Lazarus


 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time  Year C 

1. “Woe to the complacent in Zion, to those who feel secure … lying upon beds of ivory!” (Am 6:1,4). They eat, they drink, they sing, they play and they care nothing about other people’s troubles.

https://sites.google.com/site/francishomilies/material-things/29.09.13.jpg

These are harsh words which the prophet Amos speaks, yet they warn us about a danger that all of us face. What is it that this messenger of God denounces; what does he want his contemporaries, and ourselves today, to realize? The danger of complacency, comfort, worldliness in our lifestyles and in our hearts, of making our well-being the most important thing in our lives. This was the case of the rich man in the Gospel, who dressed in fine garments and daily indulged in sumptuous banquets; this was what was important for him. And the poor man at his doorstep who had nothing to relieve his hunger? That was none of his business, it didn’t concern him. Whenever material things, money, worldliness, become the centre of our lives, they take hold of us, they possess us; we lose our very identity as human beings. Think of it: the rich man in the Gospel has no name, he is simply “a rich man”. Material things, his possessions, are his face; he has nothing else.

Let’s try to think: How does something like this happen? How do some people, perhaps ourselves included, end up becoming self-absorbed and finding security in material things which ultimately rob us of our face, our human face? This is what happens when we become complacent, when we no longer remember God. “Woe to the complacent in Zion”, says the prophet. If we don’t think about God, everything ends up flat, everything ends up being about “me” and my own comfort. Life, the world, other people, all of these become unreal, they no longer matter, everything boils down to one thing: having. When we no longer remember God, we too become unreal, we too become empty; like the rich man in the Gospel, we no longer have a face! Those who run after nothing become nothing – as another great prophet Jeremiah, observed (cf. Jer 2:5). We are made in God’s image and likeness, not the image and likeness of material objects, of idols!

2. So, as I look out at you, I think: Who are catechists? They are people who keep the memory of God alive; they keep it alive in themselves and they are able to revive it in others. This is something beautiful: to remember God, like the Virgin Mary, who sees God’s wondrous works in her life but doesn’t think about honour, prestige or wealth; she doesn’t become self-absorbed. Instead, after receiving the message of the angel and conceiving the Son of God, what does she do? She sets out, she goes to assist her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth, who was also pregnant. And the first thing she does upon meeting Elizabeth is to recall God’s work, God’s fidelity, in her own life, in the history of her people, in our history: “My soul magnifies the Lord … For he has looked on the lowliness of his servant … His mercy is from generation to generation” (Lk 1:46, 48, 50). Mary remembers God.

This canticle of Mary also contains the remembrance of her personal history, God’s history with her, her own experience of faith. And this is true too for each one of us and for every Christian: faith contains our own memory of God’s history with us, the memory of our encountering God who always takes the first step, who creates, saves and transforms us. Faith is remembrance of his word which warms our heart, and of his saving work which gives life, purifies us, cares for and nourishes us. A catechist is a Christian who puts this remembrance at the service of proclamation, not to seem important, not to talk about himself or herself, but to talk about God, about his love and his fidelity. To talk about and to pass down all that God has revealed, his teaching in its totality, neither trimming it down nor adding on to it.

Saint Paul recommends one thing in particular to his disciple and co-worker Timothy: Remember, remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, whom I proclaim and for whom I suffer (cf. 2 Tim 2:8-9). The Apostle can say this because he too remembered Christ, who called him when he was persecuting Christians, who touched him and transformed him by his grace.

The catechist, then, is a Christian who is mindful of God, who is guided by the memory of God in his or her entire life and who is able to awaken that memory in the hearts of others. This is not easy! It engages our entire existence! What is the Catechism itself, if not the memory of God, the memory of his works in history and his drawing near to us in Christ present in his word, in the sacraments, in his Church, in his love? Dear catechists, I ask you: Are we in fact the memory of God? Are we really like sentinels who awaken in others the memory of God which warms the heart?

