Journeying



Pope Francis      14.03.13 Holy Mass,  "Missa pro Ecclesia" with the Cardinal Electors
, Sistine Chapel     Isaiah 2: 2-5,      1 Peter 2: 4-9,       Mathew 16: 13-19

Pope Francis  Holy Mass "Missa pro Ecclesia" with the Cardinal Electors, Sistine Chapel   14.03.13

In these three readings, I see a common element: that of movement. In the first reading, it is the movement of a journey; in the second reading, the movement of building the Church; in the third, in the Gospel, the movement involved in professing the faith. Journeying, building, professing.

Journeying. "O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord" (Is 2:5). This is the first thing that God said to Abraham: Walk in my presence and live blamelessly. Journeying: our life is a journey, and when we stop moving, things go wrong. Always journeying, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with the blamelessness that God asked of Abraham in his promise.

Building. Building the Church. We speak of stones: stones are solid; but living stones, stones anointed by the Holy Spirit. Building the Church, the Bride of Christ, on the cornerstone that is the Lord himself. This is another kind of movement in our lives: building.

Thirdly, professing. We can walk as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord. When we are not walking, we stop moving. When we are not building on the stones, what happens? The same thing that happens to children on the beach when they build sandcastles: everything is swept away, there is no solidity. When we do not profess Jesus Christ, the saying of Léon Bloy comes to mind: "Anyone who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil." When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil, a demonic worldliness.

Journeying, building, professing. But things are not so straightforward, because in journeying, building, professing, there can sometimes be jolts, movements that are not properly part of the journey: movements that pull us back.

This Gospel continues with a situation of a particular kind. The same Peter who professed Jesus Christ, now says to him: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. That has nothing to do with it. I will follow you on other terms, but without the Cross. When we journey without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly: we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

My wish is that all of us, after these days of grace, will have the courage, yes, the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Lord’s Cross; to build the Church on the Lord’s blood which was poured out on the Cross; and to profess the one glory: Christ crucified. And in this way, the Church will go forward.

My prayer for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother, will grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ crucified. Amen.




Pope Francis - Confirmation 01.12.13

In the First Reading we heard the Prophet Isaiah speak to us about a journey, and he says that in the latter days, at the end of the journey, the mountain of the Lord’s Temple shall be established as the highest mountain. He says this to tell us that our life is a journey: we must go on this journey to arrive at the mountain of the Lord, to encounter Jesus. The most important thing that can happen to a person is to meet Jesus: this encounter with Jesus who loves us, who has saved us, who has given his life for us. Encounter Jesus. And we are journeying in order to meet Jesus.

We could ask ourselves this question: But when do I meet Jesus? Only at the end? No, no! We meet him every day. How? In prayer, when you pray, you meet Jesus. When you receive Communion, you meet Jesus in the Sacraments. When you bring your child to be baptized, you meet Jesus, you find Jesus. And today, you who are receiving
Confirmation, you too will encounter Jesus; then you will meet him in Communion. “And then, Father, after Confirmation, goodbye?”, because they say that Confirmation is called “the sacrament of goodbye”. Is this true or not? After Confirmation you never go back to Church: true or false? … so, so! However, after Confirmation even, our whole life is an encounter with Jesus: in prayer, when we go to Mass, and when we do good works, when we visit the sick, when we help the poor, when we think of others, when we are not selfish, when we are loving... in these things we always meet Jesus. And the journey of life is precisely this: journeying in order to meet Jesus.

And today, it is also a joy for me to come and visit you, because today in the Mass we shall all meet Jesus, and we will walk a portion of the journey together.

Always remember this: life is a journey. It is a path, a journey to meet Jesus. At the end, and forever. A journey in which we do not encounter Jesus is not a Christian journey. It is for the Christian to continually encounter Jesus, to watch him, to let himself be watched over by Jesus, because Jesus watches us with love; he loves us so much, he loves us so much and he is always watching over us. To encounter Jesus also means allowing oneself to be gazed upon by him. “But, Father, you know,” one of you might say to me, “you know that this journey is horrible for me, I am such a sinner, I have committed many sins... how can I encounter Jesus?”. And you know that the people whom Jesus most sought out were the greatest sinners; and they reproached him for this, and the people — those who believed themselves righteous — would say: this is no true prophet, look what lovely company he keeps! He was with sinners... And he said: I came for those in need of salvation, in need of healing. Jesus heals our sins. And along the way Jesus comes and forgives us — all of us sinners, we are all sinners — even when we make a mistake, when we commit a sin, when we sin. And this forgiveness that we receive in Confession is an encounter with Jesus. We always encounter Jesus.

