Evangelization

Evangelization - Pope Francis   

17.04.13  Holy Mass  Santa Marta  Acts 8: 1B - 8


The Church cannot be merely “a babysitter who cares for the child just to get him to sleep”. If she were this, hers would be a “slumbering Church”. Whoever knows Jesus has the strength and the courage to proclaim him. And whoever has received Baptism has the strength to walk, to go forward, to evangelize and “when we do this the Church becomes a mother who generates children” capable of bringing Christ to the world.

During persecutions in Japan in the early 17th century, Catholic missionaries were expelled and communities were left for 200 years without priests. On their return, the missionaries found “all communities in place, everyone baptized, everyone catechized, all married in the Church” — and this thanks to the work of the baptized.

It is our great responsibility, as baptized persons, to proclaim Christ, to carry the Church — this fruitful motherhood of the Church — forward. Mary, during the persecution of the first Christians, “prayed so much” and moved those who had been baptized to go forward with courage.

Let us ask the Lord, for the grace to become baptized persons who are brave and sure that the Holy Spirit who is in us, received at Baptism, always moves us to proclaim Jesus Christ with our life, our testimony and even with our words.



Paul in the Areopagus (Acts 17:15-22, 18-1) proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ among the worshipers of idols. It is the way in which he did this, that is so important: “He did not say: Idolaters! You will go to hell... ”. No, he “tried to reach their hearts”; he did not condemn from the outset but sought dialogue. “Paul is a Pope, a builder of bridges. He did not want to become a builder of walls”. Building bridges to proclaim the Gospel, “this was the Paul’s outlook in Athens: build a bridge to their hearts, and then take a step further and proclaim Jesus Christ”. Paul followed the attitude of Jesus, who spoke to everyone, “he heard the Samaritan woman... ate with the Pharisees, with sinners, with publicans, with doctors of the law. Jesus listened to everyone and when he said a word of condemnation, it was at the end, when there was nothing left to do”. But Paul, too, was “aware that he must evangelize, not proselytize”. The Church “does not grow by proselytizing, as Benedict XVI has told us, but grows by attracting people, by its witness, and by its preaching”. Ultimately, “Paul acted because he was sure, sure of Jesus Christ. He had no doubt of his Lord”.

Paul teaches what the path of
evangelization should be, to follow with courage. And “when the Church loses this apostolic courage, she becomes a lifeless Church. Orderly, perhaps — nice, very nice — but barren, because she has lost the courage to go to the outskirts, where there are so many people who are victims of idolatry, worldliness, and weak thought”. In order to curb the fear of making a mistake, you have to realize that you can rise and continue to move forward. “Those who do not walk for fear of making a mistake make the most serious mistake.”



Pope Francis   12.05.13 Seventh Sunday of Easter Holy Mas and Canonizations   Acts 6:5   7:55-60     John 17:20-26  

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

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On this Seventh Sunday of Easter we gather together in joy to celebrate a feast of holiness. Let us give thanks to God who made his glory, the glory of Love, shine on the Martyrs of Otranto, on Mother Laura Montoya and on Mother María Guadalupe García Zavala. I greet all of you who have come for this celebration — from Italy, Colombia, Mexico and other countries — and I thank you! Let us look at the new saints in the light of the word of God proclaimed. It is a word that has invited us to be faithful to Christ, even to martyrdom; it has reminded us of the urgency and beauty of bringing Christ and his Gospel to everyone; and it has spoken to us of the testimony of charity, without which even martyrdom and the mission lose their Christian savour.

1. When the Acts of the Apostles tell us about the Deacon Stephen, the Proto-Martyr, it is written that he was a man “filled with the Holy Spirit” (6:5; 7:55). What does this mean? It means that he was filled with the Love of God, that his whole self, his life, was inspired by the Spirit of the Risen Christ so that he followed Jesus with total fidelity, to the point of giving up himself.

Today the Church holds up for our veneration an array of martyrs who in 1480 were called to bear the highest witness to the Gospel together. About 800 people, who had survived the siege and invasion of Otranto, were beheaded in the environs of that city. They refused to deny their faith and died professing the Risen Christ. Where did they find the strength to stay faithful? In the faith itself, which enables us to see beyond the limits of our human sight, beyond the boundaries of earthly life. It grants us to contemplate “the heavens opened”, as St Stephen says, and the living Christ at God’s right hand. Dear friends, let us keep the faith we have received and which is our true treasure, let us renew our faithfulness to the Lord, even in the midst of obstacles and misunderstanding. God will never let us lack strength and calmness. While we venerate the Martyrs of Otranto, let us ask God to sustain all the Christians who still suffer violence today in these very times and in so many parts of the world and to give them the courage to stay faithful and to respond to evil with goodness.

2. We might take the second idea from the words of Jesus which we heard in the Gospel: “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us” (Jn 17:20). St Laura Montoya was an instrument of evangelization, first as a teacher and later as a spiritual mother of the indigenous in whom she instilled hope, welcoming them with this love that she had learned from God and bringing them to him with an effective pedagogy that respected their culture and was not in opposition to it. In her work of evangelization Mother Laura truly made herself all things to all people, to borrow St Paul’s words (cf. 1 Cor 9:22). Today too, like a vanguard of the Church, her spiritual daughters live in and take the Gospel to the furthest and most needy places.

This first saint, born in the beautiful country of Colombia, teaches us to be generous to God and not to live our faith in solitude — as if it were possible to live the faith alone! — but to communicate it and to make the joy of the Gospel shine out in our words and in the witness of our life wherever we meet others. Wherever we may happen to be, to radiate this life of the Gospel. She teaches us to see Jesus’ face reflected in others and to get the better of the indifference and individualism that corrode Christian communities and eat away our heart itself. She also teaches us to accept everyone without prejudice, without discrimination and without reticence, but rather with sincere love, giving them the very best of ourselves and, especially, sharing with them our most worthwhile possession; this is not one of our institutions or organizations, no. The most worthwhile thing we possess is Christ and his Gospel.

3. Lastly, a third idea. In today’s Gospel, Jesus prays to the Father with these words: “I made known to them your name, and I will make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (Jn 17:26). The martyr’s fidelity event to the death and the proclamation of the Gospel to all people are rooted, have their roots, in God’s love, which was poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5), and in the witness we must bear in our life to this love.

St Guadalupe García Zavala was well aware of this. By renouncing a comfortable life — what great harm an easy life and well-being cause; the adoption of a bourgeois heart paralyzes us — by renouncing an easy life in order to follow Jesus’ call she taught people how to love poverty, how to feel greater love for the poor and for the sick. Mother Lupita would kneel on the hospital floor, before the sick, before the abandoned, in order to serve them with tenderness and compassion. And this is called “touching the flesh of Christ”. The poor, the abandoned, the sick and the marginalized are the flesh of Christ. And Mother Lupita touched the flesh of Christ and taught us this behaviour: not to feel ashamed, not to fear, not to find “touching Christ’s flesh” repugnant. Mother Lupita had realized what “touching Christ’s flesh” actually means. Today too her spiritual daughters try to mirror God’s love in works of charity, unsparing in sacrifices and facing every obstacle with docility and with apostolic perseverance (hypomon?), bearing it with courage.

This new Mexican saint invites us to love as Jesus loved us. This does not entail withdrawal into ourselves, into our own problems, into our own ideas, into our own interests, into this small world that is so harmful to us; but rather to come out of ourselves and care for those who are in need of attention, understanding and help, to bring them the warm closeness of God’s love through tangible actions of sensitivity, of sincere affection and of love.

Faithfulness to Christ and to his Gospel, in order to proclaim them with our words and our life, witnessing to God’s love with our own love and with our charity to all: these are the luminous examples and teachings that the saints canonized today offer us but they call into question our Christian life: how am I faithful to Christ? Let us take this question with us, to think about it during the day: how am I faithful to Christ? Am I able to “make my faith seen with respect, but also with courage? Am I attentive to others, do I notice who is in need, do I see everyone as brothers and sisters to love? Let us ask the Lord, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the new saints, to fill our life with the joy of his love. So may it be.


Pope Francis  22.05.13  General Audience  St Peter's Square  Catechesis on the Creed

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

In the Creed, immediately after professing our faith in the Holy Spirit, we say: “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”. There is a profound connection between these two realities of faith: indeed it is the Holy Spirit who gives life to the Church, who guides her steps. Without the constant presence and action of the Holy Spirit the Church could not live and could not carry out the task that the Risen Jesus entrusted to her: to go and make disciples of all nations (cf. Mt 28:19). 

Evangelizing is the Church’s mission. It is not the mission of only a few, but it is mine, yours and our mission. The Apostle Paul exclaimed: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). We must all be evangelizers, especially with our life! Paul VI stressed that “Evangelizing is... the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 14).

Who is the real driving force of evangelization in our life and in the Church?
Paul VI wrote clearly: “it is the Holy Spirit who today, just as at the beginning of the Church, acts in every evangelizer who allows himself to be possessed and led by him. The Holy Spirit places on his lips the words which he could not find by himself, and at the same time the Holy Spirit predisposes the soul of the hearer to be open and receptive to the Good News and to the Kingdom being proclaimed (ibid., n. 75). To evangelize, therefore, it is necessary to open ourselves once again to the horizon of God’s Spirit, without being afraid of what he asks us or of where he leads us. Let us entrust ourselves to him! He will enable us to live out and bear witness to our faith, and will illuminate the heart of those we meet. 

This was the experience at Pentecost. “There appeared” to the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room with Mary, “tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:3-4). In coming down upon the Apostles the Holy Spirit makes them leave the room they had locked themselves into out of fear, he prompts them to step out of themselves and transforms them into heralds and witnesses of the “mighty works of God” (v. 11). Moreover this transformation brought about by the Holy Spirit reverberated in the multitude that had arrived “from every nation under heaven” (v. 5) for each one heard the Apostles’ words as if they had been “speaking in his own language” (v. 6). 

