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Pope Francis Meeting with Bishops, Priests, Religious, Consecrated Persons, Seminarians, Catechists
Syro-Catholic Cathedral of “Our Lady of Salvation” in Baghdad 05.03.2021


Pope Francis meeting with Bishops - Baghdad 05.03.21


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Pope Francis Video message 04.03.21 
on the upcoming Apostolic Journey to Iraq 
5 to 8 March 2021 


Pope Francis Video message ahead of visit to Iraq 04.03.2021


Click here for the full message







Pope Francis General Audience 03.03.21  

Prayer and the Trinity

Pope Francis - Prayer and the Trinity  - General Audience  03.03.21
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

In our journey of catechesis on prayer, today and next week we will see how, thanks to Jesus Christ, prayer opens us up to the Trinity –to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - to the immense sea of God who is Love. It is Jesus who opened up Heaven to us and projected us into a relationship with God. It was he who did this: he opened up to us this relationship with the Triune God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We really did not know how to pray: what words, what feelings and what language were appropriate for God.

Not all prayers are equal, and not all are convenient: the Bible itself attests to the negative outcome of many prayers, which are rejected. Perhaps God at times is not content with our prayers and we are not even aware of this. God looks at the hands of those who pray: to make them pure it is not necessary to wash them; if anything, one must refrain from evil acts.

But perhaps the most moving acknowledgment of the poverty of our prayer came from the lips of the Roman centurion who one day begged Jesus to heal his sick servant. He felt totally inadequate: he was not a Jew, he was an officer in the detested occupying army. But his concern for his servant emboldens him, and he says: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed” (v. 8). It is the phrase we also repeat in every Eucharistic liturgy. To dialogue with God is a grace: we are not worthy of it, we have no rights to claim, we “limp” with every word and every thought... But Jesus is the door that opens us to this dialogue with God.

Why should humanity be loved by God? There are no obvious reasons, there is no proportion… So much so that most mythologies do not contemplate the possibility of a god who cares about human affairs; on the contrary, they are considered bothersome and boring, entirely negligible. Remember God’s phrase to his people, repeated in Deuteronomy: “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us?” This closeness of God is the revelation! This is God’s closeness, that opens us up to dialogue with him.

A God who loves humanity: we would never have had the courage to believe in him, had we not known Jesus. It is the scandal – it is a scandal! - that we find inscribed in the parable of the merciful father, or in that of the shepherd who goes in search of the lost sheep (cf. Lk 15). We would not have been able to conceive or even comprehend such stories if we had not met Jesus. What kind of God is prepared to die for people? Which one? What kind of God loves always and patiently, without demanding to be loved in return? What God accepts the tremendous lack of gratitude of a son who asks for his inheritance in advance and leaves home, squandering everything?

It is Jesus who reveals God’s heart. Thus Jesus tells us through his life the extent to which God is a Father. The paternity that is closeness, compassion and tenderness. Do not forget these three words, that are God’s style. It is his way of expressing his paternity towards us. It is difficult for us to imagine from afar the love with which the Holy Trinity is filled, and the depth of the reciprocal benevolence that exists between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Eastern icons offer us a glimpse of this mystery that is the origin and joy of the whole universe.

Above all, it was beyond us to believe that this divine love would expand, landing on our human shore: we are the recipients of a love that has no equal on earth. The Catechism explains: “The sacred humanity of Jesus is therefore the way by which the Holy Spirit teaches us to pray to God our Father”. And this is the grace of our faith. We really could not have hoped for a higher vocation: the humanity of Jesus – God who came close to us in Jesus - made available to us the very life of the Trinity, and threw wide open this door of the mystery of the love of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.





Pope Francis Angelus 28.02.21

The Transfiguration of Jesus

Pope Francis The Transfiguration of Jesus - Angelus 28.02.21
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

This Second Sunday of Lent invites us to contemplate the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain, before three of his disciples (cf. Mk 9:2-10). Just before, Jesus had announced that in Jerusalem he would suffer a greatly, be rejected and put to death. We can imagine what must have happened in the heart of his friends, of those close friends, his disciples: the image of a strong and triumphant Messiah is put into crisis, their dreams are shattered, and they are beset by anguish at the thought that the Teacher in whom they had believed would be killed like the worst of wrongdoers. And in that very moment, with that anguish of soul, Jesus calls Peter, James and John and takes them up the mountain with him.

The Gospel says: He “led them up a high mountain”. In the Bible, the mountain always has a special significance: it is the elevated place where heaven and earth touch each other, where Moses and the prophets had the extraordinary experience of encountering God. Climbing the mountain is drawing somewhat close to God. Jesus climbs up with the three disciples and they stop at the top of the mountain. Here, he is transfigured before them. His face radiant and his garments glistening, providing a preview of the image as the Risen One, offer to those frightened men the light, the light of hope, the light to pass through the shadows: death will not be the end of everything, because it will open to the glory of the Resurrection. Thus, Jesus announces his death; he takes them up the mountain and shows them what will happen afterwards, the Resurrection.

As the Apostle Peter exclaimed, it is good to pause with the Lord on the mountain, to live this “preview” of light in the heart of Lent. It is a call to remember, especially when we pass through a difficult trial – and so many of you know what it means to pass through a difficult trial – that the Lord is Risen and does not permit darkness to have the last word.

At times we go through moments of darkness in our personal, family or social life, and of fear that there is no way out. We feel frightened before great enigmas such as illness, innocent pain or the mystery of death. In the same journey of faith, we often stumble encountering the scandal of the cross and the demands of the Gospel, which calls us to spend our life in service and to lose it in love, rather than preserve it for ourselves and protect it. Thus, we need a different outlook, of a light that illuminates the mystery of life in depth and helps us to move beyond our paradigms and beyond the criteria of this world. We too are called to climb up the mountain, to contemplate the beauty of the Risen One who enkindles glimmers of light in every fragment of our life and helps us to interpret history beginning with his paschal victory.

Let us be careful, however: that feeling of Peter that “it is well that we are here” must not become spiritual laziness. We cannot remain on the mountain and enjoy the beauty of this encounter by ourselves. Jesus himself brings us back to the valley, amid our brothers and sisters and into daily life. We must beware of spiritual laziness: we are fine, with our prayers and liturgies, and this is enough for us. No! Going up the mountain does not mean forgetting reality; praying never means avoiding the difficulties of life; the light of faith is not meant to provide beautiful spiritual feelings. No, this is not Jesus’ message. We are called to experience the encounter with Christ so that, enlightened by his light, we might take it and make it shine everywhere. Igniting little lights in people’s hearts; being little lamps of the Gospel that bear a bit of love and hope: this is the mission of a Christian.

Let us pray to Mary Most Holy, that she may help us to welcome the light of Christ with wonder, to safeguard it and share it.





Pope Francis Angelus 21.02.21

Jesus tempted by the devil

Pope Francis - Temptation and the Devil - Angelus 21.02.21
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Last Wednesday, with the penitential rite of the ashes, we began our Lenten journey. Today, the first Sunday of this liturgical season, the Word of God shows us the path to living fruitfully the forty days that lead to the annual celebration of Easter. It is the way Jesus trod, which the Gospel, with Mark’s essential style, summarises by saying that before He began His preaching, He withdrew into the desert for forty days, where He was tempted by Satan (1:12-15). The Evangelist emphasises that “the Spirit - the Holy Spirit - immediately drove Him out into the wilderness” (v. 12). The Holy Spirit descended upon Him immediately after the baptism He received from John in the River Jordan; the same Spirit now impels Him to go into the desert, to face the Tempter, to combat the devil. Jesus' entire existence is placed under the sign of the Spirit of God, who animates, inspires and guides Him.

But let us think of the desert. Let us pause for a moment on this natural and symbolic environment, so important in the Bible. The desert is the place where God speaks to the heart of the human person, and where prayer is the answer, that is, the desert of solitude, the heart detached from other things, and which only in that solitude opens itself to the Word of God. But it is also the place of trial and temptation, where the Tempter, taking advantage of human frailty and needs, insinuates his lying voice, as an alternative to God’s, an alternative voice that makes you see another road, another road of deception. The Tempter seduces. Indeed, during the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert, the “duel” between Jesus and the devil begins, which will end with the Passion and the Cross. Christ’s entire ministry is a struggle against the Evil One in its many manifestations: healing from illnesses, exorcising the possessed, forgiving sins. It is a struggle. After the first phase in which Jesus demonstrates that He speaks and acts with the power of God, it seems that the devil has the upper hand, when the Son of God is rejected, abandoned and finally captured and condemned to death. It looks like the winner is the devil. In reality, death was the last “desert” to cross in order to finally defeat Satan and free us all from his power. And in this way Jesus won in the desert of death, so as to win in the Resurrection.

Every year, at the beginning of Lent, this Gospel of the temptations of Jesus in the desert reminds us that the life of the Christian, in the footsteps of the Lord, is a battle against the spirit of evil. It shows us that Jesus willingly faced the Tempter, and defeated him; and at the same time it reminds us that the devil is granted the possibility of acting on us too, with his temptations. We must be aware of the presence of this astute enemy, who seeks our eternal condemnation, our failure, and prepare to defend ourselves against him and to combat him. The grace of God assures us, with faith, prayer and penance, of our victory over the enemy. But I would like to underline one thing: in the temptations, Jesus never enters into dialogue with the devil, never. In his life Jesus never had a dialogue with the devil, never. Either He banishes him from the possessed or He condemns him, or He shows his malice, but never a dialogue. And in the desert it seems that there is a dialogue because the devil makes three proposals and Jesus responds. But Jesus does not respond with his words. He answers with the Word of God, with three passages of Scripture. And this is what all of us must do too. When the seducer approaches, he begins to seduce us: “But think of this, do that…", the temptation is to dialogue with him, as Eve did. Eve said: “But we can’t, because …", and entered into dialogue. And if we enter into dialogue with the devil we will be defeated. Keep this in your head and in your heart: you can never enter into dialogue with the devil, no dialogue is possible. Only the Word of God.

During the Season of Lent, the Holy Spirit drives us too, like Jesus, into the desert. It is not, as we have seen, a physical place, but rather an existential dimension in which we can be silent and listen to the word of God, “so that a true conversion might be effected in us” (Collect, First Sunday of Lent B). Do not be afraid of the desert, seek out more moments of prayer, of silence, to enter into ourselves. Do not be afraid. We are called to walk in God’s footsteps, renewing our Baptismal promises: renouncing Satan, and all his works and all his seductions. The enemy is crouching there, beware. But never dialogue with him. Let us entrust ourselves to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary.