So let us go forward in life like this, as the Prophet says, to the mountain, until the day when we shall attain the final encounter, when we will be able to look upon the beautiful gaze of Jesus, it is so beautiful. This is the Christian life: to walk, to go forward, united as brothers and sisters, loving one another. Encounter Jesus. Do you agree, the nine of you? Do you want to meet Jesus in your lives? Yes? This is important in the Christian life. Today, with the seal of the Holy Spirit, you will have greater strength for the journey, for the encounter with Jesus. Take courage, do not be afraid! Life is this journey. And the most beautiful gift is to meet Jesus. Go forward, be brave!

And now, let us proceed with the Sacrament of Confirmation.




Pope Francis         06.01.15   Angelus, St Peter's Square         Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord Year B           Matthew 2: 1-12   


Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning! Happy Feast Day!


On Christmas Eve we meditated on the hastening of several shepherds of the people of Israel to the grotto of Bethlehem; today, the Solemnity of the Epiphany, we remember the arrival of the Magi, who came from the Orient to adore the new-born King of the Jews and Universal Saviour and to offer Him symbolic gifts. With their act of adoration, the Magi bear witness that Jesus has come to earth to save not one people alone but all peoples. Therefore, on today’s feast our gaze broadens to the horizons of the whole world in order to celebrate the “manifestation” of the Lord to all peoples, which is the manifestation of the love and universal salvation of God. He does not reserve his love to the privileged few, but offers it to all.

As the Creator and Father is of all people, so the Saviour wants to be for all people. That is why we are called to always nourish great faith and hope for every person and his or her salvation: even those who seem far from the Lord are followed — or better yet “chased” — by his passionate love, by his faithful and also humble love. For God’s love is humble, very humble!

The Gospel account of the Magi describes their journey from the East as a journey of the spirit, as a journey toward the encounter with Christ. They are attentive to signs that indicate his presence; they are tireless in facing the trials of the search; they are courageous in deducing the implications for life that derive from encounter with the Lord. This is life: Christian life is a journey, but being attentive, tireless and courageous. A Christian journeys like this. Journey attentively, tirelessly, courageously. The experience of the Magi evokes the journey of every man and woman towards Christ. As for the Magi, so for us, to seek God means to journey — and as I said: attentive, tireless and courageous — focused on the sky and discerning in the visible sign of the star the invisible God who speaks to our hearts. The star that is able to lead every man to Jesus is the Word of God, the Word that is in the Bible, in the Gospels. The Word of God is the light that guides our journey, nourishes our faith and regenerates it. It is the Word of God that continually renews our hearts and our communities. Therefore, let us not forget to read it and meditate upon it every day, so that it may become for each like a flame that we bear inside us to illuminate our steps, as well as those of others who journey beside us, who are perhaps struggling to find the path to Christ. Always with the Word of God! The Word of God carried in your hand: a little Gospel in your pocket, purse, always to be read. Do not forget this: always with me, the Word of God!

On this day of Epiphany, our thoughts turn also to our brothers and sisters of the Christian East, Catholics and Orthodox, many of whom are celebrating the Birth of the Lord tomorrow. May our warmest wishes reach them.

I would like to recall, then, that today we celebrate Children’s mission Day. It is the feast dedicated to children who joyfully live the gift of faith and pray for the light of Jesus to reach all the children of the world. I encourage teachers to cultivate the missionary spirit in the little ones. May they not be closed but open children and young people. May they see a great horizon, may their hearts move toward this horizon, in order that witnesses of God’s tenderness and heralds of the Gospel might arise among them. Now let us turn to the Virgin Mary and invoke her protection on the Universal Church, in order that the Gospel of Christ, the light of nations, the light of all peoples, might be spread through the entire world. And may she make us increasingly embrace the journey; may she make us journey and be attentive, untiring and courageous on that path.




Pope Francis       02.03.17    Holy Mass  Santa Marta        Deuteronomy 30: 15-20,      Matthew 4: 17,      Luke 9: 22-25

The “compass of a Christian is to follow Christ Crucified”: not a false, “disembodied and abstract” God, but the God who became flesh and brings unto himself “the wounds of our brothers”.

