happiness to life. To spend one’s own talents, one’s energy and one’s time only to save, protect and fulfil oneself, in reality leads to losing oneself, i.e. to a sad and barren existence. Instead let us live for the Lord and base our life on love, as Jesus did: we will be able to savour authentic joy, and our life will not be barren; it will be fruitful.

In the Eucharistic celebration we relive the mystery of the Cross; we not only remember, but we commemorate the redeeming Sacrifice in which the Son of God completely loses Himself so as to be received anew by the Father and thus find us again, we who were lost, together with all creatures. Each time we take part in the Holy Mass, the love of the crucified and Risen Christ is conveyed to us as food and drink, so that we may follow Him on the daily path, in concrete service to our brothers and sisters.

May Mary Most Holy, who followed Jesus up to Calvary, accompany us too and help us not to be afraid of the cross, but with Jesus nailed [to it], not a cross without Jesus, the Cross with Jesus, which is the cross of suffering for love of God and of our brothers and sisters, because this suffering, by the grace of Christ, bears the fruit of resurrection.





https://sites.google.com/site/francishomilies/defeat/14.09.18.jpg

We must not be afraid to contemplate the cross as a moment of defeat, of failure. When Paul reflects on the mystery of Jesus Christ, he says some powerful things. He tells us that Jesus emptied himself, annihilated himself, was made sin to the end and took all our sins upon himself, all the sins of the world: he was a ‘rag’, a condemned man. Paul was not afraid to show this defeat and even this can enlighten our moments of darkness, our moments of defeat. But the cross is also a sign of victory for us Christians.

The Book of Numbers tells of the moment during the Exodus when the people who complained “were punished by serpents”. This, refers to the ancient serpent,
Satan, the “Great Accuser”. But, the Lord told Moses that the serpent that brought death would be raised and would bring salvation. This  is a prophecy. In fact, having been made sin, Jesus defeated the author of sin, he defeated the serpent. And Satan, was so happy on Good Friday that he did not notice the great trap of history in which he was to fall.

As the Fathers of the Church say, Satan saw Jesus in such a bad state, and like a hungry fish that goes after the bait attached to the hook, he swallowed Him. But in that moment, he also swallowed His divinity because that was the bait attached to the hook. At that moment,  Satan was destroyed forever. He has no strength. In that moment the cross became a sign of victory.

Our victory is the cross of Jesus, victory over our enemy, the ancient serpent, the Great Accuser. We have been saved by the cross, by the fact that Jesus chose to sink to the very lowest point, but with the power of divinity.

Jesus said to Nicodemus: When I am lifted up I will draw all people to myself. Jesus was lifted up and Satan was destroyed. We must be attracted to the cross of Jesus: we must look at it because it gives us the strength to go forward. And the ancient serpent that was destroyed still barks, still threatens but, as the Fathers of the Church say, he is a chained dog: do not approach him and he will not bite you; but if you try to caress him because you attracted to him as if he were a puppy, prepare yourself, he will destroy you.

Our life goes on, with Christ victorious and risen, and who sends us the Holy Spirit; but also with that chained dog,
the devil, whom I must not draw close to because he will bite me.

The cross teaches us that in life there is failure and victory. We must be capable of tolerating defeat, of bearing our failures patiently, even those of our sins because He paid for us. We must tolerate them in Him, asking forgiveness in Him, but never allowing ourselves to be seduced by this chained dog. It will be good if today, when we go home, we would take 5, 10, 15 minutes in front of the crucifix, either the one we have in our house or on the rosary: look at it, it is our sign of defeat, it provokes persecutions, it destroys us; it is also our sign of victory because it is where God was victorious.