This is one of the first important effects of the action of the Holy Spirit who guides and brings to life the proclamation of the Gospel: unity, communion. It was in Babel, according to the Biblical account, that the dispersion of people and the confusion of languages had begun, the results of the act of pride and conceit of man who wanted to build with his efforts alone, without God, “a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens” (Gen 11:4). At Pentecost these divisions were overcome. There was no longer conceit with regard to God, nor the closure of some people to others; instead, there was openness to God, there was going out to proclaim his word: a new language, that of love which the Holy Spirit pours out into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5); a language that all can understand and that, once received, can be expressed in every life and every culture. The language of the Spirit, the language of the Gospel, is the language of communion which invites us to get the better of closedness and indifference, division and antagonization. 

We must all ask ourselves: how do I let myself be guided by the Holy Spirit in such a way that my life and my witness of faith is both unity and communion? Do I convey the word of reconciliation and of love, which is the Gospel, to the milieus in which I live. At times it seems that we are repeating today what happened at Babel: division, the incapacity to understand one another, rivalry, envy, egoism. What do I do with my life? Do I create unity around me? Or do I cause division, by gossip, criticism or envy? What do I do? Let us think about this. 

Spreading the Gospel means that we are the first to proclaim and live the reconciliation, forgiveness, peace, unity and love which the Holy Spirit gives us. Let us remember Jesus’ words: “by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13: 34-35). 

A second element is the day of Pentecost. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit and standing “with the eleven”, “lifted up his voice” (Acts 2:14) and “confidently” (v. 29), proclaimed the Good News of Jesus, who gave his life for our salvation and who God raised from the dead. This is another effect of the Holy Spirit’s action: the courage to proclaim the newness of the Gospel of Jesus to all, confidently, (with parrhesia) in a loud voice, in every time and in every place. 

Today too this happens for the Church and for each one of us: the fire of Pentecost, from the action of the Holy Spirit, releases an ever new energy for mission, new ways in which to proclaim the message of salvation, new courage for evangelizing. Let us never close ourselves to this action! Let us live the Gospel humbly and courageously! 

Let us witness to the newness, hope and joy that the Lord brings to life. Let us feel within us “the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing” (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation,
Evangelii Nuntiandi, n, 80). Because evangelizing, proclaiming Jesus, gives us joy. Instead, egoism makes us bitter, sad, and depresses us. Evangelizing uplifts us.

I will only mention a third element, which, however, is particularly important: a new evangelization, a Church which evangelizes, must always start with prayer, with asking, like the Apostles in the Upper Room, for the fire of the Holy Spirit. Only a faithful and intense relationship with God makes it possible to get out of our own closedness and proclaim the Gospel with parrhesia. Without prayer our acts are empty, and our proclamation has no soul, it is not inspired by the Spirit.

Dear friends, as
Benedict XVI said, today the Church “feels the wind of the Holy Spirit who helps us, who shows us the right road; and so, we are on our way, it seems to me, with new enthusiasm, and we thank the Lord” (Address to the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 27 October 2012). Let us renew every day our trust in the Holy Spirit’s action, the trust that he acts within us, that he is within us, that he gives us apostolic zeal, peace and joy. Let us allow him to lead us. May we be men and women of prayer who witness to the Gospel with courage, becoming in our world instruments of unity and of communion with God. Thank you.

     

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

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Dear Young Friends,

“Go and make disciples of all nations”. With these words, Jesus is speaking to each one of us, saying: “It was wonderful to take part in World Youth Day, to live the faith together with young people from the four corners of the earth, but now you must go, now you must pass on this experience to others.” Jesus is calling you to be a disciple with a mission! Today, in the light of the word of God that we have heard, what is the Lord saying to us? What is the Lord saying to us? Three simple ideas: Go, do not be afraid, and serve.

1. Go. During these days here in Rio, you have been able to enjoy the wonderful experience of meeting Jesus, meeting him together with others, and you have sensed the joy of faith. But the experience of this encounter must not remain locked up in your life or in the small group of your parish, your movement, or your community. That would be like withholding oxygen from a flame that was burning strongly. Faith is a flame that grows stronger the more it is shared and passed on, so that everyone may know, love and confess Jesus Christ, the Lord of life and history (cf. Rom 10:9).

Careful, though! Jesus did not say: “go, if you would like to, if you have the time”, but he said: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Sharing the experience of faith, bearing witness to the faith, proclaiming the Gospel: this is a command that the Lord entrusts to the whole Church, and that includes you; but it is a command that is born not from a desire for domination, from the desire for power, but from the force of love, from the fact that Jesus first came into our midst and did not give us just a part of himself, but he gave us the whole of himself, he gave his life in order to save us and to show us the love and mercy of God. Jesus does not treat us as slaves, but as people who are free , as friends, as brothers and sisters; and he not only sends us, he accompanies us, he is always beside us in our mission of love.

Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits: he sends us to everyone. The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some. It is not only for those who seem closer to us, more receptive, more welcoming. It is for everyone. Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Lord seeks all, he wants everyone to feel the warmth of his mercy and his love.

In particular, I would like Christ’s command: “Go” to resonate in you young people from the Church in Latin America, engaged in the continental mission promoted by the Bishops. Brazil, Latin America, the whole world needs Christ! Saint Paul says: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). This continent has received the proclamation of the Gospel which has marked its history and borne much fruit. Now this proclamation is entrusted also to you, that it may resound with fresh power. The Church needs you, your enthusiasm, your creativity and the joy that is so characteristic of you. A great Apostle of Brazil, Blessed José de Anchieta, set off on the mission when he was only nineteen years old. Do you know what the best tool is for evangelizing the young? Another young person. This is the path for all of you to follow!

2. Do not be afraid. Some people might think: “I have no particular preparation, how can I go and proclaim the Gospel?” My dear friend, your fear is not so very different from that of Jeremiah, as we have just heard in the reading, when he was called by God to be a prophet. “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth”. God says the same thing to you as he said to Jeremiah: “Be not afraid ... for I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:7,8). He is with us!

“Do not be afraid!” When we go to proclaim Christ, it is he himself who goes before us and guides us. When he sent his disciples on mission, he promised: “I am with you always” (Mt 28:20). And this is also true for us! Jesus never leaves anyone alone! He always accompanies us .

And then, Jesus did not say: “One of you go”, but “All of you go”: we are sent together. Dear young friends, be aware of the companionship of the whole Church and also the communion of the saints on this mission. When we face challenges together, then we are strong, we discover resources we did not know we had. Jesus did not call the Apostles to live in isolation, he called them to form a group, a community. I would like to address you, dear priests concelebrating with me at this Eucharist: you have come to accompany your young people, and this is wonderful, to share this experience of faith with them! Certainly he has rejuvenated all of you. The young make everyone feel young. But this experience is only a stage on the journey. Please, continue to accompany them with generosity and joy, help them to become actively engaged in the Church; never let them feel alone! And here I wish to thank from the heart the youth ministry teams from the movements and new communities that are accompanying the young people in their experience of being Church, in such a creative and bold way. Go forth and don’t be afraid!

3. The final word: serve. The opening words of the psalm that we proclaimed are: “Sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalm 95:1). What is this new song? It does not consist of words, it is not a melody, it is the song of your life, it is allowing our life to be identified with that of Jesus, it is sharing his sentiments, his thoughts, his actions. And the life of Jesus is a life for others. The life of Jesus is a life for others. It is a life of service.

In our Second Reading today, Saint Paul says: “I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more” (1 Cor 9:19). In order to proclaim Jesus, Paul made himself “a slave to all”. Evangelizing means bearing personal witness to the love of God, it is overcoming our selfishness, it is serving by bending down to wash the feet of our brethren, as Jesus did.

Three ideas: Go, do not be afraid, and serve. Go, do not be afraid, and serve. If you follow these three ideas, you will experience that the one who evangelizes is evangelized, the one who transmits the joy of faith receives more joy. Dear young friends, as you return to your homes, do not be afraid to be generous with Christ, to bear witness to his Gospel. In the first Reading, when God sends the prophet Jeremiah, he gives him the power to “pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (1:10). It is the same for you. Bringing the Gospel is bringing God’s power to pluck up and break down evil and violence, to destroy and overthrow the barriers of selfishness, intolerance and hatred, so as to build a new world. Dear young friends, Jesus Christ is counting on you! The Church is counting on you! The Pope is counting on you! May Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, always accompany you with her tenderness: “Go and make disciples of all nations”. Amen.




Pope Francis       12.07.15 Holy Mass Campo Grande, Ñu Guazú, Asuncion, Paraguay       Psalm 85: 8-14,      Mark 6: 7-13

Pope Francis Welcoming others 12.07.15

“The Lord will shower down blessings, and our land will yield its increase”. These are the words of the Psalm. We are invited to celebrate this mysterious communion between God and his People, between God and us. The rain is a sign of his presence, in the earth tilled by our hands. It reminds us that our communion with God always brings forth fruit, always gives life. This confidence is born of faith, from knowing that we depend on grace, which will always transform and nourish our land.

It is a confidence which is learned, which is taught. A confidence nurtured within a community, in the life of a family. A confidence which radiates from the faces of all those people who encourage us to follow Jesus, to be disciples of the One who can never deceive. A disciple knows that he or she is called to have this confidence; we feel Jesus’s invitation to be his friend, to share his lot, his very life. “No longer do I call you servants... but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you”. The disciples are those who learn how to live trusting in the friendship offered by Jesus.

