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12 2020




Pope Francis Homily First Vespers 
and Te Deum 31.12.20 
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God


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

This evening’s celebration always has a two-fold aspect: liturgically, we enter into the solemn Feast of Mary Most Holy, the Mother of God; and at the same time, we conclude the solar year with the great hymn of praise.

Tomorrow we will have the opportunity to reflect together on the first aspect. This evening, we create the space for giving thanks for the year that is drawing to a close.

“We praise you, O God: We acclaim you as Lord.” This may seem to be a forced, almost jarring form of thanking God at the end of a year like this, marked by the pandemic. We think of the families who have lost one or more members, of those who are ill, of those who have suffered alone, of those who have lost their jobs…

Sometimes someone asks: what sense does a tragedy such as this have? We do not need to hastily respond to this question. To our most anguished “whys”, not even God responds by having recourse to “higher reason”. 

A God who would sacrifice human beings for his grand design, even the best possible, is certainly not the God that Jesus Christ revealed to us. God is Father, the “eternal Father”, and if his Son became man it is because of the immense compassion of the Father’s heart. God is a shepherd, and what shepherd would give up even a single sheep for lost, thinking that he at least still has many others? No, this cynical and ruthless god does not exist. This is not the God we “praise” and “acclaim as Lord”.

When the Good Samaritan met that poor, half-dead man on the side of the road, he did not give him a speech to explain to him the meaning of what had happened to him, perhaps even trying to convince him that in the end it was for his own good. The Samaritan, moved with compassion, bent over that stranger, treating him like a brother and cared for him, doing everything in his power.

Yes, perhaps here we can find the “meaning” of this tragedy, of this pandemic, as well as other scourges that afflict humanity: the triggering compassion in us and of prompting attitudes and gestures of closeness, of care, of solidarity.

This is what has happened and is happening even in Rome in these months. And it is above all for this that we give thanks to God this evening: for the good things that have taken place in our cities during the lockdown and, in general, during the pandemic which, unfortunately, is not over yet.

There are many people who, without making noise, have tried to make the weight of this trial more bearable. With their daily dedication, inspired by love for their neighbour, they have made the words of the Te Deum real: “Day by day we praise you: We acclaim you now and to all eternity”. For the blessing and praise that the Lord loves the most is love of neighbour.

The healthcare workers – doctors, nurses, volunteers – found themselves on the front lines, and so they were always in our prayers and deserve our gratitude, as well as many priests and men and women religious. But this evening, our thanks go to all those who strive every day in the best way possible to carry on their service to their own families and the common good. We think especially of school administrators and teachers who carry out an essential role in the life of society and who must face a very complex situation. We gratefully think of public administrators as well who know how to value all of the resources present in their cities and territories, who are detached from their own private interests as well as those of their parties, who truly seek everyone’s good, beginning with the most disadvantaged.

All of this cannot happen without the grace, without the mercy of God. In difficult moments – we know this by experience – we are inclined to defend ourselves – this is natural – to protect ourselves and our dear ones, to safeguard our own interests… How is it then that so many people, without any other reward than that of doing good, found the strength to be concerned about others? What drove them to give up something of themselves, their own comfort, their own time, their own good, in order to give to others? In the end, even if they themselves are not aware of it, what fortifies them is God’s strength which is more powerful than our selfishness. We praise him for this, because we believe and we know that all the good that is accomplished day after day on earth, in the end, comes from him. And looking toward the future that awaits us, we implore of him once again: “May your mercy always be with us, Lord, For we have hoped in you”. Our trust and our hope are in you.





Pope Francis General Audience 30.12.20

The Prayer of Thanksgiving

Pope Francis The Prayer of Thanksgiving General Audience 30.12.2020
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above 

Today, I would like to focus on the prayer of thanksgiving. And I take my cue from an episode recounted by the Evangelist Luke. While Jesus was on the way, ten lepers approached Him who begged him: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (17:13). We know that those who had leprosy suffered not only physically, but also from social marginalization and religious marginalization. They were marginalized. Jesus did not back off from meeting them. Sometimes, He surpassed the limitations imposed by the law and touched, embraced and healed the sick person – which was not supposed to be done. In this case, there was no contact. From a distance, Jesus invited them to present themselves to the priests (v. 14), who were designated by law to certify healings that had occurred. Jesus said nothing else. He heard their prayer, He heard their cry for mercy, and He sent them immediately to the priests.