The word, the exhortation of the Church from the very beginning of Lent is ‘repent’, Matthew (4:17): “repent, says the Lord”.

So today the Liturgy of the Word makes us reflect on three realities that lie before us as conditions for this conversion: the reality of man — the reality of life; the reality of God; and the reality of the journey. These are realities of the human experience, all three, but which the Church, and we too, have before us for this conversion.

The first reality, therefore, is “the reality of man: you are faced with a choice”, Deuteronomy (30:15-20) : “See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil”. We men are faced with this reality: either it is
good, or it is evil.... But if your heart turns away and if you do not listen and allow yourself to be drawn in to worshipping other gods”, you will walk the path of evil. And this, we perceive in our lives: we can always choose either good or evil; this is the reality of human freedom. God made us free; the choice is ours. But the Lord does not leave us on our own; he teaches us, admonishes us: ‘be careful, there is good and evil’. Worshipping God, fulfilling the commandments is the way of goodness; going the other way, the way of idols, false gods — so many false gods — they make a mess of life. And this is a reality: the reality of man is that we are all faced with good and evil.

Then, there is another reality, the second powerful reality: the reality of God. Yes, God is there, but how is God there? God made himself Christ: this is the reality and it was difficult for the disciples to understand this. Luke (9:22-25): Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised’. Thus God took up all of human reality, minus the sin: there is no God without Christ. A God ‘disembodied’, without Christ, is not a real God”. In fact, the reality of God is God-made-Christ for us, for our salvation, and when we distance ourselves from this, from this reality, and we distance ourselves from the Cross of Christ, from the truth of the Lord’s wounds, we also distance ourselves from God’s love, from his mercy, from salvation and we follow a distant ideological path of God: it is not God who came to us and who came close to save us and who died for us.

This, is the reality of God. God revealed in Christ: there is no God without Christ. I can think of a dialogue by a French writer of the last century, a conversation between an agnostic and a believer. The well-meaning agnostic asked the believer: ‘But how can I ... for me, the question is: how is it that Christ is God? I cannot understand this, how is it that Christ is God?’. And the believer said: ‘For me this is not a problem, the problem would be if God had not made himself Christ’.

Therefore, this is the reality of God: God-made-Christ; God-made-flesh; and this is the foundation of the works of mercy, because the wounds of our brothers are the wounds of Christ; they are the wounds of God, because God made himself Christ. We cannot experience Lent without this second reality: we must convert ourselves not to an abstract God, but to a concrete God who became Christ.

Here, then, is the reality of man: we are faced with good and evil — the reality of God — God-made-Christ — and the third human reality, the reality of the journey. The question to ask then is, “‘how do we go, which road do we take?’”.  “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”. Because,  the reality of the journey is that of Christ: following Christ, doing the will of the Father, as he did, by taking up the daily crosses and denying ourself in order to follow Christ. This means “not doing what I want, but what Jesus wants: following Jesus”. And Jesus says “that on this path we lose our life so as to regain it afterwards; it is a continuous loss of life, the loss of ‘doing what I want’, the loss of material comforts, of always being on the path of Jesus, who was in service to others, to the adoration of God: that is the just path.

These, are the three realities: the human reality — of man, of life, of man faced with good and evil; the reality of God — God who made himself Christ, and we cannot worship a God who is not Christ, because this is the reality. There is also the reality of the journey — the only sure way is to follow Christ Crucified, the scandal of the Cross. And these three human realities are a Christian’s compass, with these three road signs, which are realities, we will not take the wrong path. 

‘Repent,’ says the Lord; that is, take seriously these realities of the human experience: the reality of life, the reality of God and the reality of the journey.




Pope Francis        06.01.18  Holy Mass, Vatican Basilica        Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord Year B          Matthew 2: 1-12

Pope Francis  Epiphany Mass 06.01.2018

Three actions of the Magi guide our journey towards the Lord, who today is revealed as light and salvation for all peoples. The Magi see the star, they set out and they bring gifts.

Seeing the star. This is where it starts. But why, we might ask, did the Magi alone see the star? Perhaps because few people raised their eyes to heaven. We often make do with looking at the ground: it’s enough to have our health, a little money and a bit of entertainment. I wonder if we still know how to look up at the sky. Do we know how to dream, to long for God, to expect the newness he brings, or do we let ourselves be swept along by life, like dry branches before the wind? The Magi were not content with just getting by, with keeping afloat. They understood that to truly live, we need a lofty goal and we need to keep looking up.