Pope Francis Holy Mass 17.02.21

Ash Wednesday

Pope Francis Ash Wednesday 17.02.21
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

We are now embarking on our Lenten journey, which opens with the words of the prophet Joel. They point out the path we are to follow. We hear an invitation that arises from the heart of God, who with open arms and longing eyes pleads with us: “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). Return to me. Lent is a journey of return to God. How many times, in our activity or indifference, have we told him: “Lord, I will come to you later, just wait a little... I can’t come today, but tomorrow I will begin to pray and do something for others”. We do this, time and time again. Right now, however, God is speaking to our hearts. In this life, we will always have things to do and excuses to offer, but right now, brothers and sisters, right now is the time to return to God.
It is a time to reconsider the path we are taking, to find the route that leads us home and to rediscover our profound relationship with God, on whom everything depends. Lent is not just not about the little sacrifices we make, but about discerning where our hearts are directed. This is the core of Lent. Let us ask: Where is my life’s navigation system taking me – towards God or towards myself? Do I live to please the Lord, or to be noticed, praised, put at the head of line…? Do I have a “wobbly” heart, which takes a step forwards and then one backwards? Do I love the Lord a bit and the world a bit, or is my heart steadfast in God? Am I content with my hypocrisies, or do I work to free my heart from the duplicity and falsehood that tie it down?

The journey of Lent is an exodus, an exodus from slavery to freedom. These forty days correspond to the forty years that God’s people trekked through the desert to return to their homeland. How difficult it was to leave Egypt! It was more difficult for God’s people to leave the Egypt of the heart, that Egypt they carried within them, than to leave the land of Egypt. So it is with us: our journey back to God is blocked by our unhealthy attachments, held back by the seductive snares of our sins, by the false security of money and appearances, by the paralysis of our discontents. To embark on this journey, we have to unmask these illusions.

But we can ask ourselves: how do we then proceed on our journey back to God? We can be guided by return journeys described in the word of God.

We can think of the prodigal son and realize that, for us too, it is time to return to the Father. We have fallen down, like little children who constantly fall, toddlers who try to walk but keep falling and need, time and time again, to be picked up by their father. It is the Father’s forgiveness that always set us back on our feet. God’s forgiveness – Confession – is the first step on our return journey. In mentioning Confession, I ask confessors to be like fathers, offering not a rod but an embrace.

We then need to return to Jesus, like the leper who, once cured, returned to give him thanks. Although ten had been healed, he was the only one saved, because he returned to Jesus. All of us have spiritual infirmities that we cannot heal on our own. All of us have deep-seated vices that we cannot uproot alone. All of us have paralyzing fears that we cannot overcome alone. We need Jesus’ healing, we need to present our wounds to him and say: “Jesus, I am in your presence, with my sin, with my sorrows. You are the physician. You can set me free. Heal my heart”.

Once again, the word of God asks us to return to the Father, to return to Jesus. It also calls us to return to the Holy Spirit. The ashes on our head remind us that we are dust and to dust we will return. Yet upon this dust of ours, God blew his Spirit of life. So we should no longer live our lives chasing dust, chasing things that are here today and gone tomorrow. Let us return to the Spirit, the Giver of Life; let us return to the Fire that resurrects our ashes, to the Fire who teaches us to love.

Brothers and sisters, our return journey to God is possible only because he first journeyed to us. Our journey then is about letting him take us by the hand. The Father who bids us come home is the same who left home to come looking for us.

This, then, is the Apostle’s plea: “Be reconciled to God” (v. 20). Be reconciled: the journey is not based on our own strength. No one can be reconciled to God on his or her own. What enables us to return to him is not our own ability or merit, but his offer of grace. Grace saves us; salvation is pure grace, pure gratuitousness. Jesus says this clearly in the Gospel: what makes us just is not the righteousness we show before others, but our sincere relationship with the Father. The beginning of the return to God is the recognition of our need for him and his mercy, our need for his grace. This is the right path, the path of humility. Do I feel in need, or do I feel self-sufficient?

Today we bow our heads to receive ashes. At the end of Lent, we will bow even lower to wash the feet of our brothers and sisters. Lent is a humble descent both inwards and towards others. It is about realizing that salvation is not an ascent to glory, but a descent in love. It is about becoming little. God points his finger at no one, but rather opens his arms to embrace us. God awaits us with his infinite mercy. Because there, where we are most vulnerable, where we feel the most shame, he came to meet us. And having come to meet us, he now invites us to return to him, to rediscover the joy of being loved.






Pope Francis Angelus 14.02.21

The healing of the leper

Pope Francis - Compassion, Closeness, Tenderness - Angelus 14.02.21
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Today’s Gospel (cf Mk 1:40-45) presents us with the encounter between Jesus and a man who was sick with leprosy. Lepers were considered impure and, according to the prescriptions of the Law, they had to remain outside of inhabited centres. They were excluded from every human, social and religious relationship: for example, they could not enter a synagogue, they could not go into the temple, these were religious restrictions. Jesus, instead, allows this man to draw near him, he is moved even to the point of extending his hand and touching him. This was unthinkable at that time. This is how he fulfils the Good News he proclaims: God draws near to our lives, he is moved to compassion because of the fate of wounded humanity and comes to break down every barrier that prevents us from being in relationship with him, with others and with ourselves. He drew near… Nearness. Compassion. The Gospel says that Jesus, seeing the leper, was moved with compassion, tenderness. Three words that indicate God’s style: nearness, compassion, tenderness. In this episode, we can see two “transgressions” that intersect: the transgression of the leper who draws near to Jesus, and should not have done so; and Jesus who, moved with compassion, touches him compassionately to heal him. He should not have done that. Both of them are transgressors.

The first transgression is that of the leper: despite the prescriptions of the Law, he comes out of his isolation and goes to Jesus. His illness was considered a divine punishment, but, in Jesus, he is able to see another aspect of God: not the God who punishes, but the Father of compassion and love who frees us from sin and never excludes us from his mercy. Thus, that man can emerge from his isolation because in Jesus he finds God who shares his pain. Jesus’s behaviour attracts him, pushes him to go out of himself and entrust Him with his painful story. And allow me a thought here for the many good priest confessors who have this behaviour of attracting people, and many people who feel that they are nothing, who feel they are flat on the ground because of their sins, who with tenderness, with compassion… Good confessors who do not have a whip in their hands, but just welcome, listen and say that God is good and that God always forgives, that God does not get tired of forgiving. I ask all of you here today in the Square, to give a round of applause for these merciful confessors.

The second transgression is that of Jesus: even though the Law prohibited touching lepers, he is moved, extends his hand and touches him to cure him. Someone would have said: He sinned. He did something the law prohibits. He is a transgressor. It is true: He is a transgressor. He does not limit himself to words, but touches him. To touch with love means to establish a relationship, to enter into communion, to become involved in the life of another person even to the point of sharing their wounds. With that gesture, Jesus reveals that God, who is not indifferent, does not keep himself at a “safe distance”. Rather, he draws near out of compassion and touches our life to heal it with tenderness. It is God’s style: nearness, compassion and tenderness. God’s transgression. He is a great transgressor in this sense.

Brothers and sisters, even in today’s world, many of our brothers and sisters still suffer from this illness, from Hansen’s disease, or from other illnesses and conditions that carry social stigmas with them. “This person is a sinner”. Think a moment about when that woman entered the banquet and poured out that perfume on Jesus’s feet… The others were saying: “But if he were a prophet he would know who this woman is: a sinner”. Disdain. Instead, Jesus welcomes, rather, thanks her: “Your sins are forgiven”. Jesus’s tenderness. Social prejudices distance these people through words: “This person is impure, that person is a sinner, this person is a crook, that person…” Yes, at times it is true. But not to judge through prejudice. Each one of us might experience wounds, failure, suffering, selfishness that make us close ourselves off from God and others because sin closes us in on ourselves because of shame, because of humiliation, but God wants to open our heart. In the face of all this, Jesus announces to us that God is not an idea or an abstract doctrine but God is the One who “contaminates” himself with our human woundedness and is not afraid to come into contact with our wounds. “But, Father, what are you saying? What God contaminates himself?” I am not saying this, St Paul said it: he made himself to be sin. He who was not a sinner, who could not sin, made himself to be sin. Look at how God contaminated himself to draw near to us, to have compassion and to make us understand his tenderness. Closeness, compassion, and tenderness.

To respect the rules regarding good reputation and social customs, we often silence pain or we wear masks that camouflage it. To balance the calculations of our selfishness and the interior laws of our fears we do not get that involved with the sufferings of others. Instead, let us ask the Lord for the grace to live these two “transgressions”, these two “transgressions” from today’s Gospel: that of the leper, so that we might have the courage to emerge from our isolation and, instead of staying put and feeling sorry for ourselves or crying over our failings, complaining, and instead of this, let us go to Jesus just as we are; “Jesus I am like this”. We will feel that embrace, that embrace of Jesus that is so beautiful. And then Jesus’s transgression, a love that goes beyond conventions, that overcomes prejudices and the fear of getting involved with the lives of others. Let us learn to be transgressors like these two: like the leper and like Jesus.

May the Virgin Mary accompany us on this journey.






Pope Francis Message for Lent 12.02.21

Lent
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Lent: a Time for Renewing Faith, Hope and Love

During this season of conversion, let us renew our faith, draw from the “living water” of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God, who makes us brothers and sisters in Christ.

Fasting, prayer and almsgiving, as preached by Jesus (cf. Mt 6:1-18), enable and express our conversion. The path of poverty and self-denial (fasting), concern and loving care for the poor (almsgiving), and childlike dialogue with the Father (prayer) make it possible for us to live lives of sincere faith, living hope and effective charity.






Pope Francis General Audience 10.02.21

Praying in daily life

Pope Francis - Prayer in Daily Life - General Audience 10.02.2021
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

In the preceding catechesis we saw how Christian prayer is “anchored” in the Liturgy. Today, we will shed light on how the Liturgy always enters daily life: on the streets, in offices, on public transportation… And there it continues the dialogue with God: the person who prays is like someone in love who always bears the beloved in his or her heart wherever they go.

