Lent




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   09.03.14 Angelus, St Peter's Square       1st Sunday of Lent Year A        Matthew 4: 1-11


Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Each year, the Gospel of the First Sunday of Lent sets before us the narrative of the temptation of Jesus, when the Holy Spirit, having descended upon him after his Baptism in the Jordan, prompts him to confront Satan openly in the desert for 40 days, before beginning his public ministry.

The tempter seeks to divert Jesus from the Father’s plan, that is, from the way of sacrifice, of the love that offers itself in expiation, to make him take an easier path, one of success and power. The duel between Jesus and Satan takes place through strong quotations from Sacred Scripture. The devil, in fact, to divert Jesus from the way of the cross, sets before him false messianic hopes: economic well-being, indicated by the ability to turn stones into bread; a dramatic and miraculous style, with the idea of throwing himself down from the highest point of the Temple in Jerusalem and being saved by angels; and lastly, a shortcut to power and dominion, in exchange for an act of adoration to Satan. These are the three groups of temptations: and we, too, know them well!

Jesus decisively rejects all these temptations and reiterates his firm resolve to follow the path set by the Father, without any kind of compromise with sin or worldly logic. Note well how Jesus responds. He does not dialogue with Satan, as Eve had done in the earthly paradise. Jesus is well aware that there can be no dialogue with Satan, for he is cunning. That is why Jesus, instead of engaging in dialogue as Eve had, chooses to take refuge in the Word of God and responds with the power of this Word. Let us remember this: at the moment of temptation, of our temptations, there is no arguing with Satan, our defence must always be the Word of God! And this will save us. In his replies to Satan, the Lord, using the Word of God, reminds us above all that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3); and this gives us the strength, sustains us in the struggle against a worldly mind-set that would lower man to the level of his primitive needs, causing him to lose hunger for what is true, good and beautiful, the hunger for God and for his love. Furthermore, he recalls that “it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (v. 7), for the way of faith passes also through darkness and doubt, and is nourished by patience and persevering expectation. Lastly, Jesus recalls that “it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only you shall serve’” (v. 10); i.e., we must rid ourselves of idols, of vain things, and build our lives on what is essential.

Jesus’ words will then be borne out in his actions. His absolute fidelity to the Father’s plan of love will lead him after about three years to the final reckoning with the “prince of this world” (Jn 16:11), at the hour of his Passion and Cross, and Jesus will have his final victory, the victory of love!

Dear brothers and sisters, the time of Lent is a propitious occasion for us all to make a journey of conversion, by sincerely allowing ourselves to be confronted with this passage of the Gospel. Let us renew the promises of our Baptism: let us renounce Satan and all his works and seductions — for he is a seducer — in order to follow the path of God and arrive at Easter in the joy of the Spirit (cf. Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Anno a).


Pope Francis   23.03.14 Angelus, St Peter's Square       3rd Sunday of Lent Year A      John 4: 5-42


Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!


Today’s Gospel presents Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman in Sicar, near an old well where the woman went to draw water daily. That day, she found Jesus seated, “wearied as he was with his journey” (Jn 4:6). He immediately says to her: “Give me a drink” (v. 7). In this way he overcomes the barriers of hostility that existed between Jews and Samaritans and breaks the mould of prejudice against women. This simple request from Jesus is the start of a frank dialogue, through which he enters with great delicacy into the interior world of a person to whom, according to social norms, he should not have spoken. But Jesus does! Jesus is not afraid. When Jesus sees a person he goes ahead, because he loves. He loves us all. He never hesitates before a person out of prejudice. Jesus sets her own situation before her, not by judging her but by making her feel worthy, acknowledged, and thus arousing in her the desire to go beyond the daily routine.

Jesus’ thirst was not so much for water, but for the encounter with a parched soul. Jesus needed to encounter the Samaritan woman in order to open her heart: he asks for a drink so as to bring to light her own thirst. The woman is moved by this encounter: she asks Jesus several profound questions that we all carry within but often ignore. We, too, have many questions to ask, but we don’t have the courage to ask Jesus! Lent, dear brothers and sisters, is the opportune time to look within ourselves, to understand our truest spiritual needs, and to ask the Lord’s help in prayer. The example of the Samaritan woman invites us to exclaim: “Jesus, give me a drink that will quench my thirst forever”.

The Gospel says that the disciples marvelled that their Master was speaking to this woman. But the Lord is greater than prejudice, which is why he was not afraid to address the Samaritan woman: mercy is greater than prejudice. We must learn this well! Mercy is greater than prejudice, and Jesus is so very merciful, very! The outcome of that encounter by the well was the woman’s transformation: “the woman left her water jar” (v. 28), with which she had come to draw water, and ran to the city to tell people about her extraordinary experience. “I found a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be be the Christ?” She was excited. She had gone to draw water from the well, but she found another kind of water, the living water of mercy from which gushes forth eternal life. She found the water she had always sought! She runs to the village, that village which had judged her, condemned her and rejected her, and she announces that she has met the Messiah: the one who has changed her life. Because every encounter with Jesus changes our lives, always. It is a step forward, a step closer to God. And thus every encounter with Jesus changes our life. It is always, always this way.

In this Gospel passage we likewise find the impetus to “leave behind our water jar”, the symbol of everything that is seemingly important, but loses all its value before the “love of God”. We all have one, or more than one! I ask you, and myself: “What is your interior water jar, the one that weighs you down, that distances you from God?”. Let us set it aside a little and with our hearts; let us hear the voice of Jesus offering us another kind of water, another water that brings us close to the Lord. We are called to rediscover the importance and the sense of our Christian life, initiated in Baptism and, like the Samaritan woman, to witness to our brothers. A witness of what? Joy! To witness to the joy of the encounter with Jesus; for, as I said, every encounter with Jesus changes our life, and every encounter with Jesus also fills us with joy, the joy that comes from within. And the Lord is like this. And so we must tell of the marvellous things the Lord can do in our hearts when we have the courage to set aside our own water jar.



Pope Francis   30.03.14  Angelus, St Peter's Square    4th Sunday of Lent Year A      John 9: 1-41


Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,

Today’s Gospel sets before us the story of the man born blind, to whom Jesus gives sight. The lengthy account opens with a blind man who begins to see and it closes — and this is curious — with the alleged seers who remain blind in soul. The miracle is narrated by John in just two verses, because the Evangelist does not want to draw attention to the miracle itself, but rather to what follows, to the discussions it arouses, also to the gossip. So many times a good work, a work of charity arouses gossip and discussion, because there are some who do not want to see the truth. The Evangelist John wants to draw attention to something that also occurs in our own day when a good work is performed. The blind man who is healed is first interrogated by the astonished crowd — they saw the miracle and they interrogated him —, then by the doctors of the law who also interrogate his parents. In the end the blind man who was healed attains to faith, and this is the greatest grace that Jesus grants him: not only to see, but also to know Him, to see in Him “the light of the world” (Jn 9:5).

While the blind man gradually draws near to the light, the doctors of the law on the contrary sink deeper and deeper into their inner blindness. Locked in their presumption, they believe that they already have the light, therefore, they do not open themselves to the truth of Jesus. They do everything to deny the evidence. They cast doubt on the identity of the man who was healed, they then deny God’s action in the healing, taking as an excuse that God does not work on the Sabbath; they even doubt that the man was born blind. Their closure to the light becomes aggressive and leads to the expulsion from the temple of the man who was healed.

The blind man’s journey on the contrary is a journey in stages that begins with the knowledge of Jesus’ name. He does not know anything else about him; in fact, he says: “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes” (v. 11). Following the pressing questions of the lawyers, he first considers him a prophet (v. 17) and then a man who is close to God (v. 31). Once he has been banished from the temple, expelled from society, Jesus finds him again and “opens his eyes” for the second time, by revealing his own identity to him: “I am the Messiah”, he tells him. At this point the man who had been blind exclaims: “Lord, I believe!” (v. 38), and he prostrates himself before Jesus. This is a passage of the Gospel that makes evident the drama of the inner blindness of so many people, also our own for sometimes we have moments of inner blindness.