3. “Woe to the complacent in Zion!”, says the prophet. What must we do in order not to be “complacent” – people who find their security in themselves and in material things – but men and woman of the memory of God? In the second reading, Saint Paul, once more writing to Timothy, gives some indications which can also be guideposts for us in our work as catechists: pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness (cf. 1 Tim 6:11).

Catechists are men and women of the memory of God if they have a constant, living relationship with him and with their neighbour; if they are men and women of faith who truly trust in God and put their security in him; if they are men and women of charity, love, who see others as brothers and sisters; if they are men and women of “hypomoné”, endurance and perseverance, able to face difficulties, trials and failures with serenity and hope in the Lord; if they are gentle, capable of understanding and mercy.

Let us ask the Lord that we may all be men and women who keep the memory of God alive in ourselves, and are able to awaken it in the hearts of others. Amen.




Pope Francis           05.03.15 Holy Mass Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)        Jeremiah 17: 10-15,      Luke 16: 19-31
Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

Pope Francis 05.03.15 Santa Marta

Today’s Lenten Liturgy offers us two stories, two judgements and three names. The two stories are those of the parable, narrated by Luke (16:19-31), of the rich man and of the poor man named Lazarus. In particular, the first story is that of the rich man, who was clothed in purple and the finest linen, who took good care of himself, and feasted sumptuously every day. The text, doesn’t say he was bad, but rather that he had a comfortable life, he gave himself a good life. In fact, the Gospel doesn’t say that he overindulged; instead his was a quiet life, with friends. Who knows, perhaps if he had parents, he surely sent them things so they would have the necessities of life. And maybe he was a religious man, in his way. Perhaps he recited a few prayers; and surely two or three times a year he went to the temple to make sacrifices and gave large offerings to the priests. And they, with their clerical cowardliness, thanked him and made him sit in the place of honour. This was the social lifestyle of the rich man presented by Luke.

Then there is the second story, that of Lazarus, the poor mendicant who lay at the rich man’s gate. How is it possible that this man didn’t realize that Lazarus was there, below his house, poor and starving? The wounds that the Gospel speaks of, are a symbol of the many needs he had. However, when the rich man left the house, perhaps the car he left in had darkly tinted windows so he couldn’t see out. But surely his soul, the eyes of his soul were tinted dark so he couldn’t see. And thus the rich man saw only his life and didn’t realize what was happening to Lazarus.

In the final analysis, the rich man wasn’t bad, he was sick: afflicted with worldliness. And worldliness transforms souls, makes them lose consciousness of reality: they live in an artificial world, which they create. Worldliness anaesthetizes the soul, and this is why that worldly man wasn’t able to see reality.

This is why, the second story is clear: there are so many people who conduct their lives in a difficult way but if I have a worldly heart, I will never understand this. After all, with a worldly heart it is impossible to comprehend the necessities and needs of others. With a worldly heart you can go to Church, you can pray, you can do many things. But what did Jesus pray for at the Last Supper? "Please, Father, protect these disciples" so that "they do not fall in the world, do not fall into worldliness". And worldliness is a subtle sin, it’s more than a sin: it’s a sinful state of soul.

These are the two stories presented by the Liturgy. The two judgements, instead, are a curse and a blessing. The First Reading from Jeremiah (17:5-10) reads: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm, whose heart turns away from the Lord". This, is the profile of the worldliness we saw in the rich man. And how will this man end up? Scripture defines him as "a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness" — his soul is a desert — "an uninhabited salt land". And all of this because, in truth, the worldly are alone with their selfishness. Then in the text of Jeremiah there is also a blessing: "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water", while the other "was like a shrub in the desert". This, then, is the final judgement: nothing is more treacherous for a heart and difficult to heal: that man had a sick heart, so battered by this worldly lifestyle that it was very difficult to heal.

