Joel

  

 Chapter 2

12-18



Pope Francis Ash Wednesday 05.03.14

“Rend your hearts and not your garments” (Joel 2:13).

With these penetrating words of the Prophet Joel, the liturgy today introduces us into Lent, pointing to conversion of heart as the chief characteristic of this season of grace. The prophetic appeal challenges all of us without exception, and it reminds us that conversion is not to be reduced to outward forms or to vague intentions, but engages and transforms one’s entire existence beginning from the centre of the person, from the conscience. We are invited to embark upon a journey on which, by defying routine, we strive to open our eyes and ears, but especially to open our hearts, in order to go beyond our own “backyard”.

Opening oneself to God and to the brethren. We know that this increasingly artificial world would have us live in a culture of “doing”, of the “useful”, where we exclude God from our horizon without realizing it. But we also exclude the horizon itself! Lent beacons us to “rouse ourselves”, to remind ourselves that we are creatures, simply put, that we are not God. In the little daily scene, as I look at some of the power struggles to occupy spaces, I think: these people are playing God the Creator. They still have not realized that they are not God.

And we also risk closing ourselves off to others and forgetting them. But only when the difficulties and suffering of others confront and question us may we begin our journey of conversion towards Easter. It is an itinerary which involves the Cross and self-denial. Today’s Gospel indicates the elements of this spiritual journey: prayer, fasting and almsgiving (cf. Mt 6:1-6; 16-18). All three exclude the need for appearances: what counts is not appearances; the value of life does not depend on the approval of others or on success, but on what we have inside us.

The first element is prayer. Prayer is the strength of the Christian and of every person who believes. In the weakness and frailty of our lives, we can turn to God with the confidence of children and enter into communion with him. In the face of so many wounds that hurt us and could harden our hearts, we are called to dive into the sea of prayer, which is the sea of God’s boundless love, to taste his tenderness. Lent is a time of prayer, of more intense prayer, more prolonged, more assiduous, more able to take on the needs of the brethren; intercessory prayer, to intercede before God for the many situations of poverty and suffering.

The second key element of the Lenten journey is fasting. We must be careful not to practice a formal fast, or one which in truth “satisfies” us because it makes us feel good about ourselves. Fasting makes sense if it questions our security, and if it also leads to some benefit for others, if it helps us to cultivate the style of the Good Samaritan, who bends down to his brother in need and takes care of him. Fasting involves choosing a sober lifestyle; a way of life that does not waste, a way of life that does not “throw away”. Fasting helps us to attune our hearts to the essential and to sharing. It is a sign of awareness and responsibility in the face of injustice, abuse, especially to the poor and the little ones, and it is a sign of the trust we place in God and in his providence.

The third element is almsgiving: it points to giving freely, for in almsgiving one gives something to someone from whom one does not expect to receive anything in return. Gratuitousness should be one of the characteristics of the Christian, who aware of having received everything from God gratuitously, that is, without any merit of his own, learns to give to others freely. Today gratuitousness is often not part of daily life where everything is bought and sold. Everything is calculated and measured. Almsgiving helps us to experience giving freely, which leads to freedom from the obsession of possessing, from the fear of losing what we have, from the sadness of one who does not wish to share his wealth with others.

With its invitations to conversion, Lent comes providentially to awaken us, to rouse us from torpor, from the risk of moving forward by inertia. The exhortation which the Lord addresses to us through the prophet Joel is strong and clear: “Return to me with all your heart” (Jl 2:12). Why must we return to God? Because something is not right in us, not right in society, in the Church and we need to change, to give it a new direction. And this is called needing to convert! Once again Lent comes to make its prophetic appeal, to remind us that it is possible to create something new within ourselves and around us, simply because God is faithful, always faithful, for he cannot deny himself, he continues to be rich in goodness and mercy, and he is always ready to forgive and start afresh. With this filial confidence, let us set out on the journey!



Pope Francis   01.03.17 Holy Mass, Blessing and Imposition of the Ashes, Basilica of Santa Sabina  Ash Wednesday     Joel 2: 12-18 
 
Pope Francis talks about Lent 01.03.17

“Return to me with all your heart… return to the Lord” (Jl 2:12, 13). The prophet Joel makes this plea to the people in the Lord’s name. No one should feel excluded: “Assemble the aged, gather the children, even infants at the breast, the bridegroom… and the bride” (v. 16). All the faithful people are summoned to come and worship their God, “for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (v. 13).

