Heaven


Heaven - Pope Francis     

01.11.13   Solemnity of All Saints  Cemetery of Verano        Revelations 7:2-4,9-14        1 John 3:1-3 


At this hour before sunset, we gather in this cemetery and think about our future, we think of all those who have departed, preceded us in life and are in the Lord.

https://sites.google.com/site/francishomilies/heaven/01.11.13.jpg

The vision of Heaven we just have heard described in the First Reading is very beautiful: the Lord God, beauty, goodness, truth, tenderness, love in its fullness. All of this awaits us. Those who have gone before us and who have died in the Lord are there. They proclaim that they have been saved not through their own works, though good works they surely did, but that they have been saved by the Lord: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev 7:10). It is he who save us, it is he who at the end of our lives takes us by the hand like a father, precisely to that Heaven where our ancestors are. One of the elders asks: “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?” (v. 13). Who are these righteous ones, these saints who are in Heaven? The reply is: “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (v. 14).

We can enter heaven only thanks to the blood of the Lamb, thanks to the blood of Christ. Christ’s own blood has justified us, which has opened for us the gates of heaven. And if today we remember our brothers and sisters who have gone before us in life and are in Heaven, it is because they have been washed in the blood of Christ. This is our hope: the hope of Christ's blood! It is a hope that does not disappoint. If we walk with the Lord in life, he will never disappoint us!

In the Second Reading, we heard what the Apostle John said to his disciples: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason the world does not know us.... We are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn 3:1-2). To see God, to be like God: this is our hope. And today, on All Saints’ Day and the first day that we commemorate the faithful departed, we need to think a little about this hope: this hope that accompanies us in life. The first Christians depicted hope with an anchor, as though life were an anchor cast on Heaven’s shores and all of us journeying to that shore, clinging to the anchor’s rope. This is a beautiful image of hope: to have our hearts anchored there, where our beloved predecessors are, where the Saints are, where Jesus is, where God is. This is the hope that does not disappoint; today and tomorrow are days of hope.

Hope is a little like leaven that expands our souls. There are difficult moments in life, but with hope the soul goes forward and looks ahead to what awaits us. Today is a day of hope. Our brothers and sisters are in the presence of God and we shall also be there, through the pure grace of the Lord, if we walk along the way of Jesus. The Apostle John concludes: “every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (v. 3). Hope also purifies us, it lightens us; this purification in hope in Jesus Christ makes us go in haste, readily. Today before evening falls each one of us can think of the twilight of life: “What will my passing away be like?”. All of us will experience sundown, all of us! Do we look at it with hope? Do we look with that joy at being welcomed by the Lord? This is a Christian thought that gives us hope. Today is a day of joy; however it is serene and tranquil joy, a peaceful joy. Let us think about the passing away of so many of our brothers and sisters who have preceded us, let us think about the evening of our life, when it will come. And let us think about our hearts and ask ourselves: “Where is my heart anchored?”. If it is not firmly anchored, let us anchor it beyond, on that shore, knowing that hope does not disappoint because the Lord Jesus does not disappoint.

At the conclusion of the celebration, following the prayers for the faithful departed, the Holy Father added the following words:

I would also like to pray in a special way for our brothers and sisters who died recently while seeking freedom and a more dignified life. We have seen the images, the cruelty of the desert, we have seen the sea where so many drowned. Let us pray for them. And let us also pray for those who survived, and who at this time are crowded in reception places, hoping that legal procedures will be carried out speedily so that they might be able to go elsewhere, somewhere more comfortable, to other centres where they will be welcomed.




Pope Francis       20.07.14  Angelus, St Peter's Square      16th Sunday Year A        Matthew 13: 24-43


Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,

These Sundays the liturgy proposes several Gospel parables, that is, short stories which Jesus used to announce the Kingdom of Heaven to the crowds. Among those in today’s Gospel, there is a rather complex one which Jesus explained to the disciples: it is that of the good grain and the weed, which deals with the problem of evil in the world and calls attention to God’s patience (cf. Mt 13:24-30, 36-43). The story takes place in a field where the owner sows grain, but during the night his enemy comes and sows weed, a term which in Hebrew derives from the same root as the name “Satan” and which alludes to the concept of division. We all know that the demon is a “sower of weed”, one who always seeks to sow division between individuals, families, nations and peoples. The servants wanted to uproot the weed immediately, but the field owner stopped them, explaining that: “in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them” (Mt 13:29). Because we all know that a weed, when it grows, looks very much like good grain, and there is the risk of confusing them. 

The teaching of the parable is twofold. First of all, it tells that the evil in the world comes not from God but from his enemy, the evil one. It is curious that the evil one goes at night to sow weed, in the dark, in confusion; he goes where there is no light to sow weed. This enemy is astute: he sows evil in the middle of good, thus it is impossible for us men to distinctly separate them; but God, in the end, will be able to do so.