The Gospel speaks to us of this kind of discipleship. It shows us the identity card of the Christian. Our calling card, our credentials.

Jesus calls his disciples and sends them out, giving them clear and precise instructions. He challenges them to take on a whole range of attitudes and ways of acting. Sometimes these can strike us as exaggerated or even absurd. It would be easier to interpret these attitudes symbolically or “spiritually”. But Jesus is quite precise, very clear. He doesn’t tell them simply to do whatever they think they can.

Let us think about some of these attitudes: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money...” “When you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place” (cf. Mk 6:8-11). All this might seem quite unrealistic.

We could concentrate on the words, “bread”, “money”, “bag”, “staff”, “sandals” and “tunic”. And this would be fine. But it strikes me that one key word can easily pass unnoticed among the challenging words I have just listed. It is a word at the heart of Christian spirituality, of our experience of discipleship: “welcome”. Jesus as the good master, the good teacher, sends them out to be welcomed, to experience hospitality. He says to them: “Where you enter a house, stay there”. He sends them out to learn one of the hallmarks of the community of believers. We might say that a Christian is someone who has learned to welcome others, who has learned to show hospitality.

Jesus does not send them out as men of influence, landlords, officials armed with rules and regulations. Instead, he makes them see that the Christian journey is simply about changing hearts. One’s own heart first all, and then helping to transform the hearts of others. It is about learning to live differently, under a different law, with different rules. It is about turning from the path of selfishness, conflict, division and superiority, and taking instead the path of life, generosity and love. It is about passing from a mentality which domineers, stifles and manipulates to a mentality which welcomes, accepts and cares.

These are two contrasting mentalities, two ways of approaching our life and our mission.

How many times do we see mission in terms of plans and programs. How many times do we see evangelization as involving any number of strategies, tactics, manoeuvres, techniques, as if we could convert people on the basis of our own arguments. Today the Lord says to us quite clearly: in the mentality of the Gospel, you do not convince people with arguments, strategies or tactics. You convince them by simply learning how to welcome them.

The Church is a mother with an open heart. She knows how to welcome and accept, especially those in need of greater care, those in greater difficulty. The Church, as desired by Jesus, is the home of hospitality. And how much good we can do, if only we try to speak this language of hospitality, this language of receiving and welcoming. How much pain can be soothed, how much despair can be allayed in a place where we feel at home! This requires open doors, especially the doors of our heart. Welcoming the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner (Mt 25:34-37), the leper and the paralytic. Welcoming those who do not think as we do, who do not have faith or who have lost it. And sometimes, we are to blame. Welcoming the persecuted, the unemployed. Welcoming the different cultures, of which our earth is so richly blessed. Welcoming sinners, because each one of us is also a sinner.

So often we forget that there is an evil underlying our sins, that precedes our sins. There is a bitter root which causes damage, great damage, and silently destroys so many lives. There is an evil which, bit by bit, finds a place in our hearts and eats away at our life: it is isolation. Isolation which can have many roots, many causes. How much it destroys our life and how much harm it does us. It makes us turn our back on others, God, the community. It makes us closed in on ourselves. From here we see that the real work of the Church, our mother, should not be mainly about managing works and projects, but rather about learning to experience fraternity with others. A welcome-filled fraternity is the best witness that God is our Father, for “by this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).

In this way, Jesus teaches us a new way of thinking. He opens before us a horizon brimming with life, beauty, truth and fulfilment.

God never closes off horizons; he is never unconcerned about the lives and sufferings of his children. God never allows himself to be outdone in generosity. So he sends us his Son, he gives him to us, he hands him over, he shares him... so that we can learn the way of fraternity, of self-giving. In a definitive way, he opens up a new horizon; he is a new word which sheds light on so many situations of exclusion, disintegration, loneliness and isolation. He is a word which breaks the silence of loneliness.

And when we are weary or worn down by our efforts to evangelize, it is good to remember that the life which Jesus holds out to us responds to the deepest needs of people. “We were created for what the Gospel offers us: friendship with Jesus and love of our brothers and sisters” (Evangelii Gaudium, 265).

On thing is sure: we cannot force anyone to receive us, to welcome us; this is itself part of our poverty and freedom. But neither can anyone force us not to be welcoming, hospitable in the lives of our people. No one can tell us not to accept and embrace the lives of our brothers and sisters, especially those who have lost hope and zest for life. How good it would be to think of our parishes, communities, chapels, wherever there are Christians, with open doors, true centres of encounter between ourselves and God.

The Church is a mother, like Mary. In her, we have a model. We too must provide a home, like Mary, who did not lord it over the word of God, but rather welcomed that word, bore it in her womb and gave it to others.

We too must provide a home, like the earth, which does not choke the seed, but receives it, nourishes it and makes it grow.

That is how we want to be Christians, that is how we want to live the faith on this Paraguayan soil, like Mary, accepting and welcoming God’s life in our brothers and sisters, in confidence and with the certainty that “the Lord will shower down blessings, and our land will yield its increase”. May it be so.




Pope Francis  09.09.16  Holy Mass, Santa Marta      1 Corinthians 9: 16-19, 22B-27

Evangelization is carried out first through witness and then with words, being careful to avoid falling into the temptation of reducing ourselves to officials who stroll around and proselytize. In his homily during the Mass at Santa Marta on Friday morning, Pope Francis relaunched St Paul’s “style” of evangelization, his “becoming all things to all men” without seeking personal merit. The Pope also referred to the example of St Peter Claver, a Jesuit missionary who worked among slaves.

“The apostle Paul explains to the Corinthians what it means to evangelize”, the Pope affirmed, referring to the first reading in the day’s liturgy (1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-27). “We too can reflect today upon what it means to evangelize”, he said, “because we Christians are called to evangelize, to convey the Gospel, which means bearing witness to Jesus Christ”.

And Paul, addressing the Christians of Corinth, begins his reasoning by pointing out what evangelization does not consist of: “To me, proclaiming the Gospel is not boasting”. Therefore, you should certainly not boast “of going to evangelize: I am going to do this, I am going to do that”, as if evangelizing was like “taking a stroll”. This would be “reducing evangelization to a task: I have this task”. And “I am speaking about things that happen in parishes around the world”, the Pope said, “when a parish priest always has his door closed”.

It can also happen, Pope Francis continued, that you meet “lay people who say: ‘I teach this catechism class, I do this, this and this...”. In doing so, they reduce “what they call evangelization to a task”. Perhaps they even boast, saying: “I perform this task, I am a catechist official, I am an official of this, of this or that”.

This is precisely the attitude of those who boast, the Pope insisted, and “it is reducing the Gospel to a task or even a source of pride: ‘I go and evangelize and I have brought many people to Church’”. In this way, he said, “even proselytizing is boasting”. However, “evangelization is not proselytism”. It is more: evangelization is never “taking a stroll; reducing the Gospel to a task; proselytizing”.

St Paul emphatically repeats what evangelization means, the Pope explained: preaching the Gospel “is not boasting. It is a necessity imposed upon me”. Indeed, the Pope said, referring to an expression of Paul, “a Christian is obligated, but with this force, as a necessity, to convey the name of Jesus, but from one’s own heart”. Repeating the Apostle’s clear words, the Pontiff said: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!”.

A reprimand — “Woe to you!” — that reaches those Catholics who think: “I go to Mass, I do this and then nothing more”. However, Pope Francis cautioned, “if you say that you are Catholic, that you have been baptized, that you have been confirmed, you must go further, to convey the name of Jesus: this is an obligation!”.

Paul’s precise indications, the Pope continued, lead us to question what our “style of evangelization” should be. In short, “how can I be sure that I am not taking a stroll, that I am neither proselytizing nor reducing evangelization to a task? How can I understand what the right style is?”.

The answer Paul always gives is: “The style is to be all things to everyone”. In fact, the Apostle writes: “I have become all things to all men”. In essence it means “to go and share the lives of others, to accompany them on the journey of faith, to help them grow on the journey of faith”.

In practice, Pope Francis explained, it means conducting yourself as if “you are accompanying a child, for example: when we want a child to learn how to speak, the parents do not merely say: ‘Speak, read this and speak!’” . Rather, they first teach the child how to say “Mommy and Daddy”. In doing so, the Pope continued, they “become like children so that the child may grow”.

Therefore, the Pope stressed again, “we must do the same with our brother: to go to the situation he is in and if he is sick, to draw near, not to bombard him with arguments; to be near, to assist him, to help him”. Therefore, to answer the question about the style one should use to proclaim the Gospel, Pope Francis replied that evangelization is done precisely “with this attitude of mercy: to be all things to all men”, with the certainty that “it is the testimony that brings forth the Word”.

From this perspective, the Pope also wanted to share a personal confidence: “When I was in Poland, in Krakow, I was having lunch with young people at World Youth Day, and a young man asked me: “Father, what should I say to a friend who is good — he is so good! — but who is an atheist, he does not believe: what should I say to him so that he will believe?”. This, Pope Francis continued, “is a good question, as we all know people who are separated from the Church: what should we tell them?”. On that occasion, he recalled, his answer to the young man’s question was: “Look, the last thing you need to do is to say something! Begin to act and he will see what you are doing and ask you; and when he asks you, you tell him”.

In short, the Pope affirmed, “to evangelize is to give this testimony: I live this way, because I believe in Jesus Christ; I awaken within you the curiosity to ask, ‘why do you do these things?’”. And the Christian response should be: “Because I believe in Jesus Christ and I preach Jesus Christ and not only with the Word — you must proclaim Him with the Word — but above all with your life”. Therefore becoming all things to everyone, evangelizing “where you are, in the state of mind you are in, and the state of growth you have reached”.