We too want to take up this appeal; we want to return to the merciful heart of the Father. In this season of grace that begins today, we once again turn our eyes to his mercy. Lent is a path: it leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God’s children. Lent is the road leading from slavery to freedom, from suffering to joy, from death to life. The mark of the ashes with which we set out reminds us of our origin: we were taken from the earth, we are made of dust. True, yet we are dust in the loving hands of God, who has breathed his spirit of life upon each one of us, and still wants to do so. He wants to keep giving us that breath of life that saves us from every other type of breath: the stifling asphyxia brought on by our selfishness, the stifling asphyxia generated by petty ambition and silent indifference – an asphyxia that smothers the spirit, narrows our horizons and slows the beating of our hearts. The breath of God’s life saves us from this asphyxia that dampens our faith, cools our charity and strangles every hope. To experience Lent is to yearn for this breath of life that our Father unceasingly offers us amid the mire of our history.

The breath of God’s life sets us free from the asphyxia that so often we fail to notice, or become so used to that it seems normal, even when its effects are felt. We think it is normal because we have grown so accustomed to breathing air in which hope has dissipated, the air of glumness and resignation, the stifling air of panic and hostility.

Lent is the time for saying no. No to the spiritual asphyxia born of the pollution caused by indifference, by thinking that other people’s lives are not my concern, and by every attempt to trivialize life, especially the lives of those whose flesh is burdened by so much superficiality. Lent means saying no to the toxic pollution of empty and meaningless words, of harsh and hasty criticism, of simplistic analyses that fail to grasp the complexity of problems, especially the problems of those who suffer the most. Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia of a prayer that soothes our conscience, of an almsgiving that leaves us self-satisfied, of a fasting that makes us feel good. Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia born of relationships that exclude, that try to find God while avoiding the wounds of Christ present in the wounds of his brothers and sisters: in a word, all those forms of spirituality that reduce the faith to a ghetto culture, a culture of exclusion.

Lent is a time for remembering. It is the time to reflect and ask ourselves what we would be if God had closed his doors to us. What would we be without his mercy that never tires of forgiving us and always gives us the chance to begin anew? Lent is the time to ask ourselves where we would be without the help of so many people who in a thousand quiet ways have stretched out their hands and in very concrete ways given us hope and enabled us to make a new beginning?

Lent is the time to start breathing again. It is the time to open our hearts to the breath of the One capable of turning our dust into humanity. It is not the time to rend our garments before the evil all around us, but instead to make room in our life for all the good we are able to do. It is a time to set aside everything that isolates us, encloses us and paralyzes us. Lent is a time of compassion, when, with the Psalmist, we can say: “Restore to us the joy of your salvation, sustain in us a willing spirit”, so that by our lives we may declare your praise (cf. Ps 51:12.15), and our dust – by the power of your breath of life - may become a “dust of love”.





Pope Francis 06.03.19 Ash Wednesday

“Blow the trumpet […] sanctify a fast” (Joel 2:15), says the prophet in the first reading. Lent opens with a piercing sound, that of a trumpet that does not please the ears, but instead proclaims a fast. It is a loud sound that seeks to slow down our life, which is so fast-paced, yet often directionless. It is a summons to stop – a “halt!” –, to focus on what is essential, to fast from the unnecessary things that distract us. It is a wake-up call for the soul.

This wake-up call is accompanied by the message that the Lord proclaims through the lips of the prophet, a short and heartfelt message: “Return to me” (v 12). To return. If we have to return, it means that we have wandered off. Lent is the time to rediscover the direction of life. Because in life’s journey, as in every journey, what really matters is not to lose sight of the goal. If what interests us as we travel, however, is looking at the scenery or stopping to eat, we will not get far. We should ask ourselves: On the journey of life, do I seek the way forward? Or am I satisfied with living in the moment and thinking only of feeling good, solving some problems and having fun? What is the path? Is it the search for health, which many today say comes first but which eventually passes? Could it be possessions and wellbeing? But we are not in the world for this. Return to me, says the Lord. To me. The Lord is the goal of our journey in this world. The direction must lead to him.

Today we have been offered a sign that will help us find our direction: the head marked by ash. It is a sign that causes us to consider what occupies our mind. Our thoughts often focus on transient things, which come and go. The small mark of ash, which we will receive, is a subtle yet real reminder that of the many things occupying our thoughts, that we chase after and worry about every day, nothing will remain. No matter how hard we work, we will take no wealth with us from this life. Earthly realities fade away like dust in the wind. Possessions are temporary, power passes, success wanes. The culture of appearance prevalent today, which persuades us to live for passing things, is a great deception. It is like a blaze: once ended, only ash remains. Lent is the time to free ourselves from the illusion of chasing after dust. Lent is for rediscovering that we are created for the inextinguishable flame, not for ashes that immediately disappear; for God, not for the world; for the eternity of heaven, not for earthly deceit; for the freedom of the children of God, not for slavery to things. We should ask ourselves today: Where do I stand? Do I live for fire or for ash?