And here we arrive at the second theme: the juxtaposition of the impatience of the servants and the patient waiting of the field owner, who represents God. At times we are in a great hurry to judge, to categorize, to put the good here, the bad there.... But remember the prayer of that self-righteous man: “God, I thank you that I am good, that I am not like other men, malicious” (cf. Lk 18:11-12). God, however, knows how to wait. With patience and mercy he gazes into the “field” of life of every person; he sees much better than we do the filth and the evil, but he also sees the seeds of good and waits with trust for them to grow. God is patient, he knows how to wait. This is so beautiful: our God is a patient father, who always waits for us and waits with his heart in hand to welcome us, to forgive us. He always forgives us if we go to him.

The field owner’s attitude is that of hope grounded in the certainty that evil does not have the first nor the last word. And it is thanks to this patient hope of God that the same weed, which is the malicious heart with so many sins, in the end can become good grain. But be careful: evangelical patience is not indifference to evil; one must not confuse good and evil! In facing weeds in the world the Lord’s disciple is called to imitate the patience of God, to nourish hope with the support of indestructible trust in the final victory of good, that is, of God.

In the end, in fact, evil will be removed and eliminated: at the time of harvest, that is, of judgment, the harvesters will follow the orders of the field owner, separating the weed to burn it (cf. Mt 13:30). On the day of the final harvest, the judge will be Jesus, He who has sown good grain in the world and who himself became the “grain of wheat”, who died and rose. In the end we will all be judged by the same measure with which we have judged: the mercy we have shown to others will also be shown to us. Let us ask Our Lady, our Mother, to help us to grow in patience, in hope and in mercy with all brothers and sisters.



Pope Francis   24.09.17 Angelus, St Peter's Square         25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A   Isaiah 55: 6-9  Matthew 20: 1 -16


Dear brothers and sisters, Good morning!

In today’s Gospel reading (cf Mt 20:1-16) there is the parable of the day labourers in the vineyard, which Jesus recounts in order to explain two aspects of the Kingdom of God: the first is that God wants to call everyone to work for his Kingdom; the second is that, in the end, he wants to give everyone the same reward, that is, salvation, eternal life.

The owner of the vineyard who represents God, goes out at dawn and hires a group of workers, agreeing with them on the day’s wages. It was a fair wage. Then he goes out again [several times] later in the day — he goes out five times on that day — until the late afternoon to hire other unemployed labourers whom he sees. At the end of the day, the landowner orders that a denarius be paid to everyone, even to those who had only worked for a few hours. Naturally, the labourers who were hired first complain because they see that they are paid as much as those who worked for fewer hours. The landowner however, reminds them about what had been agreed; if he then wants to be generous with the others, they should not be envious.

In reality, this “injustice” of the owner serves to provoke in those listening to the parable a qualitative leap because here Jesus does not want to speak about the issue of work or of a fair wage, but about the Kingdom of God! And this is the message: there are no unemployed people in the Kingdom of God. Everyone is called to do their part; and there will be a reward from divine justice for everyone in the end — not from human [justice], luckily! —, but the salvation that Jesus Christ acquired for us with his death and Resurrection, a salvation which is not deserved, but donated — salvation is free — thus, “the last will be the first and the first last” (Mt 20:16).

With this parable, Jesus wants to open our hearts to the logic of the Father’s love which is free and generous. It is about allowing oneself to be astonished and fascinated by the “thoughts” and the “ways” of God which, as the Prophet Isaiah recalls, are not our thoughts and not our ways (cf Is 55:8). Human thoughts are often marked by selfishness and personal advantages, and our narrow and contorted paths are not comparable to the wide and straight streets of the Lord. He uses mercy — do not forget this: He uses mercy —, he forgives broadly, is filled with generosity and kindness which he pours forth on each of us. He opens for everyone the boundless territory of his love and his grace, which alone can give the human heart the fullness of joy.

Jesus wants to make us contemplate the gaze of that landowner: the gaze with which he looks upon each of the labourers searching for work and calls them to go to his vineyard. It is a gaze which is filled with attention, kindness. It is a gaze which calls, invites one to get up and begin a journey because he wants life for each of us; he wants a full, committed life, safe from emptiness and inertia. God excludes no one and wants each of us to achieve his or her fullness. This is the love of our God, of our God who is Father.

May Mary Most Holy help us welcome into our lives the logic of love which frees us from the presumption of deserving God’s reward and from the critical judgement of others.