Essentially, everything becomes a part of this dialogue with God: every joy becomes a reason for praise, every trial is an opportunity to ask for help. Prayer is always alive in our lives, like embers, even when the mouth does not speak, but the heart speaks. Every thought, even the apparently “profane” ones, can be permeated by prayer. There is even a prayerful aspect in the human intelligence; it is, in fact, a window peering into the mystery: it illuminates the few steps in front of us and then opens up to the entire reality, this reality that precedes it and surpasses it. This mystery does not have a disquieting or anxious face. No, knowledge of Christ makes us confident that whatever our eyes and the eyes of our minds cannot see, rather than nothing being there, there is someone who is waiting for us, there is infinite grace. And thus, Christian prayer instils an invincible hope in the human heart: whatever experience we touch on our journey, God’s love can turn it into good.

Regarding this, the Catechism reads: “We learn to pray at certain moments by hearing the Word of the Lord and sharing in his Paschal Mystery, but his Spirit is offered us at all times, in the events of each day, to make prayer spring up from us. Time is in the Father’s hands; it is in the present that we encounter him, not yesterday or tomorrow, but today” (n. 2659). Today I meet God, today is always the day of the encounter.

There exists no other wonderful day than the day we are living. Those who live always thinking about the future, in the future: “But it will be better...”, but do not take each day as it comes: these are people who live in their fantasy, they do not know how to deal with concrete reality. And today is real, today is concrete. And prayer is to be done today. Jesus comes to meet us today, the day we are living. And it is prayer that transforms this day into grace, or better, it transforms us: it appeases anger, sustains love, multiplies joy, instils the strength to forgive. Sometimes it will seem that it is no longer we who are living, but that grace lives and works in us through prayer. It is grace that awaits, but always this, don’t forget: take today as it comes. And let’s think about when an angry thought comes to you, of unhappiness, that moves you toward bitterness, stop yourself. And let’s say to the Lord: “Where are you? And where am I going?” And the Lord is there, the Lord will give you the right word, the advice to go ahead without that bitter, negative taste. For prayer is always, using a profane word, is positive. Always. It will carry you ahead. Each day that begins is accompanied by courage if it is welcomed in prayer. Thus, the problems we face no longer seem to be obstacles to our happiness, but appeals from God, opportunities to meet Him. And when a person is accompanied by the Lord, he or she feels more courageous, freer, and even happier.

Let us pray always, then, for everyone, even for our enemies. Jesus counselled us to do this: “Pray for your enemies”. Let us pray for our dear ones, even those we do not know. Prayer inclines us toward a superabundant love. Let us pray above all for people who are sad, for those who weep in solitude and despair that there still might be someone who loves them. Pray works miracles; and the poor then understand, by God’s grace that, even in their precarious situation, the prayer of a Christian makes Christ’s compassion present. The Lord is – let’s not forget – the Lord of compassion, of nearness, of tenderness: three words never to be forgotten regarding the Lord. Because this is the Lord’s style: compassion, nearness, tenderness.

Prayer helps us love others, despite their mistakes and sins. The person is always more important than their actions, and Jesus did not judge the world, but He saved it. What a horrible life is that of the person who always judges others, who is always condemning, judging. Open your heart, pardon, give others the benefit of the doubt, understand, be close to others, be compassionate, be tender, like Jesus. We need to love each and every person, remembering in prayer that we are all sinners and at the same time loved individually by God. Loving the world in this way, loving it with tenderness, we will discover that each day and everything bears within it a fragment of God’s mystery.

Again, the Catechism reads: “Prayer in the events of each day and each moment is one of the secrets of the Kingdom revealed to ‘little children,’ to the servants of Christ, to the poor of the beatitudes. 

The human person – men and women, all of us, – the human person is like a breath, like a blade of grass. We are fragile beings, but we know how to pray: this is our greatest dignity and it is also our strength. Have courage. Pray in every moment, in every situation so the Lord might be near to us. And when a prayer is said according to the heart of Jesus, it obtains miracles.





Pope Francis  Message for the World Day of Prayer, Reflection and Action against Human Trafficking 08.02.21


Pope Francis Video Message against Human Trafficking 08.02.21
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

I address all of you who work against human trafficking and who are spiritually united today on this World Day of Prayer.

I extend my message to all people of good will who pray, engage, study and reflect on the fight against human trafficking; and especially to those who have experienced the tragedy of human trafficking in their own lives.

May reflection and awareness always be accompanied by concrete gestures, which also open up paths to social emancipation. Indeed, the aim is for every enslaved person to return to being a free agent of his or her own life and to take an active part in the construction of the common good.





Pope Francis Angelus 07.02.21

The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law

Pope Francis Jesus healing the people - Angelus - 07.02.21
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Once again in the Square! Today’s Gospel passage (cf. Mk 1:29-39) presents the healing, by Jesus, of Peter’s mother-in-law and then of many other sick and suffering people who gather round him. The woman is in bed with a fever; Jesus’ attitude and gesture toward her are emblematic: “he came and took her by the hand” (v. 31). There is so much tenderness in this simple act, which seems almost natural: “the fever left her; and she served them” (ibid.). Jesus’ healing power meets no resistance; and the person healed resumes her normal life, immediately thinking of others and not of herself – and this is significant; it is the sign of true “health”!

That day was a sabbath day. The people of the village wait for sundown and then, the obligation of rest having ended, they go out and bring to Jesus all those who are sick and possessed by demons. And he heals them, but forbids the demons to reveal that he is the Christ (cf. vv. 32-34). Thus, from the very beginning, Jesus shows his predilection to draw near to people who suffer both in body and in spirit. It is the Father’s predilection, which he incarnates and manifests with deeds and words. His disciples were eyewitnesses to this; they saw this and then witnessed to it. But Jesus did not want just spectators of his mission: he involved them; he sent them; he also gave them the power to heal the sick and cast out demons. And this has continued without interruption in the life of the Church, up to today. And this is important. Taking care of the sick of every kind is not an “optional activity” for the Church, no! It is not something extra, no. Taking care of the sick of every kind is an integral part of the Church’s mission, as it was for Jesus’. And this mission is to bring God’s tenderness to a suffering humanity. We will be reminded of this in a few days, on 11 February, with the World Day of the Sick.

The reality that we are experiencing throughout the world due to the pandemic makes this message, this essential mission of the Church, particularly relevant. The voice of Job, which echoes in today’s liturgy, is once again the interpreter our human condition, so lofty in dignity and at the same time so fragile. In the face of this reality, the question “why?” always arises in the heart.

And to this question Jesus, the Word Incarnate, responds not with an explanation – to this because we are so lofty in dignity and so fragile in condition, Jesus does not respond to this ‘why’ with an explanation –, but with a loving presence that bends down, that takes by the hand and lifts up, as he did with Peter’s mother-in-law (cf. Mk 1:31). Bending down to lift up the other. Let us not forget that the only legitimate way to look at a person from top down is when you stretch out a hand to help them get up. The only one. And this is the mission that Jesus entrusted to the Church. The Son of God manifests his Lordship not “from top down”, not from a distance, but in bending down, stretching out his hand; he manifests his Lordship in closeness, in tenderness, in compassion. Closeness, tenderness, compassion are the style of God. How many times in the Gospel do we read, before a health problem or any problem: “he had compassion”. Jesus’ compassion, God’s closeness in Jesus is the style of God. Today’s Gospel passage also reminds us that this compassion is deeply rooted in the intimate relationship with the Father. Why? Before daybreak and after sundown, Jesus withdrew and remained alone to pray (v. 35). From there he drew the strength to fulfil his mission, preaching and healing.

May the Holy Virgin help us to allow Jesus to heal us – we always need this, everyone – so that we might in our turn be witnesses to God’s healing tenderness.







Pope Francis Message for the Virtual meeting 04.02.21 
International Day of Human Fraternity


Pope international Day of Human Fraternity 04.02.21
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Sisters and Brothers. This is the word: sisters and brothers. To affirm fraternity

In a special way, to you, my brother, my friend, my companion of challenges and risks in the struggle for fraternity, Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayyib, whom I thank for his company in the journey of reflection and drafting of the document that was presented two years ago. His witness helped me a great deal because it was a courageous testimony. Thank you, brother, thank you!

I would also like to thank His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed for all the effort he put forth so that we could proceed in this journey. I think it is also right to thank Judge Abdel Salam, friend, worker, full of ideas, who helped us to make progress.

Today fraternity is humanity’s new frontier. Either we are brothers and sisters or we destroy each other.

Today there is no time for indifference. We cannot wash our hands of it, with distance, with disregard, with disinterest. It is the challenge of our century; it is the challenge of our times.

Fraternity means the hand outstretched; fraternity means respect. Fraternity means listening with an open heart. Fraternity means firmness in one’s convictions. Because there is no true fraternity if one’s convictions are negotiated.

We are brothers and sisters, born of one and the same Father. With different cultures and traditions, but brothers and sisters all. 

It is the moment for certainty that a world without brothers and sisters is a world of enemies. I wish to underscore it. We cannot say: either brothers or not brothers. Let us state it clearly: either brothers or enemies. Because disregard is a very subtle form of hostility. There is no need for war to make enemies. Disregard is enough. This technique suffices — it is transformed into a technique — it suffices with this attitude of looking the other way, not caring for the other, as if he or she did not exist.

Dear brother Grand Imam, thank you for your help. Thank you for your witness. Thank you for this journey that we have undertaken together.




Pope Francis General Audience 03.02.21

Praying in the liturgy  


Pope Francis Praying in the Liturgy - General Audience 03.02.2021
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

In the history of the Church, there has often been a temptation to practise an intimist Christianity, which does not recognise the spiritual importance of public liturgical rites. Often, this tendency claimed the supposed greater purity of a religiousness that did not depend on external ceremonies, which were considered a useless or harmful burden. At the centre of the criticism was not a particular ritual form, or a particular way of celebrating, but rather the liturgy itself, the liturgical form of praying.

Indeed, in the Church one can find certain forms of spirituality that have failed to adequately integrate the liturgical moment. Many of the faithful, although they participate assiduously in the liturgy, especially Sunday Mass, have instead drawn nourishment for their faith and spiritual life from other sources, of a devotional type.

The Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium of the Second Vatican Council reaffirms the importance of the divine liturgy for the life of Christians. In Christian life, the corporeal and material sphere may not be dispensed with, because in Jesus Christ it became the way of salvation. We might say that we must pray with the body too: the body enters into prayer.

Therefore, there is no Christian spirituality that is not rooted in the celebration of the holy mysteries. The liturgy, in itself, is not only spontaneous prayer. It is an encounter with Christ. Christ makes himself present in the Holy Spirit through the sacramental signs: hence the need for us Christians to participate in the divine mysteries. A Christianity without a liturgy, I dare say, is perhaps a Christianity without Christ. Without Christ in full. Even in the sparest rite, such as that which some Christians have celebrated and continue to celebrate in places of incarceration, or in the seclusion of a house during times of persecution, Christ is truly present and gives Himself to His faithful.