Yet we can also ask why, among all those who looked up at the heavens, so many others did not follow that star, “his star” (Mt 2:2). Perhaps because the star was not eye-catching, did not shine any brighter than other stars. It was a star – so the Gospel tells us – that the Magi saw “at its rising” (vv. 2, 9). Jesus’ star does not dazzle or overwhelm, but gently invites. We may ask ourselves what star we have chosen to follow in our lives. Some stars may be bright, but they do not point the way. So it is with success, money, career, honours and pleasures when these become our life. They are meteors: they blaze momentarily, but then quickly burn out and their brilliance fades. They are shooting stars that mislead rather than lead. The Lord’s star, however, may not always overwhelm by its brightness, but it is always there, ever kindly: it takes you by the hand in life and accompanies you. It does not promise material reward, but ensures peace and grants, as it did to the Magi, “exceedingly great joy” (Mt 2:10). But it also tells us to set out.

Setting out, the second thing the Magi do, is essential if we are to find Jesus. His star demands a decision to take up the journey and to advance tirelessly on our way. It demands that we free ourselves from useless burdens and unnecessary extras that only prove a hindrance, and accept unforeseen obstacles along the map of life. Jesus allows himself to be found by those who seek him, but to find him we need to get up and go, not sit around but take risks, not stand still, but set out. Jesus makes demands: he tells those who seek him to leave behind the armchair of worldly comforts and the reassuring warmth of hearth and home. Following Jesus is not a polite etiquette to be observed, but a journey to be undertaken. God, who set his people free in the exodus and called new peoples to follow his star, grants freedom and joy always and only in the course of a journey. In other words, if we want to find Jesus, we have to overcome our fear of taking risks, our self-satisfaction and our indolent refusal to ask anything more of life. We need to take risks simply to meet a Child. Yet those risks are immensely worth the effort, since in finding that Child, in discovering his tenderness and love, we rediscover ourselves.

Setting out is not easy. The Gospel shows us this through a cast of characters. There is Herod, wild with fear that the birth of a king will threaten his power. So he organizes meetings and sends people out to gather information, yet he himself does not budge; he stays locked up in his palace. Even “all Jerusalem” (v. 3) is afraid: afraid of the new things God is bringing about. They want everything to remain as it was – that is the way it has always been – no one has the courage to leave. The temptation of the priests and scribes is more subtle: they know the exact place and tell it to Herod, quoting the ancient prophecy. They know, but they themselves make no move towards Bethlehem. Theirs can be the temptation of those who are used to being believers: they can talk at length about the faith they know so well, but will not take a personal risk for the Lord. They talk, but do not pray; they complain, but do no good. The Magi, on the other hand, talk little and journey much. Ignorant of the truths of faith, they are filled with longing and set out. So the Gospel tells us: They “came to worship him” (v. 2); “they set out; they went in, and fell down and worshiped him; they went back” (vv. 9, 11, 12). They kept moving.

Bringing gifts. Having come to Jesus after a long journey, the Magi do as he does: they bring gifts. Jesus is there to give his life; they offer him their own costly gifts: gold, incense and myrrh. The Gospel becomes real when the journey of life ends in giving. To give freely, for the Lord’s sake, without expecting anything in return: this is the sure sign that we have found Jesus. For he says: “The gift you have received, give freely as a gift” (Mt 10:8). To do good without counting the cost, even when unasked, even when you gain nothing thereby, even if it is unpleasant. That is what God wants. He, who become small for our sake, asks us to offer something for the least of his brothers and sisters. Who are they? They are those who have nothing to give in return, the needy, the hungry, the stranger, the prisoner, the poor (cf. Mt 25:31-46). We give a gift pleasing to Jesus when we care for a sick person, spend time with a difficult person, help someone for the sake of helping, or forgive someone who has hurt us. These are gifts freely given, and they cannot be lacking in the lives of Christians. Jesus reminds us that if we only love those who love us, we do as the pagans do (cf. Mt 5:46-47). Today let us look at our hands, so often empty of love, and let us try to think of some free gift that we can give without expecting anything in return. That will please the Lord. And let us ask him: “Lord, let me rediscover the joy of giving”.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us imitate the Magi: looking upwards, setting out, and freely offering our gifts.