This is what it means “to evangelize and this is also done freely”, the Pope explained. Paul writes: “What then is my reward? Proclaiming the Gospel freely. Why freely? Because we have freely received the Gospel. Grace, salvation, can neither be bought nor sold”. Grace is free! “And freely we must give it”. We see “this gratuity, this testimony of proclaiming Jesus Christ”, the Pope said, “in many men, women, religious, consecrated persons, priests and bishops, who become all things to everyone, freely”.

This gratuity is found throughout the history of the Church. “Today”, the Pope recalled, “we celebrate the Feast Day of St Peter Claver, a missionary who travelled far to proclaim the Gospel. Perhaps he thought that his future would be one of preaching: later the Lord asked him to draw near to the unwanted people of that time, to slaves”, to people “who were brought there from Africa to be sold”. And this man “was not strolling around, boasting that he was evangelizing; he did not reduce evangelization to functionalism nor to proselytism”. St Peter Claver “proclaimed Jesus Christ through his actions, by speaking to the slaves, living with them and living like them”. And “there are many people like him in the Church who die to themselves in order to proclaim Jesus Christ”.

Before continuing the celebration, the Pope said that “all of us, brothers and sisters, have the obligation to evangelize, which does not mean knocking on your neighbour’s door and saying: ‘Christ is risen!’”. Rather, it is primarily “living the faith, and speaking of it with meekness, with love, without the desire of persuading anyone, but freely”, because to evangelize “is to freely give that which God freely gave to me”.




Pope Francis    22.01.17   Angelus, St Peter's Square   Third Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A     Isaiah 8: 23 to 9: 3,     Matthew 4: 12-23


Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Today’s Gospel passage (cf. Mt 4:12-23) recounts the beginning of Jesus’ preaching in Galilee. He leaves Nazareth, a village in the mountains, and settles in Capernaum, an important centre on the lakeshore, inhabited largely by pagans, a crossroads between the Mediterranean and the Mesopotamian inland. This choice indicates that the beneficiaries of his preaching are not only his compatriots, but those who arrive in the cosmopolitan “Galilee of the Gentiles” (v. 15, cf. Is 9:1): that’s what it was called. Seen from the capital Jerusalem, that land is geographically peripheral and religiously impure because it was full of pagans, having mixed with those who did not belong to Israel. Great things were not expected from Galilee for the history of salvation. Instead, right from there — precisely from there — radiated that “light” on which we meditated in recent Sundays: the light of Christ. It radiated right from the periphery.

Jesus’ message reiterates that of the Baptist, announcing the “kingdom of heaven” (v. 17). This kingdom does not involve the establishment of a new political power, but the fulfilment of the Covenant between God and his people, which inaugurates a season of peace and justice. To secure this covenant pact with God, each one is called to convert, transforming his or her way of thinking and living. This is important: converting is not only changing the way of life but also the way of thinking. It is a transformation of thought. It is not a matter of changing clothing, but habits! What differentiates Jesus from John the Baptist is the way and manner. Jesus chooses to be an itinerant prophet. He doesn’t stay and await people, but goes to encounter them. Jesus is always on the road! His first missionary appearances take place along the lake of Galilee, in contact with the multitude, in particular with the fishermen. There Jesus does not only proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God, but seeks companions to join in his salvific mission. In this very place he meets two pairs of brothers: Simon and Andrew, James and John. He calls them, saying: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (v. 19). The call reaches them in the middle of their daily activity: the Lord reveals himself to us not in an extraordinary or impressive way, but in the everyday circumstances of our life. There we must discover the Lord; and there he reveals himself, makes his love felt in our heart; and there — with this dialogue with him in the everyday circumstances of life — he changes our heart. The response of the four fishermen is immediate and willing: “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (v. 20). We know, in fact, that they were disciples of the Baptist and that, thanks to his witness, they had already begun to believe in Jesus as the Messiah (cf. Jn 1:35-42).

We, today’s Christians, have the joy of proclaiming and witnessing to our faith because there was that first announcement, because there were those humble and courageous men who responded generously to Jesus’ call. On the shores of the lake, in an inconceivable land, the first community of disciples of Christ was born. May the knowledge of these beginnings give rise in us to the desire to bear Jesus’ word, love and tenderness in every context, even the most difficult and resistant. To carry the Word to all the peripheries! All the spaces of human living are soil on which to cast the seeds of the Gospel, so they may bear the fruit of salvation.

May the Virgin Mary help us with her maternal intercession to respond joyfully to Jesus’ call, and to place ourselves at the service of the Kingdom of God.





Pope Francis  25.06.17  Angelus, St Peter's Square           12th Sunday of the Year - Year A       Matthew 10: 26-33


Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning!

In today’s Gospel (cf. Mt 10:26-33) the Lord Jesus, after having called and sent the disciples on mission, teaches them and prepares them to face the trials and persecutions they will have to endure. Going on mission is not like tourism, and Jesus cautions them: “you will find persecutions”. So he exhorts them: “have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed.... What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light.... And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (vv. 26-28). They can only kill the body; they do not have the power to kill souls: do not fear this. Jesus’ dispatch [of the disciples] on mission does not guarantee their success, just as it does not protect them from failure and suffering. They have to take into account both the possibility of rejection and that of persecution. This is somewhat frightening but it is the truth.

The disciple is called to conform his life to Christ who was persecuted by men, knew rejection, abandonment and death on the cross. There is no Christian mission marked by tranquillity! Difficulties and tribulations are part of the work of evangelization and we are called to find in them the opportunity to test the authenticity of our faith and of our relationship with Jesus. We must consider these difficulties as the opportunity to be even more missionary and to grow in that trust toward God, our Father who does not abandon his children during the storm. Amid the difficulties of Christian witness in the world, we are not forgotten but always assisted by the attentive concern of the Father. For this reason, in today’s Gospel, a good three times Jesus reassures the disciples, saying: “Do not fear!”.

Even in our day, brothers and sisters, persecution against Christians is present. We pray for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted and we praise God because, in spite of this, they continue to bear witness to their faith with courage and faithfulness. Their example helps us to not hesitate in taking the position in favour of Christ, bearing witness bravely in everyday situations, even in apparently peaceful contexts. In effect, a form of trial can also be the absence of hostility and tribulation. Besides [sending us out] as “sheep in the midst of wolves”, the Lord even in our times sends us out as sentinels in the midst of people who do not want to be woken from their worldly lethargy which ignores the Gospel’s words of Truth, building for themselves their own ephemeral truths. And if we go to or live in these contexts, and we proclaim the Words of the Gospel, this is bothersome and they will look at us unkindly.

But in all this, the Lord continues to tell us, as he did to the disciples of his time: “Do not fear!”. Let us not forget these words: always, when we experience any tribulation, any persecution, anything that causes us to suffer, let us listen to the voice of Jesus in our hearts: “Do not fear! Do not fear! Go Forth! I am with you!”. Do not fear those who mock you and mistreat you and do not fear those who ignore you or respect you “to your face”, but fight the Gospel “behind your back”. There are so many who smile to our face, but fight the Gospel behind our backs. We all know them. Jesus does not leave us all alone, because we are precious to him. That is why he does not leave us all alone. Each one of us is precious to Jesus and he accompanies us.

May the Virgin Mary, example of humility and courageous adherence to the Word of God, help us to understand that success does not count in the witness of faith, but rather faithfulness, faithfulness to Christ, recognizing in any circumstance even the most problematic, the inestimable gift of being his missionary disciples.




https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope-francis/mass-casa-santa-marta/2018-06/pope-homily-santa-marta-barnabas-evangelization.html

Evangelization has three fundamental dimensions: proclamation, service and gratuitousness.

The readings for the Memorial of St Barnabas (Acts 11:21-26; 12: 1-3 and Matthew 10:7-13) demonstrate that the Holy Spirit is the “protagonist” of the Gospel proclamation. That proclamation is unlike other types of communication. Due to the action of the Holy Spirit, it has the power to change hearts. There have been pastoral plans that seem to be perfect. They were incapable of changing hearts because they were ends in themselves. They were not instruments of evangelization.

It is not with an entrepreneurial attitude that Jesus sends us…. No, it is with the Holy Spirit. This is courage. The true courage behind evangelization is not human stubbornness. No, it is the Spirit who gives us courage and who carries you forward.

Service is the second dimension of evangelization. In fact, pursuing a career or success in the Church is a sure sign that someone doesn’t know what evangelization is…for the one who commands must be the one who serves.

We can say good things but without service it is not proclamation. It may seem to be, but it is not, because the Spirit not only carries you forward to proclaim the truths of the Lord and the life of the Lord, but He also brings you to the service of the brothers and sisters, even in small things. It’s awful when you find evangelizers who make others serve them and who live to be served. They are like the princes of evangelization – how awful.

Gratuitousness is the third aspect of evangelization because no one can be redeemed by his or her own merit. The Lord reminds us, “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give” (Matthew 10:8).

All of us have been saved gratuitously by Jesus Christ. Therefore, we must give gratuitously. Those who carry out the pastoral work of evangelization must learn this. Their life must be gratuitous, given in service, proclamation, borne by the Spirit. Their personal poverty forces them to open themselves up to the Spirit.




Pope Francis     16.10.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square    Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles     Acts 10: 1-49,    11:1-3

Pope Francis  16.10.19  General Audience


Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

The Gospel's journey in the world, which St. Luke recounts in the Acts of the Apostles, is accompanied by the high creativity of God's who is manifested in a surprising way. God wants His children to overcome every particularism in order to open themselves to the universality of salvation. This is the purpose: to overcome particularisms and to open oneself up to the universality of salvation, because God wants to save everyone. All who are reborn from water and spirit – the baptized – are called to go out of themselves and open themselves to others, to live in proximity, the lifestyle of together, which transforms every interpersonal relationship into an experience of fraternity (cf. Esort. ap. Evangelii gaudium,87).