On this Lenten journey, back to what is essential, the Gospel proposes three steps which the Lord invites us to undertake without hypocrisy and pretence:
almsgiving, prayer, fasting. What are they for? Almsgiving, prayer and fasting bring us back to the three realities that do not fade away. Prayer reunites us to God; charity, to our neighbour; fasting, to ourselves. God, my neighbour, my life: these are the realities that do not fade away and in which we must invest. Lent, therefore, invites us to focus, first of all on the Almighty, in prayer, which frees us from that horizontal and mundane life where we find time for self but forget God. It then invites us to focus on others, with the charity that frees us from the vanity of acquiring and of thinking that things are only good if they are good for me. Finally, Lent invites us to look inside our heart, with fasting, which frees us from attachment to things and from the worldliness that numbs the heart. Prayer, charity, fasting: three investments for a treasure that endures.

Jesus said: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt 6:21). Our heart always points in some direction: it is like a compass seeking its bearings. We can also compare it to a magnet: it needs to attach itself to something. But if it only attaches itself to
earthly things, sooner or later it becomes a slave to them: things to be used become things we serve. Outward appearance, money, a career or hobby: if we live for them, they will become idols that enslave us, sirens that charm us and then cast us adrift. Whereas if our heart is attached to what does not pass away, we rediscover ourselves and are set free. Lent is the time of grace that liberates the heart from vanity. It is a time of healing from addictions that seduce us. It is a time to fix our gaze on what abides.

Where can we fix our gaze, then, throughout this Lenten journey? It is simple: upon the Crucified one. Jesus on the cross is life’s compass, which directs us to heaven. The poverty of the wood, the silence of the Lord, his loving self-emptying show us the necessity of a simpler life, free from anxiety about things. From the cross, Jesus teaches us the great courage involved in renunciation. We will never move forward if we are heavily weighed down. We need to free ourselves from the clutches of
consumerism and the snares of selfishness, from always wanting more, from never being satisfied, and from a heart closed to the needs of the poor. Jesus on the wood of the cross burns with love, and calls us to a life that is passionate for him, which is not lost amid the ashes of the world; to a life that burns with charity and is not extinguished in mediocrity. Is it difficult to live as he asks? Yes, it is difficult, but it leads us to our goal. Lent shows us this. It begins with the ashes, but eventually leads us to the fire of Easter night; to the discovery that, in the tomb, the body of Jesus does not turn to ashes, but rises gloriously. This is true also for us, who are dust. If we, with our weaknesses, return to the Lord, if we take the path of love, then we will embrace the life that never ends. And surely we will be full of joy.
 
  

 Chapter 3

1-5

 
Pope Francis   08.06.19  St Peter's Square, Rome      Vigil Mass of Pentecost, Year C     Genesis  11: 1-9,    Exodus 3: 1-15,    Joel 3: 1-5

Pope Francis 08.06.19

Once again tonight, the eve of the last day of Easter, the feast of Pentecost, Jesus is among us and proclaiming out loud, "if anyone thirsts, come to me and drink. As Scripture says: "rivers of living water will flow from him who believes in me "(Jn 7: -38 ).

He is the river of living water of the Holy Spirit that flows from Jesus's heart; from His side pierced by the spear (cf. Jn 19.36), which cleanses and makes the Church fruitful, the mystical spouse represented by Mary, the new Eve, at the foot of the cross.

The
Holy Spirit pours forth from the heart of mercy of the risen Jesus, and fills our hearts with a good measure, pressed down, filled and to overflowing with mercy "(cf. Lk 6.38) and transforms us into the Church - with a womb filled with mercy, that is into a mother with an open heart for everyone! I wish the people who live in Rome would recognize the Church, recognize us because of this being more merciful – not because they have more things – for this being more filled with humanity and tenderness, of which there is much need! That they would feel at home, in the maternal home where there is always welcome and where they can always return. That they would feel always welcome, listened to, understood, helped to take a step forward in the direction of the Kingdom of God ... As a mother knows how, even when the children have grown up.