Pope Francis          14.01.18  Angelus, St Peter's Square      2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B       John 1: 35-42


Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Pope Francis - the Journey of Faith - Angelus 14.01.2018


As in the Feast of the Epiphany and in that of the Baptism of Jesus, so too today’s Gospel passage (cf. Jn 1:35-42) proposes the theme of the manifestation of the Lord. This time it is John the Baptist who points Him out to his disciples as “the Lamb of God” (v. 36), thus inviting them to follow Him. And thus it is for us: the One whom we have contemplated in the Mystery of Christmas, we are now called to follow in daily life. Therefore, today’s Gospel passage introduces us perfectly into Ordinary Liturgical Time, a time that helps to invigorate and affirm our journey of faith in ordinary life, in a dynamic that moves between epiphany and sequela, between manifestation and vocation.

The Gospel narrative indicates the essential characteristics of the journey of faith. There is a journey of faith, and this is the journey of the disciples of all times, ours too, beginning with the question that Jesus asks the two who, urged by the Baptist, set out to follow Him: “What do you seek?” (v. 38). It is the same question that the Risen One asks Mary Magdalene on Easter morning: “Woman, whom do you seek?” (cf. Jn 20:15). Each of us, as a human being, is seeking: seeking happiness, seeking love, a good and full life. God the Father has given us all this in his Son Jesus.

In this search, the role of a true witness — of a person who first made the journey and encountered the Lord — is fundamental. In the Gospel, John the Baptist is this witness. For this reason he is able to direct the disciples toward Jesus, who engages them in a new experience, saying: “Come and see” (Jn 1:39). And those two [disciples] will never forget the beauty of that encounter, to the extent that the Evangelist even notes the time of it: “It was about the tenth hour” (ibid.). Only a personal encounter with Jesus engenders a journey of faith and of discipleship. We will be able to experience many things, to accomplish many things, to establish relationships with many people, but only the appointment with Jesus, at that hour that God knows, can give full meaning to our life and render our plans and our initiatives fruitful.

It is not enough to build an image of God based on the words that are heard; one must go in search of the divine Master and go to where he lives. The two disciples ask Jesus, “where are you staying?” (v. 38). This question has a powerful spiritual meaning: it expresses the wish to know where the Lord lives, so as to abide with him. The life of faith consists in the wish to abide in the Lord, and thus in a continuing search for the place where he lives. This means that we are called to surpass a methodical and predictable religiosity, rekindling the encounter with Jesus in prayer, in meditating on the Word of God and in practicing the Sacraments, in order to abide with him and bear fruit thanks to him, to his help, to his grace.

Seeking Jesus, encountering Jesus, following Jesus: this is the journey. Seeking Jesus, encountering Jesus, following Jesus.

May the Virgin Mary support us in this prospect of following Jesus, of going to abide where he lives, in order to listen to his Word of life, to adhere to him who takes away the sin of the world, to recover in him hope and spiritual impulse.





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Pope Francis   13.10.19 Holy Mass and Canonization of the Blesseds, St Peter's Square   28th Sunday of Ordinary Time  Year C     Luke 17: 11-19

Pope Francis  13.10.19

“Your faith has saved you” (Lk 17:19). This is the climax of today’s Gospel, which reflects the journey of faith. There are three steps in this journey of faith. We see them in the actions of the lepers whom Jesus heals. They cry out, they walk and they give thanks.

First, they
cry out. The lepers were in a dreadful situation, not only because of a disease that, widespread even today, needs to be battled with unremitting effort, but also because of their exclusion from society. At the time of Jesus, lepers were considered unclean and, as such, had to be isolated and kept apart (cf. Lev 13:46). We see that when they approach Jesus, they “kept their distance” (Lk 17:12). Even though their condition kept them apart, the Gospel tells us that they “called out” (v. 13) and pleaded with Jesus. They did not let themselves be paralyzed because they were shunned by society; they cried out to God, who excludes no one. We see how distances are shortened, how loneliness is overcome: by not closing in on ourselves and our own problems, by not thinking about how others judge us, but rather by crying out to the Lord, for the Lord hears the cry of those who find themselves alone.