Those ten lepers trusted, they did not remain there until they were cured, no: they trusted and they went immediately, and while they were on their way, they were cured, all ten were cured. The priests would have therefore been able to verify their healing and readmit them to normal life. But this is where the important point enters in: only one in the group, before going to the priests, returned to thank Jesus and to praise God for the grace received. Only one, the other nine continued on their way. And Jesus points out that that man was a Samaritan, a sort of “heretic” for the Jews of that time. Jesus comments: “Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (17:18). This narrative is touching.

This narrative, so to speak, divides the world in two: those who do not give thanks and those who do; those who take everything as if it is owed them, and those who welcome everything as a gift, as grace. The Catechism says: “every event and need can become an offering of thanksgiving”. The prayer of thanksgiving always begins here: to recognize that grace precedes us. We were thought of before we learned how to think; we were loved before we learned how to love; we were desired before our hearts conceived a desire. If we view life like this, then “thank you” becomes the driving force of our day. And how often we even forget to say “thank you”.

For us Christians, thanksgiving was the name given to the most essential Sacrament there is: the Eucharist. In fact, the Greek word, means precisely this: thanksgiving, eucharist: thanksgiving. Christians, as all believers, bless God for the gift of life. To live is first and foremost to have received life! All of us are born because someone wanted us to have life. And this is only the first of a long series of debts that we incur by living. Debts of gratitude. During our lives, more than one person has gazed on us with pure eyes, gratuitously. Often, these people are educators, catechists, persons who carried out their roles above and beyond what was required of them. And they provoked us to be grateful. Even friendship is a gift for which we should always be grateful.

This “thank you” that we must say continually, this thanks that Christians share with everyone, grows in meeting Jesus. The Gospels attest that when Jesus passed by, He often provoked joy and praise to God in those whom He met. The Gospel accounts are filled with prayerful people who are greatly touched by the coming of the Saviour. And we too are called to participate in this immense jubilation. The episode of the ten lepers who are healed also suggests this. Naturally, all of them were happy for having recovered their health, allowing them to end that unending forced quarantine that excluded them from the community. But among them, there was one who experienced an additional joy: in addition to being healed, he rejoices at meeting Jesus. He is not only freed from evil, but he now possesses the certainty of being loved. This is the crux: when you thank someone, give thanks, you express the certainty that you are loved. And this is a huge step: to have the certainty that you are loved. It is the discovery of love as the force that governs the world. We are no longer vagabonds wandering aimlessly here and there, no: we have a home, we dwell in Christ, and from that “dwelling” we contemplate the rest of the world which appears infinitely more beautiful to us. We are children of love, we are brothers and sisters of love. We are men and woman who thank.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us seek to remain always in the joy of encountering Jesus. Let us cultivate joyfulness. The devil, instead, after having deluded us – with whatever temptation – always leaves us sad and alone. If we are in Christ, there is no sin and no threat that can ever prevent us from continuing joyfully on our way, together with many other companions on the road.

Above all, let us not forget to thank: if we are bearers of gratitude, the world itself will become better, even if only a little bit, but that is enough to transmit a bit of hope. The world needs hope. And with gratitude, with this habit of saying thank you, we transmit a bit of hope. Everything is united and everything is connected, and everyone needs to do his or her part wherever we are. The path to happiness is the one Saint Paul described at the end of one of his letters: “Pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thes 5:17-19). Do not quench the Spirit, what a beautiful project of life! Do not quench the Spirit within us that leads us to gratitude. Thank you.





Pope Francis Angelus 27.12.2020

Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth

Pope Francis  Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth  Angelus  27.12.2020
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

A few days after Christmas, the liturgy invites us to turn our eyes to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It is good to reflect on the fact that the Son of God wanted to be in need of the warmth of a family, like all children. Precisely for this reason, because it is Jesus’ family, the family of Nazareth is the model family, in which all families of the world can find their sure point of reference and sure inspiration. In Nazareth, the springtime of the human life of the Son of God began to blossom at the moment he was conceived by the work of the Holy Spirit in the virginal womb of Mary. Within the welcoming walls of the House of Nazareth, Jesus’ childhood unfolded in joy, surrounded by the maternal attention of Mary and the care of Joseph, in whom Jesus was able to see God’s tenderness.