Our lives are sometimes similar to that of the blind man who opened himself to the light, who opened himself to God, who opened himself to his grace. Sometimes unfortunately they are similar to that of the doctors of the law: from the height of our pride we judge others, and even the Lord! Today, we are invited to open ourselves to the light of Christ in order to bear fruit in our lives, to eliminate unchristian behaviours; we are all Christians but we all, everyone sometimes has unchristian behaviours, behaviours that are sins. We must repent of this, eliminate these behaviours in order to journey well along the way of holiness, which has its origin in baptism. We, too, have been “enlightened” by Christ in baptism, so that, as St Paul reminds us, we may act as “children of light” (Eph 5:8), with humility, patience and mercy. These doctors of the law had neither humility, nor patience, nor mercy!

I suggest that today, when you return home, you take the Gospel of John and read this passage from Chapter nine. It will do you good, because you will thus see this road from blindness to light and the other evil road that leads to deeper blindness. Let us ask ourselves about the state of our own heart? Do I have an open heart or a closed heart? It is opened or closed to God? Open or closed to my neighbour? We are always closed to some degree which comes from original sin, from mistakes, from errors. We need not be afraid! Let us open ourselves to the light of the Lord, he awaits us always in order to enable us to see better, to give us more light, to forgive us. Let us not forget this! Let us entrust this Lenten journey to the Virgin Mary, so that we too, like the blind man who was healed, by the grace of Christ may “come to the light”, go forward towards the light and be reborn to new life.



Pope Francis   06.04.14  Holy Mass, Roman Parish of San Gregorio Magno   5th Sunday of Lent Year A    Ezekiel 37: 12-14,    Romans 8: 8-11,    John 11: 1-45 


Today’s Three Readings speak to us about the Resurrection, they speak to us about life. This beautiful promise from the Lord: “Behold I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves” (Ez 37:12), is the promise of the Lord who possesses life and has the power to give life, that those who are dead might regain life. The Second Reading tells us that we are under the Holy Spirit and that Christ in us, his Spirit, will raise us. And in the Third Reading of the Gospel, we saw how Jesus gave life to Lazarus. Lazarus, who was dead, has returned to life.

I would simply like to say something very briefly. We all have within us some areas, some parts of our heart that are not alive, that are a little dead; and some of us have many dead places in our hearts, a true spiritual necrosis! And when we are in this situation, we know it, we want to get out but we can’t. Only the power of Jesus, the power of Jesus can help us come out of these atrophied zones of the heart, these tombs of sin, which we all have. We are all sinners! But if we become very attached to these tombs and guard them within us and do not will that our whole heart rise again to life, we become corrupted and our soul begins to give off, as Martha says, an “odour” (Jn 11:39), the stench of a person who is attached to sin. And Lent is something to do with this. Because all of us, who are sinners, do not end up attached to sin, but that we can hear what Jesus said to Lazarus: “He cried out with a loud voice: ‘Lazarus, come out’” (Jn 11:43).

Today I invite you to think for a moment, in silence, here: where is my interior necrosis? Where is the dead part of my soul? Where is my tomb? Think, for a short moment, all of you in silence. Let us think: what part of the heart can be corrupted because of my attachment to sin, one sin or another? And to remove the stone, to take away the stone of shame and allow the Lord to say to us, as he said to Lazarus: “Come out!”. That all our soul might be healed, might be raised by the love of Jesus, by the power of Jesus. He is capable of forgiving us. We all need it! All of us. We are all sinners, but we must be careful not to become corrupt! Sinners we may be, but He forgives us. Let us hear that voice of Jesus who, by the power of God, says to us: “Come out! Leave that tomb you have within you. Come out. I give you life, I give you happiness, I bless you, I want you for myself”.

May the Lord today, on this Sunday, which speaks so much about the Resurrection, give us all the grace to rise from our sins, to come out of our tombs; with the voice of Jesus, calling us to go out, to go to Him.

And another thing: on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, those who are preparing for Baptism in the Church, used to receive the Word of God. In this community today, I will make the same gesture. And I would like to give you the Gospel, which you can take home. This Gospel is a pocket-size Gospel you can carry with you always, to read a short passage at a time; to open it like this and read a part of the Gospel, when I have to queue or when I am on the bus... but only when I am comfortable on the bus, because if I am not then I must guard my pockets! To read a little passage of the Gospel at a time. It will do us so much good, so much good! A little every day. It is a gift, which I brought for your entire community, so that, today, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, you might receive the Word of God and that, thus, you too might hear the voice of Jesus say to you: “Come forth! Come! Come out!”, and so prepare for the Easter Vigil.




Pope Francis    10.02.16   Holy Mass, Ash Wednesday  Vatican Basilica        2 Corinthians 5: 20 - 6: 2,  Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18

Pope Francis 10.02.16 Ash Wednesday


The Word of God, at the start of the Lenten journey, addresses two invitations to the Church and to each of us.

The first is that of St Paul: “be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). It is not simply good fatherly advice, neither is it just a suggestion; it is a bona fide supplication on Christ’s behalf: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God” (ibid.). Why does he make such a solemn and earnest appeal? Because Christ knows how fragile and sinful we are, he knows the weakness of our heart. He immediately sees it wounded by the evil we have committed. He knows how much we need forgiveness, he knows that it is important for us to feel loved in order to do good. We cannot do it alone: this is why the Apostle does not tell us to do something but to allow ourselves to be reconciled with God, to let him forgive us, with trust, because “God is greater than our hearts” (1 Jn 3:20). He conquers sin and lifts us out of misery, if we let him. It is up to us to acknowledge that we need mercy. This is the first step on the Christian path; it entails entering through the open door which is Christ, where he, the Saviour, awaits us and offers us a new and joyful life.

There may be a few obstacles, which close the door of the heart. There is the temptation to lock the doors, or to live with our sin, minimizing it, always justifying it, thinking we are no worse than others; this, however, is how the locks of the soul are closed and we remain shut inside, prisoners of evil. Another obstacle is the shame of opening the secret door of the heart. Shame, in reality, is a good symptom, because it shows that we want to break away from evil; however, it must never be transformed into apprehension or fear. There is a third pitfall, that of distancing ourselves from the door: it happens when we hide in our misery, when we ruminate constantly, connecting it to negative things, until sinking into the darkest repositories of the soul. Then we even become kindred with the sorrow that we do not want, we become discouraged and we are weaker in the face of temptations. This happens because we bide alone with ourselves, closing ourselves off and avoiding the light; while the Lord’s grace alone frees us. Therefore let us be reconciled, let us listen to Jesus who says to those who are weary and oppressed: “Come to me” (Mt 11:28). Not to dwell within themselves, but to go to him! Comfort and peace are there.

At this celebration the Missionaries of Mercy are present, to receive the mandate to be signs and instruments of God’s forgiveness. Dear brothers, may you help to open the doors of hearts, to overcome shame, not to avoid the light. May your hands bless and lift up brothers and sisters with paternity; through you may the gaze and the hands of God rest on his children and heal them of their wounds!

There is a second invitation of God, who says, through the prophet Joel: “return to me with all your heart” (2:12). If we need to return it is because we have distanced ourselves. It is the mystery of sin: we have distanced ourselves from God, from others, from ourselves. It is not difficult to realize this: we all see how we struggle to truly trust in God, to entrust ourselves to him as Father, without fear; as it is challenging to love others, rather than thinking badly of them; how it costs us to do our true good, while we are attracted and seduced by so many material realities, which disappear and in the end leave us impoverished. Alongside this history of sin, Jesus inaugurated a history of salvation. The Gospel which opens Lent calls us to be protagonists, embracing three remedies, three medicines which heal us from sin (cf. Mt 6:1-6, 16-18).

In the first place is
prayer, an expression of openness and trust in the Lord: it is the personal encounter with him, which shortens the distances created by sin. Praying means saying: “I am not self-sufficient, I need You, You are my life and my salvation”. In the second place is charity, in order to overcome our lack of involvement with regard to others. True love, in fact, is not an outward act, it is not giving something in a paternalistic way in order to assuage the conscience, but to accept those who are in need of our time, our friendship, our help. It means living to serve, overcoming the temptation to satisfy ourselves. In the third place is fasting, penance, in order to free ourselves from dependencies regarding what is passing, and to train ourselves to be more sensitive and merciful. It is an invitation to simplicity and to sharing: to take something from our table and from our assets in order to once again find the true benefit of freedom.