There are the three names offered in the Gospel Reading: they are that of the poor man, Lazarus, that of Abraham, and that of Moses. Another key to understanding is that the rich man had no name, because the worldly lose their name, which is merely a feature of the well-off crowd who need nothing. On the other hand are Abraham, our father; Lazarus, a man who struggles because he is good and poor and has so much pain; and Moses, the man who gives us the law. But "the worldly have no name. They didn’t listen to Moses, because they only need extraordinary manifestations.

In the Church, everything is clear, Jesus spoke clearly: this is the way. But at the end there is a word of consolation: when that unfortunate worldly man, in torment, asks that Lazarus be sent with a bit of water to help him, Abraham, who is the figure of God the Father, responds: "Son, remember...". Thus the worldly have lost their name and we too, should we have a worldly heart, we have lost our name. However, we are not orphans. Until the very end, until the final moment, there is the assurance that we have a Father who awaits us. Let us trust in Him. And the Father turns to us, calling us ‘son’ and ‘daughter’, even in the midst of that worldliness: ‘son’. And this means that we are not orphans.

In the opening, we asked the Lord for the grace to turn our hearts toward Him, who is Father. Let us continue the celebration of Mass thinking of these two stories, of these two judgements, of the three names; but above all, of that beautiful word that will always be said until the final moment: ‘son’.



Pope Francis     25.09.16   Holy Mass, St Peter's Square, Vatican City    Mass for Catechists  26th Sunday of Ordinary Time  Year C   1 Timothy 6: 11-16Luke 16: 19-31   

Pope Francis  25.09.16 Lazarus

In the second reading the Apostle Paul offers to Timothy, but also to us, some advice which is close to his heart. Among other things, he charges him “to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach” (1 Tim 6:14). He speaks simply of a commandment. It seems that he wants to keep our attention fixed firmly on what is essential for our faith. Saint Paul, indeed, is not suggesting all sorts of different points, but is emphasizing the core of the faith. This centre around which everything revolves, this beating heart which gives life to everything is the Paschal proclamation, the first proclamation: the Lord Jesus is risen, the Lord Jesus loves you, and he has given his life for you; risen and alive, he is close to you and waits for you every day. We must never forget this. On this Jubilee for Catechists, we are being asked not to tire of keeping the key message of the faith front and centre: the Lord is risen. Nothing is more important; nothing is clearer or more relevant than this. Everything in the faith becomes beautiful when linked to this centrepiece, if it is saturated by the Paschal proclamation. If it remains in isolation, however, it loses its sense and force. We are called always to live out and proclaim the newness of the Lord’s love: “Jesus truly loves you, just as you are. Give him space: in spite of the disappointments and wounds in your life, give him the chance to love you. He will not disappoint you”.

The commandment which Saint Paul is speaking of makes us think also of Jesus’ new commandment: “that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12). It is by loving that the God-who-is-Love is proclaimed to the world: not by the power of convincing, never by imposing the truth, no less by growing fixated on some religious or moral obligation. God is proclaimed through the encounter between persons, with care for their history and their journey. Because the Lord is not an idea, but a living person: his message is passed on through simple and authentic testimony, by listening and welcoming, with joy which radiates outward. We do not speak convincingly about Jesus when we are sad; nor do we transmit God’s beauty merely with beautiful homilies. The God of hope is proclaimed by living out the Gospel of love in the present moment, without being afraid of testifying to it, even in new ways.
Pope Francis 25.09.16

