Failures


Failures - Pope Francis   

29.09.13   Holy Mass  on Day for Catechists  Saint Peter's Square     Amos 6:1,4     Jeremiah 2:5    1 Timothy 6:11-16


1. “Woe to the complacent in Zion, to those who feel secure … lying upon beds of ivory!” (Am 6:1,4). They eat, they drink, they sing, they play and they care nothing about other people’s troubles.

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These are harsh words which the prophet Amos speaks, yet they warn us about a danger that all of us face. What is it that this messenger of God denounces; what does he want his contemporaries, and ourselves today, to realize? The danger of complacency, comfort, worldliness in our lifestyles and in our hearts, of making our well-being the most important thing in our lives. This was the case of the rich man in the Gospel, who dressed in fine garments and daily indulged in sumptuous banquets; this was what was important for him. And the poor man at his doorstep who had nothing to relieve his hunger? That was none of his business, it didn’t concern him. Whenever material things, money, worldliness, become the centre of our lives, they take hold of us, they possess us; we lose our very identity as human beings. Think of it: the rich man in the Gospel has no name, he is simply “a rich man”. Material things, his possessions, are his face; he has nothing else.

Let’s try to think: How does something like this happen? How do some people, perhaps ourselves included, end up becoming self-absorbed and finding security in material things which ultimately rob us of our face, our human face? This is what happens when we become complacent, when we no longer remember God. “Woe to the complacent in Zion”, says the prophet. If we don’t think about God, everything ends up flat, everything ends up being about “me” and my own comfort. Life, the world, other people, all of these become unreal, they no longer matter, everything boils down to one thing: having. When we no longer remember God, we too become unreal, we too become empty; like the rich man in the Gospel, we no longer have a face! Those who run after nothing become nothing – as another great prophet Jeremiah, observed (cf. Jer 2:5). We are made in God’s image and likeness, not the image and likeness of material objects, of idols!

2. So, as I look out at you, I think: Who are catechists? They are people who keep the memory of God alive; they keep it alive in themselves and they are able to revive it in others. This is something beautiful: to remember God, like the Virgin Mary, who sees God’s wondrous works in her life but doesn’t think about honour, prestige or wealth; she doesn’t become self-absorbed. Instead, after receiving the message of the angel and conceiving the Son of God, what does she do? She sets out, she goes to assist her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth, who was also pregnant. And the first thing she does upon meeting Elizabeth is to recall God’s work, God’s fidelity, in her own life, in the history of her people, in our history: “My soul magnifies the Lord … For he has looked on the lowliness of his servant … His mercy is from generation to generation” (Lk 1:46, 48, 50). Mary remembers God.

This canticle of Mary also contains the remembrance of her personal history, God’s history with her, her own experience of faith. And this is true too for each one of us and for every Christian: faith contains our own memory of God’s history with us, the memory of our encountering God who always takes the first step, who creates, saves and transforms us. Faith is remembrance of his word which warms our heart, and of his saving work which gives life, purifies us, cares for and nourishes us. A catechist is a Christian who puts this remembrance at the service of proclamation, not to seem important, not to talk about himself or herself, but to talk about God, about his love and his fidelity. To talk about and to pass down all that God has revealed, his teaching in its totality, neither trimming it down nor adding on to it.

Saint Paul recommends one thing in particular to his disciple and co-worker Timothy: Remember, remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, whom I proclaim and for whom I suffer (cf. 2 Tim 2:8-9). The Apostle can say this because he too remembered Christ, who called him when he was persecuting Christians, who touched him and transformed him by his grace.

The catechist, then, is a Christian who is mindful of God, who is guided by the memory of God in his or her entire life and who is able to awaken that memory in the hearts of others. This is not easy! It engages our entire existence! What is the Catechism itself, if not the memory of God, the memory of his works in history and his drawing near to us in Christ present in his word, in the sacraments, in his Church, in his love? Dear catechists, I ask you: Are we in fact the memory of God? Are we really like sentinels who awaken in others the memory of God which warms the heart?