“Return to me” — says the Lord — “return with all your heart”: not only with a few outward deeds, but from the depths of our selves. Indeed, Jesus calls us to live prayer, charity and penance with consistency and authenticity, overcoming hypocrisy. May Lent be a beneficial time to “prune” falseness, worldliness, indifference: so as not to think that everything is fine if I am fine; so as to understand that what counts is not approval, the search for success or consensus, but the cleansing of the heart and of life; so as to find again our Christian identity
, namely, the love that serves, not the selfishness that serves us. Let us embark on the journey together, as Church, by receiving Ashes — we too will become ashes — and keeping our gaze fixed on the Crucifix. He, loving us, invites us to be reconciled with God and to return to him, in order to find ourselves again.



Pope Francis    14.02.16   Holy Mass, Study Centre of Ecatepec, Mexico   Luke 4: 1-13
Pope Francis 14.02.16 Mexico

Last Wednesday we began the liturgical season of Lent, during which the Church invites us to prepare ourselves to celebrate the great feast of Easter. This is a special time for recalling the gift of our baptism, when we became children of God. The Church invites us to renew the gift she has given us, not to let this gift lie dormant as if it were something from the past or locked away in a “memory chest”. Lent is a good time to recover the joy and hope that make us feel like beloved sons and daughters of the Father. The Father who waits for us in order to cast off our garments of exhaustion, of apathy, of mistrust, and so clothe us with the dignity which only a true father or mother knows how to give their children, with the garments born of tenderness and love.

Our Father, He is the Father of a great family; he is our Father. He knows that he has a unique love, but he does not know how to bear or raise an “only child”. He is the God of the home, of brotherhood, of bread broken and shared. He is the God who is “Our Father”, not “my father” or “your stepfather”.

God’s dream makes its home and lives in each one of us so that at every Easter, in every Eucharist we celebrate, we may be the children of God. It is a dream which so many of our brothers and sisters have had through history. A dream witnessed to by the blood of so many martyrs, both from long ago and from now.

Lent is a time of conversion, of daily experiencing in our lives how this dream is continually threatened by the father of lies — and we hear in the Gospel how he acted towards Jesus — by the one who tries to separate us, making a divided and confrontational family; a society which is divided and at loggerheads, a society of the few, and for the few. How often we experience in our own lives, or in our own families, among our friends or neighbours, the pain which arises when the dignity we carry within is not recognized. How many times have we had to cry and regret on realizing that we have not acknowledged this dignity in others. How often — and it pains me to say it — have we been blind and impervious in failing to recognize our own and others’ dignity.

Lent is a time for reconsidering our feelings, for letting our eyes be opened to the frequent injustices which stand in direct opposition to the dream and the plan of God. It is a time to unmask three great temptations that wear down and fracture the image which God wanted to form in us: There are three temptations of Christ... three temptations for the Christian, which seek to destroy what we have been called to be; three temptations which try to corrode us and tear us down.

First, wealth: seizing hold of goods destined for all, and using them only for “my own people”. That is, taking “bread” based on the toil of others, or even at the expense of their very lives. That wealth which tastes of pain, bitterness and suffering. That is the bread that a corrupt family or society gives its own children.

The second temptation, vanity: the pursuit of prestige based on continuous, relentless exclusion of those who “are not like me”. The futile chasing of those five minutes of fame which do not forgive the “reputation” of others. “Making firewood from a felled tree” gradually gives way to the third temptation, the worst. It is that of pride, or rather, putting oneself on a higher level than one truly is on, feeling that one does not share the life of “mere mortals”, and yet being one who prays every day: “I thank you Lord that you have not made me like those others...”.

The three temptations of Christ.... Three temptations which the Christian is faced with daily. Three temptations which seek to corrode, destroy and extinguish the joy and freshness of the Gospel. Three temptations which lock us into a cycle of destruction and sin.

It is worth asking ourselves:

To what degree are we aware of these temptations in our lives, in our very selves?

How much have we become accustomed to a lifestyle where we think that our source and life force lies only in wealth?

To what point do we feel that caring about others, our concern and work for bread, for the good name and dignity of others, are wellsprings of happiness and hope?

We have chosen Jesus, not the evil one. If we remember what we heard in the Gospel, Jesus does not reply to the devil with any of his own words, but rather he the words of God, the words of scripture. Because brothers and sisters, and let us be clear about this, we cannot dialogue with the devil, we cannot do this because he will always win. Only the power of God’s word can overcome him. We have opted for Jesus and not for the devil; we want to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, even though we know that this is not easy. We know what it means to be seduced by money, fame and power. For this reason, the Church gives us the gift of this Lenten season, invites us to conversion, offering but one certainty: he is waiting for us and wants to heal our hearts of all that tears us down. He is the God who has a name: Mercy. His name is our wealth, his name is what makes us famous, his name is our power and in his name we say once more with the Psalm: “You are my God and in you I trust”. Will you repeat it together? Three times: “You are my God and in you I trust”. “Your are my God and in you I trust”.

In this Eucharist, may the Holy Spirit renew in us the certainty that his name is Mercy, and may he let us experience each day that “the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus...”, knowing that “with Christ and in Christ joy is constantly born anew” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 1).




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   05.03.17 Angelus, St Peter's Square  1st Sunday of Lent Year A      Matthew 4: 1-11

Pope Francis talks about the devil and temptations 05.03.17
  

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

In this First Sunday of Lent, the Gospel introduces us to the journey toward Easter, revealing Jesus as he remains in the desert for 40 days, subjected to the temptations of the devil (cf. Mt 4:1-11). This episode takes place at a precise moment in Jesus’ life: immediately after his Baptism in the River Jordan and prior to his public ministry. He has just received the solemn investiture: the Spirit of God has descended upon him, the heavenly Father has declared him “my beloved Son” (Mt 3:17). Jesus is now ready to begin his mission; and as this mission has a declared enemy, namely, Satan, He confronts him straight away, “up close”. The devil plays precisely on the title “Son of God” in order to deter Jesus from the fulfilment of his mission: “If you are the Son of God” (4:3, 6); and proposes that He perform miraculous acts — to be a “magician” — such as transforming stones into bread so as to satiate his hunger, and throwing himself down from the temple wall so as to be saved by the angels. These two temptations are followed by the third: to worship him, the devil, so as to have dominion over the world (cf. v. 9).

Through this three-fold temptation, Satan wants to divert Jesus from the way of obedience and humiliation — because he knows that in this way, on this path, evil will be conquered — and to lead Him down the false shortcut to success and glory. But the devil’s poisonous arrows are “blocked” by Jesus with the shield of God’s Word (vv. 4, 10), which expresses the will of the Father. Jesus does not speak a word of his own: He responds only with the Word of God. Thus the Son, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, comes out of the desert victorious.

During the 40 days of Lent, as Christians we are invited to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and face the spiritual battle with the Evil One with the strength of the Word of God. Not with our words: they are worthless. The Word of God: this has the strength to defeat Satan. For this reason, it is important to be familiar with the Bible: read it often, meditate on it, assimilate it. The Bible contains the Word of God, which is always timely and effective. Someone has asked: what would happen were we to treat the Bible as we treat our mobile phone?; were we to always carry it with us, or at least a small, pocket-sized Gospel, what would happen?; were we to turn back when we forget it: you forget your mobile phone — ‘oh! I don’t have it, I’m going back to look for it’; were we to open it several times a day; were we to read God’s messages contained in the Bible as we read telephone messages, what would happen? Clearly the comparison is paradoxical, but it calls for reflection. Indeed, if we had God’s Word always in our heart, no temptation could separate us from God, and no obstacle could divert us from the path of good; we would know how to defeat the daily temptations of the evil that is within us and outside us; we would be more capable of living a life renewed according to the Spirit, welcoming and loving our brothers and sisters, especially the weakest and neediest, and also our enemies.

May the Virgin Mary, perfect icon of obedience to God and of unconditional trust in his will, sustain us on the Lenten journey, that we may set ourselves to listen docilely to the Word of God in order to achieve a true conversion of heart.




