Family


Family - Pope  Francis    

27.10.13    Holy Mass for the Family Day  Saint Peter's Square      Sirach 35:12-14,16-18         2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18        Psalms  34:2-3,17-18,19,23       Luke 18: 9-14

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30th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C

The readings this Sunday invite us to reflect on some basic features of the Christian family.

1. First: the family prays.  The Gospel passage speaks about two ways of praying, one is false – that of the Pharisee – and the other is authentic – that of the tax collector.  The Pharisee embodies an attitude which does not express thanksgiving to God for his blessings and his mercy, but rather self-satisfaction.  The Pharisee feels himself justified, he feels his life is in order, he boasts of this, and he judges others from his pedestal.  The tax collector, on the other hand, does not multiply words.  His prayer is humble, sober, pervaded by a consciousness of his own unworthiness, of his own needs.  Here is a man who truly realizes that he needs God’s forgiveness and his mercy.

The prayer of the tax collector is the prayer of the poor man, a prayer pleasing to God.  It is a prayer which, as the first reading says, “will reach to the clouds” (Sir 35:20), unlike the prayer of the Pharisee, which is weighed down by vanity.

In the light of God’s word, I would like to ask you, dear families: Do you pray together from time to time as a family?  Some of you do, I know.  But so many people say to me: But how can we? As the tax collector does, it is clear: humbly, before God.  Each one, with humility, allowing themselves to be gazed upon by the Lord and imploring his goodness, that he may visit us.  But in the family how is this done? After all, prayer seems to be something personal, and besides there is never a good time, a moment of peace…  Yes, all that is true enough, but it is also a matter of humility, of realizing that we need God, like the tax collector!  And all families, we need God: all of us! We need his help, his strength, his blessing, his mercy, his forgiveness.  And we need simplicity to pray as a family: simplicity is necessary! Praying the Our Father together, around the table, is not something extraordinary: it’s easy. And praying the Rosary together, as a family, is very beautiful and a source of great strength!  And also praying for one another! The husband for his wife, the wife for her husband, both together for their children, the children for their grandparents….praying for each other.  This is what it means to pray in the family and it is what makes the family strong: prayer.

2. The second reading suggests another thought: the family keeps the faith.  The Apostle Paul, at the end of his life, makes a final reckoning and says: “I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).  But how did he keep the faith?  Not in a strong box!  Nor did he hide it underground, like the somewhat lazy servant.  Saint Paul compares his life to a fight and to a race.  He kept the faith because he didn’t just defend it, but proclaimed it, spread it, brought it to distant lands.  He stood up to all those who wanted to preserve, to “embalm” the message of Christ within the limits of Palestine.  That is why he made courageous decisions, he went into hostile territory, he let himself be challenged by distant peoples and different cultures, he spoke frankly and fearlessly.  Saint Paul kept the faith because, in the same way that he received it, he gave it away, he went out to the fringes, and didn’t dig himself into defensive positions.

Here too, we can ask: How do we keep our faith as a family?  Do we keep it for ourselves, in our families, as a personal treasure like a bank account, or are we able to share it by our witness, by our acceptance of others, by our openness?  We all know that families, especially young families, are often “racing” from one place to another, with lots to do.  But did you ever think that this “racing” could also be the race of faith?  Christian families are missionary families. Yesterday in this square we heard the testimonies of missionary families. They are missionary also in everyday life, in their doing everyday things, as they bring to everything the salt and the leaven of faith!  Keeping the faith in families and bringing to everyday things the salt and the leaven of faith.

3. And one more thought we can take from God’s word: the family experiences joy.  In the responsorial psalm we find these words: “let the humble hear and be glad” (33/34:2).  The entire psalm is a hymn to the Lord who is the source of joy and peace.  What is the reason for this gladness?  It  is that the Lord is near, he hears the cry of the lowly and he frees them from evil.  As Saint Paul himself writes: “Rejoice always … The Lord is near” (Phil 4:4-5).  I would like to ask you all a question today. But each of you keep it in your heart and take it home. You can regard it as a kind of “homework”.  Only you must answer.  How are things when it comes to joy at home?  Is there joy in your family?   You can answer this question.

Dear families, you know very well that the true joy which we experience in the family is not superficial; it does not come from material objects, from the fact that everything seems to be going well...  True joy comes from a profound harmony between persons, something which we all feel in our hearts and which makes us experience the beauty of togetherness, of mutual support along life’s journey.  But the basis of this feeling of deep joy is the presence of God, the presence of God in the family and his love, which is welcoming, merciful, and respectful towards all.  And above all, a love which is patient: patience is a virtue of God and he teaches us how to cultivate it in family life, how to be patient, and lovingly so, with each other. To be patient among ourselves. A patient love.  God alone knows how to create harmony from differences.  But if God’s love is lacking, the family loses its harmony, self-centredness prevails and joy fades.  But the family which experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally.  That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world, it is the leaven of society as a whole.