Testimony to this process of "fraternization" that the Spirit wants to trigger in history is Peter, protagonist in the Acts of the Apostles together with Paul. Peter lives an event that marks a decisive turning point for his existence. While he is praying, he receives a vision that acts as a divine "provocation", to arouse in him a change of mentality. He sees a great tablecloth coming down from on high, containing various animals: quadrupeds, reptiles and birds, and hears a voice inviting him to eat of those meats. As a good Jew, he reacts by claiming that he has never eaten anything impure, as required by the Law of the Lord (cf. Lev 11). Then the voice comes back forcefully: "What God has purified, you should not call profane"(Acts 10:15).

With this fact the Lord wants Peter to no longer evaluate events and people according to the categories of pure and impure, but to learn to go further, to look at the person and the intentions of his heart. What makes man unclean, in fact, does not come from outside but only from within, from the heart (cf. Mark 7:21). Jesus made it clear.

After that vision, God sends Peter to the home of an uncircumcised foreigner, Cornelius, "centurion of the cohort called Italica, who is religious and God-fearing, and he makes a lot of alms and always prays to God (cf. Acts 10:1-2), but he was not Jewish.

In that house of pagans, Peter preaches Christ the crucified and risen and he forgives the sins of anyone who believes in him. And as Peter speaks, the Holy Spirit descends over Cornelius and his family. And Peter baptizes them in the name of Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 10:48).

This extraordinary fact – this is the first time such a thing has happened – becomes renowned in Jerusalem, where the brothers, scandalized by Peter's behaviour, reproach him harshly (cf. Acts 11:1-3). Peter did something that went beyond custom, beyond the law, and for this they rebuke him. But after meeting Cornelius, Peter is more free from himself and more in communion with God and with others, because he has seen God's will in the action of the Holy Spirit. He can therefore understand that the election of Israel is not the reward for merit, but the sign of the gratuitous call to be mediating the divine blessing among pagan peoples.

Dear brothers and sisters, from the prince of the Apostles let us learn that an
evangelizer cannot be an impediment to God's creative work, who "wants all men to be saved"(1Tim 2:4), but one who favours a heartfelt encounter with the Lord. And how do we behave with our brothers and sisters, especially those who are not Christians? Are we an impediment to their encounter with God? Do we hinder their encounter with the Father or facilitate it?

Let us ask for the grace to be astonished by
God's surprises, to not hinder his creativity, but to recognize and favour ever new ways through which the Risen One can spread his Spirit into the world and attract hearts by making himself known as the "Lord of all" (Acts 10:36). Thank you.




Pope Francis    30.10.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square      Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles        Acts 16: 8-34

Pope Francis  30.10.19  General Audience

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Reading the Acts of the Apostles, we can see how the
Holy Spirit is the protagonist of the Church's mission: it is He who guides the path of the evangelizers by showing them the way forward.

We see this clearly when the Apostle Paul, who has arrived in Troas, receives a vision. A Macedonian begs him: "Come to Macedonia and help us!" (Acts 16:9). The people of Northern Macedonia are proud of this, they are so proud to have called Paul for Paul to
announce Jesus Christ. I remember so well the beautiful people who welcomed me with such warmth: that conserves the faith that Paul preached to them! The Apostle did not hesitate and left for Macedonia, sure that it is God who sends him, and arrives at Philippi, "Roman colony" (Acts 16:12) on the Via Ignatia, to preach the Gospel. Paul stops there for several days. There are three events that characterize his stay in Philippi, in these three days: three important events. 1) The evangelization and baptism of Lydia and her family; 2) his arrest, along with Silas, after exorcizing a slave exploited by her owners; 3) the conversion and baptism of his prison warden and his family. Let's look at these three episodes in Paul's life.

The power of the Gospel is addressed, above all, to the women of Philippi, in particular to Lidia, a merchant of purple cloth, in the city of Thyatira, she is a believer in God in whom the Lord opens his heart "to adhere to Paul's words"(Acts 16:14). Lydia, in fact, welcomes Christ, receives Baptism with her family and welcomes those who are of Christ, giving a home to Paul and Silas in her home. Here we have the testimony of the arrival of Christianity in Europe: the beginning of a process of inculturation that has lasted until today. It entered through Macedonia.

After the warmth experienced at Lydia's house, Paul and Silas then find themselves dealing with the harshness of prison: they go from the consolation of this conversion of Lydia and her family, to the desolation of the prison, where they are thrown for having freed in the name of Jesus "a slave who had a spirit of divination" and "provided much profit for her masters" as a fortune-teller (Acts 16:16). Her masters made a lot of money, and this poor slave did what fortune-tellers do: she saw the future, she read hands – as the song says, "take this hand, gypsy", and that's why people paid. Even today, dear brothers and sisters, there are people who pay for it. I remember in my diocese, a large park, there were more than 60 tables where the fortune-tellers would sit men and women and they would read the palms of hands and people believed these things! And they paid. And this also happened in the time of St Paul. Her owners, in retaliation, reported Paul and lead the Apostles before the magistrates on charges of public disorder.

What happens? Paul is in prison and during his captivity a surprising thing happens. There is desolation, but instead of complaining, Paul and Silas sing praise to God and this praise releases a power that frees them: during the prayer an earthquake shakes the foundations of the prison, opens the doors and the chains fall off of everyone (cf. 16:25-26). As the prayer of Pentecost, the prayer made in prison also has prodigious effects.

The prison warden, believing that the prisoners had escaped, was about to commit suicide, because the prison wardens paid with their own lives if a prisoner escaped; but Paul shouts to him: "We are all here!" (Acts 16:27-28). Then he asks, "What do I have to do to be saved?" (see 30). The answer is: "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your family will be saved" (v. 31). At this point a change happens: in the middle of the night, the prison warden listens to the word of the Lord together with his family, welcomes the apostles, he washes their wounds – because they had been beaten – and together with his family they receive Baptism. Then, "and with his family he rejoiced at having come to faith in God" (v. 34), he prepared a banquet and invited Paul and Silas to stay with them: the moment of consolation! In the middle of the night of this anonymous prison warden, the light of Christ shines and defeats the darkness: the chains of the heart fall and blossom in him and his family and they experience a joy they have never experienced. That is the Holy Spirit who is carrying out the mission: from the beginning, from Pentecost onwards the Holy Spirit instils the mission. And he carries us forward, we must be faithful to the vocation that the Holy Spirit moves us to do. To bring the gospel.

Let us today also ask the Holy Spirit for an open heart, sensitive to God and hospitable to our brothers and sisters, like that of Lydia, and a bold faith, like that of Paul and Silas, and also an openness of heart, like that of the prison warden who is touched by the Holy Spirit.




Pope Francis   06.11.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square      Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles        Acts 17: 15-34

Pope Francis 06.11.19 Paul in Athens


Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

We continue our "journey" with the book of the Acts of the Apostles. After the trials in Philippi, Thessalonica, Beroea, Paul arrives in Athens, right in the heart of Greece (cf. Acts 17:15). This city, which lived in the shadow of the ancient glories despite the political decadence, still guarded the panacea of culture. Here the Apostle "trembles within himself to see the city full of idols"(Acts 17:16). This "impact" with paganism, however, instead of making him flee, pushes him to create a bridge to talk with that culture.

Paul chooses to become familiar with the city and thus begins to frequent the most significant places and people. He goes to the synagogue, a symbol of the life of faith; goes to the square, symbol of city life; and goes to the Areopagus, a symbol of political and cultural life. Meet Jews, epicurean and stoic philosophers, and many others. He meets all the people, he doesn't close himself, he goes to talk to all the people. In this way Paul observes the culture of Athens, starting from a contemplative outlook that discovers that God dwells in his homes, in his streets and in his squares"(Evangelii gaudium,71). Paul does not look at the city of Athens and the pagan world with hostility but with the eyes of faith. And this makes us wonder about our way of looking at our cities: do we observe them with indifference? With contempt? Or with the faith that recognizes God's children in the midst of anonymous crowds?

Paul chooses an outlook that urges him to build a bridge between the Gospel and the pagan world. In the heart of one of the most famous institutions of the ancient world, the Areopagus, he realizes an extraordinary example of enculture of the message of faith: he proclaims Jesus Christ to the worshippers of idols, and does not attack them, but makes himself "a Pope, a builder of bridges"(Homily in Santa Marta, May 8, 2013).

Paul takes his cue from the altar of the city dedicated to "an unknown god" (Acts 17:23) - there was an altar with "to the Unknown God"; no image, nothing, just that inscription. Starting from that "devotion" to the Unknown God, to empathize with his listeners proclaims that God "lives among the citizens"(Evangelii gaudium,71) and "does not hide from those who seek him with a sincere heart, " ( ibid.). It is precisely this presence that Paul seeks to reveal: "What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you"(Acts 17:23).

To reveal the identity of the god that the Athenians worship, the Apostle starts from creation, that is, from the biblical faith in the God of revelation, to arrive at redemption and judgment, that is, to the strictly Christian message. He shows the disproportion between the greatness of the Creator and the temples built by man, and explains that the Creator is always looking so that everyone can find him. In this way Paul, according to a beautiful expression of Pope Benedict XVI, "announces The One whom men ignore, yet know: the Unknown-Known" (Blessed XVI, Meeting with the world of culture at the Collège des Bernardins, 12 Sept. 2008) . Then, he invites everyone to go beyond "the times of ignorance" and to decide for conversion in view of the impending judgment. Paul thus arrives at the kerygma and alludes to Christ, without mentioning him, defining him as the "man that God has appointed, giving a sure proof to all by raising him from the dead"(Acts 17:31).