Pope Francis  19.03.17  Angelus, St Peter's Square   3rd Sunday of Lent Year A     John 4: 5-42    


Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

The Gospel for this Third Sunday of Lent presents Jesus’ dialogue with the Samaritan woman (cf. Jn 4:5-42). The encounter takes place as Jesus is crossing Samaria, a region between Judea and Galilee inhabited by people whom the Hebrews despised, considering them schismatic and heretical. But this very population would be one of the first to adhere to the Christian preaching of the Apostles. While the disciples go into the village to buy food, Jesus stays near a well and asks a woman for a drink; she had come there to draw water. From this request a dialogue begins. “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”. Jesus responded: If you knew who I am, and the gift I have for you, you would have asked me for and I would have given you “living water”, a water that satisfies all thirst and becomes a boundless spring in the heart of those who drink it (cf. vv. 9-14).

Going to the well to draw water is burdensome and tedious; it would be lovely to have a gushing spring available! But Jesus speaks of a different water. When the woman realizes that the man she is speaking with is a prophet, she confides in him her own life and asks him religious questions. Her thirst for affection and a full life had not been satisfied by the five husbands she had had, but instead, she had experienced disappointment and deceit. Thus, the woman was struck by the great respect Jesus had for her, and when he actually spoke to her of true faith as the relationship with God the Father “in spirit and truth”, she realized that this man could be the Messiah, and Jesus does something extremely rare — he confirms it: “I who speak to you am he” (v. 26). He says he is the Messiah to a woman who had such a disordered life.

Dear brothers and sisters, the water that gives eternal life was poured into our hearts on the day of our Baptism; then God transformed and filled us with his grace. But we may have forgotten this great gift that we received, or reduced it to a merely official statistic; and perhaps we seek “wells” whose water does not quench our thirst. When we forget the true water, we go in search of wells that do not have clean water. Thus this Gospel passage actually concerns us! Not just the Samaritan woman, but us. Jesus speaks to us as he does to the Samaritan woman. Of course, we already know him, but perhaps we have not yet encountered him personally. We know who Jesus is, but perhaps we have not countered him personally, spoken with him, and we still have not recognized him as our Saviour. This Season of Lent is a good occasion to draw near to him, to counter him in prayer in a heart-to-heart dialogue; to speak with him, to listen to him. It is a good occasion to see his face in the face of a suffering brother or sister. In this way we can renew in ourselves the grace of Baptism, quench our thirst at the wellspring of the Word of God and of his Holy Spirit; and in this way, also discover the joy of becoming artisans of reconciliation and instruments of peace in daily life.

May the Virgin Mary help us to draw constantly from grace, from the water that springs from the rock that is Christ the Saviour, so that we may profess our faith with conviction and joyfully proclaim the wonders of the love of merciful God, the source of all good.





Pope Francis  26.03.17  Angelus, St Peter's Square   4th Sunday of Lent Year A          John 9: 1-41       


Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

At the centre of the Gospel this Fourth Sunday of Lent we find Jesus and a man blind from birth (cf. Jn 9:1-41). Christ restores his sight and performs this miracle with a type of symbolic ritual: first, He mixes dirt with saliva and spreads it on the blind man’s eyes; then, He orders him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. The man goes, washes, and regains his sight. He was blind from birth. With this miracle, Jesus manifests himself, and He manifests himself to us as the Light of the World. The man blind from birth represents each one of us, who was created to know God; but due to sin has become blind; we are in need of a new light; we are all in need of a new light: that of faith, which Jesus has given us. Indeed, that blind man in the Gospel, by regaining his sight, is opened to the mystery of Christ. Jesus asks him: “Do you believe in the Son of man?” (v. 35). “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”, the healed blind man replied. “You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you” (v. 37). “Lord, I believe”, [the blind man said,] and he prostrated himself before Jesus.

This episode induces us to reflect on our faith, our faith in Christ, the Son of God; and at the same time, it also refers to Baptism, which is the first Sacrament of faith: the Sacrament which makes us “come to the light”, by being reborn through the water and through the Holy Spirit; as happens to the man born blind, whose eyes are opened after being cleansed in the water of the pool of Siloam. The man born blind and healed represents us when we do not realize that Jesus is the light; he is “the Light of the World”, when we are looking elsewhere, when we prefer to entrust ourselves to little lights, when we are groping in the dark. The fact that the blind man has no name helps us to see our face reflected and our name in his story. We too have been “illuminated” by Christ in Baptism, and thus we are called to behave as children of the light. Acting as children of the light requires a radical change of mind-set, a capacity to judge men and things according to another scale of values, which comes from God. The Sacrament of Baptism, in fact, requires the choice of living as children of the light and walking in the light. If I were to ask you: “Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Do you believe that he can change your heart? Do you believe that he can show reality as he sees it, not as we see it? Do you believe that he is light, that he gives us the true light?”. How would you answer? Each of you, respond in your heart.

What does it mean to have the true light, to walk in the light? First of all it means abandoning false lights: the cold, vain light of prejudice against others, because prejudice distorts reality and ladens us with aversion to those whom we judge without mercy and condemn without appeal. This is our daily bread! When you gossip about others, you do not walk in the light, you walk in shadows. Another false light, because it is seductive and ambiguous, is that of self-interest: if we value men and things on the basis of usefulness to us, of pleasure, of prestige, we are not truthful in our relationships and situations. If we go down this path of seeking self-interest, we are walking in shadows.

May the Blessed Virgin, who was the first to welcome Jesus, the Light of the World, obtain for us this grace of welcoming anew the light of faith this Lent, rediscovering the inestimable gift of Baptism, which all of us have received. And may this new illumination transform us in attitude and action, so that we too, beginning with our poverty, our narrow-mindedness, may be bearers of a ray of the light of Christ.





Pope Francis   08.03.19      Holy Mass, Santa Marta    Isaiah 58 1:-9A
Pope Francis 08.03.19 Homily about Hypocrisy

Formal reality is an expression of objective reality, but the two must proceed together, or else we end up living an existence of appearances a life without truth.

The simplicity of appearances should be rediscovered especially in this Lenten period, as we practice fasting, almsgiving and prayer.

Christians should show joy while doing penance. They should be generous with those in need without “blasting their trumpets”; they should address the Father in an intimate manner, without seeking the admiration of others.

During Jesus’s time this was evident in the behaviour of the Pharisee and the publican; today Catholics feel they are just because they belong to such an association or because they go to Mass every Sunday, they feel they are better than others.

Those who seek appearances never recognize themselves as sinners, and if you say to them: ‘you too are a sinner! We are all sinners’ they become righteous and try to show themselves as a perfect little picture, all appearances. When there is this difference between reality and appearances the Lord uses the adjective: Hypocrite.

Each individual is tempted by hypocrisy and the period that leads us to Easter can be an opportunity to recognize our inconsistencies, to identify the layers of make-up we may have applied to hide reality.

Young people are not impressed by those who put on appearances and then do not behave accordingly, especially when this hypocrisy is worn by whom he described as religion professionals. The Lord asks for coherence.

Many Christians, even Catholics, who call themselves practicing Catholics, exploit people!

So often they humiliate and exploit their workers sending them home at the beginning of summer and taking them back at the end so they are not entitled to a pension.

Many of them call themselves Catholics, they go to Mass on Sundays... but this is what they do. This kind of behaviour is a mortal sin!

Ask the Lord for strength and go forward with humility, doing what you can. But don't put make-up on your soul, because the Lord won't recognize you. Let us ask the Lord for the grace to be consistent, not to be vain, not to want to appear more worthy than we are. Let us ask for this grace, during this Lent: the coherence between formality and the reality, between who we are and how we want to appear.




“We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This year the Lord grants us, once again, a favourable time to prepare to celebrate with renewed hearts the great mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the cornerstone of our personal and communal Christian life. We must continually return to this mystery in mind and heart, for it will continue to grow within us in the measure that we are open to its spiritual power and respond with freedom and generosity.