Dear families, always live in faith and simplicity, like the Holy Family of Nazareth!  The joy and peace of the Lord be always with you!



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Pope Francis  05.10.14 Vatican Basilica  Holy Mass for the opening of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family    Isaiah 5: 1-7,    Philippians 4: 6-9,    Matthew 21: 33-43
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A


Today the prophet Isaiah and the Gospel employ the image of the Lord’s vineyard. The Lord’s vineyard is his “dream”, the plan which he nurtures with all his love, like a farmer who cares for his vineyard. Vines are plants which need much care!

God’s “dream” is his people. He planted it and nurtured it with patient and faithful love, so that it can become a holy people, a people which brings forth abundant fruits of justice.

But in both the ancient prophecy and in Jesus’ parable, God’s dream is thwarted. Isaiah says that the vine which he so loved and nurtured has yielded “wild grapes” (5:2,4); God “expected justice but saw bloodshed, righteousness, but only a cry of distress” (v. 7). In the Gospel, it is the farmers themselves who ruin the Lord’s plan: they fail to do their job but think only of their own interests.

In Jesus’ parable, he is addressing the chief priests and the elders of the people, in other words the “experts”, the managers. To them in a particular way God entrusted his “dream”, his people, for them to nurture, tend and protect from the animals of the field. This is the job of leaders: to nurture the vineyard with freedom, creativity and hard work.

But Jesus tells us that those farmers took over the vineyard. Out of greed and pride they want to do with it as they will, and so they prevent God from realizing his dream for the people he has chosen.

The temptation to greed is ever present. We encounter it also in the great prophecy of Ezekiel on the shepherds (cf. ch. 34), which Saint Augustine commented upon in one his celebrated sermons which we have just reread in the Liturgy of the Hours. Greed for money and power. And to satisfy this greed, evil pastors lay intolerable burdens on the shoulders of others, which they themselves do not lift a finger to move (cf. Mt 23:4)

We too, in the Synod of Bishops, are called to work for the Lord’s vineyard. Synod Assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent… They are meant to better nurture and tend the Lord’s vineyard, to help realize his dream, his loving plan for his people. In this case the Lord is asking us to care for the family, which has been from the beginning an integral part of his loving plan for humanity.

We are all sinners and can also be tempted to “take over” the vineyard, because of that greed which is always present in us human beings. God’s dream always clashes with the hypocrisy of some of his servants. We can “thwart” God’s dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us that wisdom which surpasses knowledge, and enables us to work generously with authentic freedom and humble creativity.

My Synod brothers, to do a good job of nurturing and tending the vineyard, our hearts and our minds must be kept in Jesus Christ by “the peace of God which passes all understanding” (Phil 4:7). In this way our thoughts and plans will correspond to God’s dream: to form a holy people who are his own and produce the fruits of the kingdom of God (cf. Mt 21:43).




Pope Francis   05.08.15  General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall     The family - 21. Wounded families (II)      John 10: 10-14


Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!


With this catechesis we return to our reflection on the family. After speaking the last time about families wounded due to misunderstandings between spouses, today I would like to focus our attention on another reality: how to take care of those who, after an irreversible failure of their matrimonial bond, have entered into a new union.

The Church is fully aware that such a situation is contrary to the Christian Sacrament. However, her gaze as a teacher always draws from a mother’s heart; a heart which, enlivened by the Holy Spirit, always seeks the good and the salvation of the people. This is why she feels obliged, “for the sake of truth”, to “exercise careful discernment of situations”. This is how St John Paul II expressed it in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (n. 84), giving as an example the difference between one subjected to separation compared to one who has caused it. This discernment has to be made.

If we then also look at these new bonds through the eyes of the young sons and daughters — and the little ones watch — through the eyes of the children, we are aware of a greater urgency to foster a true welcome for these families in our communities. For this reason it is important that the style of the community, its language, its attitudes, always be attentive to people, starting with the little ones. They are the ones who suffer the most in these situations. After all, how can we encourage these parents to do everything possible to raise their children in the Christian life, to give them an example of committed and exercised faith, if we keep them at arm’s length from the life of the community, as if they are excommunicated? We must act in a way so as not to add even more to the burdens which the children in these situations already feel they have to bear! Unfortunately, the number of these children and youth is really large. It is important for them to feel the Church as loving mother to all, always ready to listen and to meet.

In these decades, in truth, the Church has been neither insensitive nor lazy. Thanks to the in-depth analysis performed by Pastors, led and guided by my Predecessors, the awareness has truly grown that it is necessary to have a fraternal and attentive welcome, in love and in truth, of the baptized who have established a new relationship of cohabitation after the failure of the marital sacrament; in fact, these persons are by no means excommunicated — they are not excommunicated! — and they should absolutely not be treated as such: they are still a part of the Church.

