Pope Francis    30.06.13  Angelus, St Peter's Square, Rome   13th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C       Luke 9: 51-62

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

This Sunday’s Gospel Reading (Lk 9:51-62) shows a very important step in Christ’s life: the moment when, as St Luke writes: “He [Jesus] set his face to go to Jerusalem” (9:51). Jerusalem is the final destination where Jesus, at his last Passover, must die and rise again and thus bring his mission of salvation to fulfilment.

From that moment, after that “firm decision” Jesus aimed straight for his goal and in addition said clearly to the people he met and who asked to follow him what the conditions were: to have no permanent dwelling place; to know how to be detached from human affections and not to give in to nostalgia for the past.

Jesus, however, also told his disciples to precede him on the way to Jerusalem and to announce his arrival, but not to impose anything: if the disciples did not find a readiness to welcome him, they should go ahead, they should move on. Jesus never imposes, Jesus is humble, Jesus invites. If you want to, come. The humility of Jesus is like this: he is always inviting but never imposing.

All of this gives us food for thought. It tells us, for example, of the importance which
the conscience had for Jesus too: listening in his heart to the Father’s voice and following it. Jesus, in his earthly existence, was not, as it were “remote-controlled”: he was the incarnate Word, the Son of God made man, and at a certain point he made the firm decision to go up to Jerusalem for the last time; it was a decision taken in his conscience, but not alone: together with the Father, in full union with him! He decided out of obedience to the Father and in profound and intimate listening to his will. For this reason, moreover, his decision was firm, because it was made together with the Father. In the Father Jesus found the strength and light for his journey. And Jesus was free, he took that decision freely. Jesus wants us to be Christians, freely as he was, with the freedom which comes from this dialogue with the Father, from this dialogue with God. Jesus does not want selfish Christians who follow their own ego, who do not talk to God. Nor does he want weak Christians, Christians who have no will of their own, “remote-controlled” Christians incapable of creativity, who always seek to connect with the will of someone else and are not free. Jesus wants us free. And where is this freedom created? It is created in dialogue with God in the person’s own conscience. If a Christian is unable to speak with God, if he cannot hear God in his own conscience, he is not free, he is not free.

This is why we must learn to listen to our conscience more. But be careful! This does not mean following my own ego, doing what interests me, what suits me, what I like.... It is not this! The conscience is the interior place for listening to the truth, to goodness, for listening to God; it is the inner place of my relationship with him, the One who speaks to my heart and helps me to discern, to understand the way I must take and, once the decision is made, to go forward, to stay faithful.

We have had a marvellous example of what this relationship with God is like, a recent and marvellous example.
Pope Benedict XVI gave us this great example when the Lord made him understand, in prayer, what the step was that he had to take. With a great sense of discernment and courage, he followed his conscience, that is, the will of God speaking in his heart. And this example of our Father does such great good to us all, as an example to follow.

Our Lady, in her inmost depths with great simplicity was listening to and meditating on the Word of God and on what was happening to Jesus. She followed her Son with deep conviction and with steadfast hope. May Mary help us to become increasingly men and women of conscience, free in our conscience, because it is in the conscience that dialogue with God takes place; men and women, who can hear God’s voice and follow it with determination, who can listen to God’s voice, and follow it with decision.

Pope Francis   04.07.13  Holy Mass   Santa Marta       Matthew  9: 1-8 

If an “identity card” for Christians existed freedom would certainly feature among their characteristic traits. The freedom of God's children is the fruit of reconciliation with the Father, brought about by Jesus who took upon himself the sins of all humanity and redeemed the world with his death on the Cross. No one can take this identity from us.

Matthew (9:1-8) the crippled man when as he was being carried on his bed he heard Jesus saying to him “take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven”.

Those who were close to Jesus and heard his words “said 'this man is blaspheming'; only God can forgive sins”. And Jesus, to make them understand, asked them “Which is easier, to forgive sins or to heal? And he healed. Jesus, St Peter said, went about doing good, curing all, he healed, healing all”.

But when Jesus, healed a sick man he was not only a healer. When he taught people – let us think of the Beatitudes – he was not only a catechist, a preacher of morals. When he remonstrated against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees, he was not a revolutionary who wanted to drive out the Romans. No, these things that Jesus did, healing, teaching and speaking out against hypocrisy, were only a sign of something greater that Jesus was doing: he was forgiving sins.