3. “Woe to the complacent in Zion!”, says the prophet. What must we do in order not to be “complacent” – people who find their security in themselves and in material things – but men and woman of the memory of God? In the second reading, Saint Paul, once more writing to Timothy, gives some indications which can also be guideposts for us in our work as catechists: pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness (cf. 1 Tim 6:11).

Catechists are men and women of the memory of God if they have a constant, living relationship with him and with their neighbour; if they are men and women of faith who truly trust in God and put their security in him; if they are men and women of charity, love, who see others as brothers and sisters; if they are men and women of “hypomoné”, endurance and perseverance, able to face difficulties, trials and failures with serenity and hope in the Lord; if they are gentle, capable of understanding and mercy.

Let us ask the Lord that we may all be men and women who keep the memory of God alive in ourselves, and are able to awaken it in the hearts of others. Amen




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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pope Francis   09.04.19   Holy Mass, Santa Marta       Numbers 21: 4-9
Pope Francis 09.04.19 Complaining

At times Christians prefer failure, leaving room for complaint and dissatisfaction, a perfect terrain for the devil in which to sow his seeds.

According to the Reading, the people of God could not bear the journey: their enthusiasm and
hope as they escaped slavery in Egypt gradually faded, their patience wore out, and they began muttering and complaining to God: “Why have you brought us from Egypt to die in this desert?”

The spirit of tiredness takes away our hope. Tiredness is selective: it always causes us to see the negative in the moment we are living, and forget the good things we have received.

When we feel desolated and cannot bear
the journey, we seek refuge either in idols or in complaint... This spirit of fatigue leads us Christians to be dissatisfied and everything goes wrong… Jesus himself taught us this when he said we are like children playing games when we are overcome by this spirit of dissatisfaction.
Some Christians give in to failure without realizing that this creates the perfect terrain for the devil.

They are afraid of consolation, afraid of hope, afraid of the Lord’s caress.

This is the life of many Christians: They live complaining, they live criticizing, they mutter and are unsatisfied.

The people of God could not bear the journey. We Christians often can't bear
the journey. We prefer failure, that is to say desolation.

It is the desolation of the serpent: the ancient serpent, that of the Garden of Eden. Here it is a symbol of that same serpent that seduced Eve. It is a way of showing the serpent inside that always bites in times of desolation.

Those who spend their lives complaining are those who prefer failure, who bear to hope, of those who could not bear the resurrection of Jesus.

Let us Christians ask the Lord to free us from this disease.

May the Lord always give us hope for the future and the strength to keep going.



Pope Francis   05.05.19     Holy Mass,  Prince Alexander I Square, Sofia, Bulgaria     3rd Sunday of Easter  Year C   John 21: 1-19 
 
Pope Francis 05.05.19  Holy Mass, Sofia, Bulgaria

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Christ is risen! Christos vozkrese!

It is wonderful to see how with these words Christians in your country greet one another in the joy of the Risen Lord during the Easter season.

The entire episode we have just heard, drawn from the final pages of the Gospels, helps us immerse ourselves in this joy that the Lord asks us to spread. It does so by reminding us of three amazing things that are part of our lives as disciples: God calls, God surprises, God loves.

God calls. Everything takes place on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus first called Peter. He had called him to leave behind his trade as a fisher in order to become a fisher of men (cf. Lk 5:4-11). Now, after all that had happened to him, after the experience of seeing the Master die and hearing news of his resurrection, Peter goes back to his former life. He tells the others disciples, “I am going fishing”. And they follow suit: “We will go with you” (Jn 21:3). They seem to take a step backwards; Peter takes up the nets he had left behind for Jesus. The weight of suffering, disappointment, and of betrayal had become like a stone blocking the hearts of the disciples. They were still burdened with pain and guilt, and the good news of the resurrection had not taken root in their hearts.

The Lord knows what a strong temptation it is for us to return to the way things were before. In the Bible, Peter’s nets, like the fleshpots of Egypt, are a symbol of a tempting nostalgia for the past, of wanting to take back what we had decided to leave behind. In the face of failure, hurt, or even the fact that at times things do not go the way we want, there always comes a subtle and dangerous temptation to become disheartened and to give up. This is the tomb psychology that tinges everything with dejection and leads us to indulge in a soothing sense of self-pity that, like a moth, eats away at all our hope. Then the worst thing that can happen to any community begins to appear – the grim pragmatism of a life in which everything appears to proceed normally, while in reality faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness (cf.
Evangelii Gaudium, 83).