Pope Benedict XVI spoke about this question, calling for careful discernment and wise pastoral accompaniment, knowing that there are no “simple solutions” (Speech at the Seventh World Meeting of Families, Milan, 2 June 2012, answer n. 5). Here the repeated call to Pastors to openly and consistently demonstrate the community’s willingness to welcome them and encourage them, so they may increasingly live and develop their membership in Christ and in the Church through prayer, by listening to the Word of God, by attending the liturgy, through the Christian education of their children, through charity and service to the poor, through the commitment to justice and peace.

The biblical icon of the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11-18) summarizes the mission that Jesus received from the Father: that of giving his life for the sheep. This attitude is also a model for the Church, which embraces her children as a mother who gives her life for them. “The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open”.... No closed doors! No closed doors! “Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community”.... The Church “is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems” (Ap. Exhort. Evangelii Gaudium, n. 47).

In the same way all Christians are called to imitate the Good Shepherd. Especially Christian families can cooperate with Him by taking care of wounded families, accompanying them in the life of faith of the community. Each one must do his part in taking on the attitude of the Good Shepherd, who knows each one of his sheep and excludes no one from his infinitive love!



Pope Francis      12.08.15 General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall       The family - 22. Celebration         Genesis 2: 2-3

Pope Francis Family Celebration 12.08.15

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Today we open a short series of reflections on the three dimensions that articulate, so to speak, the rhythm of family life: celebration, work, prayer.

Let’s begin with celebration. Today we will speak about celebration. And
 let’s say straight away that celebration is the invention of God. Let us recall the conclusion of the story of Creation in the Book of Genesis, which we have heard: “And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation” (2:2-3). God himself teaches us the importance of dedicating time to contemplate and enjoy what has been done well in work. I speak of work, naturally, not only in the sense of employment and profession, but in the broader sense: every action by which we as men and women cooperate in God’s creative work.

Thus celebration is not lazily lounging in an armchair, or the euphoria of foolish escape. No, celebration is first and foremost a loving and grateful look at work well done; we celebrate work. You too, newlyweds, are celebrating the work of a fine period of engagement: and this is beautiful! It is the time to look at your children, or grandchildren, who are growing up, and to think: how beautiful! It’s the time to look at our home, the friends we host, the community that surrounds us, and to think: what a good thing! God did this when he created the world. And he does so again and again, because God is always creating, even at this moment!

It may happen that a celebration occurs in difficult or sorrowful circumstances, and perhaps we celebrate “with a lump in our throat”. Yet, even in these cases, we ask God for the strength not to empty it completely. You mothers and fathers really understand this: how many times, for love of your children, you are able to swallow your sorrows so as to let them enjoy the celebration, to savour the good taste of life! There is so much love in this!

In the workplace too, at times — without neglecting our duties — we are able to let “infiltrate” a glint of celebration: a birthday, a wedding, a birth, just as a farewell or a new arrival..., it’s important. It’s important to celebrate. These are family moments in the inner workings of the productive machinery: it does us good!

A true moment of celebration brings work to a pause, and it is sacred, because it reminds men and women that they are made in the image of God, who is not a slave to work, but its Lord, and thus we too must never be slaves to work, but its “lords”. There is a commandment about this, a commandment which concerns everyone, without exception! Yet we know that there are millions of men and women and even children who are slaves to labour! At this time there are slaves, they are exploited, slaves to labour and this is against God and against the dignity of the human person! The obsession with economic profit and technical hyper-efficiency put the human rhythms of life at risk, for life has its human rhythms. The time for rest, especially on Sunday, is ordained for us so that we can enjoy what is not produced and not consumed, not bought and not sold. Instead we see that the ideology of profit and consumerism even wants to feed on celebration: it too is sometimes reduced to a “business”, to a way of making and spending money. But is this what we are working for? The greed of consumerism, which leads to waste, is an ugly virus which, among other things, makes us end up even more tired than before. It harms true labour and consumes life. Irregular rhythms of celebration often make victims of the young.

Ultimately, the time for celebration is sacred because God is there in a special way. Sunday Eucharist brings to the celebration every grace of Jesus Christ: his presence, his love, his sacrifice, his forming us into a community, his being with us.... And like this every reality receives its full meaning: work, family, the joys and trials of each day, even suffering and death; everything becomes transfigured by the grace of Christ.

The family is endowed with an extraordinary ability to understand, guide and sustain the authentic value of the time for celebration. How beautiful family celebrations are, they are beautiful! Sunday celebrations in particular. It is surely no coincidence that celebrations which have room for the whole family are those that turn out the best!