In imitation of the Holy Family, we are called to rediscover the educational value of the family unit: it must be founded on the love that always regenerates relationships, opening up horizons of hope. Within the family one can experience sincere communion when it is a house of prayer, when the affections are serious, profound, pure, when forgiveness prevails over discord, when the daily harshness of life is softened by mutual tenderness and serene adherence to God's will. In this way, the family opens itself to the joy that God gives to all those who know how to give joyfully. At the same time, it finds the spiritual energy to be open to the outside world, to others, to the service of brothers and sisters, to collaboration in building an ever new and better world; capable, therefore, of becoming a bearer of positive stimuli; the family evangelises by the example of life.

It is true, in every family there are problems, and at times arguments. “And, Father, I argued…” but we are human, we are weak, and we all quarrel within the family at times. I would like to say something to you: if you quarrel within the family, do not end the day without making peace. “Yes, I quarrelled”, but before the end of the day, make peace. And do you know why? Because cold war, day after day, is extremely dangerous. It does not help. And then, in the family there are three words, three phrases that must always be held dear: “Please”, “Thank you”, and “I am sorry”. “Please”, so as not to be intrusive in the life of others. Please: may I do something? Is it alright with you if I do this? Please. Always, so as not to be intrusive. Please, the first word. “Thank you”: so much help, so much service is granted to us in the family: always say thank you. Gratitude is the lifeblood of the noble soul. “Thank you”. And then, the hardest to say: “I am sorry”. Because we always do bad things and very often someone is offended by this: “I am sorry”, “I am sorry”. Do not forget the three worlds: “please”, “thank you”, and “I am sorry”. If in a family, in the family environment there are these three words, the family is fine.

May the Virgin Mary, to whom we now address the Angelus prayer, grant that families throughout the world world be increasingly fascinated by the evangelical ideal of the Holy Family, so as to become a leaven of new humanity and of a genuine and universal solidarity.





Pope Francis Angelus 26.12.2020

Feast of St Stephen

Pope Francis  Feast of St Stephen  Angelus  26.12.2020
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above 

Yesterday’s Gospel spoke of Jesus, the “true light” that came into the world, the light that “shines in the darkness” and “the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:9, 5). Today we see the person who witnessed to Jesus, Saint Stephen, who shines in the darkness. Those who witness to Jesus shine with His light, not with their own light. Even the Church does not have its own light. Because of this, the ancient fathers called the Church: “the mystery of the moon”. Like the moon, which does not have its own light, these witnesses do not have their own light, they are capable of taking Jesus’s light and reflecting it. Stephen was falsely accused and brutally stoned, but in the darkness of hatred (which was the torment of his stoning), he allowed the light of Jesus to shine: he prayed for his murderers and forgave them, like Jesus on the cross. He is the first martyr, that is, the first witness, the first of a host of brothers and sisters who, even until today, continue to bring the light into the darkness – people who respond to evil with good, who do not succumb to violence and lies, but break the cycle of hatred with meekness and love. In the world’s nights, these witnesses bring God’s dawn.

But how do they become witnesses? Imitating Jesus, taking light from Jesus. This is the path for every Christian: to imitate Jesus, taking light from Jesus. Saint Stephen gives us the example: Jesus had come to serve, not to be served: Stephen was chosen to be a deacon, he became a deacon, that is, a servant, and assisted the poor at table (see Acts 6:2). He tried to imitate the Lord every day and he did it even to the end: like Jesus, he was captured, condemned and killed outside of the city, and like Jesus he prayed and forgave. While he was being stoned, he said: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (7:60). Stephen was a witness because he imitated Jesus.

A question could arise: are these witnesses to goodness really necessary when the world is immersed in wickedness? What good does it do to pray and forgive? Just to give a good example? But, what does that serve? No, there’s a lot more. We discover this from a detail. The text says that among those for whom Stephen prayed and whom he forgave there was “a young man named Saul” (v. 58), who “was consenting to his death” (8:1). A little later, by God’s grace, Saul was converted, received Jesus’s light, accepted it, was converted, and became Paul, the greatest missionary in history. Paul was born by God’s grace, but through Stephen’s forgiveness, through Stephen’s witness. That was the seed of his conversion. This is the proof that loving actions change history: even the ones that are small, hidden, everyday. For God guides history through the humble courage of those who pray, love and forgive. There are so many hidden saints, saints who are next-door, hidden witnesses of life, who with little acts of love change history.