And here, there's the problem. The word of Paul, who until now had held the interlocutors in suspense – because it was an interesting discovery – finds a rock: the death and resurrection of Christ appears "foolish" (1Cor 1:23) and arouses ridicule and derision. Paul then departs: his attempt seems to have failed, but instead some adhere to his word and open themselves to the faith. Among them a man, Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, and a woman, Damaris. Even in Athens, the Gospel takes root and can run with two voices: that of man and that of women!

Today let us also ask the Holy Spirit to teach us to build bridges with culture, with those who do not believe or with those who have a different belief from our own. Always build bridges, always the outstretched hand, no aggression. Let us ask him for the ability to delicately enculturate the message of faith, placing on those in Christ's ignorance a contemplative look, moved by a love that warms even the most hardened hearts.





Pope Francis   09.11.19  St John's Basilica, Lateran        Ezekiel 47: 1-2, 8-9, 12,       Psalms 46: 2-3, 5-6, 8-9,      1 Corinthians 3: 9c-11, 16-17,      John 2: 13-22
Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

Pope Francis 09.11.19 St John's Basilica, Lateran

Tonight, in this celebration of dedication, I would like to take three verses from the Word of God and offer them to you, so that you can meditate and pray over them.

The first I feel is addressed to everyone, to the entire diocesan community of Rome. It is the verse of the Psalm: "A river and its streams gladden the city of God" (46:5). The Christians who live in this city are like the river that flows from the temple: they bring a Word of life and hope capable of fertilizing the deserts of hearts, as the stream described in the vision of Ezekiel (cf. 47) that fertilizes the desert of Araba and restores the salty and lifeless waters of the Dead Sea. The important thing is that the stream comes out of the temple and flows to hostile-looking lands. The city can only rejoice when it sees Christians become joyful announcers, determined to share with others the treasures of God's Word and to work for the common good. The land that seemed destined to remain dry forever, reveals an extraordinary potential: it becomes a garden with evergreen trees and leaves and fruits with healing power. Ezekiel explains the reason for so much fertility: "Their waters flow from the sanctuary" (47:12). God is the secret of this new life force!

May the Lord rejoice at seeing us on the move, ready to listen with our hearts to His poor who cry out to Him. May the Mother Church of Rome experience the consolation of seeing once again the obedience and courage of her children, full of enthusiasm for this new season of evangelization. Meeting others, entering into dialogue with them, listening to them with humility, graciousness and poverty of heart... I invite you to live all this not as something stressful, but with spiritual ease: instead of getting caught up in performance anxieties, it is more important to broaden our perception in order to grasp God's presence and action in the city. It is a contemplation born of love.

To you priests I want to dedicate a verse of the second Reading, of the First Letter to the Corinthians: "No-one can lay a foundation other than the one that is already there, which is Jesus Christ"(3:11). This is your task, the heart of your ministry: to help the community be always at the Lord's feet listening to His Word; to keep it away from all worldliness, from bad compromises; to guard the foundation and blessed roots of the spiritual building; to defend it from rapacious wolves, from those who would like to divert it from the way of the Gospel. Like Paul, you too are "wise architects" (cf. 3:10), wise because you are well aware that any other idea or reality we wanted to place at the base of the Church instead of the Gospel, might perhaps guarantee us more success, perhaps more immediate gratification, but it would inevitably lead to the collapse, the collapse of the whole spiritual building!

Since I have been Bishop of Rome, I have come to know many of you priests more closely: I have admired your faith and love for the Lord, your closeness to the people and generosity in caring for the poor. You know the city's neighbourhoods like no other and keep in your heart the faces, smiles and tears of so many people. You have set aside ideological differences and personal ambition to make room for what God asks of you. The realism of those who have their feet on the ground and know "how things are in this world" has not prevented you from flying high with the Lord and dreaming big. God bless you. May the joy of intimacy with Him be the truest reward for all the good you do on a daily basis.

And finally a verse for you, members of the pastoral teams, who are here to receive a special mandate from the Bishop. I could only choose him from the Gospel(John 2:13-22), where Jesus behaves in a divinely provocative way. In order to shake the dullness of people and induce them to radical changes, sometimes Jesus chooses to take strong action, to break through the situation. With his action Jesus wants to produce a change of pace, a turnaround. Many saints had acted in the same way: some of their actions, incomprehensible by human logic, were the result of insights that came from the Spirit and were intended to provoke their contemporaries and help them understand that "my thoughts are not your thoughts," as God says through the prophet Isaiah (55:8).

In order to understand todays Gospel passage, we need to stress an important detail. The merchants were in the courtyard of the pagans, the place accessible to non-Jews. This very courtyard had been turned into a market. But God wants his temple to be a house of prayer for all peoples (cf. Is 56,7). Hence Jesus' decision to overturn the tables of the money changers and drive out the animals. This purification of the sanctuary was necessary for Israel to rediscover its vocation: to be light for all people, a small nation chosen to serve to the salvation that God wants to give to everyone. Jesus knows that this provocation will cost him dearly. And when they ask him, "What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this ?" (v. 18), the Lord responds by saying, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it"( v. 19).

And tonight this is exactly the verse that I want to give to you, pastoral teams. You are entrusted with the task of helping your communities and pastoral workers reach all the inhabitants of the city, finding new ways to meet those who are far from the faith and the Church. But, in fulfilling this service, you carry within yourselves this awareness, this trust: that there is no human heart in which Christ does not want to be and cannot be reborn. In our lives as sinners, we often turn away from the Lord and extinguish the Spirit. We destroy the temple of God that is in each of us. Yet this is never a definitive situation: it takes the Lord three days to rebuild his temple within us!

No one, no matter how wounded by evil, is condemned to be separated from God on this earth forever. In a way that is often mysterious but real, the Lord opens new cracks in our hearts, the desire for truth, goodness and beauty, which make room for evangelization. We may sometimes encounter mistrust and hostility: but we must not allow ourselves to be blocked, rather to hold onto the belief that it takes God three days to raise His Son in someone's heart. It is also the story of some of us: profound conversions resulting from the unpredictable action of grace! I think of the Second Vatican Council: "Christ has died for all and since the ultimate vocation of humanity is in fact one, the divine one; therefore we must believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to everyone the possibility of being associated with the Easter mystery" (Cost. past. Gaudium et spes, 22).

May the Lord let us experience this in all our evangelizing action. May we can grow in faith in the Easter Mystery and be associated with His "zeal" for our house. And may you be blessed on your journey!





Pope Francis   13.11.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square     Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles       Acts 18: 1-26

Pope Francis  13.11.19 General Audience

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

This audience is happening in two groups: the sick are in the Paul VI Hall - I have been with them, I have greeted them and blessed them. There they will be more comfortable because of the rain – and we are here. But they're looking at us on the big screen. Let's say hello to both groups with a round of applause.

The Acts of the Apostles tell us that Paul, as a tireless evangelizer, as he is, after his stay in Athens, continues the journey of the Gospel in the world. A new stop on his missionary journey is Corinth, capital of the Roman province of Achaea, a commercial and cosmopolitan city, thanks to the presence of two important ports.

As we read in chapter 18 of the Acts, Paul finds hospitality with a married couple, Aquila and Priscilla , forced to move from Rome to Corinth after Emperor Claudius ordered the expulsion of the Jews (cf. Acts 18:2). I'd like to do a parenthesis. The Jewish people have suffered so much in history. They were kicked out, persecuted ... And, in the last century, we have seen so many, so many brutalities that they have done to the Jewish people and we were all convinced that this was over. But today, the habit of persecuting Jews begins to be reborn here and there. Brothers and sisters, this is neither human nor Christian. The Jews are our brothers! And they should not be persecuted. Understand? These spouses demonstrate that they have a heart full of faith in God and generosity to others, able to make room for those who, like them, experience the strangers. This sensitivity leads them to decentralise themselves to practice the Christian art of hospitality (cf. Rom 12:13; Eb 13:2) and open the doors of their home to welcome the Apostle Paul. Thus they welcome not only the evangelizer, but also the proclamation he brings with him: the Gospel of Christ who is "God's power for the salvation of all who ever believe"(Rm 1.16). And from that moment their home is imbued with the scent of the living Word (Eb 4:12) that enlivens hearts.

Aquila and Priscilla also share with Paul the professional activity, that is, the construction of tents. Paul greatly valued manual labour and considered it a privileged space for Christian witness (cf. 1 Cor 4:12), as well as a just way to maintain himself without being a weight to others (cf. 1Ts 2.9; 2Ts 3.8) or the community.

The house of Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth opens its doors not only to the Apostle but also to other brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul, in fact, can speak of the "community that gathers in their home"(1 Cor 16:19), which becomes a "house of the Church", a "domus ecclesiae", a place of listening to the Word of God and celebration of the Eucharist. Even today in some countries where there is no religious freedom and there is no freedom of Christians, Christians gather in a house, somewhat hidden, to pray and celebrate the Eucharist. Even today there are these houses, these families that become a temple for the Eucharist.

After a year and a half of stay in Corinth, Paul leaves that city together with Aquila and Priscilla, who stop in Ephesus. Even there their house becomes a place of catechesis (cf. Acts 18:26). Finally, the spouses will return to Rome and will be the recipients of a splendid eulogy that the Apostle inserts in the letter to the Romans. He had a grateful heart, and so Paul wrote about these two spouses in the letter to the Romans. Saying: "Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my collaborators in Christ Jesus. To save my life, they risked their lives, and I am not only grateful to them, but all the Churches of the pagan world." How many families in times of persecution risk their lives to keep the persecuted hidden! This is the first example: a welcome family, even in bad times.