Family life itself, regarded through the eyes of faith, looks better to us than the toils that cost us. It looks to us like a masterpiece of simplicity, beautiful precisely because it is not artificial, not false, but able to incorporate within itself all aspects of real life. It looks to us like something “very good”, as God says at the completion of the creation of man and woman (cf. Gen 1:31). Thus, celebration is a precious gift of God; a precious gift that God gave to the human family: let’s not spoil it!



Pope Francis      19.08.15 General Audience      The family - 23. Work         2 Thessalonians 3: 10-13


Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!


After having reflected on celebration in the life of the family, today we will ponder a complimentary element, that of work. Both are part of God’s creative design, celebration and work.

Work, as it is commonly said, is necessary for maintaining the family, for raising children, for ensuring a dignified life for our loved ones. In speaking about a serious, honest person, the most beautiful thing that can be said is: “he or she is a worker”, one who works, one who in a community doesn’t just live off of others. There are many Argentinians today, I see, and I will say what we say: “No vive de arriba” [Don’t just live it up].

And indeed work, in its many forms, beginning with that in the home, is also concerned with the common good. Where does one learn this hard-working lifestyle? First of all, one learns it in the family. The family teaches work through the example of the parents: the father and the mother who work for the good of the family and of society.

In the Gospel, the Holy Family of Nazareth appears as a family of workers, and Jesus himself is called “son of a carpenter” (Mt 13:55) and even “the carpenter” (Mk 6:3). And St Paul would not fail to warn Christians: “If any one will not work, let him not eat” (2 Thess 3:10) — that’s a good recipe for losing weight, you don’t work, you don’t eat! The Apostle explicitly refers to the false spiritualism of some who indeed live off their brothers and sisters “not doing any work” (2 Thess 3:11). Commitment to work and the spiritual life, in the Christian conception, are not at all at odds with one another. It is important to understand this properly! Prayer and work can and must be in harmony, as St Benedict teaches. The absence of work damages the spirit, just as the absence of prayer damages practical activity.

Work — I repeat, in its many forms — is proper to the human person. It expresses the dignity of being created in the image of God. Thus, it is said that work is sacred. And thus, managing one’s occupation is a great human and social responsibility, which cannot be left in the hands of the few or unladen onto some divinized “market”. Causing the loss of jobs means causing serious harm to society. It makes me sad to see people without work, who don’t find work and don’t have the dignity of bringing bread home. And I rejoice greatly when I see governments go to great lengths to find jobs and try to see to it that everyone has work. Work is sacred, work gives dignity to a family. We have to pray that no family is left without work.

Therefore, work too, like celebration, is part of God’s creative plan. In the Book of Genesis, the theme of the earth like a back yard, entrusted to the care and cultivation of man (2, 8:15), is anticipated by a very moving passage: “In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up — for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground” (2:4-6). It’s not romanticism, it is God’s revelation; and we are responsible for understanding and implementing it. The Encyclical Laudato Si’, which proposes an integral ecology, also contains this message: the beauty of the earth and the dignity of work were made to be united. The two go together: the earth becomes beautiful when it is worked by man. When work is detached from God’s covenant with man and woman, and it is separated from its spiritual qualities, when work is held hostage by the logic of profit alone and human life is disregarded, the degradation of the soul contaminates everything: even the air, water, grass, food ... the life of society is corrupted and the habitat breaks down. And the consequences fall most of all on the poor and on poor families. The modern organization of work sometimes shows a dangerous tendency to consider the family a burden, a weight, a liability for the productivity of labour. But let us ask ourselves: what productivity? And for whom? The so-called “smart city” is undoubtedly rich in services and organization; but, for example, it is often hostile to children and the elderly. At times those in charge are interested in managing individuals as a workforce, assembling and utilizing them or throwing them away on the basis of economic benefit. The family is a great workbench. When the organization of work holds it hostage, or even blocks its path, then we can be certain that human society has begun to work against itself!

In this circumstance, Christian families are posed a great challenge and a great mission. They bring to the field the foundations of God’s Creation: the identity is the bond between man and woman, the procreation of children, the work which harnesses the earth and renders the world habitable. The loss of these foundations is a very serious matter and there are already too many cracks in the common home! It is not an easy task. Sometimes it may seem to family associations as though they are like David facing Goliath ... but we know how that challenge turned out! It takes faith and shrewdness. In this difficult moment of our history, may God grant us the ability to accept with joy and hope his call, the call to work to give dignity to ourselves and to our families.



Pope Francis      26.08.15 General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall       The family - 24. Prayer          Luke 10: 38-42

Pope Francis  Family Prayer 26.08.15

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

After reflecting on how the family lives the time of celebration and that of work, let us now consider the time of prayer. The most frequent complaint of Christians is actually with regard to time: “I should pray more...; I would like to but often I have no time”. We hear it all the time. The regret is sincere, certainly, because the human heart always desires prayer, even without realizing it; and if it doesn’t find it, it is not at peace. But in order to find it, we need to cultivate in our hearts an “ardent” love for God, an affectionate love.
Let us ask a very simple question. It’s good to believe in God with all our heart, it’s good to hope that he will help us in difficulty, it’s good to feel obliged to give him thanks. All this is just; but do we love the Lord, even a little? Does the thought of God move us, amaze us, soften us?