Every time we celebrate a Baptism, or consecrate the bread and wine in the Eucharist, or anoint the body of a sick person with Holy Oil, Christ is here! It is He who acts and is present just as He was when He healed the weak limbs of a sick person, or when at the Last Supper He delivered His testament for the salvation of the world.

Mass cannot merely be listened to, as if we were merely spectators of something that slips away without our involvement. The Mass is always celebrated, by all Christians who experience it. And the centre is Christ! All of us, in the diversity of gifts and ministries, join in His action, because He, Christ, is the Protagonist of the liturgy.

When the first Christians began to worship, they did so by actualizing Jesus’ deeds and words, with the light and power of the Holy Spirit, so that their lives, reached by that grace, would become a spiritual sacrifice offered to God. When we go to Mass: I go to pray in the community, I go to pray with Christ who is present. When we go to the celebration of a Baptism, for example, it is Christ who is there, present, who baptizes. “But Father, this is an idea, a figure of speech”: no, it is not a figure of speech. Christ is present, and in the liturgy you pray with Christ who is beside you.





Pope Francis Holy Mass 02.02.21

Presentation of the Lord

World Day For Consecrated Life


      Pope Francis Homily about Patience - Presentation of the Lord 02.02.2021
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Simeon, so Saint Luke tells us, “looked forward to the consolation of Israel” (Lk 2:25). Going up to the Temple as Mary and Joseph were bringing Jesus there, he took the Messiah into his arms. The one who recognized in that Child the light that came to shine on the Gentiles was an elderly man who had patiently awaited the fulfilment of the Lord’s promises.

The patience of Simeon. In his prayer, Simeon had learned that God does not come in extraordinary events, but works amid the apparent monotony of our daily life, in the frequently dull rhythm of our activities, in the little things that, working with tenacity and humility, we achieve in our efforts to do his will. By patiently persevering, Simeon did not grow weary with the passage of time. He was now an old man, yet the flame still burned brightly in his heart. In his long life, there had surely been times when he had been hurt, disappointed, yet he did not lose hope. He trusted in the promise, and did not let himself be consumed by regret for times past or by the sense of despondency that can come as we approach the twilight of our lives. His hope and expectation found expression in the daily patience of a man who, despite everything, remained watchful, until at last “his eyes saw the salvation” that had been promised.

I ask myself: where did Simeon learn such patience? It was born of prayer and the history of his people, which had always seen in the Lord “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and fidelity”. He recognized the Father who, even in the face of rejection and infidelity, never gives up, but remains “patient for many years” (cf. Neh 9:30), constantly holding out the possibility of conversion.

The patience of Simeon is thus a mirror of God’s own patience. From prayer and the history of his people, Simeon had learned that God is indeed patient. By that patience, Saint Paul tells us, he “leads us to repentance”. I like to think of Romano Guardini, who once observed that patience is God’s way of responding to our weakness and giving us the time we need to change. More than anyone else, the Messiah, Jesus, whom Simeon held in his arms, shows us the patience of God, the merciful Father who keeps calling us, even to our final hour. God, who does not demand perfection but heartfelt enthusiasm, who opens up new possibilities when all seems lost, who wants to open a breach in our hardened hearts, who lets the good seed grow without uprooting the weeds. This is the reason for our hope: that God never tires of waiting for us. When we turn away, he comes looking for us; when we fall, he lifts us to our feet; when we return to him after losing our way, he waits for us with open arms. His love is not weighed in the balance of our human calculations, but unstintingly gives us the courage to start anew. This teaches us resilience, the courage always to start again, each day. Always to start over after our falls. God is patient.

Let us look to our patience. Let us look to the patience of God and the patience of Simeon as we consider our own lives of consecration. We can ask ourselves what patience really involves. Certainly it is not simply about tolerating difficulties or showing grim determination in the face of hardship. Patience is not a sign of weakness, but the strength of spirit that enables us to “carry the burden”, to endure, to bear the weight of personal and community problems, to accept others as different from ourselves, to persevere in goodness when all seems lost, and to keep advancing even when overcome by fatigue and listlessness.

In our lives as consecrated men and women, it can happen that hope slowly fades as a result of unmet expectations. We have to be patient with ourselves and await in hope God’s own times and places, for he remains ever faithful to his promises. Brothers and sisters, in us consecrated men and women, interior sadness is a worm, a worm that eats us from within. Flee from interior sadness!

In community life there are times when conflicts arise and no immediate solution can be expected, nor should hasty judgements be made. The Lord does not call us to be soloists – we know there are many in the Church – no, we are not called to be soloists but to be part of a choir that can sometimes miss a note or two, but must always try to sing in unison.

Finally is our relationship with the world. Simeon and Anna cherished the hope proclaimed by the prophets, even though it is slow to be fulfilled and grows silently amid the infidelities and ruins of our world. They did not complain about how wrong things are, but patiently looked for the light shining in the darkness of history. I have seen many consecrated men and women who lose hope, simply through impatience.

Patience helps us to be merciful in the way we view ourselves, our communities and our world. In our own lives, do we welcome the patience of the Holy Spirit? In our communities, do we bear with one another and radiate the joy of fraternal life? In the world, do we patiently offer our service, or issue harsh judgements? These are real challenges for our consecrated life: we cannot remain stuck in nostalgia for the past or simply keep repeating the same old things or everyday complaints. We need patience and courage in order to keep advancing, exploring new paths, and responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. And to do so with humility and simplicity, without great propaganda or publicity.

Let us contemplate God’s patience and implore the trusting patience of Simeon and of Anna. In this way, may our eyes, too, see the light of salvation and bring that light to the whole world, just as these two elderly individuals did in their words of praise.






Pope Francis Angelus 31.01.21

Jesus preaching and healing

Jesus Christ
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Today’s Gospel passage (cf. Mk 1:21-28) tells of a typical day in Jesus’ ministry; in particular, it is the Sabbath, a day dedicated to repose and prayer: people went to the synagogue. In the synagogue of Capernaum, Jesus reads and comments on the Scriptures. Those present are attracted by His manner of speaking; their astonishment is great because He demonstrates an authority different to that of the scribes (v. 22). Furthermore, Jesus shows Himself to be powerful also in His deeds. Indeed, a man of the synagogue turns to Him, addressing Him as God’s Envoy: He recognises the evil spirit, orders him to leave that man, and so drives him out (vv. 23-26).

Two characteristic elements of Jesus’ work can be seen here: preaching, and the therapeutic action of healing: He preaches and heals. Both of these aspects stand out in the passage of the evangelist Mark, but preaching is emphasised the most; exorcism is presented as a confirmation of His singular “authority” and His teaching. Jesus preaches with His own authority, as someone who possesses a doctrine derived from Himself, and not like the scribes who repeated previous traditions and laws. They repeated words, words, words, only words. Just words. Instead Jesus, His word has authority, Jesus is authoritative. And this touches the heart. Jesus' teaching has the same authority as God who speaks; for with a single command He easily frees the possessed man from the evil one, and heals him. Why? Because his word does what He says. Because He is the definitive prophet.

The second aspect, healing, shows that Christ’s preaching is intended to defeat the evil present in humankind and the world. His word is pointedly directed at the kingdom of Satan: it puts him in crisis and makes him recoil, obliging him to leave the world. Touched by the Lord’s command, this possessed, obsessed man is freed and transformed into a new person. In addition, Jesus’ preaching conforms to a logic contrary to that of the world and of the evil one: His words reveal the upheaval of a mistaken ordering of things. In fact, the demon present in the possessed the man cries out as Jesus approaches: “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” (v. 24). These expressions indicate the total extraneousness between Jesus and Satan: they are on completely different planes; there is nothing in common between them; they are the opposite of each other. Jesus, authoritative, who attracts people by his authority, and also the prophet who liberates, the promised prophet who is the Son of God who heals. Let us listen to the words of Jesus, which are authoritative: always, do not forget! Carry a small copy of the Gospel in your pocket or in your bag, in order to read it during the day, to listen to that authoritative word of Jesus. And then, we all have our problems, we all have our sins, we all have spiritual malaises; ask Jesus: “Jesus, you are the prophet, the Son of God, He who was promised to us to heal us. Heal me!” Ask Jesus for healing, from our sins, from our ills.

The Virgin Mary always kept Jesus’ words and deeds in her heart, and followed Him with complete availability and faithfulness. May she help us too to listen to Him and follow Him, to experience the signs of His salvation in our lives.






Pope Francis Message for World Mission Day 29.01.2021

Mission
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Once we experience the power of God’s love, and recognize his fatherly presence in our personal and community life, we cannot help but proclaim and share what we have seen and heard. Jesus’ relationship with his disciples and his humanity, shows us the extent to which God loves our humanity and makes his own our joys and sufferings, our hopes and our concerns. Everything about Christ reminds us that he knows well our world and its need for redemption, and calls us to become actively engaged in this mission: “Go therefore to the highways and byways, and invite everyone you find” (Mt 22:9). No one is excluded, no one need feel distant or removed from this compassionate love.






Pope Francis General Audience 27.01.21

Prayer with the Sacred Scripture

Pope Francis - Prayer with the Sacred Scripture - General Audience 27.01.21
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Today I would like to focus on the prayer we can do beginning with a Bible passage. The words of the Sacred Scripture were not written to remain imprisoned on papyrus, parchment or paper, but to be received by a person who prays, making them blossom in his or her heart. The Word of God goes to the heart. The Catechism affirms that: “prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture” – the Bible should not be read like a novel, it must be accompanied by prayer – “so that a dialogue takes place between God and man”. That Bible verse was written for me too. It was written for every one of us. This experience happens to all believers: a passage from the Scripture, heard many times already, unexpectedly speaks to me one day, and enlightens a situation that I am living. But it is necessary that I, that day, be present for that appointment with that Word. That I may be there, listening to the Word. Every day God passes and sows a seed in the soil of our lives. We do not know whether today he will find dry ground, brambles, or good soil that will make that seed grow. That they become for us the living Word of God depends on us, on our prayer, on the open heart with which we approach the Scriptures.

We must approach the Bible without ulterior motives, without exploiting it. The believer does not turn to the Holy Scriptures to support his or her own philosophical and moral view, but because he or she hopes for an encounter; the believer knows that those words were written in the Holy Spirit, and that therefore in that same Spirit they must be welcomed and understood, so that the encounter can occur.