Like those lepers, we too need healing, each one of us. We need to be healed of our lack of confidence in ourselves, in life, in the future; we need to be healed of our fears and the vices that enslave us, of our introversion, our addictions and our attachment to games, money, television, mobile phones, to what other people think. The Lord sets our hearts free and heals them if only we ask him, only if we say to him: “Lord, I believe you can heal me. Dear Jesus, heal me from being caught up in myself. Free me from evil and fear”. The lepers are the first people, in this Gospel, who called on the name of Jesus. Later, a blind man and a crucified thief would do so: all of them needy people calling on the name of Jesus, which means: “God saves”. They call God by name, directly and spontaneously. To call someone by name is a sign of confidence, and it pleases the Lord. That is how faith grows, through confident, trusting
prayer. Prayer in which we bring to Jesus who we really are, with open hearts, without attempting to mask our sufferings. Each day, let us invoke with confidence the name of Jesus: “God saves”. Let us repeat it: that is prayer, to say “Jesus“ is to pray. And prayer is essential! Indeed, prayer is the door of faith; prayer is medicine for the heart.

The second word is to walk. It is the second stage. In today’s brief Gospel, there are several verbs of motion. It is quite striking is that the lepers are not healed as they stand before Jesus; it is only afterwards, as they were walking. The Gospel tells us that: “As they went, they were made clean” (v. 14). They were healed by going up to Jerusalem, that is, while walking uphill. On
the journey of life, purification takes place along the way, a way that is often uphill since it leads to the heights. Faith calls for journey, a “going out” from ourselves, and it can work wonders if we abandon our comforting certainties, if we leave our safe harbours and our cosy nests. Faith increases by giving, and grows by taking risks. Faith advances when we make our way equipped with trust in God. Faith advances with humble and practical steps, like the steps of the lepers or those of Naaman who went down to bathe in the river Jordan (cf. 2 Kings 5:14-17). The same is true for us. We advance in faith by showing humble and practical love, exercising patience each day, and praying constantly to Jesus as we keep pressing forward on our way.

There is a further interesting aspect to the journey of the lepers: they move together. The Gospel tells us that, “as they went, they were made clean” (v. 14). The verbs are in the plural. Faith means also walking together, never alone. Once healed, however, nine of them go off on their own way, and only one turns back to offer thanks. Jesus then expresses his astonishment: “The others, where are they?” (v. 17). It is as if he asks the only one who returned to account for the other nine. It is the task of us, who celebrate the Eucharist as an act of thanksgiving, to take care of those who have stopped walking, those who have lost their way. We are called to be guardians of our distant brothers and sisters, all of us! We are to intercede for them; we are responsible for them, to account for them, to keep them close to heart. Do you want to grow in faith? You, who are here today, do you want to grow in faith? Then take care of a distant brother, a faraway sister.

To cry out. To walk. And to
give thanks. This is the final step. Only to the one who thanked him did Jesus say: “Your faith has saved you” (v. 19). It made you both safe, and sound. We see from this that the ultimate goal is not health or wellness, but the encounter with Jesus. Salvation is not drinking a glass of water to keep fit; it is going to the source, which is Jesus. He alone frees us from evil and heals our hearts. Only an encounter with him can save, can make life full and beautiful. Whenever we meet Jesus, the word “thanks” comes immediately to our lips, because we have discovered the most important thing in life, which is not to receive a grace or resolve a problem, but to embrace the Lord of life. And this is the most important thing in life: to embrace the Lord of life.

It is impressive to see how the man who was healed, a Samaritan, expresses his joy with his entire being: he praises God in a loud voice, he prostrates himself, and he gives thanks (cf. vv. 15-16). The culmination of the journey of faith is to live a life of continual thanksgiving. Let us ask ourselves: do we, as people of faith, live each day as a burden, or as an act of praise? Are we closed in on ourselves, waiting to ask another blessing, or do we find our joy in giving thanks? When we express our gratitude, the Father’s heart is moved and he pours out the Holy Spirit upon us. To give thanks is not a question of good manners or etiquette; it is a question of faith. A grateful heart is one that remains young. To say “Thank you, Lord” when we wake up, throughout the day and before going to bed: that is the best way to keep our hearts young, because hearts can grow old and be spoilt. This also holds true for families, and between spouses. Remember to say thank you. Those words are the simplest and most effective of all.