This Sunday’s Gospel helps us understand what it means to love, and more than anything how to avoid certain risks. In the parable there is a rich man who does not notice Lazarus, a poor man who was “at his gate” (Lk 16:20). This rich man, in fact, does not do evil towards anyone; nothing says that he is a bad man. But he has a sickness much greater than Lazarus’, who was “full of sores” (ibid.): this rich man suffers from terrible blindness, because he is not able to look beyond his world, made of banquets and fine clothing. He cannot see beyond the door of his house to where Lazarus lies, because what is happening outside does not interest him. He does not see with his eyes, because he cannot feel with his heart. For into it a worldliness has entered which anaesthetizes the soul. This worldliness is like a “black hole” that swallows up what is good, which extinguishes love, because it consumes everything in its very self. And so here a person sees only outward appearances, no longer noticing others because one has become indifferent to everyone. The one who suffers from grave blindness often takes on “squinting” behaviour: he looks with adulation at famous people, of high rank, admired by the world, yet turns his gaze away from the many Lazaruses of today, from the poor, from the suffering who are the Lord’s beloved.

But the Lord looks at those who are neglected and discarded by the world. Lazarus is the only one named in all of Jesus’ parables. His name means “God helps”. God does not forget him; he will welcome him to the banquet in his kingdom, together with Abram, in communion with all who suffer. The rich man in the parable, on the other hand, does not even have a name; his life passes by forgotten, because whoever lives for himself does not write history. And a Christian must write history! He or she must go out from themselves, to write history! But whoever lives for themselves cannot write history. Today’s callousness causes chasms to be dug that can never be crossed. And we have fallen, at this time, into the sickness of indifference, selfishness and worldliness.

There is another detail in the parable, a contrast. The opulent life of this nameless man is described as being ostentatious: everything about him concerns needs and rights. Even when he is dead he insists on being helped and demands what is to his benefit. Lazarus’ poverty, however, is articulated with great dignity: from his mouth no complaints or protests or scornful words issue. This is a valuable teaching: as servants of the word of Jesus we have been called not to parade our appearances and not to seek for glory; nor can we be sad or full of complaints. We are not prophets of gloom who take delight in unearthing dangers or deviations; we are not people who become ensconced in our own surroundings, handing out bitter judgments on our society, on the Church, on everything and everyone, polluting the world with our negativity. Pitiful scepticism does not belong to whoever is close to the word of God.

Whoever proclaims the hope of Jesus carries joy and sees a great distance; such persons have the horizon open before them; there is no wall closing them in; they see a great distance because they know how to see beyond evil and beyond their problems. At the same time, they see clearly from up close, because they are attentive to their neighbour and to their neighbour’s needs. The Lord is asking this of us today: before all the Lazaruses whom we see, we are called to be disturbed, to find ways of meeting and helping, without always delegating to others or saying: “I will help you tomorrow; I have no time today, I’ll help you tomorrow”. This is a sin. The time taken to help others is time given to Jesus; it is love that remains: it is our treasure in heaven, which we earn here on earth.

And so, dear catechists, dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord give us the grace to be renewed every day by the joy of the first proclamation to us: Jesus died and is risen, Jesus loves us personally! May he give us the strength to live and proclaim the commandment of love, overcoming blindness of appearances, and worldly sadness. May he make us sensitive to the poor, who are not an afterthought in the Gospel but an important page, always open before all.




Pope Francis   29.09.19  St Peter's Square,  Holy Mass World Day for Migrants and Refugees        26th Sunday of Ordinary Time  Year C               Amos 6: 1A, 4-7,    Psalms 146; 7-10,      1 Timothy 6: 11-16,        Luke 16: 19-31
Pope Francis  29.09.19 Mass for Migrants and Refugees

Today’s Responsorial Psalm reminds us that the Lord upholds the stranger as well as the widow and the orphan among his people. The Psalmist makes explicit mention of those persons who are especially vulnerable, often forgotten and subject to oppression. The Lord has a particular concern for foreigners, widows and orphans, for they are without rights, excluded and marginalized. This is why God tells the Israelites to give them special care.

In the Book of Exodus, the Lord warns his people not to mistreat in any way widows and orphans, for he hears their cry (cf. 22:23). Deuteronomy sounds the same warning twice (cf. 24:17; 27:19), and includes strangers among this group requiring protection. The reason for that warning is explained clearly in the same book: the God of Israel is the one who “executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing” (10:18). This loving care for the less privileged is presented as a characteristic trait of the God of Israel and is likewise required, as a moral duty, of all those who would belong to his people.