It irritates me a little when I hear Christians who recite verses from the Bible like parrots. “Oh, yes… Oh, the Lord says… He wants this…”. But did you encounter the Lord, with that verse? It is not a question only of memory: it is a question of the memory of the heart, that which opens you to the encounter with the Lord.

And it is a grace to be able to recognize oneself in this passage or that character, in this or that situation. The Bible was not written for a generic humanity, but for us, for me, for you, for men and women in flesh and blood. And the Word of God, infused with the Holy Spirit, when it is received with an open heart, does not leave things as they were before: never. Something changes. And this is the grace and the strength of the Word of God.

The Word inspires good intentions and sustains action; it gives us strength and serenity, and even when it challenges us, it gives us peace. On “bad” and confusing days, it guarantees to the heart a core of confidence and of love that protects it from the attacks of the evil one.

In this way the Word of God is made flesh – allow me to use this expression - it is made flesh in those who receive it in prayer.

Christian life is at the same time a work of obedience and creativity. A good Christian must be obedient, but he or she must be creative. Obedient, because they listen to the Word of God; creative, because they have the Holy Spirit within who drives them to be so, to lead them on.  The Holy Scriptures are an inexhaustible treasure. May the Lord grant to all of us to draw ever more from them, though prayer.






Pope Francis Homily Second Vespers 25.01.2021  

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Pope Francis - Christian Unity Homily - Second Vespers - 25.01.2021
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

“Abide in my love” (Jn 15:9). Jesus links this request to the image of the vine and the branches. The Lord himself is the vine, who remains ever faithful in love, despite our sins and our divisions. Onto this vine, which is himself, all of us, the baptized, are grafted like branches. This means that we can grow and bear fruit only if we remain united to Jesus. Tonight let us consider this indispensable unity.
If our worship is genuine, we will grow in love for all those who follow Jesus, regardless of the Christian communion to which they may belong, for even though they may not be “one of ours”, they are his.






Pope Francis Angelus 24.01.21

Time and Conversion

Pope Francis - Conversion, Time and Worldliness - Angelus 24.01.2021
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

This Sunday's Gospel passage (cf. Mk 1:14-20) shows us, so to speak, the “passing of the baton” from John the Baptist to Jesus. John was His precursor; he prepared the terrain for Him and prepared the way for Him: now Jesus can begin his mission and announce the salvation by now present; He was salvation. His preaching is summarized in these words: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel” (v. 15). Simply. Jesus did not mince words. It is a message that invites us to reflect on two essential themes: time and conversion.

In this text of Mark the Evangelist, time is to be understood as the duration of the history of salvation worked by God; therefore, the time “fulfilled” is that in which this salvific action reaches its pinnacle, full realization: it is the historical moment in which God sent his Son into the world and his Kingdom is rendered more “close” than ever. The time of salvation is fulfilled because Jesus has arrived.

However, salvation is not automatic; salvation is a gift of love and as such offered to human freedom. Always, when we speak of love, we speak of freedom: a love without freedom is not love;  and being free it calls for a freely given response: it calls for our conversion. Thus, it means to change mentality – this is conversion, to change mentality – and to change life: to no longer follow the examples of the world but those of God, who is Jesus; to follow Jesus, as Jesus had done, and as Jesus taught us. It is a decisive change of view and attitude. In fact, sin – above all the sin of worldliness which is like air, it permeates everything – brought about a mentality that tends toward the affirmation of oneself against others and against God. It is difficult to express one's identity in the worldly spirit in positive terms and those of salvation: it is against oneself, against others and against God. And for this purpose it does not hesitate – the mentality of sin, the worldly mentality – to use deceit and violence. We see what happens with deceit and violence: greed, desire for power and not to serve, war, exploitation of people.... This is the mentality of deceit that definitely has its origins in the father of deceit, the great pretender, the devil. He is the father of lies, as Jesus defines him.

All this is opposed by the message of Jesus, who invites us to recognize ourselves as in need of God and his grace; to have a balanced attitude with regard to earthly goods; to be welcoming and humble toward others; to know and fulfil ourselves in the encounter with and service of others. For each one of us the time in which we are able to receive redemption is brief: it is the duration of our life in this world. It is brief. Perhaps it seems long.... I remember that I went to administer the Sacraments, the Anointing of the Sick to a very good elderly man, he told me this phrase: “My life flew by”. This is how we, the elderly, feel, that life has passed away. It passes away. And life is a gift of God's infinite love, but is also the time to prove our our love for Him. For this reason every moment, every instant of our existence is precious time to love God and to love our neighbour, and thereby enter into eternal life.

The history of our life has two rhythms: one, measurable, made of hours, days, years; the other, composed of the seasons of our development: birth, childhood, adolescence, maturity, old age, death. Every period, every phase has its own value, and can be a privileged moment of encounter with the Lord. Faith helps us to discover the spiritual significance of these periods: each one of them contains a particular call of the Lord, to which we can offer a positive or negative response. In the Gospel we see how Simon, Andrew, James and John responded: they were mature men; they had their work as fishermen, they had their family life.... Yet, when Jesus passed and called to them, “immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Mk 1:18).

Dear brothers and sisters, let us stay attentive and not let Jesus pass by without welcoming him. Saint Augustine said “I am afraid of God when he passes by”. Afraid of what? Of not recognizing Him, of not seeing Him, not welcoming Him.

May the Virgin Mary help us to live each day, each moment as the time of salvation, in which the Lord passes and calls us to follow him, every second of our life. And may she help us to convert from the mentality of the world, that of worldly reveries which are fireworks, to that of love and service.




Pope Francis Angelus 24.01.21

Homeless

On 20 January, just metres from St Peter's Square, a 46-year-old Nigerian homeless man named Edwin was found dead from the cold weather. His story is in addition to that of so many other homeless people who recently died in Rome under the same tragic circumstances. Let's pray for Edwin. Let us be admonished by what St Gregory the Great said, who, in the face of death of a beggar in the cold, said that Mass would not be celebrated that day because it was like Good Friday. Let's think about Edwin. Let's think about what this man, 46, felt in the cold, ignored by everyone, abandoned, even by us. Let us pray for him.





Pope Francis Homily Holy Mass 24.01.21

Sunday of the Word of God

Pope Francis Homily - The Word of God Sunday - 24.01.2021
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

On this Sunday of the Word, let us listen to Jesus as he proclaims the Kingdom of God. Let us consider what he says and to whom he says it.

What does he say? Jesus begins his preaching with these words: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk 1:15). God is near, that is the first message. His kingdom has come down to earth. God is not, as we are often tempted to think, distant, up in heaven, detached from the human condition. No, he is in our midst. The time of his distance ended when, in Jesus, he became man. Ever since then, God has been very close to us; he will never retire from our human condition or tire of it. This closeness is the very first message of the Gospel. If this was the opening theme and the refrain of all Jesus’ preaching, it must necessarily be the one constant of the Christian life and message. Before all else, we must believe and proclaim that God has drawn near to us, that we have been forgiven and shown mercy. Prior to every word of ours about God, there is his word to us, his Word who continues to tell us: “Do not be afraid, I am with you. I am at your side and I will always be there”.

The word of God enables us to touch this closeness. It is the antidote to our fear of having to face life alone. Indeed, by his word the Lord consoles us, that is, he stands “with” those who are “alone”. In speaking to us, he reminds us that he has taken us to heart, that we are precious in his eyes, and that he holds us in the palm of his hand. God’s word infuses this peace, but it does not leave us in peace. It is a word of consolation but also a call to conversion. “Repent”, says Jesus, immediately after proclaiming God’s closeness. For, thanks to his closeness, we can no longer distance ourselves from God and from others. The time when we could live thinking only of ourselves is now over. To do so is not Christian, for those who experience God’s closeness cannot ignore their neighbours or treat them with indifference. Those who hear God’s word are constantly reminded that life is not about shielding ourselves from others, but about encountering them in the name of God who is near. The word sown in the soil of our hearts, leads us in turn to sow hope through closeness to others. Even as God has done with us.

Let us now consider to whom Jesus speaks. His first words are to Galilean fishermen, simple folk who lived by harsh manual labour, by day and night. They were no experts in Scripture or people of great knowledge and culture. They lived in a region made up of various peoples, ethnic groups and cults: one that could not have been further from the religious purity of Jerusalem, the heart of the country. Yet that is where Jesus began, not from the centre but from the periphery, and he did so in order to tell us too that no one is far from God’s heart. Everyone can receive his word and encounter him in person. John received people in the desert, where only those able to leave their homes could go. Jesus, on the other hand, speaks of God in the heart of society, to everyone, wherever they find themselves. He does not speak at fixed times or places, but “walking along the shore”, to fishermen who were “casting their nets” (v. 16). He speaks to people in the most ordinary times and places. Here we see the universal power of the word of God to reach everyone and every area of life.

Yet the word of God also has particular power, that is, it can touch each person directly. The disciples would never forget the words they heard that day on the shore of the lake, by their boats, in the company of their family members and fellow workers: words that marked their lives forever. Jesus said to them: “Follow me, I will make you become fishers of men” (v. 17). He did not appeal to them using lofty words and ideas, but spoke to their lives. If he had told them: “Follow me, I will make you Apostles, you will be sent into the world to preach the Gospel in the power of the Spirit; you will be killed, but you will become saints”, we can be sure that Peter and Andrew would have answered: “Thanks, but we’ll stick to our nets and our boats!” But Jesus spoke to them in terms of their own livelihood: “You are fishermen, and you will become fishers of men”. Struck by those words, they come to realize that lowering their nets for fish was too little, whereas putting out into the deep in response to the word of Jesus was the secret of true joy. The Lord does the same with us: he looks for us where we are, he loves us as we are, and he patiently walks by our side. As he did with those fishermen, he waits for us on the shore of our life. With his word, he wants to change us, to invite us to live fuller lives and to put out into the deep together with him.

So dear brothers and sisters, let us not ignore God’s word. It is a love letter, written to us by the One who knows us best. In reading it, we again hear his voice, see his face and receive his Spirit. That word brings us close to God. Let us not keep it at arm’s length, but carry it with us always, in our pocket, on our phone. Let us give it a worthy place in our homes. Let us set the Gospel in a place where we can remember to open it daily, perhaps at the beginning and at the end of the day, so that amid all those words that ring in our ears, there may also be a few verses of the word of God that can touch our hearts. To be able to do this, let us ask the Lord for the strength to turn off the television and open the Bible, to turn off our cell phone and open the Gospel. During this liturgical year, we are reading Saint Mark, the simplest and the shortest of the Gospels. Why not read it at home too, even a brief passage each day. It will make us feel God’s closeness to us and fill us with courage as we make our way through life.