To cry out. To walk. To give thanks. Today we give thanks to the Lord for our new
Saints. They walked by faith and now we invoke their intercession. Three of them were religious women; they show us that the consecrated life is a journey of love at the existential peripheries of the world. Saint Marguerite Bays, on the other hand, was a seamstress; she speaks to us of the power of simple prayer, enduring patience and silent self-giving. That is how the Lord made the splendour of Easter radiate in her life, in her humbleness. Such is the holiness of daily life, which Saint John Henry Newman described in these words: “The Christian has a deep, silent, hidden peace, which the world sees not... The Christian is cheerful, easy, kind, gentle, courteous, candid, unassuming; has no pretence... with so little that is unusual or striking in his bearing, that he may easily be taken at first sight for an ordinary man” (Parochial and Plain Sermons, V, 5).

Let us ask to be like that, “kindly lights” amid the encircling gloom. Jesus, “stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as Thou shinest: so to shine as to be a light to others” (Meditations on Christian Doctrine, VII, 3). Amen.





Pope Francis       06.01.21  Holy Mass, Vatican Basilica       Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord Year B       Isaiah 60: 1-6,         Matthew 2: 1-12

Pope Francis Epiphany Mass about Worship 06.01.2021

The Evangelist Matthew tells us that the Magi, when they came to Bethlehem, “saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him” (Mt 2:11). Worshiping the Lord is not easy; it does not just happen. It requires a certain spiritual maturity and is the fruit of an at times lengthy interior journey. Worshiping God is not something we do spontaneously. True, human beings have a need to worship, but we can risk missing the goal. Indeed, if we do not worship God, we will worship idols – there is no middle way, it is either God or idols; or, to use the words of a French writer: “Whoever does not worship God, worships the devil” – and instead of becoming believers, we will become idolaters. That's the way it is, either one or the other.

In our day, it is particularly necessary for us, both as individuals and as communities, to devote more time to worship. We need to learn ever better how to contemplate the Lord. We have somewhat lost the meaning of the prayer of adoration, so we must take it up again, both in our communities and in our own spiritual life. Today, then, let us learn a few useful lessons from the Magi. Like them, we want to fall down and worship the Lord. To worship him seriously, not as Herod said: “Let me know where the place is and I will go to worship him”. No, that worship is not good. Ours must be serious!

The Liturgy of the Word offers us three phrases that can help us to understand more fully what it means to be worshipers of the Lord. They are: “to lift up our eyes”, “to set out on a journey” and “to see”. These three phrases can help us to understand what it means to be a worshiper of the Lord.

The first phrase, to lift up our eyes, comes to us from the prophet Isaiah. To the community of Jerusalem, recently returned from exile and disheartened by great challenges and hardships, the prophet addresses these powerful words of encouragement: “Lift up your eyes and look around” (60:4). He urges them to lay aside their weariness and complaints, to escape the bottleneck of a narrow way of seeing things, to cast off the dictatorship of the self, the constant temptation to withdraw into ourselves and our own concerns. To worship the Lord, we first have to “lift up our eyes”. In other words, not to let ourselves be imprisoned by those imaginary spectres that stifle hope, not to make our problems and difficulties the centre of our lives. This does not mean denying reality, or deluding ourselves into thinking that all is well. On the contrary, it is a matter of viewing problems and anxieties in a new way, knowing that the Lord is aware of our troubles, attentive to our prayers and not indifferent to the tears we shed.

This way of seeing things, which despite everything continues to trust in the Lord, gives rise to filial gratitude. When this happens, our hearts become open to worship. On the other hand, when we focus exclusively on problems, and refuse to lift up our eyes to God, fear and confusion creep into our hearts, giving rise to anger, bewilderment, anxiety and depression. Then it becomes difficult to worship the Lord. Once this happens, we need to find the courage to break out of the circle of our foregone conclusions and to recognize that reality is much greater than we imagine. Lift up your eyes, look around and see. The Lord asks us first to trust in him, because he truly cares for everyone. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he provide for us? (cf. Lk 12:28). If we lift up our eyes to the Lord, and consider all things in his light, we will see that he never abandons us. The Word became flesh (cf. Jn 1:14) and remains with us always, for all time (cf. Mt 28:20). Always.