Pope Francis      30.08.20  Angelus, St Peter's Square     22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A      Romans 12: 1-2,      Matthew 16: 21-27

Pope Francis  The Way of the True Disciple  - Angelus  30.08.20

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Today's Gospel passage (cf. Mt 16:21-27) is linked to that of last Sunday (cf. Mt 16:13-20). After Peter, on behalf of the other disciples as well, has professed his faith in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God, Jesus Himself begins to speak to them about His Passion. Along the path to Jerusalem, He openly explains to His friends what awaits Him at the end in the Holy City: He foretells the mystery of His death and Resurrection, of His humiliation and glory. He says that He will have to “suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Mt 16:21). But His words are not understood, because the disciples have a faith that is still immature and too closely tied to the mentality of this world (cf. Rom 12:2). They think of too earthly a victory, and therefore they do not understand the language of the cross.

At the prospect that Jesus may fail and die on the cross, Peter himself resists and says to Him: “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” (v. 22). He believes in Jesus - Peter is like this, he has faith, he believes in Jesus, he believes - he wants to follow Him, but does not accept that His glory will pass through the Passion. For Peter and the other disciples – but for us too! - the cross is a stumbling block, a 'hindrance', whereas Jesus considers the 'hindrance' escaping the cross, which would mean avoiding the Father's will, the mission that the Father has entrusted to Him for our salvation. For this reason Jesus responds to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men” (v. 23). Ten minutes earlier, Jesus praised Peter, He promised him he would be the base of His Church, its foundation; ten minutes later He says to him, “Satan”. How can this be understood? It happens to us all! In moments of devotion, of fervour, of good will, of closeness to our neighbour, we look at Jesus and we go forward; but in moments in which we approach the cross, we flee. The devil, Satan - as Jesus says to Peter - tempts us. It typical of the evil spirit, it is typical of the devil to make us stray from the cross, from the cross of Jesus.

Addressing everyone then, Jesus adds: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (v. 24). In this way He indicates the way of the true disciple, showing two attitudes. The first is 'to renounce oneself', which does not mean a superficial change, but a conversion, a reversal of mentality and of values. The other attitude is that of taking up one's own cross. It is not just a matter of patiently enduring daily tribulations, but of bearing with faith and responsibility that part of toil, and that part of suffering that the struggle against evil entails. The life of Christians is always a struggle. The Bible says that the life of Christians is a military undertaking: fighting against the evil spirit, fighting against Evil.

Thus the task of “taking up the cross” becomes participating with Christ in the salvation of the world. Considering this, we allow the cross hanging on the wall at home, or that little one that we wear around our neck, to be a sign of our wish to be united with Christ in lovingly serving our brothers and sisters, especially the littlest and most fragile. The cross is the holy sign of God's Love, it is a sign of Jesus' Sacrifice, and is not to be reduced to a superstitious object or an ornamental necklace. Each time we fix our gaze on the image of Christ crucified, let us contemplate that He, as the true Servant of the Lord, has accomplished His mission, giving life, spilling His blood for the pardoning of sins. And let us not allow ourselves to be drawn to the other side, by the temptation of the Evil One. As a result, if we want to be his disciples, we are called to imitate him, expending our life unreservedly out of love of God and neighbour.

May the Virgin Mary, united to her Son unto Calvary, help us not to retreat in the face of the trials and suffering that witnessing to the Gospel entails.





Pope Francis       21.03.21  Angelus, Library of the Apostolic Palace        5th Sunday of Lent    Year B               John 12: 20-33


Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning
Pope Francis  We wish to see Jesus - 21.03.21

On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, the liturgy proclaims the Gospel in which Saint John refers to an episode that occurred in the final days of Christ’s life, shortly before the Passion (cf. Jn 12:20-33). While Jesus was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, several Greeks, curious because of what he had been doing, express the wish to see him. They approach the apostle Philip and say to him: “We wish to see Jesus” (v. 21). “We wish to see Jesus”. Let us remember this: “We wish to see Jesus”. Philip tells Andrew and then together they report it to the Teacher. In the request of those Greeks we can glimpse the request that many men and women, of every place and every time, pose to the Church and also to each one of us: “We wish to see Jesus”.

And how does Jesus respond to that request? In a way that makes us think. He says: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified…. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (vv. 23-24). These words do not seem to respond to the request those Greeks made. In reality, they surpass it. In fact, Jesus reveals that for every man and woman who wants to find him, He is the hidden seed ready to die in order to bear much fruit. As if to say: if you wish to know me, if you wish to understand me, look at the grain of wheat that dies in soil, that is, look at the cross.