That is why we must pay special attention to the strangers in our midst as well as to widows, orphans and all the outcasts of our time. In the
Message for this 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, the theme “It is not Just about Migrants” is repeated as a refrain. And rightly so: it is not only about foreigners; it is about all those in existential peripheries who, together with migrants and refugees, are victims of the throwaway culture. The Lord calls us to practise charity towards them. He calls us to restore their humanity, as well as our own, and to leave no one behind.

Along with the exercise of charity, the Lord also invites us to think about the injustices that cause exclusion – and in particular
the privileges of the few, who, in order to preserve their status, act to the detriment of the many. “Today’s world is increasingly becoming more elitist and cruel towards the excluded”: this is a painful truth; our word is daily more and more elitist, more cruel towards the excluded. “Developing countries continue to be drained of their best natural and human resources for the benefit of a few privileged markets. Wars only affect some regions of the world, yet weapons of war are produced and sold in other regions which are then unwilling to take in the refugees generated by these conflicts. Those who pay the price are always the little ones, the poor, the most vulnerable, who are prevented from sitting at the table and are left with the ‘crumbs’ of the banquet” (
Message for the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees).

It is in this context that the harsh words of the Prophet Amos proclaimed in the first reading (6:1.4-7) should be understood. Woe to those who are at ease and seek pleasure in Zion, who do not worry about the ruin of God’s people, even though it is in plain sight. They do not notice the destruction of Israel because they are too busy ensuring that they can still enjoy the good life, delicious food and fine drinks. It is striking how, twenty-eight centuries later, these warnings remain as timely as ever. For today too, the “culture of comfort… makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people… which results in indifference to others; indeed, it even leads to the globalization of indifference” (
Homily in Lampedusa, 8 July 2013).

In the end, we too risk becoming like
that rich man in the Gospel who is unconcerned for the poor man Lazarus, “covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table” (Lk 16:20-21). Too intent on buying elegant clothes and organizing lavish banquets, the rich man in the parable is blind to Lazarus’s suffering. Overly concerned with preserving our own well-being, we too risk being blind to our brothers and sisters in difficulty.
Pope Francis  29.09.19  Holy Mass for Migrants and Refugees

Yet, as Christians, we cannot be indifferent to the tragedy of old and new forms of poverty, to the bleak isolation, contempt and discrimination experienced by those who do not belong to “our” group. We cannot remain insensitive, our hearts deadened, before the misery of so many innocent people. We must not fail to weep. We must not fail to respond. Let us ask the Lord for the grace of tears, the tears that can convert our hearts before such sins.

If we want to be men and women of God, as Saint Paul urges Timothy, we must “keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tm 6:14). The commandment is to love God and love our neighbour; the two cannot be separated! Loving our neighbour as ourselves means being firmly committed to building a more just world, in which everyone has access to the goods of the earth, in which all can develop as individuals and as families, and in which fundamental rights and dignity are guaranteed to all.

Loving our neighbour means feeling compassion for the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, drawing close to them, touching their sores and sharing their stories, and thus manifesting concretely God’s tender love for them. This means being a neighbour to all those who are mistreated and abandoned on the streets of our world, soothing their wounds and bringing them to the nearest shelter, where their needs can be met.

God gave this holy commandment to his people and sealed it with the blood of his Son Jesus, to be a source of blessing for all mankind. So that all together we can work to build the human family according to his original plan, revealed in Jesus Christ: all are brothers and sisters, all are sons and daughters of the same Father.

Today we also need a mother. So we entrust to the maternal love of Mary, Our Lady of the Way, of so many painful journeys, all migrants and refugees, together with those who live on the peripheries of our world and those who have chosen to share their journey.