Among the many collaborators of Paul, Aquila and Priscilla emerge as "models of a married life responsibly committed to the service of the whole Christian community" and remind us that, thanks to the faith and commitment to the evangelization of so many lay people like them, Christianity has come to us. In fact, "to take root in the land of the people, to develop strongly, the commitment of these families was necessary. But think that Christianity from the beginning was preached by the lay people. You, too, are responsible by your Baptism for carrying on the faith. It was the commitment of so many families, of these spouses, of these Christian communities, of the lay faithful who offered the "humus" to the growth of the faith" (Blessed XVI, Catechesi,7 February 2007). This phrase by Pope Benedict XVI is beautiful: the lay people give the humus to the growth of faith.

We ask the Father, who has chosen to make the spouses his "real living sculpture" (Esort. ap. Amoris laetitia, 11) - I believe that here are the new spouses: listen to your vocation, you must be the true living sculpture - to spread its Spirit on all Christian couples so that, following the example of Aquila and Priscilla, may they know how to open the doors of their hearts to Christ and their brothers and transform their homes into domestic churches. Beautiful word: a house is a domestic church, where to live communion and offer life lived with faith, hope and charity. We must pray to these two Saints Aquila and Prisca, to teach our families to be like them: a domestic church where there is humus, for faith to grow.



Pope Francis  04.12.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square    Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles      Acts 19: 1-40,     Acts 20: 1-35

Pope Francis  4.12.19 General Audience

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

The Gospel's journey through the world continues unabated in the Book of Acts of the Apostles, and crosses the city of Ephesus manifesting its full saving power. Thanks to Paul, about twelve men receive baptism in the name of Jesus and experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that regenerates them (cf. Acts 19:1-7). There are also several wonders that take place through the Apostle: the sick are healed and the obsessed are freed (cf. Acts 19:11-12). This happens because the disciple remembers his Master (cf. Lc 6.40) and makes him present by communicating to his brothers and sisters the same new life that he has received from him. In fact every evangelizer is aware that with His person and His action He is a mission on this land and to be branded by fire by the mission of enlightening, blessing, enlivening, lifting, healing and freeing.

The power of God that bursts into Ephesus unmasks those who want to use the name of Jesus to perform exorcisms but without having the spiritual authority to do so (cf. Acts 19:13-17), and reveals the weakness of the magical arts, which are abandoned by a large number of people who choose Christ (cf. Acts 19:18-19). A real reversal for a city, like Ephesus, which was a famous centre for the practice of magic! Luke thus emphasizes the incompatibility between faith in Christ and magic. If you choose Christ, you cannot resort to the magician: faith is trusting abandonment in the hands of a reliable God who makes himself known not through occult practices but by revelation and with free love. Perhaps some of you will say to me: "Ah, yes, this magic is an ancient thing: today, with Christian civilization this does not happen". But be careful! I ask you: how many of you go to tarot, how many of you go to get your hands read by palm readers or go to to card readers? Even today in the great cities practicing Christians do these things. And to the question: "But why, if you believe in Jesus Christ, go to the magician, to the future teller, to all these people?", they answer: "I believe in Jesus Christ but for palm reading I also go to them". Please: magic is not Christian! These things that you do to guess the future or guess so many things or change life situations, are not Christian. Christ's grace brings you everything: pray and trust the Lord.

The spread of the Gospel in Ephesus damages the trade of silversmiths – another problem – who made the statues of the goddess Artemis, making a religious practice a real bargain. I ask you to think about this. Seeing the activity that yielded a lot of money diminish, the silversmiths organized a riot against Paul, and Christians are accused of having put into crisis the category of craftsmen, the sanctuary of Artemis and the worship of this goddess (cf. Acts 19:23-28).

Paul then departs from Ephesus bound for Jerusalem and arrives at Miletus (cf. Acts 20:1-16). Here he sends a call to the elders of the Church of Ephesus – the priests: they would be priests – to make a "pastoral" handover (cf. Acts 20:17-35). We are at the final bars of Paul's apostolic ministry and Luke presents us with his farewell address, a kind of spiritual testament that the Apostle addresses to those who, after his departure, will have to lead the community of Epheus. And this is one of the most beautiful pages of the Book of Acts of the Apostles: I advise you to take today the New Testament, the Bible, chapter 20 and read this passage from Paul to the priests of Ephesus, and he does so in Miletus. It is a way of understanding how the Apostle says farewell and also how priests today must take leave and also how all Christians must take leave. It's a beautiful page.

In this autobiographical part with its retrospective look at his mission in Asia Minor Paul looks at the past and the total investment of himself, of his humble service, of the proofs that are his. He never spared himself to lead others to faith. In addition he sees the new time that awaits him, a future marked by trusting the Holy Spirit who leads him.

In the exhortation part, Paul encourages community leaders, who he knows he sees for the last time. And what does it tell them? "Watch over yourself and the whole flock." This is the work of the pastor: to watch, to watch over himself and the flock. The pastor must watch, the parish priest must watch, make a vigil, the priests must watch, the Bishops, the Pope must watch. Make a vigil to cherish the flock, and also to watch over yourself, examine your conscience and see how you fulfill this duty to watch. "Watch over yourself and the whole flock, in the midst of which the Holy Spirit has established you as guardians to be pastors of the Church of God, who has bought himself with the blood of his Own Son"(Acts 20:28): so says St. Paul. A future marked by trusting the Holy Spirit who leads him, and his master and Lord to Jerusalem. The episcopoles are asked to be close to the flock, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, and the readiness to defend Him from "wolves" who threaten the healthy doctrine and ecclesial communion (v. 29). The Bishops must be very close to the people in order to guard them, to defend them; not detached from the people. After entrusting this task to the leaders of Ephesus, Paul puts them in God's hands and entrusts them to the "word of His grace" (v. 32), the ferment of all growth and path of holiness in the Church, inviting them to work with their own hands, like him, so as not to be of weight to others, to help the weak, and to experience that "one is more blessed in giving than in receiving."

Dear brothers and sisters, we ask the Lord to renew in us the love for the Church and for the deposit of the faith which it preserves, and to make us all responsible in the custody of the flock, supporting in prayer the shepherds so that they may manifest the firmness and the tenderness of the Divine Shepherd.





Pope Francis  11.12.19  General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall   Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles       Acts 21: 1 to Acts 26: 32 

Pope Francis General Audience 11.12.19

Dear brothers and sisters good morning!

As we read the Acts of the Apostles, the Gospel's journey through the world continues, and St. Paul's testimony is increasingly marked by the seal of suffering. But this is something that grows with time in Paul's life. Paul is not only an evangelist full of ardour, the intrepid missionary among the pagans who gives birth to new Christian communities, but is also the suffering witness of the Risen One (cf. Acts 9:15-16).

The arrival of the Apostle in Jerusalem, described in chapter 21 of the Acts, unleashes a fierce hatred towards him, and he is confronted: "But, he was a persecutor! Don't trust him!" As it was for Jesus, Jerusalem is also a hostile city for him. He went to the temple and was recognized, and led out to be lynched but was rescued by Roman soldiers. Accused of teaching against the Law in the Temple, he is arrested and begins his pilgrimage as a prisoner, first before the Sanhedrin, then before the Roman prosecutor at Caesarea, and finally before King Agrippa. Luke highlights the similarity between Paul and Jesus, both hated by adversaries, publicly accused and recognized as innocent by the imperial authorities; and so Paul is associated with his Master's passion, and his passion becomes a living Gospel. I have come from St. Peter's Basilica and there I had a first audience, this morning, with Ukrainian pilgrims, of a Ukrainian diocese. How persecuted these people have been; how much they have suffered for the Gospel! But they didn't negotiate their faith. Today in the world, in Europe, many Christians are persecuted and give their lives for their faith, or are persecuted with white gloves, that is, left aside, marginalized ... Martyrdom is the air of the life of a Christian, of a Christian community. There will always be martyrs among us: this is the sign that we are going on the path of Jesus. It is a blessing of the Lord, that among the people of God, some will bear this witness of martyrdom.

Paul is called to defend himself against accusations, and in the end, in the presence of King Agrippa II, his apology changes into effective testimony of faith (cf. Acts 26,1-23).

Then Paul recounts his conversion: the risen Christ made him a Christian and entrusted him with the mission among the people, "to open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may obtain forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been consecrated by faith in Christ (v. 18). Paul obeyed this assignment and did nothing but show how the prophets and Moses foretold what he now announces: that "Christ must suffer and that, as the first to rise from the dead, he would announce the light to both our people and to the Gentiles" (v. 23). Paul's passionate testimony touches the heart of King Agrippa, who is only missing the decisive step. And so the king says: "Convince me a little more to make me a Christian!" (see 28). Paul is declared innocent, but he cannot be released because he appealed to Caesar. Thus continues the unstoppable journey of the Word of God to Rome. Paul, chained, will end up here in Rome.

From this moment on, Paul's portrait is that of the prisoner whose chains are a sign of his fidelity to the Gospel and of his witness to the Risen One.

The chains are certainly a humiliating ordeal for the Apostle, who appears in the eyes of the world as an "evildoer" (2Tm 2.9). But his love for Christ is so strong that even these chains are seen through the eyes of faith; faith that for Paul is not "a theory, or an opinion about God and the world", but "the impact of God's love on his heart, [...] it is love for Jesus Christ" (Blessed XVI, Homily on the occasion of the Pauline Year,28 June 2008).

Dear brothers and sisters, Paul teaches us perseverance in trials and the ability to read everything through the eyes of faith. Today we ask the Lord, through the Intercession of the Apostle, to rekindle our faith and help us to be faithful to the end of our vocation as Christians, disciples of the Lord, missionaries.