Reconciling the world in Christ in the name of the Father: “this is Jesus' mission. Everything else – healing, teaching, reprimands – are only signs of that deeper miracle which is the re-creation of the world. Thus reconciliation is the re-creation of the world; and the most profound mission of Jesus is the redemption of all of us sinners. And Jesus did not do this with words, with actions or by walking on the road, no! He did it with his flesh. It is truly he, God, who becomes one of us, a man, to heal us from within.

“This is beautiful, this is the new creation”; “Jesus comes down in glory and lowers himself even unto death and death on a cross. This is his glory and our salvation.

“This is the great miracle of Jesus”, he has set us, slaves of sin, free, he has healed us. It will do us good to think of this, and to think that it is so beautiful to be children. This freedom of children is so beautiful, for the Son is at home. Jesus has opened the doors of his house to us, we are now at home. We now understand Jesus' words: 'take heart, my son, your sins are forgiven'. This is the root of our courage: I am free, I am a child, the Father loves me and I love the Father. Let us ask the Lord for the grace to understand his action properly.

God “has reconciled the world with himself in Christ”, entrusting to us the word of reconciliation, and the grace to carry this word ahead, this word of reconciliation, with fortitude, with the freedom of children. We are saved in Jesus Christ, and no one can deprive us of this grace.

Pope Francis         06.03.16   Angelus, St Peter's Square          Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

In Chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel, we find three parables of 
mercy: that of the sheep found (vv. 4-7), that of the coin found (vv. 8-10), and the great parable of the prodigal son, or rather, of the merciful father (vv. 11-32). Today, it would be nice for each of us to open Chapter 15 of the Gospel according to Luke, and read these three parables. During the Lenten itinerary, the Gospel presents to us this very parable of the merciful Father, featuring a father with his two sons. The story highlights some features of this father who is a man always ready to forgive and to hope against hope. Especially striking is the father’s tolerance before the younger son’s decision to leave home: he could have opposed it, knowing that he was still immature, a youth, or sought a lawyer not to give him his inheritance, as the father was still living. Instead, he allows the son to leave, although foreseeing the possible risks. God works with us like this: He allows us to be free, even to making mistakes, because in creating us, He has given us the great gift of freedom. It is for us to put it to good use. This gift of freedom that God gives us always amazes me!

But the separation from his son is only physical; for the father always carries him in his heart; trustingly, he awaits his return; the father watches the road in the hope of seeing him. And one day he sees him appear in the distance (cf. v. 20). But this means that this father, every day, would climb up to the terrace to see if his son was coming back! Thus the father is moved to see him, he runs toward him, embraces him, kisses him. So much tenderness! And this son got into trouble! But the father still welcomes him so.

The father treated the eldest son the same way, but as he had always stayed at home, he is now indignant and complains because he does not understand and does not share all that kindness toward his brother that had wronged. The father also goes to meet this son and reminds him that they were always together, they share everything (v. 31), one must welcome with joy the brother who has finally returned home. And this makes me think of something: When one feels one is a sinner, one feels worthless, or as I’ve heard some — many — say: ‘Father, I am like dirt’, so then, this is the moment to go to the Father. Instead, when one feels righteous — ‘I always did the right thing …’ —, equally, the Father comes to seek us, because this attitude of feeling ‘right’, is the wrong attitude: it is pride! It comes from the devil. The Father waits for those who recognize they are sinners and goes in search of the ones who feel ‘righteous’. This is our Father!

In this parable, you can also glimpse a third son. A third son? Where? He’s hidden! And it is the one, ‘who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:6-7). This Servant-Son is Jesus!

He is ‘the extension of the arms and heart of the Father: he welcomed the prodigal Son and washed his dirty feet; he prepared the banquet for the feast of forgiveness. He, Jesus, teaches us to be “merciful as the Father is merciful”.

The figure of the Father in the parable reveals the heart of God. He is the Merciful Father who, in Jesus, loves us beyond measure, always awaits our conversion every time we make mistakes; he awaits our return when we turn away from him thinking, we can do without him; he is always ready to open his arms no matter what happened. As the father of the Gospel, God also continues to consider us his children, even when we get lost, and comes to us with tenderness when we return to him. He addresses us so kindly when we believe we are right. The errors we commit, even if bad, do not wear out the fidelity of his love. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we can always start out anew: He welcomes us, gives us the dignity of being his children and tells us: “Go ahead! Be at peace! Rise, go ahead!”

In this time of Lent that still separates us from Easter, we are called to intensify the inner journey of conversion. May the loving gaze of our Father touch us. Let us return and return to him with all our heart, rejecting any compromise with sin. May the Virgin Mary accompany us until the regenerating embrace with Divine Mercy.