Pope Francis  10.05.20  Regina Caeli, Apostolic Palace Library    Fifth Sunday of Easter - Year A       John 14:1-12

Pope Francis  How to get to Heaven 10.05.20

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

In today's Gospel passage (John 14:1-12) we hear the beginning of Jesus' so-called "farewell discourse." These are the words he addressed to the disciples at the end of the last Supper, just before facing the Passion. In such a dramatic moment Jesus began by saying, "Do not let your hearts be troubled." He says it to us, too, in the dramas of life. But how can we make sure that our hearts are not troubled? Because our hearts do become troubled.

The Lord points out two remedies to being troubled. The first is, "Believe in me" (14: 1). It would seem to be rather theoretical, or abstract advice. Instead Jesus wants to tell us something specific. He knows that, in life, the worst anxiety, anguish, comes from the feeling of not being able to cope, from feeling alone and without points of reference when faced with events. This anguish, in which difficulties are added to difficulties, cannot be overcome alone. We need Jesus' help, and that is why Jesus asks us to have faith in him, that is, not to rely on ourselves, but on him. Because liberation from being troubled requires trust. Relying on Jesus, taking the leap. And this is the freedom from being troubled. And Jesus has risen and is alive precisely to be always by our side. So we can say to him, "Jesus, I believe that you have risen and that you are by my side. I believe that you are listening to me. I bring you what upsets me, my troubles: I have faith in you and I entrust myself to you."

Then there is a second remedy to being troubled, which Jesus expresses with these words: "In my Father's house there are many rooms. I'm going to prepare a place for you" (14: 2). This is what Jesus did for us: he reserved us a place in Heaven. He took our humanity upon himself to take it beyond death, to a new place, to Heaven, so that where he is, we might also be there. It is the certainty that consoles us: there is a reserved place for everyone. There's a place for me, too. Each of us can say: there is a place for me. We do not live aimlessly and without destination. We are expected, we are precious. God is in love with us, we are his children. And for us he has prepared the most worthy and beautiful place: Paradise. Let us not forget this: the dwelling place that awaits us is Paradise. Here we are passing through. We are made for Heaven, for eternal life, to live forever. Forever: it's something we can't even imagine now. But it is even more beautiful to think that this forever will be entirely in joy, in full communion with God and with others, without more tears, without resentments, without divisions and troubles.

But how to reach Heaven? What's the way? This is the decisive sentence of Jesus. Today he says: "I am the way" (14: 6). To ascend to Heaven the way is Jesus: it is to have a living relationship with him, it is to imitate him in love, it is to follow his steps. And I, a Christian, you, a Christian, each of us Christians, can ask ourselves: "What path do I follow?" There are ways that do not lead to Heaven: the ways of worldliness, the ways of self-assertion, the ways of selfish power. And there is the way of Jesus, the way of humble love, of prayer, of meekness, of trust, of service to others. It is not the way that puts me at the centre, it is the way of Jesus being the centre of my life. It is to go ahead every day asking him: "Jesus, what do you think of my choice? What would you do in this situation, with these people?" It will do us good to ask Jesus, who is the way, for the directions to Heaven. May Our Lady, Queen of Heaven, help us to follow Jesus, who opened Heaven for us.





Pope Francis      19.07.20 Angelus, St Peter's Square       16th Sunday Year A        Matthew 13: 24-43

Pope Francis  - Heaven  - 19.07.20

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good day!

In today’s Gospel (cf Mt 13:24-43) we once again encounter Jesus who is intent on speaking to the crowd in parables about the Kingdom of Heaven. I will reflect only on the first one, that of the weeds, through which Jesus helps us understand God’s patience, opening our hearts to hope.

Jesus narrates that, in the field in which good seed was sown, weeds sprout up as well. This term sums up all the toxic vegetation that infests the soil. Among us, we can say that even today the soil has been devastated by so many herbicides and pesticides that, in the end, cause harm both to the weeds, to the earth, and to our health. This is in parentheses. The servants then go to the master to know where the weeds come from. He responds: “An enemy has done this!” (v. 28). Because we sowed good seed! An enemy, someone who is in competition, came to do this. They [the servants] want to go right away to pull them up, the weeds that are growing. Instead, the master says no, because that would risk pulling the vegetation – the weeds – up together with the wheat. It is necessary to wait for harvest time: only then, will the weeds be separated and burned. This is also a common-sense story.

A way of looking at history can be read in this parable. Alongside God – the master of the field – who only and always sows good seed, there is an adversary, who sows weeds to impede the wheat’s growth. The master acts in the open, in broad daylight, and his goal is a good harvest. Instead, the other, the adversary, takes advantage of the darkness of night and works out of envy and hostility to ruin everything. The adversary has a name – the adversary that Jesus refers to has a name: it is the devil, God’s quintessential opponent. The devil’s intention is to hinder the work of salvation, to stonewall the Kingdom of God through wicked workers, sowers of scandal. In fact, the good seed and the weeds do not represent good and bad in the abstract, no; but we human beings, who can follow God or the devil. Many times we have heard that a peaceful family begins to be at war, or envious... a neighbourhood that was peaceful, then nasty things begin to happen... And we are used to saying: “Eh, someone went and sowed weeds there”, or “that person in the family sowed weeds by gossiping”. Destruction always happens by sowing evil. It is always the devil who does this or our own temptations: when we fall into the temptation to gossip to destroy others.