Let us think of the wording of that great Commandment, which is the basis of all others: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Dt 6:5; cf. Mt 22:37). The formula uses the intense language of love, addressing it to God. See, the spirit of prayer dwells here above all. And if it dwells here, it dwells all the time and never leaves. Are we able to think of God as the caress that keeps us alive, before which there is nothing? A caress from which nothing, not even death, can separate us? Or do we think of him only as the great Being, the Almighty who made all things, the Judge who monitors every action? All true, of course; but only when God is the affection above all our affections, does the meaning of these words find their fullness. Then we feel happy, even if a little confused, because he thinks of us and above all he loves us! Isn’t that impressive? Isn’t it impressive that God caresses us with the love of a father? It is so beautiful! He could have simply revealed himself as the Supreme Being, given his commandments and waited for the results. Instead, God did and does infinitely more than this. He accompanies us on life’s journey, he protects us, he loves us.

If love for God does not light the fire, the spirit of prayer will not warm time. We may also multiply our words, “as the pagans do”, says Jesus; or even perform our rituals, “as the Pharisees do” (cf. Mt 6:5,7). A heart which is home to affection for God makes a prayer of an unspoken thought, or an invocation before a holy image, or a kiss blown to the Church. It’s beautiful when mothers teach their little children to blow kisses to Jesus or to Our Lady. What tenderness there is in this! In that moment the child’s heart is transformed into a place of prayer. And it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Let us never forget to ask for this gift for each one of us! Because the Spirit of God has that special way of saying in our heart “Abba” — “Father”. It teaches us to say “Father” just as Jesus said it, a way that we can never find on our own (cf. Gal 4:6). It is in the family that one learns to ask for and appreciate this gift of the Spirit. If one learns to say it with the same spontaneity with which one learns “father” and “mother,” one has learnt it forever. When this happens, the time of the whole of family life is enveloped in the womb of God’s love, and seeks spontaneously the time of prayer.

We know well that family time is a complicated and crowded time, busy and preoccupied. There is always little, there is never enough, there are so many things to do. One who has a family soon learns to solve an equation that not even the great mathematicians know how to solve: within 24 hours they make twice that many! There are mothers and fathers who could win the Nobel Prize for this. Out of 24 hours they make 48: I don’t know how they do it but they get on and do it! There is so much work in a family!

The spirit of prayer gives time back to God, it steps away from the obsession of a life that is always lacking time, it rediscovers the peace of necessary things, and discovers the joy of unexpected gifts. Two good guides for this are the sisters Martha and Mary, spoken of in the Gospel we have just heard; they learned from God the harmony of family rhythms: the beauty of celebration, the serenity of work, the spirit of prayer (cf. Lk 10:38-42). The visit of Jesus, whom they loved, was their celebration. However, one day Martha learned that the work of hospitality, though important, is not everything, but that listening to the Lord, as Mary did, was the really essential thing, the “best kind” of time. Prayer flows from listening to Jesus, from reading the Gospel. Do not forget to read a passage of the Gospel every day. Prayer flows from closeness with the Word of God. Is there this closeness in our family? Do we have the Gospel at home? Do we open it sometimes to read it together? Do we meditate on it while reciting the Rosary? The Gospel read and meditated on as a family is like good bread that nourishes everyone’s heart. In the morning and in the evening, and when we sit at the table, we learn to say together a prayer with great simplicity: it is Jesus who comes among us, as he was with the family of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. There is something that is very close to my heart; because I have seen it in the city: there are children who have not learned to make the Sign of the Cross! But you, mother, father, teach your child to pray, to make the Sign of the Cross: this is a lovely task for mothers and fathers!

In the prayer of the family, in its intense moments and in its difficult seasons, we are entrusted to one another, so that each one of us in the family may be protected by the love of God.



Pope Francis    04.10.15   Holy Mass, Vatican Basilica   27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B      Genesis 2: 18-24,    1 John 4: 12,    Mark 10: 2-16


Pope Francis   04.10.15

“If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 Jn 4:12).

This Sunday’s Scripture readings seem to have been chosen precisely for this moment of grace which the Church is experiencing: the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the family, which begins with this Eucharistic celebration.

The readings centre on three themes:
solitude, love between man and woman, and the family.

Solitude

Adam, as we heard in the first reading, was living in the Garden of Eden. He named all the other creatures as a sign of his dominion, his clear and undisputed power, over all of them. Nonetheless, he felt alone, because “there was not found a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:20). He was lonely.