Pope Francis Message for World Communications Day 23.01.2021

Pope Francis Message for World Communications Day 2021
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

The invitation to “come and see”, which was part of those first moving encounters of Jesus with the disciples, is also the method for all authentic human communication. In order to tell the truth of life that becomes history, it is necessary to move beyond the complacent attitude that we “already know” certain things. Instead, we need to go and see them for ourselves, to spend time with people, to listen to their stories and to confront reality, which always in some way surprises us. This year, then, I would like to devote this Message to the invitation to “come and see”, which can serve as an inspiration for all communication that strives to be clear and honest, in the press, on the internet, in the Church’s daily preaching and in political or social communication. 






Pope Francis General Audience 20.01.21

Prayer for Christian Unity

Pope Francis - Christian Unity - General Audience 20.01.2021
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

In this catechesis, we will reflect on the prayer for Christian unity. In fact, the week of the 18th to the 25th of January is dedicated specifically to this – to ask God for the gift of unity to overcome the scandal of division between believers in Jesus. After the Last Supper, He prayed for His own, “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). This was His prayer before the Passion, we could call it His spiritual testament. Let us note, however, that the Lord did not command that His disciples be united. No, He prayed. He prayed to the Father for us, so that we might be one. This means that we are not able to achieve unity with our own strength. Above all, unity is a gift, it is a grace to be requested through prayer.

Each one of us needs it. In fact, we know that we are not capable of preserving unity even within ourselves. Many divisions surround us – between people, in families, in society, between nations and even between believers – and inside us. The solution to these divisions is not to oppose someone, because discord generates more discord. The true remedy begins by asking God for peace, reconciliation, unity.

And this is valid, first of all, for Christians. Unity can be achieved only as a fruit of prayer. Diplomatic efforts and academic dialogue are not enough. If we inspect the intentions for which we pray, we would probably realize that we have prayed little, perhaps never, for Christian unity. And yet, the world’s faith depends on it; in fact, the Lord asked that we be one “so that the world might believe” (Jn 17:21). The world will not believe because we will have convinced it with good arguments, but if we will have borne witness to that love that unites us and draws us near, yes: it will believe.

During this time of serious hardship, this prayer is even more necessary so that unity might prevail over conflicts. It is essential that Christians pursue the path toward full visible unity. In the last decades, thanks be to God, there have been many steps forward, but we still need to persevere in love and in prayer, without lacking trust or tiring.

To pray means to fight for unity. Yes, fight, because our enemy, the devil, is the one who divides, as the word itself says. Jesus asks the Holy Spirit for unity, to create unity. The devil always divides. He always divides because it is convenient for him to divide. He fosters division everywhere and in any way, while the Holy Spirit always joins in unity. In general, the devil does not tempt us with high theology, but with the weaknesses of our brothers and sisters. He is astute: he magnifies others’ mistakes and defects, sows discord, provokes criticism and creates factions. God has another way: He takes us as we are, He loves us so much, but He loves us as we are and takes us as we are; He takes those of us who are different, He takes sinners, and He always nudges us towards unity. We can evaluate ourselves and ask ourselves if, in the places in which we live, we nurture conflict or fight for an increase of unity with the tools that God has given us: prayer and love. What fuels conflict, instead, is gossip, always talking behind peoples’ backs. Gossip is the most handy weapon the devil has to divide the Christian community, to divide families, to divide friends, to always divide. The Holy Spirit always inspires unity.

The theme of this Week of Prayer specifically regards love: “Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit” (see Jn 15:5-9). The root of communion and love is Christ who makes us overcome our prejudices to see in others a brother or sister to be loved always. Then we will discover that the Christians of other confessions – with their traditions, with their history – are gifts from God, they are gifts present within the territories of our diocesan and parish communities. Let us begin to pray for them and, when possible, with them. We will thus learn to love and appreciate them. Prayer, the Council reminds us, is the soul of every ecumenical movement (see Unitatis redintegratio, 8). Therefore, may prayer be the starting point to help Jesus make His dream come true: that they all may be one. Thank you.




Pope Francis Angelus 17.01.2021

Encounter with Jesus

Pope Francis Encounters with Jesus and God's Calls - Angelus  17.01.2021
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

The Gospel for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (see Jn 1:35-42) presents the meeting between Jesus and His first disciples. The scene unfolds along the Jordan River the day after Jesus’s baptism. It is John the Baptist himself who points out the Messiah to the two with these words: “Behold, the Lamb of God!”. And those two, trusting the Baptist’s testimony, follow Jesus. He realizes this and asks: “What are you looking for?”, and they ask Him: “Rabbi, where are you staying?”.

Jesus does not respond: “I live in Capernaum, or in Nazareth”, but says: “Come and you will see”. Not a calling card, but an invitation for an encounter. The two follow Him and remained that afternoon with Him. It is not difficult to imagine them seated asking Him questions and above all listening to Him, feeling their hearts enflamed ever more while the Master speaks. They sense the beauty of the words that respond to their greatest hope. And all of a sudden they discover that, even though it is evening, in their hearts, that light that only God can give was exploding within them. One thing that catches our attention: sixty years later, or maybe more, one of them would write in his Gospel: “it was about four in the afternoon” – he wrote the time. And this is one thing that makes us think: every authentic encounter with Jesus remains alive in the memory, it is never forgotten. You forget many encounters, but a true encounter with Jesus remains forever. And many years later, those two even remembered the time, they had not forgotten that encounter that was so happy, so complete, that it changed their lives. Then, when they leave from that meeting and return to their brothers, that joy, that light overflows from their hearts like a raging river. One of the two, Andrew, says to his brother, Simon – whom Jesus will call Peter when He will meet him – “We have found the Messiah” (v. 41). They left sure that Jesus was the Messiah, certain.

Let us pause a moment on this experience of meeting Christ who calls us to remain with Him. Each one of God’s calls is an initiative of His love. He is the one who always takes the initiative. He calls you. God calls to life, He calls to faith, and He calls to a particular state in life: “I want you here”. God’s first call is to life, through which He makes us persons; it is an individual call because God does not make things in series. Then God calls us to faith and to become part of His family as children of God. Lastly, God calls us to a particular state in life: to give of ourselves on the path of matrimony, or that of the priesthood or the consecrated life. They are different ways of realizing God’s design that He has for each one of us that is always a design of love. But God calls always. And the greatest joy for every believer is to respond to that call, offering one’s entire being to the service of God and the brothers and sisters.

Brothers and sisters, before the Lord’s call, which reaches us in a thousand ways – through others, happy or sad events – our attitude at times might be rejection. No… “I am afraid”… Rejection because it seems to be in contrast to our aspirations; and even fear because we believe it is too demanding and uncomfortable: “Oh no, I will never be able to do it, better not to, a calmer life is better… God over there, me here”. But God’s call is always love: we need to try to discover the love behind each call, and it should be responded to only with love. This is the language: the response to a call that comes out of love, only love. At the beginning there is an encounter, or rather, there is the encounter with Jesus who speaks to us of His Father, He makes His love known to us. And then the spontaneous desire will arise even in us to communicate it to the people that we love: “I met Love”, “I met the Messiah”, “I met Jesus”, “I found the meaning of my life”. In a word: “I found God”.

May the Virgin Mary help us make of our lives a hymn of praise to God in response to His call and in the humble and joyful fulfilment of His will.

But let us remember this: there was a moment for each one of us, in his or her life, in which God made Himself present more strongly, with a call. Let us remember that. Let us go back to that moment so that the memory of that moment might always renew that encounter with Jesus for us.




Pope Francis General Audience 13.01.21

The Prayer of Praise

Pope Francis - Prayer and Praise - General Audience 13.01.2021
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Let us continue our catechesis on prayer, and today we will give space to the dimension of praise.

We will take as our starting point a critical passage in the life of Jesus. After the first miracles and the involvement of the disciples in the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, the mission of the Messiah goes through a crisis. John the Baptist doubts and makes Him receive this message - John is in jail: “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Mt 11:3), because he feels this anguish of not knowing whether he is mistaken in his proclamation. There are always dark moments, moments of spiritual night-time, and John is going through this moment. There is hostility in the villages along the lake, where Jesus had performed so many prodigious signs (see Mt 11:20-24). Now, precisely in this disappointing moment, Matthew relates a truly surprising fact: Jesus does not lift up a lament to the Father, but rather He raises a hymn of jubilation: “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth”, says Jesus, "that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes” (Mt 11:25). So, in the midst of a crisis, amid the darkness of the soul of so many people, such as John the Baptist, Jesus blesses the Father, Jesus praises the Father. But why?

First and foremost, He praises Him for who He is: “Father, Lord of heaven and earth”. Jesus rejoices in His spirit because He knows and He feels that His Father is the God of the Universe, and vice versa, the Lord of all that exists is Father “My Father”. Praise springs from this experience of feeling that He is “Son of the Most High”. Jesus feels he is Son of the Most High.

And then Jesus praises the Father for favouring the little ones. It is what He Himself experiences, preaching in the villages: the “learned” and the “wise” remain suspicious and closed, who are calculating; while the “little ones” open themselves and welcome His message. This can only be the will of the Father, and Jesus rejoices in this. We too must rejoice and praise God because humble and simple people welcome the Gospel. People who perhaps lack many things but whose humility leads them to praise God.  Those who do not consider themselves better than others, who are aware of their own limitations and their sins, who do not want to lord it over others, who, in God the Father, recognise that we are all brothers and sisters.

His prayer also leads us, the readers of the Gospel, to judge our personal defeats in a different way, to judge differently the situations in which we do not see clearly the presence and action of God, when it seems that evil prevails and there is no way to stop it. In those moments Jesus, who highly recommended the prayer of asking questions, at the very moment when He would have had reason to ask the Father for explanations, instead begins to praise Him. It seems to be a contradiction, but it is there, it is the truth.

To whom is praise helpful? To us or to God? A text of the Eucharistic liturgy invites us to pray to God in this way, it says this: “Although you have no need of our praise, yet our thanksgiving is itself your gift, since our praises add nothing to your greatness, but profit us for salvation” (Roman Missal, Common Preface IV). By giving praise, we are saved.