The servants’ intention is to eliminate evil immediately, that is, evil people. But the master is wiser, he sees farther. They must learn to wait because enduring persecution and hostility is part of the Christian vocation. Certainly, evil must be rejected, but those who do evil are people with whom it is necessary to be patient. This does not mean that type of hypocritical tolerance that hides ambiguity; but rather, justice tempered by mercy. If Jesus came to seek sinners more than the righteous, to cure the sick first before the healthy (cf Mt 9:12-13), so must the actions of His disciples be focused not on suppressing the wicked, but on saving them. Patience lies here.

Today’s Gospel presents two ways of acting and of living history: on the one hand, the master’s vision who sees far; on the other, the vision of the servants who just see the problem. What the servants care about is a field without weeds; the master cares about good wheat. The Lord invites us to adopt His own vision, one that is focused on good wheat, that knows how to protect it even amidst the weeds. Those who are always hunting for the limitations and defects of others do not collaborate well with God, but, rather, those who know how to recognise the good that silently grows in the field of the Church and history, cultivating it until it becomes mature. And then, it will be God, and He alone, who will reward the good and punish the wicked.

May the Virgin Mary help us to understand and imitate God’s patience, who wants none of His children to be lost, whom He loves with the love of a Father.




Pope Francis     26.07.20 Angelus, St Peter's Square       17th Sunday Year A           Matthew 13: 44-52

Pope Francis  - Heaven  - Angelus 26.07.20

Dear brothers and sisters, good day!

This Sunday’s Gospel reading (see Mt 13:44-52) consists of the final verses of the chapter Matthew devotes to the parable of the Kingdom of Heaven. The passage includes three parables that are very briefly outlined: that of the hidden treasure, that of the precious pearl, and that of the net cast into the sea.

I will look at the first two in which the Kingdom of Heaven is compared to two different “precious” items, namely, the hidden treasure in the field and the pearl of great value. The reaction of he who finds the pearl or the treasure is practically the same: the man and the merchant sell everything to buy what is now most dear to them. With these two similes, Jesus proposes to involve us in the building of the Kingdom of Heaven, presenting an essential characteristic of Christian life, of the life of the Kingdom of heaven: those who fully pledge themselves to the Kingdom are those who are willing to stake everything, who are courageous. Indeed, both the man and the merchant in these two parables sell everything they have, thus renouncing their material security. From this it can be understood that the building of the Kingdom requires not only the grace of God, but also the active willingness of humanity. Everything is done by grace, everything! We need only have the willingness to receive it, not to resist grace: grace does everything but it takes “my” responsibility, “my” willingness … and who is responsible for this?

The gestures of the man and the merchant who seek to buy more precious treasures, depriving themselves of their goods, are decisive gestures, and radical gestures; but I would say that they are “one way” gestures, not a “round trip”: they are “one way” gestures. Moreover, they are gestures made with joy because both of them have found treasure. We are called upon to assume the attitude of these two Gospel figures, so that we too may become healthily restless seekers of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a matter of abandoning the heavy burden of our worldly sureties that prevent us from searching and building up the Kingdom: the covetousness for possession, the thirst for profit and power, and thinking only of ourselves.

In our times, as we are all aware, some people’s lives can end up mediocre and dull because they probably do not go in search of real treasure: they are content with attractive but fleeting things, whose bright lights prove illusory as they give way to darkness. Instead the light of the Kingdom is not like fireworks, it is light: fireworks last only an instant, whereas the light of the Kingdom accompanies all our life.

The Kingdom of Heaven is the opposite of the superfluous things that the world offers, the opposite of a dull life: it is a treasure that renews life every day and leads it to extend towards wider horizons. Indeed, those who have found this treasure have a creative and inquisitive heart, which does not repeat but rather invents, tracing and setting out on new paths which lead us to love God, to love others, and to truly love ourselves. The sign of those who walk this path of the Kingdom is creativity, always trying to do more. And creativity is what takes life and gives life, and gives, and gives, and gives… It always looks for many other ways to give life.

Jesus, Who is the hidden treasure and the pearl of great value, cannot but inspire joy, all the joy of the world: the joy of discovering a meaning in life, the joy of committing oneself to the adventure of holiness.

May the Blessed Virgin help us to search every day for the treasure of the Kingdom of Heaven, so that the love God has given us through Jesus may be manifested in our words and gestures.