Pope Francis   15.05.20  Holy Mass Casa Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)     Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter     Acts 15: 22-31

Pope Francis Rigid Christians 15.05.20

Today is World Family Day: let us pray for families, so that the Spirit of the Lord, the spirit of love, respect and freedom, may grow in families.

In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles we see that in the early Church, there were times of peace, it says so many times: the Church grew, in peace, and the Spirit of the Lord spread (Acts 9: 31); times of peace. There were also times of persecution, beginning with the persecution of Stephen, then Paul the persecutor, he converted, but then was also persecuted. Times of peace, times of persecution, and there were also times of turmoil. And this is the subject of today's first Reading: a time of turmoil (Acts 15: 22-31). "We have heard that some of us," the apostles wrote to Christians who had converted from paganism, "have heard that some of us, without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and have disturbed your peace of mind" (15: 24).

What had happened? These Christians who were pagans had believed in Jesus Christ and had received baptism, and they were happy: they had received the Holy Spirit. From paganism to Christianity, without any intermediate stage. Instead, these people who were called "the Judaizers," argued that this could not be done. If someone was a pagan, they first had to become a Jew, a good Jew, and then become a Christian, to be in line with the election of the people of God. And these Christians did not understand this: "But how are we second-class Christians? Can't we go from paganism directly to Christianity? Isn't it that the resurrection of Christ has dissolved the ancient law and brought it to an even greater fullness?" They were upset and there were so many discussions between them. And those who wanted this were people who with pastoral arguments, theological topics, even some morals, argued that no, that we should take proceed like this! And this called into question the freedom of the Holy Spirit, even the gratuitousness of Christ's resurrection and grace. They were methodical. And also rigid.

Of these, of the teachers, of the doctors of the Law, Jesus had said: "Woe to you who travel to land and sea to make a single convert, and when you have found him , you make him like a son of Gehenna, twice worse than you." More or less Jesus says this in the 23rd chapter of Matthew (see v. 15). These people, who were "ideological", rather than "dogmatic", "ideological", had reduced the Law, the dogma to an ideology: "you must do this, and this, and this...". A religion of prescriptions, and with this they took away the freedom of the Holy Spirit. And the people who followed them were rigid people, people who didn't feel comfortable, didn't know the joy of the Gospel. The perfection of the way to follow Jesus was rigidity: "You must do this, this, this, this...". These people, these doctors "manipulated" the consciences of the faithful and either made them rigid or they left.

For this reason, I repeat myself many times and say that rigidity is not from the good Spirit, because it calls into question the gratuitousness of redemption, the gratuitousness of Christ's resurrection. And this is an old thing: throughout the history of the Church, this has been repeated. Let's think about the Pelagians, those who were famously rigid. And even in our time we saw some apostolic organizations that seemed just well organized, that worked well..., but all rigid, all exactly the same as the other, and then we learned about the corruption that was inside, even in the founders.

Where there is rigidity there is no Spirit of God, because the Spirit of God is freedom. And these people wanted to act by removing the freedom of the Spirit of God and the gratuitousness of redemption: "To be justified, you must do this, this, this, this...". Justification is free. The death and resurrection of Christ is free. You don't pay, you don't buy: it's a gift! And they didn't want to do this.

The way forward is beautiful: the apostles come together in this council and in the end write a letter that says: "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any other burdens beyond these essentials." (Acts 15: 28), and they put these obligations, morals of common sense: not to confuse Christianity with paganism, with abstaining from the meat offered to idols, etc. And in the end, these troubled Christians gathered in the assembly and, "when they read it, they were delighted with the encouragement it gave them"(v. 31). From turmoil to joy. The spirit of rigidity always leads you to turmoil: "But did I do this well? Didn't I do it right?" Scrupulosity. The spirit of evangelical freedom leads you to joy, because that is precisely what Jesus did with his resurrection: he brought joy! The relationship with God, the relationship with Jesus is not a relationship, of "doing things": "I do this and You give me this". A relationship like this, is say – forgive me Lord – commercial, no! It is free, as is Jesus' relationship with the disciples. "You are my friends"(John 15: 14). "I don't call you slaves, I call you friends" (see v. 15). "It was not you who chose me, but I chose you" (v. 16). This is gratuitousness.

Let us ask the Lord to help us discern the fruits of evangelical gratuitousness from the fruits of non-evangelical rigidity, and to free us from any turmoil of those who put faith, the life of faith under detailed prescriptions, prescriptions that make no sense. I am referring to these prescriptions that make no sense, not the Commandments. Let us free ourselves from this spirit of rigidity that takes away your freedom.