1. The paschal mystery as the basis of conversion

Christian joy flows from listening to, and accepting, the Good News of the death and resurrection of Jesus. This kerygma sums up the mystery of a love “so real, so true, so concrete, that it invites us to a relationship of openness and fruitful dialogue” (Christus Vivit, 117). Whoever believes this message rejects the lie that our life is ours to do with as we will. Rather, life is born of the love of God our Father, from his desire to grant us life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10). If we listen instead to the tempting voice of the “father of lies” (Jn 8:44), we risk sinking into the abyss of absurdity, and experiencing hell here on earth, as all too many tragic events in the personal and collective human experience sadly bear witness.

In this Lent of 2020, I would like to share with every Christian what I wrote to young people in the Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit: “Keep your eyes fixed on the outstretched arms of Christ crucified, let yourself be saved over and over again. And when you go to confess your sins, believe firmly in his mercy which frees you of your guilt. Contemplate his blood poured out with such great love, and let yourself be cleansed by it. In this way, you can be reborn ever anew” (No. 123). Jesus’ Pasch is not a past event; rather, through the power of the Holy Spirit it is ever present, enabling us to see and touch with faith the flesh of Christ in those who suffer.

2. The urgency of conversion

It is good to contemplate more deeply the paschal mystery through which God’s mercy has been bestowed upon us. Indeed, the experience of mercy is only possible in a “face to face” relationship with the crucified and risen Lord “who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20), in a heartfelt dialogue between friends. That is why prayer is so important in Lent. Even more than a duty, prayer is an expression of our need to respond to God’s love which always precedes and sustains us. Christians pray in the knowledge that, although unworthy, we are still loved. Prayer can take any number of different forms, but what truly matters in God’s eyes is that it penetrates deep within us and chips away at our hardness of heart, in order to convert us ever more fully to God and to his will.

In this favourable season, then, may we allow ourselves to be led like Israel into the desert (cf. Hos 2:14), so that we can at last hear our Spouse’s voice and allow it to resound ever more deeply within us. The more fully we are engaged with his word, the more we will experience the mercy he freely gives us. May we not let this time of grace pass in vain, in the foolish illusion that we can control the times and means of our conversion to him.

3. God’s passionate will to dialogue with his children

The fact that the Lord once again offers us a favourable time for our conversion should never be taken for granted. This new opportunity ought to awaken in us a sense of gratitude and stir us from our sloth. Despite the sometimes tragic presence of evil in our lives, and in the life of the Church and the world, this opportunity to change our course expresses God’s unwavering will not to interrupt his dialogue of salvation with us. In the crucified Jesus, who knew no sin, yet for our sake was made to be sin (cf. 2 Cor 5:21), this saving will led the Father to burden his Son with the weight of our sins, thus, in the expression of Pope Benedict XVI, “turning of God against himself” (Deus Caritas Est, 12). For God also loves his enemies (cf. Mt 5:43-48).

The dialogue that God wishes to establish with each of us through the paschal mystery of his Son has nothing to do with empty chatter, like that attributed to the ancient inhabitants of Athens, who “spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). Such chatter, determined by an empty and superficial curiosity, characterizes worldliness in every age; in our own day, it can also result in improper use of the media.

4. A richness to be shared, not kept for oneself

Putting the paschal mystery at the centre of our lives means feeling compassion towards the wounds of the crucified Christ present in the many innocent victims of wars, in attacks on life, from that of the unborn to that of the elderly, and various forms of violence. They are likewise present in environmental disasters, the unequal distribution of the earth’s goods, human trafficking in all its forms, and the unbridled thirst for profit, which is a form of idolatry.

Today too, there is a need to appeal to men and women of good will to share, by almsgiving, their goods with those most in need, as a means of personally participating in the building of a better world. Charitable giving makes us more human, whereas hoarding risks making us less human, imprisoned by our own selfishness. We can and must go even further, and consider the structural aspects of our economic life. For this reason, in the midst of Lent this year, from 26 to 28 March, I have convened a meeting in Assisi with young economists, entrepreneurs and change-makers, with the aim of shaping a more just and inclusive economy. As the Church’s magisterium has often repeated, political life represents an eminent form of charity (cf. Pius XI, Address to the Italian Federation of Catholic University Students, 18 December 1927). The same holds true for economic life, which can be approached in the same evangelical spirit, the spirit of the Beatitudes.

I ask Mary Most Holy to pray that our Lenten celebration will open our hearts to hear God’s call to be reconciled to himself, to fix our gaze on the paschal mystery, and to be converted to an open and sincere dialogue with him. In this way, we will become what Christ asks his disciples to be: the salt of the earth and the light of the world (cf. Mt 5:13-14).




Pope Francis  26.02.20 General Audience, St Peter's Square    Catechesis on Lent     Matthew 4: 1-4

Pope Francis talks about Lent 26.02.20

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin the Lenten journey, a forty-day journey towards Easter, towards the heart of the liturgical year and of the faith. It is a journey that follows that of Jesus, who at the beginning of his ministry withdrew for forty days to pray and fast, tempted by the devil, into the desert. I would like to speak to you today about the spiritual significance of the desert. What the desert means spiritually to all of us, even us who live in the city, what the desert means.

Let's imagine you're in a desert. The first feeling would be to be enveloped by a great silence: no noise, apart from the wind and our breath. Here, the desert is the place of detachment from the din that surrounds us. It is the absence of words to make room for another Word, the Word of God, which as a light breeze caresses our heart (cf. 1 Kings 19:12). The desert is the place of the Word, with a capital W. In the Bible, in fact, the Lord loves to speak to us in the desert. In the desert he gives Moses the "ten words", the ten commandments. And when the people distance themselves from him, becoming like an unfaithful bride, God says, "Here, I will lead you into the desert and speak to your heart. There you will answer me, as in the days of your youth"(Hosea 2:13-14). In the desert you hear the Word of God, which is like a slight sound. The Book of Kings says that the Word of God is like a thread of silence that makes a sound. In the desert we find intimacy with God, the love of the Lord. Jesus loved to retreat every day to deserted places to pray (cf. Luke 5:16). He taught us how to look for the Father, who speaks to us in silence. And it is not easy to be silent in our hearts, because we always try to talk a little, to be with others.

Lent is a good time to make space for the Word of God. It's the time to turn off the television and open the Bible. It's a time to disconnect from your phones and connect to the Gospel. When I was a child there was no television, but there was a custom of not listening to the radio. Lent is deserted, it is a time to give up, to disconnect from our phones and connect to the Gospel. It is time to give up useless words, gossip, rumours and to speak intimately with the Lord. It's time to devote yourself to a healthy ecology of the heart, to clean it. We live in an environment polluted by too much verbal violence, by so many offensive and harmful words, that the web amplifies. Today we insult as if we were saying "Good Morning". We are inundated with empty words, advertising, deceitful messages. We have become accustomed to hearing everything about everyone and we risk slipping into a mundaneness that atrophies our heart and there is no by-pass to heal this, but only silence. We struggle to distinguish the voice of the Lord who speaks to us, the voice of conscience, the voice of good. Jesus, calling us into the desert, invites us to listen to what matters, to the important, to the essential. To the devil who tempted Him He replied, "It is not only by bread alone that man lives, but by every word that comes out of God's mouth" (Matthew 4:4). Like bread, more than bread we need the Word of God, we need to speak with God: we need to pray. Because only before God do the inclinations of the heart come to light and the duplicity of our souls fall. Here is the desert, a place of life, not of death, because dialogue in silence with the Lord gives us life.

Let's try to think of a desert again. The desert is the place of the essential. Let's look at our lives: how many useless things surround us! We chase a thousand things that seem necessary and are not really. How good would it be for us to get rid of so many superfluous realities, to rediscover what matters, to find the faces of those around us! Jesus also sets an example on this, fasting. Fasting is to know how to give up the vain things, the superfluous, to go to the essentials. Fasting is not just about losing weight, fasting is going to the essentials, it is seeking the beauty of a simpler life.

Finally, the desert is the place of solitude. Even today, near us, there are many deserts. They are lonely and abandoned people. How many poor and elderly people stand by us and live in silence, without any noise, marginalized and discarded! Talking about them doesn't create an audience, ratings. But the desert leads us to them, to all those who are silenced, silently ask for our help. So many silent glances asking for our help. The journey through the Lent desert is a journey of charity to those who are weakest.
Prayer, fasting, works of mercy: this is the path in the Lenten desert.