The drama of solitude is experienced by countless men and women in our own day. I think of the elderly, abandoned even by their loved ones and children; widows and widowers; the many men and women left by their spouses; all those who feel alone, misunderstood and unheard; migrants and refugees fleeing from war and persecution; and those many young people who are victims of the culture of consumerism, the culture of waste, the throwaway culture.

Today we experience the paradox of a globalized world filled with luxurious mansions and skyscrapers, but a lessening of the warmth of homes and families; many ambitious plans and projects, but little time to enjoy them; many sophisticated means of entertainment, but a deep and growing interior emptiness; many pleasures, but few loves; many liberties, but little freedom… The number of people who feel lonely keeps growing, as does the number of those who are caught up in selfishness, gloominess, destructive violence and slavery to pleasure and money.

Our experience today is, in some way, like that of Adam: so much power and at the same time so much loneliness and vulnerability. The image of this is the family. People are less and less serious about building a solid and fruitful relationship of love: in sickness and in health, for better and for worse, in good times and in bad. Love which is lasting, faithful, conscientious, stable and fruitful is increasingly looked down upon, viewed as a quaint relic of the past. It would seem that the most advanced societies are the very ones which have the lowest birth-rates and the highest percentages of abortion, divorce, suicide, and social and environmental pollution.

Love between man and woman

In the first reading we also hear that God was pained by Adam’s loneliness. He said: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:18). These words show that nothing makes man’s heart as happy as another heart like his own, a heart which loves him and takes away his sense of being alone. These words also show that God did not create us to live in sorrow or to be alone. He made men and women for happiness, to share their journey with someone who complements them, to live the wondrous experience of
love: to love and to be loved, and to see their love bear fruit in children, as the Psalm proclaimed today says (cf. Ps 128).

This is God’s dream for his beloved creation: to see it fulfilled in the loving union between a man and a woman, rejoicing in their shared journey, fruitful in their mutual gift of self. It is the same plan which Jesus presents in today’s Gospel: “From the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh” (Mk 10:6-8; cf. Gen 1:27; 2:24).

To a rhetorical question – probably asked as a trap to make him unpopular with the crowd, which practiced divorce as an established and inviolable fact – Jesus responds in a straightforward and unexpected way. He brings everything back to the beginning, to the beginning of creation, to teach us that God blesses human love, that it is he who joins the hearts of two people who love one another, he who joins them in unity and indissolubility. This shows us that the goal of conjugal life is not simply to live together for life, but to love one another for life! In this way Jesus re-establishes the order which was present from the beginning.

Family

“What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mk 10:9). This is an exhortation to believers to overcome every form of individualism and legalism which conceals a narrow self-centredness and a fear of accepting the true meaning of the couple and of human sexuality in God’s plan.

Indeed, only in the light of the folly of the gratuitousness of Jesus’ paschal love will the folly of the gratuitousness of an exclusive and life-long conjugal love make sense.

For God,
marriage is not some adolescent utopia, but a dream without which his creatures will be doomed to solitude! Indeed, being afraid to accept this plan paralyzes the human heart.

Paradoxically, people today – who often ridicule this plan – continue to be attracted and fascinated by every authentic love, by every steadfast love, by every fruitful love, by every faithful and enduring love. We see people chase after fleeting loves while dreaming of true love; they chase after carnal pleasures but desire total self-giving.

“Now that we have fully tasted the promises of unlimited freedom, we begin to appreciate once again the old phrase: “world-weariness”. Forbidden pleasures lost their attraction at the very moment they stopped being forbidden. Even if they are pushed to the extreme and endlessly renewed, they prove dull, for they are finite realities, whereas we thirst for the infinite” (Joseph Ratzinger, Auf Christus schauen. Einübung in Glaube, Hoffnung, Liebe, Freiburg, 1989, p. 73).

In this extremely difficult social and marital context, the Church is called to carry out her mission in fidelity, truth and love.

To carry out her mission in fidelity to her Master as a voice crying out in the desert, in defending faithful love and encouraging the many families which live married life as an experience which reveals of God’s love; in defending the sacredness of life, of every life; in defending the unity and indissolubility of the conjugal bond as a sign of God’s grace and of the human person’s ability to love seriously.

The Church is called to carry out her mission in truth, which is not changed by passing fads or popular opinions. The truth which protects individuals and humanity as a whole from the temptation of self-centredness and from turning fruitful love into sterile selfishness, faithful union into temporary bonds. “Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love” (Benedict XVI,
Caritas in Veritate, 3).

And the Church is called to carry out her mission in charity, not pointing a finger in judgment of others, but – faithful to her nature as a mother – conscious of her duty to seek out and care for hurting couples with the balm of acceptance and mercy; to be a “field hospital” with doors wide open to whoever knocks in search of help and support; even more, to reach out to others with true love, to walk with our fellow men and women who suffer, to include them and guide them to the wellspring of salvation.