The sign of the Cross comes to mind, which over the centuries has become the symbol par excellence of Christians. Even today, those who wish to “see Jesus”, perhaps coming from countries and cultures where Christianity is not well-known, what do they see first? What is the most common sign they encounter? The Crucifix, the Cross. In churches, in the homes of Christians, even worn on their persons. The important thing is that the sign be consistent with the Gospel: the cross cannot but express love, service, unreserved self-giving: only in this way is it truly the “tree of life”, of overabundant life.

Today too, many people, often without saying so, implicitly would like to “see Jesus”, to meet him, to know him. This is how we understand the great responsibility we Christians and of our communities have. We too must respond with the witness of a life that is given in service, a life that takes upon itself the style of God – closeness, compassion and tenderness – and is given in service. It means sowing seeds of love, not with fleeting words but through concrete, simple and courageous examples, not with theoretical condemnations, but with gestures of love. Then the Lord, with his grace, makes us bear fruit, even when the soil is dry due to misunderstandings, difficulty or persecution, or claims of legalism or clerical moralism. This is barren soil. Precisely then, in trials and in solitude, while the seed is dying, that is the moment in which life blossoms, to bear ripe fruit in due time. It is in this intertwining of death and life that we can experience the joy and true fruitfulness of love, which always, I repeat, is given in God’s style: closeness, compassion, tenderness.

May the Virgin Mary help us to follow Jesus, to walk, strong and joyful, on the path of service, so that the love of Christ may shine in our every attitude and become more and more the style of our daily life.





Pope Francis           01.04.21  Holy Chrism Mass, Vatican Basilica          Holy Thursday             Luke 4: 16-30

Pope Francis Chrism Mass 01.04.2021

The Gospel shows us a change of heart among the people who were listening to the Lord. The change was dramatic, and it reveals the extent to which persecution and the cross are linked to the proclamation of the Gospel. The admiration aroused by the grace-filled words spoken by Jesus did not last long in the minds of the people of Nazareth. A comment that someone murmured went insidiously viral: “Is not this Joseph’s son?” (Lk 4:22).
It was one of those ambiguous expressions that are blurted out in passing. One person can use it approvingly to say: “How wonderful that someone of such humble origin speaks with this authority!” Someone else can use it to say in scorn: “And this one, where did he come from? Who does he think he is?” If we think about it, we can hear the same words spoken on the day of Pentecost, when the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, began to preach the Gospel. Some said: “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?” (Acts 2:7). While some received the word, others merely thought that the apostles were drunk.

Strictly speaking, those words spoken in Nazareth might go either way, but if we look at what followed, it is clear that they contained a seed of violence that would then be unleashed against Jesus.

They were “words of justification”,[1] as, for example, when someone says: “That is altogether too much!” and then either attacks the other person or walks away.

This time, the Lord, who at times said nothing or simply walked away, did not let the comment pass. Instead, he laid bare the malevolence concealed in the guise of simple village gossip. “You will quote me the proverb: ‘Physician, heal yourself’. What we have heard that you did in Capernaum, do here also in your own country!” (Lk 4:23). “Heal yourself…”

“Let him save himself”. There is the poison! Those same words will follow the Lord to the cross: “He saved others, let him save himself” (Lk 23:35). “And save us”, one of the thieves will add (cf. v. 39).

As always, the Lord refuses to dialogue with the evil spirit; he only replies in the words of Scripture. The prophets Elijah and Elisha, for their part, were accepted not by their own countrymen but by a Phoenician widow and a Syrian who had contracted leprosy: two foreigners, two people of another religion. This is itself striking and it shows how true was the inspired prophecy of the aged Simeon that Jesus would be a “sign of contradiction (semeion antilegomenon)” (Lk 2:34)[2].