Dear brothers and sisters, with the voice of the prophet Isaiah, God has made this promise: "Here, I will do something new, I will open a path in the desert"(Is 43:19). In the desert the path is opened up that brings us from death to life. Let us enter the desert with Jesus, and we will come out of it savouring Easter, the power of God's love that renews life. The same will happen to us that happens in the deserts that bloom in spring, making buds suddenly, "out of nothing", buds and plants. Take courage, let us enter this desert of Lent, follow Jesus into the desert: with him our deserts will flourish.






Pope Francis talks about dust 26.02.20

We begin the Lenten Season by receiving ashes: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return (cf. Gen 3:19). The dust sprinkled on our heads brings us back to earth; it reminds us that we are dust and to dust we shall return. We are weak, frail and mortal. Centuries and millennia pass and we come and go; before the immensity of galaxies and space, we are nothing. We are dust in the universe. Yet we are dust loved by God. It pleased the Lord to gather that dust in his hands and to breathe into it the breath of life (cf. Gen 2:7). We are thus a dust that is precious, destined for eternal life. We are the dust of the earth, upon which God has poured out his heaven, the dust that contains his dreams. We are God’s hope, his treasure and his glory.

Ashes are thus a reminder of the direction of our existence: a passage from dust to life. We are dust, earth, clay, but if we allow ourselves to be shaped by the hands of God, we become something wondrous. More often than not, though, especially at times of difficulty and loneliness, we only see our dust! But the Lord encourages us: in his eyes, our littleness is of infinite value. So let us take heart: we were born to be loved; we were born to be children of God.

Dear brothers and sisters, may we keep this in mind as we begin this Lenten season. For Lent is not a time for useless sermons, but for recognizing that our lowly ashes are loved by God. It is a time of grace, a time for letting God gaze upon us with love and in this way change our lives. We were put in this world to go from ashes to life. So let us not turn our hopes and God’s dream for us into powder and ashes. Let us not grow resigned. You may ask: “How can I trust? The world is falling to pieces, fear is growing, there is so much malice all around us, society is becoming less and less Christian…” Don’t you believe that God can transform our dust into glory?

The ashes we receive on our foreheads should affect the thoughts passing through our minds. They remind us that, as God’s children, we cannot spend our lives chasing after dust. From there a question can pass into our hearts: “What am I living for?” If it is for the fleeting realities of this world, I am going back to ashes and dust, rejecting what God has done in my life. If I live only to earn money, to have a good time, to gain a bit of prestige or a promotion in my work, I am living for dust. If I am unhappy with life because I think I do not get enough respect or receive what I think is my due, then I am simply staring at dust.

That is not why we have been put in this world. We are worth so much more. We live for so much more, for we are meant to make God’s dream a reality and to love. Ashes are sprinkled on our heads so that the fire of love can be kindled in our hearts. We are citizens of heaven, and our love for God and neighbour is our passport to heaven. Our earthly possessions will prove useless, dust that scatters, but the love we share – in our families, at work, in the Church and in the world – will save us, for it will endure forever.

The ashes we receive remind us of a second and opposite passage: from life to dust. All around us, we see the dust of death. Lives reduced to ashes. Rubble, destruction, war. The lives of unwelcomed innocents, the lives of the excluded poor, the lives of the abandoned elderly. We continue to destroy ourselves, to return to ashes and dust. And how much dust there is in our relationships! Look at our homes and families: our quarrels, our inability to resolve conflicts, our unwillingness to apologize, to forgive, to start over, while at the same time insisting on our own freedom and our rights! All this dust that besmirches our love and mars our life. Even in the Church, the house of God, we have let so much dust collect, the dust of worldliness.

Let us look inside, into our hearts: how many times do we extinguish the fire of God with the ashes of hypocrisy! Hypocrisy is the filth that Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that we have to remove. Indeed, the Lord tells us not only to carry out works of charity, to pray and to fast, but also to do these without pretence, duplicity and hypocrisy (cf. Mt 6:2.5.16). Yet how often do we do things only to be recognized, to look good, to satisfy our ego! How often do we profess to be Christians, yet in our hearts readily yield to passions that enslave us! How often do we preach one thing and practice another! How many times do we make ourselves look good on the outside while nursing grudges within! How much duplicity do we have in our hearts... All this is dust that besmirches, ashes that extinguish the fire of love.

We need to be cleansed of all the dust that has sullied our hearts. How? The urgent summons of Saint Paul in today’s second reading can help us. Paul says: “Be reconciled to God!” He does not simply ask; he begs: “We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). We would have said: “Reconcile yourselves with God!” But no, Paul uses passive form: Be reconciled! Holiness is not achieved by our efforts, for it is grace! By ourselves, we cannot remove the dust that sullies our hearts. Only Jesus, who knows and loves our heart, can heal it. Lent is a time of healing.

What, then, are we to do? In journeying towards Easter, we can make two passages: first, from dust to life, from our fragile humanity to the humanity of Jesus, who heals us. We can halt in contemplation before the crucified Lord and repeat: “Jesus, you love me, transform me... Jesus, you love me, transform me...” And once we have received his love, once we have wept at the thought of that love, we can make the second passage, by determining never to fall again from life into dust. We can receive God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance, because there the fire of God’s love consumes the ashes of our sin. The embrace of the Father in confession renews us from inside and purifies our heart. May we allow ourselves to be reconciled, in order to live as beloved children, as forgiven and healed sinners, as wayfarers with him at our side.

Let us allow ourselves to be loved, so that we can give love in return. Let us allow ourselves to stand up and walk towards Easter. Then we will experience the joy of discovering how God raises us up from our ashes.




Pope Francis   01.03.20  Angelus, St Peter's Square       1st Sunday of Lent Year A         Matthew 4: 1-11 

Pope Francis talks about temptation and the devil 01.03.20

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

On this first Sunday of Lent, the Gospel (cf. Mt 4:1-11) recounts that Jesus, after having been baptised in the Jordan River, "was led by the Spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil" (v. 1). He is preparing to begin his mission of proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven and, just as Moses and Elijah did (cf. Es 24:18; 1 King 19:8), in the Old Testament, He does so with a forty-day fast. This is the beginning of Lent. 

At the end of this period of fasting, the tempter, the devil, breaks in, and three times tries to put Jesus to the test. The first temptation arises by the fact that Jesus is hungry; and so the devil suggests to Him, "If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread" (v. 3). A challenge. But Jesus' answer is clear: "It is written: "One does not live on bread alone but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God" (4:4). He recalls Moses, when he reminded the people of the long journey they had made in the desert, through which he learned that his life depended on the Word of God (cf. Dt 8:3).

Then the devil makes a second attempt, (cf. vv. 5-6) he gets more cunning, this time he quotes the Sacred Scripture. The strategy is clear: if you have so much confidence in the power of God, then try it, in fact Scripture itself confirms that you will be aided by angels (cf. v. 6). But even in this case Jesus does not allow himself to be confounded, because those who believe know that one does not put God to the test, instead he trusts Gods goodness. Therefore, to the words of the Bible, which Satan has interpreted for his own purposes, Jesus responds with another quote: "Again it is written: "You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test" (v. 7).

Finally, the third attempt (cf. 8-9) reveals the true reasoning of the devil: since the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven marks the beginning of his own defeat, the evil one would like to divert Jesus from fulfilling His mission, by presenting Him as a political Messiah. But Jesus rejects the idolatry of human power and glory and, in the end, drives out the tempter by saying to him: "Be gone, Satan! It is written: "The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve" (v. 10). And at this point, the angels approach to serve Jesus, who is faithful in handing Himself over to the Father (cf. v. 11). 

This teaches us one thing: Jesus does not dialogue with the devil. Jesus responds to the devil with the Word of God, not by His own words. In temptation, we often begin to dialogue with temptation, to dialogue with the devil: "Yes, but I may do this..., then I confess, then this, that one...". Never dialogue with the devil. Jesus says only two things to the devil: he drives him away or, as in this case, responds with the Word of God. Be careful: never dialogue with temptation, never dialogue with the devil.