Pope Francis   08.01.20  General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall        Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles    Acts 27: 1 to 28: 16

Pope Francis General Audience - Paul - Shipwreck - Malta 08.01.20

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

The book of the Acts of the Apostles, in the final part, tells us that the Gospel continues its journey not only by land but by sea, on a ship that leads Paul, who is a prisoner, from Caesarea to Rome (cf. Acts 27:1 –28:16), in the heart of the Empire, so that the word of the Risen One may be realized: "You will be my witnesses [...] to the ends of the earth"(Acts 1:8). Read the Book of Acts of the Apostles and you will see how the Gospel, with the strength of the Holy Spirit, reaches all peoples, is universal. Take it. Read it.
Navigation encounters unfavourable conditions from the outset. The journey gets dangerous. And they are forced to disembark at Myra and board another ship and skirt the southern side of the island of Crete. Paul advises not to continue sailing, but the centurion does not give him credit and relies on the pilot and the owner. The journey continues and a wind is so furious that the crew loses control and lets the ship drift.

When death seems near and despair pervades everyone, Paul intervenes he is the man of faith and knows that even the danger of death will not separate him from the Lord, by the love of Christ and the commission that he has received. He reassures his companions by saying what we have heard: "Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood by me said: "Don't be afraid, Paul; you are destined to appear before Caesar, and behold, for your sake, God has granted safety to all who are sailing with you "(Acts 27:23-24). Even in the trial, Paul never ceases to be the guardian of the lives of others and an animator of their hope.
 
Luke thus shows us that the design that guides Paul to Rome saves not only the Apostle, but also his fellow travellers, and the shipwreck, from a situation of misfortune, changes into a providential opportunity for the proclamation of the Gospel. It is an immersion in the waters that recalls the baptismal experience, the death and resurrection and that makes ones experience of Gods care and powerful salvation. 

The shipwreck is followed by a landing on the island of Malta, whose inhabitants show a thoughtful welcome. Maltese are good, they are mild, they are welcoming since that time. It's raining and cold and they light a bonfire to give the castaways some warmth and relief. Here, too, Paul, as a true disciple of Christ, sets out to fuel the fire with some branches. During these operations he is bitten by a viper but does not suffer any damage: people, looking at this, say: "But this must be a great evildoer because he saves himself from a shipwreck and ends up bitten by a viper!" They waited for him to fall dead, but he did not suffer any damage and they were even mistaking him for a deity – instead of an evildoer . In fact, that benefit comes from the Risen Lord who assists him, according to the promise he made before he ascended to heaven and addressed to believers: "They will take snakes in their hands and, if they drink some poison, it will not harm them; they will lay the hands on the sick and they will be healed"(Mark 16:18). History has been told that since then there have been no vipers in Malta: this is God's blessing for the welcome of this good people.

In fact, the stay in Malta becomes a good opportunity for Paul to give "meat" to the word that he announces and thus exercise a ministry of compassion in the healing of the sick. And this is a law of the Gospel: when a believer experiences salvation, he does not hold it back for himself, but puts it into his blood stream. "The good always tends to communicate. Every experience of truth and beauty seeks for itself its expansion, and every person who experiences a profound liberation acquires greater sensitivity before the needs of others" (Exorsive. Ap. Evangelii gaudium, 9). A Christian who has been tried can certainly become closer to those who suffer because he knows what suffering is, and make his heart open and sensitive to solidarity with others.

Paul teaches us to live out our trials by clinging to Christ, to mature the conviction that God can act under any circumstances, even in the midst of apparent failures and the "certainty that those who offer and give themselves to God for love will surely be fruitful"(ibid.. . 279). Love is always fruitful, love to God is always fruitful, and if you allow yourself to take it from the Lord and you receive the Lord's gifts, it will allow you to give them to others. It always goes beyond love to God.

Today let us ask the Lord to help us live every trial sustained by the energy of faith; and to be sensitive to the many castaways of history who arrive exhausted on our shores, because we too know how to welcome them with that fraternal love that comes from the encounter with Jesus. This is what saves us from the frost of indifference and inhumanity.



Pope Francis      15.01.20   General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall     Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles        Acts 28: 14-31

Pope Francis General Audience 15.01.20

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today we conclude the catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles, with the last missionary stage of St. Paul: that is, Rome (cf. Acts 28:14).
Paul's journey, which was one with that of the Gospel, is proof that the routes of men, if lived in faith, can become a transit space of God's salvation, through the Word of faith which is an active ferment in history , capable of transforming situations and opening new paths.
With the arrival of Paul in the heart of the Empire ends the account of the Acts of the Apostles, which does not end with the martyrdom of Paul, but with the abundant sowing of the Word. The end of Luke's story, centred on the journey of the Gospel in the world, contains and summarizes all the dynamism of the Word of God, an unstoppable word that wants to run to communicate salvation to all.

In Rome, Paul first meets his brothers in Christ, who welcome him and give him courage (cf. Acts 28:15) and whose warm hospitality suggests how much he was expected and desired for his arrival. He is then allowed to live on his own in military custody, that is, with a soldier guarding him, he was under house arrest. Despite his status as a prisoner, Paul can meet with the notable Jews to explain why he was forced to appeal to Caesar and to speak to them about the kingdom of God. He tries to convince them about Jesus, starting from the scriptures and showing the continuity between the newness of Christ and the "hope of Israel"(Acts 28:20). Paul recognizes himself deeply Jewish and sees in the Gospel that he preaches, that is, in the proclamation of Christ dead and risen, the fulfilment of the promises made to the chosen people.

After this first informal meeting that finds the Jews willing, a more official one follows during which, for a whole day, Paul announces the kingdom of God and tries to open his interlocutors to the faith in Jesus, starting "from the law of Moses and the Prophets"(Acts 28:23). Since not everyone is convinced, he denounces the hardening of the heart of God's people, the cause of his condemnation (cf. Is 6:9-10), and passionately celebrates the salvation of nations that are instead sensitive to God and capable of listening to the Word of the Gospel of life (cf. Acts 28:28).

At this point in the narrative, Luke concludes his work by showing us not the death of Paul but the dynamism of his sermon, of a Word that "is not chained" (2Tim 2:9) – Paul does not have the freedom to move but is free to speak because the Word is not chained - it is a Word ready to let itself be sown in full by the Apostle. Paul does so "with all frankness and without impediment"(Acts 28:31), in a house where he welcomes those who want to receive the proclamation of the kingdom of God and know Christ. This house open to all hearts in search is the image of the Church, which, although persecuted, misunderstood and chained, never tires of welcoming with a maternal heart every man and woman to announce to them the love of the Father who has made himself visible in Jesus.

Dear brothers and sisters, at the end of this journey, lived together following the course of the Gospel in the world, the Spirit revives in each of us the call to be courageous and joyful evangelizers. Let us, like Paul, be able to imbue our houses with the Gospel and make them upper rooms of fraternity, where we welcome the living Christ, who "comes to meet us in every man and at all times" (cf. I I Preface of Advent).




Pope Francis       28.01.20     Holy Mass Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae) Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas          2 Samuel 6: 12b-15, 17-19
Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas - Tuesday of the Third Week of Ordinary Time - Lectionary Cycle II


Pope Francis talks about Celebration, Joy and Evangelization 28.01.20

The first Reading today, taken from the second book of Samuel, speaks of David and all the people of Israel celebrating the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem following its capture.

The Ark had been captured and its return is a great joy for the people. The people felt that God was close to them and celebrated. And King David was with them, he put himself at the head of the procession, and made a sacrifice of an ox and a fat ram. He joined the people shouting, singing and dancing "with all his might". 

It was a celebration: the joy of God's people was because God was with them. And David? Danced. He dances before the people, expresses his joy without embarrassed; it is the spiritual joy of meeting the Lord: God has returned to the people, and this gives them so much joy. David does not think that he is the king and that the king must be detached from the people, his majesty, with the distance ... David loves the Lord, he is happy for this event to bring back the ark of the Lord. He expresses this happiness, this joy, dancing and even singing like all the people.

It happens to us, we feel this joy when we are with the Lord and, perhaps in the parish or in our villages, we celebrate. There was another episode in the history of Israel, when the book of the law was found at the time of Nehemiah and even then the people wept with joy, continuing home to celebrate. 

The text of the prophet Samuel goes on to describe David's return to his home where he finds one of his wives, Michal, Saul's daughter. She welcomes him with contempt. Seeing the king dance she was ashamed of him and scolded him by saying: "But were you dancing shamelessly like a common person, like one of the people?"
 
It is the contempt for genuine religiosity, of the spontaneity of joy of being with the Lord. And David explains to her: "But look, this was a source of joy. Joy in the Lord, because we brought the Ark home!" But she despises him. And the Bible says that this lady – her name was Michal – had no children for this. The Lord punished her. When joy is lacking in a Christian, that Christian is not fruitful; when joy is lacking in our hearts, there is no fruitfulness.

Celebration is not only expressed spiritually, but becomes sharing. David, that day, after the blessing, had distributed "a loaf of bread for each person, a portion of roasted meat and a cake of raisins", so that everyone could celebrate in their own home. The Word of God is not ashamed of celebration. It is true, sometimes the danger of joy is to go further and believe that this is everything. No: this is the festive air. St. Paul VI in his Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Nuntiandi" speaks of this aspect and exhorts joy. "The Church will not go forward, the Gospel will not go forward with boring, embittered evangelizers. It will only go forward with joyful evangelizers, full of life. The joy in receiving the Word of God, the joy of being Christians, the joy of moving forward, the ability to celebrate without shame and not be like this lady, Michal, formal Christians, Christian prisoners of formalities."