When we lift up our eyes to God, life’s problems do not go away, no; instead we feel certain that the Lord grants us the strength to deal with them. The first step towards an attitude of worship, then, is to “lift up our eyes”. Our worship is that of disciples who have found in God a new and unexpected joy. Worldly joy is based on wealth, success or similar things, always with ourselves at the centre. The joy of Christ’s disciples, on the other hand, is based on the fidelity of God, whose promises never fail, whatever the crises we may face. Filial gratitude and joy awaken within us a desire to worship the Lord, who remains ever faithful and never abandons us.

The second helpful phrase is to set out on a journey. Before they could worship the Child in Bethlehem, the Magi had to undertake a lengthy journey. Matthew tells us that in those days “wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying: ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him’” (Mt 2:1-2). A journey always involves a transformation, a change. After a journey, we are no longer the same. There is always something new about those who have made a journey: they have learned new things, encountered new people and situations, and found inner strength amid the hardships and risks they met along the way. No one worships the Lord without first experiencing the interior growth that comes from embarking on a journey.

We become worshipers of the Lord through a gradual process. Experience teaches us, for example, that at fifty we worship differently than we did at thirty. Those who let themselves be shaped by grace usually improve with time: on the outside, we grow older – so Saint Paul tells us – while our inner nature is being renewed each day (cf. 2 Cor 4:16), as we grow in our understanding of how best to worship the Lord. From this point of view, our failures, crises and mistakes can become learning experiences: often they can help us to be more aware that the Lord alone is worthy of our worship, for only he can satisfy our innermost desire for life and eternity. With the passage of time, life’s trials and difficulties – experienced in faith – help to purify our hearts, making them humbler and thus more and more open to God. Even our sins, the awareness of being sinners, of experiencing such bad things. “But I did this... I did...”: if you approach it with faith and repentance, with contrition, it will help you to grow. Paul says that everything can help us to grow spiritually, to encounter Jesus, even our sins. And Saint Thomas adds: “etiam mortalia”, even the bad sins, the worst. But if you respond with repentance it will help you on this journey towards encountering the Lord and to worship him better.

Like the Magi, we too must allow ourselves to learn from the journey of life, marked by the inevitable inconveniences of travel. We cannot let our weariness, our falls and our failings discourage us. Instead, by humbly acknowledging them, we should make them opportunities to progress towards the Lord Jesus. Life is not about showing off our abilities, but a journey towards the One who loves us. We are not to show off our virtues in every step of our life; rather, with humility we should journey towards the Lord. By keeping our gaze fixed on the Lord, we will find the strength needed to persevere with renewed joy.

And so we come to the third phrase: to see. To lift up our eyes; to set out on a journey; to see. The Evangelist tells us that, “going into the house they saw the child with Mary, his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him” (Mt 2:10-11). Worshiping was an act of homage reserved for sovereigns and high dignitaries. The Magi worshiped the One they knew was the king of the Jews (cf. Mt 2:2). But what did they actually see? They saw a poor child and his mother. Yet these wise men from far-off lands were able to look beyond those lowly surroundings and recognize in that Child a royal presence. They were able to “see” beyond appearances. Falling to their knees before the Babe of Bethlehem, they expressed a worship that was above all interior: the opening of the treasures they had brought as gifts symbolized the offering of their own hearts.

To worship the Lord we need to “see” beyond the veil of things visible, which often prove deceptive. Herod and the leading citizens of Jerusalem represent a worldliness enslaved to appearances and immediate attractions. They see, yet they cannot see. It is not that they do not believe, no; it is that they do not know how to see because they are slaves to appearances and seek what is attractive. They value only the sensational, the things that capture the attention of the masses. In the Magi, however, we see a very different approach, one we can define as theological realism – a very “high” word, yet helpful – a way of perceiving the objective reality of things and leads to the realization that God shuns all ostentation. The Lord is in humility, he is like that humble child, who shuns that ostentation which is precisely the product of worldliness. A way of “seeing” that transcends the visible and makes it possible for us to worship the Lord who is often hidden in everyday situations, in the poor and those on the fringes. A way of seeing things that is not impressed by sound and fury, but seeks in every situation the things that truly matter, and that seeks the Lord. With Saint Paul, then, let us “look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor 4:18).

May the Lord Jesus make us true worshipers, capable of showing by our lives his loving plan for all humanity. Let us ask for the grace for each of us and for the whole Church, to learn to worship, to continue to worship, to exercise this prayer of adoration often, because only God is to be adored.