But it was at the very moment of Peter’s failure that Jesus appears, starts over, patiently comes to him and calls him “Simon” (v. 15) – the name Peter received when he was first called. The Lord does not wait for perfect situations or frames of mind: he creates them. He does not expect to encounter people without problems, disappointments, without sins or limitations. He himself confronted sin and disappointment in order to encourage all men and women to persevere. Brothers and sisters, the Lord never tires of calling us. His is the power of a Love that overturns every expectation and is always ready to start anew. In Jesus, God always offers us another chance. He calls us day by day to deepen our love for him and to be revived by his eternal newness. Every morning, he comes to find us where we are. He summons us “to rise at his word, to look up and to realize that we were made for heaven, not for earth, for the heights of life and not for the depths of death”, and to stop seeking “the living among the dead” (
Homily at the Easter Vigil, 20 April 2019). When we welcome him, we rise higher and are able to embrace a brighter future, not as a possibility but as a reality. When Jesus’s call directs our lives, our hearts grow young.

God surprises. He is the Lord of surprises. He invites us not only to be surprised, but also to do surprising things. The Lord calls the disciples and, seeing them with empty nets, he tells them to do something odd: to fish by day, something quite out of the ordinary on that lake. He revives their trust by urging them once more to take a risk, not to give up on anyone or anything. He is the Lord of surprises, who breaks down paralyzing barriers by filling us with the courage needed to overcome the suspicion, mistrust and fear that so often lurk behind the mindset that says, “We have always done things this way”. God surprises us whenever he calls and asks us to put out into the sea of history not only with our nets, but with our very selves. To look at our lives and those of others as he does, for “in sin, he sees sons and daughters to be restored; in death, brothers and sisters to be reborn; in desolation, hearts to be revived. Do not fear, then: the Lord loves your life, even when you are afraid to look at it and take it in hand” (
ibid.).

We can now turn to the third amazing thing: God calls and God surprises, because God loves. Love is his language. That is why he asks Peter, and us, to learn that language. He asks Peter: “Do you love me?” And Peter says yes; after spending so much time with Jesus, he now understands that to love means to stop putting himself at the centre. He now makes Jesus, and not himself, the starting point: “You know everything” (Jn 21:18), he says. Peter recognizes his weakness; he realizes that he cannot make progress on his own. And he takes his stand on the Lord and on the strength of his love, to the very end.

The Lord loves us: this is the source of our strength and we are asked to reaffirm it each day. Being a Christian is a summons to realize that God’s love is greater than all our shortcomings and sins. One of our great disappointments and difficulties today comes not from knowing that God is love, but that our way of proclaiming and bearing witness to him is such that, for many people, this is not his name. God is love, a love that bestows itself, that calls and surprises.

Here we see the miracle of God, who makes of our lives works of art, if only we let ourselves to be led by his love. Many of the witnesses of Easter in this blessed land created magnificent masterpieces, inspired by simple faith and great love. Offering their lives, they became living signs of the Lord, overcoming apathy with courage and offering a Christian response to the concerns that they encountered (cf. Christus Vivit, 174). Today we are called to lift up our eyes and acknowledge what the Lord has done in the past, and to walk with him towards the future, knowing that, whether we succeed or fail, he will always be there to keep telling us to cast our nets.

Here I would like to repeat what I said to young people
in my recent Exhortation. A young Church, young not in terms of age but in the grace of the Spirit, is inviting us to testify to the love of Christ, a love that inspires and directs us to strive for the common good. This love enables us to serve the poor and to become protagonists of the revolution of charity and service, capable of resisting the pathologies of consumerism and superficial individualism. Brimming with the love of Christ, be living witnesses of the Gospel in every corner of this city (cf. Christus Vivit, 174-175). Do not be afraid of becoming the saints that this land greatly needs. Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, it will take away none of your vitality or joy. On the contrary, you and all the sons and daughters of this land will become what the Father had in mind when he created you (cf. Gaudete et Exsultate, 32).

Called, surprised and sent for love!