Jesus’ words have the power to bring to light whatever each of us holds in the depths of our heart, often mixed like the wheat and the tares. And this gives rise to spiritual conflict. Seeing the signs of the Lord’s superabundant mercy and hearing the “beatitudes” but also the “woes” found in the Gospel, we find ourselves forced to discern and decide. In this case, Jesus’ words were not accepted and this made the enraged crowd attempt to kill him. But it was not yet his “hour”, and the Lord, so the Gospel tells us, “passing through the midst of them, went away”.

It was not his hour, yet the swiftness with which the crowd’s fury was unleashed, and the ferocity of a rage prepared to kill the Lord on the spot, shows us that it is always his hour. That is what I would like to share with you today, dear priests: that the hour of joyful proclamation, the hour of persecution and the hour of the cross go together.

The preaching of the Gospel is always linked to the embrace of some particular cross. The gentle light of God’s word shines brightly in well-disposed hearts, but awakens confusion and rejection in those that are not. We see this over and over again in the Gospels.

The good seed sown in the field bears fruit – a hundred, sixty and thirty-fold – but it also arouses the envy of the enemy, who is driven to sow weeds during the night (cf. Mt 13:24-30.36-43).

The tender love of the merciful father irresistibly draws the prodigal son home, but also leads to anger and resentment on the part of the elder son (cf. Lk 15:11-32).

The generosity of the owner of the vineyard is a reason for gratitude among the workers called at the last hour, but it also provokes a bitter reaction by one of those called first, who is offended by the generosity of his employer (cf. Mt 20:1-16).

The closeness of Jesus, who dines with sinners, wins hearts like those of Zacchaeus, Matthew and the Samaritan woman, but it also awakens scorn in the self-righteous.

The magnanimity of the king who sends his son, thinking that he will be respected by the tenant farmers, unleashes in them a ferocity beyond all measure. Here we find ourselves before the mystery of iniquity, which leads to the killing of the Just One (cf. Mt 21:33-46).

All this, dear brother priests, enables us to see that the preaching of the Good News is mysteriously linked to persecution and the cross.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola – excuse the “family advertising” – expresses this evangelical truth in his contemplation on the Nativity of the Lord. There he invites us “to see and consider what Saint Joseph and Our Lady did in setting out on their journey so that the Lord could be born in extreme poverty and after many labours – experiencing hunger, thirst, heat and cold, injuries and indignities – die on the Cross, and all this for me”. He then invites us, “in reflecting on this, to draw some spiritual profit” (Spiritual Exercises, 116). The joy of the Lord’s birth; the pain of the Cross; persecution.

What reflection can we make to “draw some profit” for our priestly life by contemplating this early appearance of the cross – of misunderstanding, rejection and persecution – at the beginning and at the very heart of the preaching of the Gospel?

Two thoughts occur to me.

First: we are taken aback to see the cross present in the Lord’s life at the very beginning of his ministry, even before his birth. It is already there in Mary’s initial bewilderment at the message of the angel; it is there in Joseph's sleeplessness, when he felt obliged to send Mary away quietly. It is there in the persecution of Herod and in the hardships endured by the Holy Family, like those of so many other families obliged to live in exile from their homeland.

All this makes us realize that the mystery of the cross is present “from the beginning”. It makes us understand that the cross is not an afterthought, something that happened by chance in the Lord’s life. It is true that all who crucify others throughout history would have the cross appear as collateral damage, but that is not the case: the cross does not appear by chance. The great and small crosses of humanity, the crosses of each of us, do not appear by chance.

Why did the Lord embrace the cross fully and to the end? Why did Jesus embrace his entire Passion: his betrayal and abandonment by his friends after the Last Supper, his illegal arrest, his summary trial and disproportionate sentence, the gratuitous and unjustifiable violence with which he was beaten and spat upon...? If mere circumstances conditioned the saving power of the cross, the Lord would not have embraced everything. But when his hour came, he embraced the cross fully. For on the cross there can be no ambiguity! The cross is non-negotiable.

A second thought: true, there is an aspect of the cross that is an integral part of our human condition, our limits and our frailty. Yet it is also true that something happens on the Cross that does not have to do with our human weakness but is the bite of the serpent, who, seeing the crucified Lord defenceless, bites him in an attempt to poison and undo all his work. A bite that tries to scandalize – and this is an era of scandals – a bite that seeks to disable and render futile and meaningless all service and loving sacrifice for others. It is the venom of the evil one who keeps insisting: save yourself.