This thought about the maternity of the church reminds me that 75 years ago, on 11 June 1944, Pope Pius XII carried out a special act of thanksgiving and supplication of the Virgin, for the protection of the city of Rome. He did this in the church of St Ignatius, where the venerated image of the divine Madonna had been brought. Divine love is the Holy Spirit that springs from the heart of Christ. It is He that is the spiritual rock that accompanied the people of God in the desert, so that they might draw water from it to quench their thirst along their journey (cf. 1 Cor 10.4). In the burning bush that is not consumed, an image of Mary, Virgin and mother, is the risen Christ who speaks to us, gives us the fire of the Holy Spirit, inviting us to descend in the midst of the people to hear their cry, inviting us to open the paths of freedom that lead to the land promised by God.

We know: there is even today, as in every age, people who seek to build a city and a tower that reaches to heaven "(cf. Gen 11.4). These are human projects, even our projects, done at the service of an ' I ' always greater, toward a heaven where there is no longer room for God. God lets us do that for a while, so that we might experience to what point of evil and sadness we are capable of arriving without him. But the spirit of Christ, the Lord of history, can't wait to knock it all down, to make us start over! We are always a bit narrow both in sight and heart; left to ourselves we end up losing the horizon; We arrive and convince ourselves as having understood everything, we have taken into account all the variables, of having foreseen what will happen and how it will happen... these are all of our own constructions that give us the illusion of touching heaven. Instead the spirit explodes into the world from on high, from the womb of God, where the son was created, and makes all things new.

What are we celebrating today, all together, in our city of Rome? We are celebrating the primacy of the spirit that makes us fall silent before the unpredictability of God's plan, and then fills us with joy: so it was this that God bore in his womb for us!: this journey as Church, this passage, this Exodus, this arrival in the promised land, at the city of Jerusalem of the doors that are always open for everyone, where the various languages spoken by man are composed in the harmony of the spirit, because the spirit is harmony.

And if we have in mind the pains of giving birth, we understand that our cry, that of the people who live in this city and the cry of creation as a whole is none other than the cry of the Spirit: it is the birth of a new world. God is the father and the mother, God is the midwife, God is the cry, God is the Son generated in the world and we, the Church, we are at the service of this birth. We are not at the service of ourselves, we are not at the service of our ambitions and all these dreams of power, no: we are at the service of God, at the marvels of God.

If the pride and presumed moral superiority do not dull our hearing, we realize that behind the cry of so many people there is none other than the authentic cry of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who pushes us once again not to be content, to seek to put ourselves back on the road; It is the Spirit who will save us from every diocesan re-organisation (address to the Diocesan Convention, 9 may 2019). This is a danger, this desire to confuse the newness of the Spirit with a method of re-organising everything down. No, that is not the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God upsets everything and makes us start not all over again, but as a new beginning.

Let us then allow the Spirit to take us by the hand and bring us to the heart of the city to hear its cry, the groan. God says to Moses that this hidden cry of the people has reached even up to him: He has heard, He has seen their oppression and sufferings ... And He has decided to take action by sending Moses to arose and nourish the dream of freedom in the Israelites and to reveal to them that this dream is His will: to make of Israel a free people, His people, bound to him by a Covenant of love, called to witness the faithfulness of the Lord before all the people.

But for Moses to be able to fulfil his mission, God instead wants him to descend with him in the midst of the Israelites. Moses heart must become God's, attentive and sensitive to the suffering and dreams of men and women, to those who cry in secret when they raise their hands towards heaven, because they have nothing else to hold onto on Earth. It is the groaning of the Spirit, and Moses must listen not with his ears but with his heart. Today we can ask ourselves, Christians, to learn how to listen with our heart. The one who teaches how to listen this way is the Spirit. He is the one who teaches us to listen with the heart. To open it.

And to listen to the cry of the city of Rome, we too need the Lord to take us by the hand and make us go down, descend from our locations, among the brothers and sisters who live in our city, to hear their need for Salvation, the cry that goes up to Him, that we usually do not hear. It is not about explaining ideas, ideologies. I love it when I see a church who wants to update itself and then finds only functional ways to improve. These ways don't come from the Spirit of God. This church does not know how to descend, and if it does not know how to descend it is not the Holy Spirit that is commanding. It is about opening eyes and ears, but above all the heart, listening with your heart. Then we will truly be on the way. Then we will feel the fire of Pentecost within ourselves which pushes us to cry out to the men and women of this city that their slavery is over and that it is Christ who is the way that leads to the city of heaven. And this needs faith, brothers and sisters. Let us ask today the gift of faith in order to take that path.