Even today Satan breaks into people's lives to tempt them with his tempting proposals; he mixes his voice with the many other voices that try to tame our conscience. Messages come at us from many places inviting us to "let ourselves be tempted" to experience the intoxication of the transgression. The experience of Jesus teaches us that temptation is an attempt to follow alternative paths to God's: "But, do this, there is no problem, then God forgives! But a day of joy take it..." – "But it is a sin!" – "No, it is nothing like this". This is an alternative route to God's path, and these give us the sense of being self-sufficient, of the enjoyment of life as an end to itself. But all this is illusory: we soon realize that the more we distance ourselves from God, the more defenceless and helpless we feel in the face of the great problems of existence. 

May the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Him who crushed the head of the serpent, helps us in this time of Lent to be vigilant in the face of temptations, not to submit to any idol of this world, to follow Jesus in the fight against evil; and we will also succeed as Jesus.





Pope Francis   08.03.20  Angelus Apostolic Palace Library, St Peter's Square  2nd Sunday of Lent Year A    Matthew 17: 1-9

Pope Francis at Angelus talks about theTransfiguration 08.03.20

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

This prayer of today's Angelus is a little strange, with the Pope caged in the library, but I see you, I am close to you. And I would also like to start by thanking that group present in the Square that manifests and fights "For the forgotten Idlib". Thank you! Thank you for what you do. But we do this way of praying the Angelus today as a preventive provision, so as to avoid the close concentration of people, which can favour the transmission of the virus.

The Gospel of this second Sunday of Lent (cf. Mt 17:1-9) presents to us the account of Jesus' Transfiguration. He takes Peter, James and John with Him and climbs a high mountain, a symbol of closeness to God, to open them to a fuller understanding of the mystery of His person, who will have to suffer, die and then rise again. Indeed, Jesus had begun to speak to them about the sufferings, death, and resurrection that awaited Him, but they could not accept that prospect. For this reason, when Jesus reached the top of the mountain, He immersed Himself in prayer and was transfigured before the three disciples: His face, the Gospel says, shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as light.

Through the wonderful event of the Transfiguration, the three disciples are called to recognize in Jesus the Son of God shining with glory. They thus advance in the knowledge of their Master, realizing that the human aspect does not express all His reality; in their eyes the otherworldly and divine dimension of Jesus is revealed. And from above a voice rings out that says, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him" (see 5). It is the heavenly Father who confirms the investiture – let's call it that – of Jesus already made on the day of baptism in the Jordan and invites the disciples to listen to Him and follow Him.

It should be emphasized that, in the midst of the group of the Twelve, Jesus chooses to take Peter, James and John with Him up on the mountain. It is reserved for them to witness the transfiguration. But why were these three chosen? Because are they the holiest ones ? No. Peter, in the hour of trial, will deny Him; and the two brothers James and John will ask to have the first places in His kingdom (cf. Mt 20:20-23). Jesus, however, does not choose according to our criteria, but according to His plan of love. Jesus' love has no measure: it is love, and He chooses with that design of love. It is a free, unconditional choice, a free initiative, a divine friendship that asks for nothing in return. And as He called those three disciples, so even today he calls some to be close to Him, so that He can bear witness. Being witnesses of Jesus is a gift that we do not deserve: we may feel inadequate, but we cannot back out with the excuse of our incapacity.

We have not been on Mount Tabor, we have not seen the face of Jesus shining like the sun with our own eyes. However, the Word of Salvation has also been given to us, faith has been given to us and we have experienced, in different ways, the joy of meeting Jesus. Jesus also says to us: "Stand up and do not be afraid"(Mt 17:7). In this world, marked by selfishness and greed, God's light is obscured by the concerns of everyday life. We often say: I do not have time to pray, I am not able to carry out a service in the parish, to respond to the requests of others... But we must not forget that the Baptism we have received has made us witnesses, not because of our own capacity, but because of the gift of the Spirit.

In this favourable time of Lent, may the Virgin Mary obtain for us that docility of the Spirit, which is indispensable for setting out resolutely on the path of conversion.



Pope Francis  15.03.20 Angelus Apostolic Palace Library, St Peter's Square        3rd Sunday of Lent Year A       John 4: 5-42   

Pope Francis  Angelus 15.03.20

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

This Sunday's Gospel passage, the third of Lent, presents Jesus' encounter with a Samaritan woman (cf. John 4:5-42). He is on his way with his disciples and they stop at a well in Samaria. The Samaritans were considered heretics by the Jews, and much despised, as second-class citizens. Jesus is tired, He is thirsty. A woman arrives to get water and He asks her, "Give me a drink" (see 7). Thus, breaking every barrier, He begins a dialogue in which He reveals to that woman the mystery of living water, that is, of the Holy Spirit, a gift from God. Indeed, to the surprised reaction of the woman, Jesus responds, "If you knew God's gift and who is the one who says to you, "Give me a drink!", you would have asked him and He would give you living water" (see 10).

At the heart of this dialogue is water. On the one hand, water as an essential element for living, which satisfies the thirst of the body and sustains life. On the other, water is a symbol of divine grace, which gives eternal life. In the biblical tradition God is the source of living water – as they say in the psalms, in the prophets –: moving away from God, a source of living water, and from his Law brought on the worst drought. This is the experience of the people of Israel in the desert. On the long road to freedom, dying of thirst, they cried out against Moses and against God because there was no water. Then, at God's behest, Moses brings water out of a rock, as a sign of God's providence that accompanies his people and gives them life (cf. Es 17,1-7).

And the Apostle Paul interprets that rock as a symbol of Christ. He will say thus: "And the rock is Christ" (cf. 1 Cor 10,4). He is the mysterious figure of his presence among the people of God on their journey. Christ is, in fact, the Temple from which, according to the vision of the prophets, the Holy Spirit flows, that is, the living water that purifies and gives life. Those who thirst for salvation can draw freely from Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will become in him or in her a source of full and eternal life. The promise of the living water that Jesus made to the Samaritan woman became a reality in His Passion: "blood and water" came out of his pierced ribs (John 19:34). Christ, the lamb immolated and resurrected, is the source from which the Holy Spirit springs, who remits sins and regenerates to new life. 

This gift is also the source of testimony. Like the Samaritan woman, anyone who encounters the living Jesus feels the need to tell others, so that everyone might arrive at the point of professing that Jesus "is truly the saviour of the world"(John 4.42), as that woman's fellow townspeople later said. We too, generated in new life through Baptism, are called to testify to the life and hope that are within us. If our search and thirst find in Christ full contentment, we will manifest that salvation lies not in the "things" of this world, which eventually produce drought, but in the One who loved us and always loves us: Jesus our Saviour, in the living water that He offers us.

May Mary most Holy helps us to cultivate the desire for Christ, a source of living water, the only one who can satisfy the thirst for life and love that we carry in our hearts.



Pope Francis   22.03.20  Angelus Apostolic Palace Library, St Peter's Square      4th Sunday of Lent Year A     John 9: 1-41 

Pope Francis talks about Light 22.03.20

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

At the centre of the liturgy of this fourth Sunday of Lent is the theme of light. The Gospel (cf. John 9:1-41) tells the story of the man blind from birth, to whom Jesus gives sight. This miraculous sign is confirmation of Jesus' affirmation of : "I am the light of the world" (v. 5), the light that illuminates our darkness. This is who Jesus is. He operates illumination on two levels: a physical one and a spiritual one: the blind man first receives the sight of the eyes and then is led to faith in the "Son of Man" (v. 35), that is, in Jesus. It's all a path. Today it would be good if all of you took the Gospel of John, Chapter 9, and read this passage: it is so beautiful and it will do us good to read it one or two more times. The wonders that Jesus performs are not only spectacular gestures, but they are meant to lead to faith through a process of inner transformation.

The Pharisees and the doctors of the law – who were there as a group – refused to acknowledge the miracle, and ask the healed man insidious questions. But he disconcerts them with the power of reality: "One thing I know: I was blind and now I see" (v. 25). Between the mistrust and hostility of those who surround him and question him in disbelief, he gradually takes a route that leads him to discover the identity of the one who opened his eyes and to confess his faith in Him. At first he considers Him a prophet (see 17); then recognizes Him as one who comes from God (cf. v. 33); Finally, he welcomes Him as the Messiah and prostrate himself before Him (see vv. 36-38). He understood that by giving him sight Jesus had "displayed the works of God" (cf. v. 3).