It is in this harsh and painful “bite” that seeks to bring death, that God’s triumph is ultimately seen. Saint Maximus the Confessor tells us that in the crucified Jesus a reversal took place. In biting the flesh of the Lord, the devil did not poison him, for in him he encountered only infinite meekness and obedience to the will of the Father. Instead, caught by the hook of the cross, he devoured the flesh of the Lord, which proved poisonous to him, whereas for us it was to be the antidote that neutralizes the power of the evil one.[3]

These are my reflections. Let us ask the Lord for the grace to profit from this teaching. It is true that the cross is present in our preaching of the Gospel, but it is the cross of our salvation. Thanks to the reconciling blood of Jesus, it is a cross that contains the power of Christ’s victory, which conquers evil and delivers us from the evil one. To embrace it with Jesus and, as he did before us, to go out and preach it, will allow us to discern and reject the venom of scandal, with which the devil wants to poison us whenever a cross unexpectedly appears in our lives.

“But we are not among those who shrink back (hypostoles)” (Heb 10:39), says the author of the Letter to the Hebrews. “We are not among those who shrink back”. This is the advice that the author gives us. We are not scandalized, because Jesus himself was not scandalized by seeing that his joyful preaching of salvation to the poor was not received wholeheartedly, but amid the shouts and threats of those who refused to hear his word or wanted to reduce it to legalisms such as moralism or clericalism.

We are not scandalized because Jesus was not scandalized by having to heal the sick and to set prisoners free amid the moralistic, legalistic and clerical squabbles that arose every time he did some good.

We are not scandalized because Jesus was not scandalized by having to give sight to the blind amid people who closed their eyes in order not to see, or looked the other way.

We are not scandalized because Jesus was not scandalised that his proclamation of a year of grace of the Lord – a year that embraces all of history - provoked a public scandal in matters that today would barely make the third page of a local newspaper.

We are not scandalized because the preaching of the Gospel is effective not because of our eloquent words but because of the power of the cross (cf. 1 Cor 1:17).

The way we embrace the cross in our preaching of the Gospel – with deeds and, when necessary, with words – makes two things clear. That the sufferings that come from the Gospel are not ours, but rather “the sufferings of Christ in us” (2 Cor 1:5), and that “we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as servants of all for the love of Jesus” (2 Cor 4:5).

I would like to end by sharing one of my memories. “Once, at a dark moment in my life, I asked the Lord for the grace to free me from a difficult and complex situation. A dark moment. I had to preach the Spiritual Exercises to some women religious, and on the last day, as was customary in those days, they all went to confession. One elderly Sister came; she had a clear gaze, eyes full of light. A woman of God. At the end of the confession, I felt the urge to ask her a favour, so I said to her, ‘Sister, as your penance pray for me, because I need a particular grace. Ask the Lord for it. If you ask the Lord, surely he will give it to me’. She paused in silence for a moment and seemed to be praying, then she looked at me and said, ‘The Lord will certainly give you that grace, but make no mistake about it: he will give it to you in his own divine way’. This did me much good, hearing that the Lord always gives us what we ask for, but that he does so in his divine way. That way involves the cross. Not for masochism. But for love, love to the very end”.[4]



[1] A master of the spiritual life, Father Claude Judde speaks of expressions that accompany our decisions and contain “the
final word”, the word that prompts a decision and moves a person or a group to act. Cf. C. JUDDE, Oeuvres spirituelles, II, 1883 (Instruction sur la connaissance de soi-même), pp. 313-319), in M. Á. FIORITO, Buscar y hallar la voluntad de Dios, Buenos Aires, Paulinas, 2000, 248 s.
[2] “Antilegomenon” means they would speak in different ways about him: some would speak well of him and others ill.
[3] Cf. Cent. I, 8-13.
[4] Homily at Mass in Santa Marta, 29 May 2013.