A Church which teaches and defends fundamental values, while not forgetting that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27); and that Jesus also said: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mk 2:17). A Church which teaches authentic love, which is capable of taking loneliness away, without neglecting her mission to be a good Samaritan to wounded humanity.

I remember when Saint John Paul II said: “Error and evil must always be condemned and opposed; but the man who falls or who errs must be understood and loved… we must love our time and help the man of our time” (John Paul II,
Address to the Members of Italian Catholic Action, 30 December 1978). The Church must search out these persons, welcome and accompany them, for a Church with closed doors betrays herself and her mission, and, instead of being a bridge, becomes a roadblock: “For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb 2:11).

In this spirit we ask the Lord to accompany us during the Synod and to guide his Church, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse.




Pope Francis      08.09.19  Holy Mass,  Soamandrakizay diocesan field (Antananarivo), Madagascar      23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time  Year C     Luke 14: 25-33 
  
Pope Francis  08.09.19 Madagascar

The Gospel tells us that “great multitudes accompanied Jesus” (Lk 14:25). Like the multitudes gathered along his path, you too have come in great numbers to receive his message and follow in his footsteps. But you also know that following Jesus is not easy. You haven’t had much rest, and many of you have even spent the night here. Today, Luke’s Gospel reminds us of how demanding that commitment can be.

We should realize that Luke sets out those demands within his account of Jesus’ ascent to Jerusalem. He starts with the parable of the banquet to which everyone is invited, especially the outcasts living on the streets, in the squares and at the crossroads. And he concludes with the three “parables of mercy”, where a party is celebrated when what was lost was found, where someone who seemed dead is welcomed with joy and restored to life with the possibility of making a new start. For us as Christians, our sacrifices only make sense in the light of the joyful celebration of our encounter with Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ first demand has to do with family relationships. The new life the Lord holds out to us seems troubling and scandalously unjust to those who think that entry into the kingdom of heaven can be limited or reduced only to bonds of blood or membership in a particular group, clan or particular culture. When “family” becomes the decisive criterion for what we consider right and good, we end up justifying and even “consecrating” practices that lead to the culture of privilege and exclusion: favouritism, patronage and, as a consequence, corruption. The Master demands that we see beyond this. He says this clearly: anyone incapable of seeing others as brothers or sisters, of showing sensitivity to their lives and situations regardless of their family, cultural or social background “cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:26). His devoted love is a free gift given to all and meant for all.

Jesus’ second demand shows us how hard it is to follow him if we seek to identify the kingdom of heaven with our personal agenda or our attachment to an ideology that would abuse the name of God or of religion to justify acts of violence, segregation and even murder, exile, terrorism and marginalization. This demand encourages us not to dilute and narrow the Gospel message, but instead to build history in fraternity and solidarity, in complete respect for the earth and its gifts, as opposed to any form of exploitation. It encourages us to practise “dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation as the code of conduct; reciprocal understanding as the method and standard” (
Document on Human Fraternity, Abu Dhabi, 4 February 2019). And not to be tempted by teachings that fail to see that the wheat and the chaff must grow together until the return of the Master of the harvest (cf. Mt 13:24-30).

Finally, how difficult it can be to share the new life that the Lord offers us when we are continually driven to self-justification, because we think that everything depends exclusively on our efforts and resources! Or, as we heard in the first reading, when the race to amass possessions becomes stifling and overwhelming, which only increases our selfishness and our willingness to use immoral means. Jesus’ demand is that we rediscover how to be grateful and to realize that, much more than a personal triumph, our life and our talents are the fruit of a gift (cf.
Gaudete et Exsultate, 55), a gift created by God through the silent interplay of so many people whose names we will only know in the kingdom of heaven.

With these three demands, the Lord wants to prepare his disciples for the celebration of the coming of the kingdom of God, and to free them from the grave obstacle that, in the end, is one of the worst forms of enslavement: living only for oneself. It is the temptation to fall back into our little universe, and it ends up leaving little room for other people. The poor no longer enter in, we no longer hear the voice of God, we no longer enjoy the quiet joy of his love, we are no longer eager to do good… Many people, by shutting themselves up in this way, can feel “apparently” secure, yet they end up becoming bitter, querulous and lifeless. This is no way to live a full and dignified life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit that has its source in the heart of the risen Christ (cf.
Evangelii Gaudium, 2).

With these demands, the Lord, as he walks towards Jerusalem, asks us to lift our gaze, to adjust our priorities and, above all, to make room for God to be the centre and axis of our life.