May we too have this experience! With the light of faith, the blind man discovers his new identity. He is now a "new creature", able to see his life and the world around him in a new light , because he entered into communion with Christ, he entered another dimension. He is no longer a beggar marginalized from the community; he is no longer a slave to blindness and prejudice. His path of enlightenment is a metaphor for the path of liberation from sin to which we are called. Sin is like a dark veil that covers our face and prevents us from clearly seeing ourselves and the world; the Lord's forgiveness takes away this blanket of shadow and darkness and gives us new light. The Lent we are living is an opportune and valuable time to approach the Lord, asking for His mercy, in the different forms that the Mother Church proposes to us.

The healed blind man, who now sees both with the eyes of the body and those of the soul, is the image of every baptized man, who immersed in Grace has been pulled out of the darkness and placed in the light of faith. But it is not enough to receive light, it is necessary to become light. Each of us is called to receive the divine light in order to manifest it with our whole life. The first Christians, the theologians of the first centuries, said that the community of Christians, that is, the Church, is the "mystery of the moon", because they gave light but it was not their own light, it was the light they received from Christ. We also must be "mystery of the moon": to give the light received from the son, who is Christ the Lord. St Paul reminds us of this today: "Be a child of light; for the fruit of light consists in all goodness, justice, and truth"(Eph 5:8-9). The seed of new life placed in us in Baptism is like a spark of a fire, which purifies us first, burning the evil that we have in our hearts, and allows us to shine and illuminate. With the light of Jesus.

May Mary Most Holy help us to imitate the blind man of the Gospel, so that we can be flooded with the light of Christ and walk with him on the path of salvation.




Pope Francis   29.03.20 Angelus Apostolic Palace Library, St Peter's Square 5th Sunday of Lent Year A    John 11: 1-45

Pope Francis talks about the resurrection of Lazarus 29.03.20

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

The Gospel of this fifth Sunday of Lent is that of the resurrection of Lazarus (cf. John 11:1-45). Lazarus was the brother of Martha and Mary; they were very close to Jesus. When He arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had already been dead for four days; Martha runs to meet the Master and says to Him, "If you had been here, my brother would not have died!" (see 21). Jesus answers her: "Your brother will rise again" (v. 23); and adds: "I am the resurrection and the life; those who believe in me, even if they die, will live" (v. 25). Jesus shows himself as the Lord of life, the One who is able to give life to the dead too. Then Mary and others arrive, all in tears, and then Jesus, the Gospel says, "was deeply moved and troubled and wept" (vv. 33.35). With this turmoil in His heart, He goes to the grave, thanks the Father who always listens to Him, opens the tomb and shouts loudly: "Lazarus, come out!" (v. 43). And Lazarus comes out with "his feet and hands wrapped with burial bands, and his face wrapped in a cloth" (v. 44). 

Here we touch with our hands that God is life and gives life, but he takes charge of the tragedy of death. Jesus could have prevented the death of his friend Lazarus, but he wanted to share in our pain for the death of loved ones, and above all he wanted to show God's dominion over death. In this passage of the Gospel we see that the faith of man and the omnipotence of God, of God's love seek each other and finally meet. It is like a double path: the faith of man and the omnipotence of God's love that one seeks and eventually meets. We see it in the cry of Martha and Mary and of all of us with them: "If you had been here!...." And God's answer is not a speech, no, God's answer to the problem of death is Jesus: "I am the resurrection and life... Have faith! In the midst of grief, continue to have faith, even if death seems to have won. Remove the stone from your heart! Let the Word of God restore life where there is death.

Even today Jesus repeats to us: "Take away the stone." God did not create us for the tomb, he created us for life, beautiful, good, joyful. But "death has entered the world through the devil's envy"(Wis 2:24), says the Book of Wisdom, and Jesus Christ has come to free us from its bonds.

Therefore, we are called to remove the stones of all that it smacks of death: for example, the hypocrisy with which faith is lived, is death; destructive criticism of others is death; offense, slander, is death; the marginalization of the poor, is death. The Lord asks us to remove these stones from our hearts, and then life will flourish again around us. Christ lives, and those who welcome and follow Him come into contact with life. Without Christ, or outside Christ, not only is life not present, but one falls back into death.
The resurrection of Lazarus is also a sign of the regeneration that takes place in the believer through Baptism, with the full integration into the Pascal Mystery of Christ. For the action and power of the Holy Spirit, the Christian is a person who journeys in life as a new creature: a creature for life and who goes towards life.

May the Virgin Mary helps us to be compassionate like her Son Jesus, who has made our pain His own. May each of us be close to those who are in difficulty, becoming for them a reflection of God's love and tenderness, which frees us from death and makes life victorious.




Pope Francis   31.03.20 Holy Mass Casa Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)       Numbers 21: 4-9,        John 8: 21-30
Tuesday of the 5th Week of Lent - Lectionary Cycle II

Pope Francis talks about serpents, the devil, evil, sin and Jesus 31.03.20

The serpent is certainly not a friendly animal: it is always associated with evil. Even in Revelation, the serpent is the very animal that the devil uses to cause sin. In the Book of Revelation  the devil is called  the "ancient serpent", the one who from the beginning bites, poisons, destroys, kills. That's why he can't succeed. He is someone who proposes beautiful things if you want to succeed, but these are a fantasy: we believe them and so we sin. This is what happened to the people of Israel: they could not bear the journey. They were tired. And the people speak against God and against Moses. It's always the same tune, isn't it? "Why did you get us out of Egypt? To make us die in this desert? Because there is no food or water and we are nauseated by this food so light, manna". (Cf. Nm. 21:4-5) And their imagination – we have read it in recent days – always goes to Egypt: "But, there we were doing well, we ate well ...". And also, it seems that the Lord couldn't put up with His  people at this moment. He was angry: the wrath of God is seen, sometimes ... And then the Lord sent saraph serpents among the people who bit the people so that many of them died. "A large number of Israelites died" (Nm: 21.5). At that time, the serpent was always the image of evil: the people see in the serpent their sin, they see in the serpent what they had done wrong. And they went to Moses and said, "We have sinned because we have complained against the Lord and against you. Pray the Lord to take away these serpents from us" (Nm 21:7). They repent. This is what happened in the desert. Moses prayed for the people, and the Lord said to Moses, "Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and if anyone who has been bitten and looks at it he will live" (Nm. 21:8).

I think: isn't this idolatry? There is the serpent, there, an idol, which gives me health ... It's not understandable. Logically, it's not understandable, but this is a prophecy, this is a proclamation of what will happen. Because we have also heard as a prophecy in the Gospel: "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am and that I do nothing on my own" (John. 8:28). Jesus raised: on the cross. Moses makes a serpent and mounts it. Jesus will be lifted up, like the serpent, to give salvation. But the core of the prophecy is precisely that Jesus has made Himself sin for us. He did not sin: he made Himself sin. As St. Peter says in his letter: "He bore all of our sins in Himself" (Cf. 1Pt 2:24) And when we look at the crucifix, we think of the Lord who suffers: all that is true. But let's stop before we get to the centre of that truth: right now, you seem to be the greatest sinner, you have sinned. He has taken upon Himself all our sins, he has annihilated Himself until now. There was a vendetta by the doctors of the law who didn't want Him. All this is true. But the truth that comes from God is that He came into the world to take our sins upon Himself to the point of making Himself sin. All complete sin. Our sins are there.

We need to get used to looking at the crucifix in this light, which is the truest, is the light of redemption. In Jesus made sin we see the total defeat of Christ. He does not pretend to die, he does not pretend not to suffer, alone, abandoned ... "Father, why did you abandon me?" (Cf Mt 27.46; Mark 15:34). A serpent: I'm raised up like a serpent, as something that's completely sinful.

It is not easy to understand this and, if we think about it, we will never arrive at a conclusion. We can only, contemplate, pray and give thanks.