The prayer of praise serves us. Paradoxically it must be practised not only when life fills us with happiness, but above all in difficult moments, in moments of darkness when the path becomes an uphill climb. We learn that, through that ascent, that difficult path, that wearisome path, those demanding passages, we get to see a new panorama, a broader horizon. Giving praise is like breathing pure oxygen: it purifies the soul, it makes you look far ahead so as not to remain imprisoned in the difficult moment, in the darkness of difficulty.

Saint Francis at the end of his life, was by then almost blind, and he felt in his soul the weight of a solitude he had never before experienced: the world had not changed since the beginning of his preaching, there were still those who let themselves be torn apart by quarrels, and in addition he was aware that death was approaching ever nearer. It could have been the moment of disillusionment, of that extreme disillusionment and the perception of his own failure. But Francis prayed at that instant of sadness, in that dark instant: “All praise is yours, my Lord”. He prays by giving praise. Francis praises God for everything, for all the gifts of creation, and even for death, which he courageously calls “sister”. These examples of saints, of Christians, and also of Jesus, of praising God in difficult moments, open to us the gates of a great road towards the Lord, and always purifies us. Praise always purifies.

The Saints show us that we can always give praise, in good times and bad, because God is the faithful Friend. This is the foundation of praise: God is the faithful friend, and His love never fails. He is always beside us, He always awaits us. It has been said, “He is the sentinel who is close to you and keeps you going with confidence”. In difficult and dark moments, let us have the courage to say: “Blessed are you, O Lord”. Praising the Lord. This will do us so much good. Thank you.





Pope Francis Message for World Day of the Sick 12.01.2021

Sick
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

The celebration of the 29th World Day of the Sick, is an opportunity to devote special attention to the sick and to those who provide them with assistance and care both in healthcare institutions and within families and communities. We think in particular of those who have suffered, and continue to suffer, the effects of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. To all, and especially to the poor and the marginalized, I express my spiritual closeness and assure them of the Church’s loving concern.




Pope Francis Angelus 10.01.2021

The Baptism of the Lord

Pope Francis  Baptism of the Lord - Angelus  10.01.2021
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Today we are celebrating the Baptism of the Lord. A few days ago, we left Baby Jesus being visited by the Magi; today we find him as an adult on the banks of the Jordan. The Liturgy has us take a leap of some 30 years, 30 years about which we know one thing: they were years of hidden life, which Jesus spent with his family – some, first, in Egypt, as a migrant to escape Herod's persecution, the others in Nazareth, learning Joseph's trade – with family, obeying his parents, studying and working. It is striking that most of his time on Earth the Lord spent in this way: living an ordinary life, without standing out. We think that, according to the Gospels, there were three years of preaching, of miracles and many things. Three. And the others, all the others, were of a hidden life with his family. It is a fine message for us: it reveals the greatness of daily life, the importance in God's eyes of every gesture and moment of life, even the simplest, even the most hidden.

After these 30 years of hidden life, Jesus' public life begins. And indeed it begins with the baptism in the River Jordan. But Jesus is God; why does Jesus get baptized? John's baptism consisted in a penitential rite; it was a sign of one's willingness to convert, to be better, asking forgiveness of one's sins. Jesus surely did not need it. In fact, John the Baptist tries to prevent it, but Jesus insists. Why? Because he wants to be with the sinners: for this reason he gets in line with them and does the same thing they do. He does so with the attitude of the people, with the attitude of theirs [of the people] who, as a liturgical hymn says, approached “with bare soul and bare feet”. A bare soul, that is, without covering anything, like this, a sinner. This is the gesture Jesus makes, and he goes down into the river to immerse himself in the same condition we are in. Indeed, baptism actually means “immersion”. On the first day of his ministry, Jesus thus offers us his “programmatic manifesto”. He tells us that he does not save us from on high, with a sovereign decision or act of force, a decree, no: He saves us by coming to meet us and taking our sins upon himself. This is how God conquers worldly evil: by humbling himself, taking charge of it. It is also the way that we can lift up others: not by judging, not by suggesting what to do, but by becoming neighbours, empathizing, sharing God's love. Closeness is God's manner with us; he himself says says so to Moses: 'Think: what people has its gods as close as you have me?'. Closeness is God's manner with us.

After this act of compassion by Jesus, another extraordinary thing happens: the heavens open and the Trinity is finally revealed. The Holy Spirit descends from the heavens like a dove (Mk 1:10) and the Father says to Jesus: “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased” (v. 11). God manifests himself when mercy appears. Do not forget this: God manifests himself when mercy appears, because that is his face. Jesus becomes the servant of sinners and is proclaimed the Son; he lowers himself upon us and the Spirit descends upon him. Love calls upon love. It also applies to us: in each act of service, in every work of mercy we perform, God manifests himself; God sets his gaze upon the world. This applies to us.

But, even before we do anything, our life was marked by mercy and it was laid upon us. We have been saved freely. Salvation is free. It is the freely given gesture of God's mercy toward us. Sacramentally this is done on the day of our Baptism; but even those who are not baptized always receive God's mercy, because God is there, waiting, waiting for them to open the doors of their hearts. He draws near, allow me to say, he caresses us with his mercy.

May Our Lady, to whom we now pray, help us to cherish our baptismal identity, that is, the identity to be merciful, which lies at the base of faith and life.





Pope Francis Angelus 06.01.2021

Epiphany of the Lord

Pope Francis Epiphany Angelus 06.01.2021
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany, that is, the manifestation of the Lord to all peoples: in fact, the salvation wrought by Christ knows no boundaries. It is for everyone. Epiphany is not an additional mystery, it is always the same mystery as the Nativity, viewed, however, from the dimension of light, the light that illumines every man and women, the light to be welcomed in faith and the light to bring to others in charity, through witness, in the proclamation of the Gospel.

Isaiah’s vision, reported in today’s Liturgy (see 60:1-6), resounds in our time and is more timely than ever: “darkness covers the earth, and thick darkness the peoples” (v. 2), the text from Isaiah says. With that background, the prophet announced the light: the light given by God to Jerusalem and destined to enlighten the path of all the peoples. This light has the power to attract everyone, near and far, everyone sets out on the path to reach it, (v 3). It is a vision that opens the heart, that makes the breath come easier, that invites hope. Certainly, the darkness is present and threatening in everyone’s life and in the story of humanity; but God’s light is more powerful. It needs to be welcomed so that it might shine on everyone. But, we can distance this light from us. But we can ask ourselves: “Where is this light?” The prophet caught a glimpse of it from afar, but that was already enough to fill the heart of Jerusalem with irrepressible joy.

Where is this light? The Evangelist Matthew in his turn, recounting the episode of the Magi (see 2:1-12), shows that this light is the Baby of Bethlehem, it is Jesus, even if His kingship was not accepted by everyone. Rather some rejected it, like King Herod. He is the star who appeared on the horizon, the awaited Messiah, the One through whom God would inaugurate His kingdom of love, His kingdom of of justice and of peace. He was born not only for some, but for all men and women, for all peoples. The light is for all peoples, salvation is for all peoples.

And how does this “radiation” come? How does Christ’s light shine in every place and at every moment? It has its own method of expanding. It does not do so through the powerful means of this world’s empires who always seek to seize power. No, Christ’s light spreads through the proclamation of the Gospel. Through proclamation…by word and witness. And with this same “method”, God chose to come among us: the Incarnation, that is, by drawing near to the other, encountering the other, assuming the reality of the other and bringing the witness of our faith, everyone. This is the only way that Christ’s light, who is Love, can shine in those who welcome it and attract others. Christ’s light does not expand only through words, through fake methods, commercial ones…. No, no, through faith, word and witness. Thus the light of Christ expands. The star is Christ, but we too can and must also be the star for our brothers and sisters, as witnesses of the treasures of goodness and infinite mercy that the Redeemer offers freely to everyone. Christ’s light does not expand through proselytism. It expands through witness, through the confession of the faith. Even through martyrdom.

Therefore, the condition is to welcome this light within, to welcome it always more. Woe to us if we think we possess it, no; woe to us if we think that we only need to “manage” it! No. Like the Magi, we too are called to allow ourselves to be fascinated, attracted, guided, illuminated and converted by Christ: He is the journey of faith, through prayer and the contemplation of God’s works, who continually fills us with joy and wonder, an ever new wonder. That wonder is the always the first step to go forward in this light.

Let us invoke the protection of Mary on the universal Church, so that it might spread throughout the entire world the Gospel of Christ, the light of all the peoples, the light of every people.








Pope Francis Holy Mass 06.01.21

Epiphany of the Lord

   Pope Francis Epiphany Mass about Worship 06.01.2021
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Pope Francis Angelus 03.01.2021

2nd Sunday after Christmas

Pope Francis - Jesus Word of God - Angelus  03.01.2021
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

On this second Sunday after Christmas, the Word of God does not offer us an episode from the life of Jesus, but rather it tells us about Him before He was born. It takes us back to reveal something about Jesus before He came among us. It does so especially in the prologue of the Gospel of John, which begins: “In the beginning was the Word” (Jn 1:1). In the beginning: are the first words of the Bible, the same words with which the creation account begins: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). Today, the Gospel says that Jesus, the One we contemplated at His Birth, as an infant, existed before: before things began, before the universe, before everything. He existed before space and time. “In Him was life” (Jn 1:4), before life appeared.

Saint John calls Him the Logos, that is, the Word. What does he mean by this? The word is used to communicate: people do not speak alone, people speak with someone. One always speaks with someone. When we are in the street and we see people who talk to themselves, we say, “This person, something has happened to them…”. No, we always speak to someone. Now, the fact that Jesus was the Word from the very beginning means that from the beginning God wants to communicate with us, He wants to talk to us. The only-begotten Son of the Father (v. 14) wants to tell us about the beauty of being children of God; He is “the true light” (v. 9) and wants to remove the darkness of evil from us; He is “the life” (v. 4), who knows our lives and wants to tell us that He has always loved them. He loves us all. Here is today’s wondrous message: Jesus is God’s Word, the eternal Word of God, who has always thought of us and wanted to communicate with us.

And to do so, He went beyond words. In fact, at the heart of today’s Gospel we are told that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (v. 14). The Word became flesh: why does Saint John use this expression “flesh”? Could he not have said, in a more elegant way, that the Word was made man? No, he uses the word flesh because it indicates our human condition in all its weakness, in all its frailty. He tells us that God became fragile so He could touch our fragility up close. So, from the moment that the Lord became flesh, nothing about our life is extraneous to Him. There is nothing that He scorns, we can share everything with Him, everything. Dear brother, dear sister, God became flesh to tell us, to tell you that He loves us like that, in our frailty, in your frailty; right there, where we are most ashamed, where you are most ashamed. This is bold, God’s decision is bold: He took on flesh precisely where very often we are ashamed; He enters into our shame, to become our brother, to share the path of life.