As we look around us, how many men and women, young people and children are suffering and in utter need! This is not part of God’s plan. How urgently Jesus calls us to die to our self-centredness, our individualism and our pride! In this way, we can allow the spirit of fraternity to triumph – a spirit born from the pierced side of Jesus Christ, in which we are born as God’s family – and in which everyone can feel loved because understood, accepted and appreciated in his or her dignity. “In the face of contempt for human dignity, we often remain with arms folded or stretched out as a sign of our frustration before the grim power of evil. Yet we Christians cannot stand with arms folded in indifference, or with arms outstretched in helplessness. No. As believers, we must stretch out our hands, as Jesus does with us” (
Homily for the World Day of the Poor, 18 November 2018).

The Word of God that we have just heard bids us set out once more, daring to take this qualitative leap and to adopt this wisdom of personal detachment as the basis for social justice and for our personal lives. Together we can resist all those forms of idolatry that make us think only of the deceptive securities of power, career, money and of the search for human glory.

The demands that Jesus sets before us cease to be burdensome as soon as we begin to taste the joy of the new life that he himself sets before us. It is the joy born of knowing that he is the first to seek us at the crossroads, even when we are lost like the sheep or the prodigal son. May this humble realism – it is a realism, a Christian realism – inspire us to take on great challenges and give you the desire to make your beautiful country a place where the Gospel becomes life, and where life is for the greater glory of God.

Let us commit ourselves and let us make the Lord’s plans our own.





Pope Francis       13.09.20 Angelus, St Peter's Square, Rome        24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A        Sirach 27: 30 - 28: 7            Matthew 18: 21-35


Pope Francis The Parable of the Merciful King 13.09.20

Dear brothers and sisters, good day!

In the parable in today’s Gospel reading, that of the merciful King (see Mt 18:21-35), twice we find this plea: “Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full” (vv. 26, 29). The first time it is pronounced by the servant who owes his master ten thousand talents, an enormous sum. Today it would be millions and millions of dollars. The second time it is repeated by another servant of the same master. He too is in debt, not towards the master, but towards the same servant who has that enormous debt. And his debt is very small, maybe a week’s wages.

The heart of the parable is the indulgence the master shows towards his servant with the bigger debt. The evangelist underlines that, “moved with compassion the master”- we should never forget this word of Jesus: “Have compassion”, Jesus always had compassion - “moved with compassion the master let him go and forgave him the loan” (v. 27). An enormous debt, therefore a huge remission! But that servant, immediately afterwards, showed himself to be pitiless towards his companion, who owed him a modest sum. He does not listen to him, he is extremely hostile against him and has him thrown in prison until he has paid his debt (see v. 30). The master hears about this and, outraged, calls the wicked servant back and has him condemned (see vv. 32-34). “I forgave you a great deal and you are not capable of forgiving so little?”

In the parable we find two different attitudes: God’s - represented by the king who forgives a lot, because God always forgives - and the human person’s. The divine attitude is justice pervaded with mercy, whereas the human attitude is limited to justice. Jesus exhorts us to open ourselves with courage to the strength of forgiveness, because in life not everything can be resolved with justice. We know this. There is a need for that merciful love, which is also at the basis of the Lord’s answer to Peter’s question, which precedes the parable. Peter’s question goes like this: “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?” (v. 21). And Jesus replies, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times” (v. 22). In the symbolic language of the Bible this means that we are called to forgive always.

How much suffering, how many wounds, how many wars could be avoided if forgiveness and mercy were the style of our life! Even in families, even in families. How many families are disunited, who do not know how to forgive each other. How many brothers and sisters bear resentment within. It is necessary to apply merciful love to all human relationships: between spouses, between parents and children, within our communities, in the Church and also in society and politics.

Today as we were celebrating the Mass, I paused, touched by a phrase in the first reading from the book of Sirach. The phrase says, remember the end and stop hating. A beautiful phrase. But think of the end. Just think, you will be in a coffin… and you take your hatred there. Think about the end, stop hating, stop resenting. Let’s think of this phrase that is very touching. Remember the end and stop hating.

It is not easy to forgive because although in moments of calm we think “Yes, this person has done so many things to me but I have done many too. Better to forgive so as to be forgiven”, but then resentment returns like a bothersome fly in the summer that keeps coming back. Forgiveness isn’t something we do in a moment, it is a something continuous, against that resentment, that hatred that keeps coming back. Let’s think of our end and stop hating.

Today’s parable helps us to grasp fully the meaning of that phrase we recite in the Lord’s Prayer: “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (see Mt 6:12). These words contain a decisive truth. We cannot demand God’s forgiveness for ourselves if we in turn do not grant forgiveness to our neighbour. It is a condition. Think of your end, of God’s forgiveness, and stop hating. Reject resentment, that bothersome fly that keeps coming back. If we do not strive to forgive and to love, we will not be forgiven and loved either.

Let us entrust ourselves to the maternal intercession of the Mother of God: May she help us to realise how much we are in debt to God, and to remember that always, so that our hearts may be open to mercy and goodness.