He became flesh and never turned back. He did not put our humanity on like a garment that can be put on and taken off. No, He never detached Himself from our flesh. And He will never be separated from it: now and forever He is in heaven with His body made of human flesh. He has united Himself forever to our humanity; we might say that He “espoused” Himself to it. I like to think that when the Lord prays to the Father for us, He does not merely speak: He makes Him see the wounds of the flesh, He makes Him see the wounds He suffered for us. This is Jesus: with His flesh He is the intercessor, he wanted to bear even the signs of suffering. Jesus, with His flesh, is in front of the Father. Indeed, the Gospel says that He came to dwell among us. He did not come to visit us, and then leave; He came to dwell with us, to stay with us. What, then, does He desire from us? He desires a great intimacy. He wants us to share with Him our joys and sufferings, desires and fears, hopes and sorrows, people and situations. Let us do this, with confidence: let us open our hearts to Him, let us tell Him everything. Let us pause in silence before the crib to savour the tenderness of God who became near, who became flesh. And without fear, let us invite Him among us, into our homes, into our families. And also - everyone knows this well - let us invite Him into our frailties. Let us invite Him, so that He may see our wounds. He will come and life will change.

May the Holy Mother of God, in whom the Word became flesh, help us to welcome Jesus, who knocks on the door of our hearts to dwell with us.




Pope Francis Angelus 01.01.2021

The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God 
and 54th World Peace Day

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Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

We begin this year placing ourselves under the maternal and loving gaze of Mary Most Holy, celebrated in today’s liturgy as Mother of God. Thus we take up once again the journey along the paths of history, entrusting our anxieties and our torments to her who can do everything. Mary watches over us with maternal tenderness just as she watched over her Son Jesus, and if we look at the Nativity Scene, we see that Jesus is not in the crib, the Madonna said: “Won’t you let me hold this Son of mine a bit in my arms?” This is what the Madonna does with us: she wants to hold us in her harms to protect us as she protected and loved her Son. The reassuring and comforting gaze of the Holy Virgin is an encouragement to make sure that this time, granted us by the Lord, might be spent for our human and spiritual growth, that it is a time in which hatred and division are resolved, and there are many, that it is a time to experience ourselves as brothers and sisters, a time to build and not to destroy, to take care of each other and of creation. A time to make things grow a time of peace.

It is specifically regarding the care of our neighbours and of creation that the theme for the World Day of Peace, which we celebrate today, is dedicated: A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace. The painful events that marked humanity’s journey last year, especially the pandemic, taught us how much it is necessary to take an interest in others’ problems and to share their concerns. This attitude represents the path that leads to peace, because it fosters the construction of a society founded on fraternal relationships. Each of us, men and women of this time, is called to make peace happen, each one of us, we are not indifferent to this. We are called to make peace happen each day and in every place we live, taking those brothers and sisters by the hand who need a comforting word, a tender gesture, solidary help. This is a task given us by God. The Lord has given us the task of being peacemakers.

And peace can become a reality if we begin to be in peace with ourselves – at peace inside, in our hearts – and with ourselves, and with those who are near us, removing the obstacles that prevent us from taking care of those who find themselves in need and in poverty. It means developing a mentality and a culture of “caring” to defeat indifference, to defeat rejection and rivalry – indifference, rejection, rivalry which unfortunately prevail. To remove these attitudes. And thus, peace is not only the absence of war, peace is never sterile: no, peace does not exist in an operating room. Peace is within life: it is not only the absence of war, but is a life rich in meaning, rooted in and lived through personal realization and fraternal sharing with others. Then that peace, so longed for and always endangered by violence, by egoism and evil, that peace that is endangered might become possible and achievable if I take it as a task given to me by God.

May the Virgin Mary, who gave birth to the “Prince of Peace” (Is 9:6), and who cuddles him thus, with such tenderness in her arms, obtain for us from heaven the precious gift of peace, which cannot be fully pursued with human force alone. Human force is not enough because peace is above all a gift, a gift to be implored from God with incessant prayer, sustained with patient and respectful dialogue, constructed with an open collaboration with truth and justice and always attentive to the legitimate aspirations of individuals and peoples. My hope is that peace might reign in the hearts of men and women and in families, in recreational and work places, in communities and in nations. In families, at work, in nations: peace, peace. Now is time to think that life today is organized around war, and enmities, by many things that destroy. We want peace. And this is a gift.

On the threshold of this beginning, I extend to everyone my heart-felt greetings for a happy and serene 2021. May each one of us make sure that it is for everyone a year of fraternal solidarity and peace, a year filled with expectant trust and hope, which we entrust to the heavenly protection of Mary, Mother of God and our Mother.




Pope Francis Message for 54th World Day of Peace 01.01.2021

A CULTURE OF CARE AS A PATH TO PEACE
Peace
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above 

At the dawn of a new year, I extend cordial greetings to Heads of State and Government, leaders of International Organizations, spiritual leaders and followers of the different religions, and to men and women of good will. To all I offer my best wishes that the coming year will enable humanity to advance on the path of fraternity, justice and peace between individuals, communities, peoples and nations.

The year 2020 was marked by the massive Covid-19 health crisis, which became a global phenomenon cutting across boundaries, aggravating deeply interrelated crises like those of the climate, food, the economy and migration, and causing great suffering and hardship. I think especially of all those who lost family members or loved ones, and all who lost their jobs. I think too of physicians and nurses, pharmacists, researchers, volunteers, chaplains and the personnel of hospitals and healthcare centres. They have made, and are continuing to make, great sacrifices to be present to the sick, to alleviate their sufferings and to save their lives; indeed, many of them have died in the process. In paying tribute to them, I renew my appeal to political leaders and the private sector to spare no effort to ensure access to Covid-19 vaccines and to the essential technologies needed to care for the sick, the poor and those who are most vulnerable.

Sad to say, alongside all these testimonies of love and solidarity, we have also seen a surge in various forms of nationalism, racism and xenophobia, and wars and conflicts that bring only death and destruction in their wake.

These and other events that marked humanity’s path this past year have taught us how important it is to care for one another and for creation in our efforts to build a more fraternal society. That is why I have chosen as the title of this year’s Message, A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace. A culture of care as a way to combat the culture of indifference, waste and confrontation so prevalent in our time.



Pope Francis Homily Holy Mass 01.01.2021 
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Pope Francis  Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God  01.01.2021
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

In the readings of today’s Mass, three verbs find their fulfilment in the Mother of God: to bless, to be born and to find.

To bless. In the Book of Numbers, the Lord tells his sacred ministers to bless his people: “Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them, ‘The Lord bless you’” (6:23-24). This is no pious exhortation; it is a specific request. And it is important that, today too, priests constantly bless the People of God and that the faithful themselves be bearers of blessing; that they bless. The Lord knows how much we need to be blessed. The first thing he did after creating the world was to say that everything was good (bene-dicere) and to say of us that that we were very good. Now, however, with the Son of God we receive not only words of blessing, but the blessing itself: Jesus is himself the blessing of the Father.  Every time we open our hearts to Jesus, God’s blessing enters our lives.

Today we celebrate the Son of God, who is “blessed” by nature, who comes to us through his Mother, “blessed” by grace. In this way, Mary brings us God’s blessing. In welcoming Mary, we receive a blessing, but we also learn to bless. Our Lady teaches us that blessings are received in order to be given. We too are called to bless, to “speak well” in God’s name. Our world is gravely polluted by the way we “speak” and think “badly” of others, of society, of ourselves. Speaking badly corrupts and decays, whereas blessing restores life and gives the strength needed to begin anew each day. Let us ask the Mother of God for the grace to be joyful bearers of God’s blessing to others, as she is to us.

The second verb is to be born. The Lord was born like us. He did not appear on the scene as an adult, but as a child. He came into the world not on his own, but from a woman, after nine months in the womb of his Mother, from whom he allowed his humanity to be shaped. She is the road that God travelled in order to reach us. Through Mary, we encounter God the way he wants us to: in tender love, in intimacy, in the flesh.

We are in this world not to die, but to give life. The holy Mother of God teaches us that the first step in giving life to those around us is to cherish it within ourselves. Today’s Gospel tells us that Mary “kept all these things in her heart”. And goodness comes from the heart. How important it is to keep our hearts pure, to cultivate our interior life and to persevere in our prayer! How important it is to educate our hearts to care, to cherish the persons and things around us. Everything starts from this: from cherishing others, the world and creation. What good is it to know many persons and things if we fail to cherish them? This year, while we hope for new beginnings and new cures, let us not neglect care. Together with a vaccine for our bodies, we need a vaccine for our hearts. That vaccine is care. This will be a good year if we take care of others, as Our Lady does with us.


The third verb is to find. The Gospel tells us that the shepherds “found Mary and Joseph and the child”. They did not find miraculous and spectacular signs, but a simple family. Yet there they truly found God, who is grandeur in littleness, strength in tenderness. But how were the shepherds able to find this inconspicuous sign? They were called by an angel. We too would not have found God if we had not been called by grace. And we discovered that his forgiveness brings new birth, his consolation enkindles hope, his presence bestows irrepressible joy. We found him but we must not lose sight of him. Indeed, the Lord is never found once and for all: each day he has to be found anew. To receive grace we have to be active.

What about ourselves? What are we called to find at the beginning of this year? It would be good to find time for someone. Time is a treasure that all of us possess, yet we guard it jealously, since we want to use it only for ourselves. Let us ask for the grace to find time for God and for our neighbour – for those who are alone or suffering, for those who need someone to listen and show concern for them. If we can find time to give, we will be amazed and filled with joy, like the shepherds. May Our Lady, who brought God into the world of time, help us to be generous with our time. Holy Mother of God, to you we consecrate this New Year. You, who know how to cherish things in your heart, care for us, bless our time, and teach us to find time for God and for others. With joy and confidence, we acclaim you: Holy Mother of God! Amen.







Pope Francis Message for 54th World Day of Peace 01.01.2021

A CULTURE OF CARE AS A PATH TO PEACE
Peace
For the full transcript click on the picture link above





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Pope Francis - Christ is Alive! 

Pope Francis - Christ is Alive

Christ is alive! He is our hope, and in a wonderful way he brings youth to our world, and everything he touches becomes young, new, full of life. The very first words, then, that I would like to say to every young Christian are these: Christ is alive and he wants you to be alive.