To be witnesses to Jesus – this is true for us as well. The Lord wants us to make our lives masterpieces through the ordinary things, the everyday things we do. We are called to bear witness to Jesus right where we live, in our families, at work, everywhere, even just by giving the light of a smile, a light that is not our own – it comes from Jesus – and even just by fleeing the shadow of gossip. And then, when we see something that is wrong, instead of criticizing, badmouthing and complaining, let us pray for the one who made a mistake and for the difficult situation. And when an argument starts at home, instead of trying to win it, let us try to diffuse it; and start over again each time, forgiving the one who offended. Small things, but they change history, because they open the door, they open the window to Jesus’s light. We too can change evil into good each time just as a beautiful proverb proposes which says: “Be like the palm tree: they throw stones at it and it drops down dates”.

Today, let us pray for those suffering persecution because of the name of Jesus. They are many unfortunately. There are more than in the beginning of the Church. Let us entrust these brothers and sisters to the Madonna, that they might respond with meekness to oppression and that, as true witnesses to Jesus, they might conquer evil with good.





Pope Francis Urbi et Orbi Christmas Message and Blessing 25.12.20 

Nativity of the Lord

 Pope Francis  "Urbi et Orbi" Christmas Message and Blessing 25.12.20 Nativity of the Lord
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Jesus was born in a stable, but was embraced by the love of the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph. By his birth in the flesh, the Son of God consecrated familial love. My thoughts at this moment turn to families: to those who cannot come together today and to those forced to remain at home. May Christmas be an opportunity for all of us to rediscover the family as a cradle of life and faith, a place of acceptance and love, dialogue, forgiveness, fraternal solidarity and shared joy, a source of peace for all humanity.

Merry Christmas to everyone!




Pope Francis Midnight Mass 24.12.2020

Nativity of the Lord

  Pope Francis  Nativity of the Lord - Midnight Mass 24.12.20
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Tonight, the great prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given” (Is 9:6).

To us a son is given. We often hear it said that the greatest joy in life is the birth of a child. It is something extraordinary and it changes everything. It brings an excitement that makes us think nothing of weariness, discomfort and sleepless nights, for it fills us with a great, incomparable happiness. That is what Christmas is: the birth of Jesus is the “newness” that enables us to be reborn each year and to find, in him, the strength needed to face every trial. Why? Because his birth is for us – for me, for you, for all of us, for everyone.

Yet what do those words – "for us" – really mean? They mean that the Son of God, the one who is holy by nature, came to make us, as God’s children, holy by grace. Yes, God came into the world as a child to make us children of God. What a magnificent gift! This day, God amazes us and says to each of us: “You are amazing”. Dear sister, dear brother, never be discouraged. Are you tempted to feel you were a mistake? God tells you, “No, you are my child!” Do you have a feeling of failure or inadequacy, the fear that you will never emerge from the dark tunnel of trial? God says to you, “Have courage, I am with you”. He does this not in words, but by making himself a child with you and for you. In this way, he reminds you that the starting point of all rebirth is the recognition that we are children of God. This is the undying heart of our hope, the incandescent core that gives warmth and meaning to our life. Underlying all our strengths and weaknesses, stronger than all our past hurts and failures, or our fears and concerns about the future, there is this great truth: we are beloved sons and daughters. God’s love for us does not, and never will, depend upon us. It is completely free love. Tonight cannot be explained in any other way: it is purely grace. Everything is grace. The gift is completely free, unearned by any of us, pure grace.

To us a son is given. The Father did not give us a thing, an object; he gave his own only-begotten Son, who is all his joy. Yet if we look at our ingratitude towards God and our injustice towards so many of our brothers and sisters, a doubt can arise. Was the Lord right in giving us so much? Is he right still to trust us? Does he not overestimate us? Of course, he overestimates us, and he does this because he is madly in love with us. He cannot help but love us. That is the way he is, so different from ourselves. God always loves us with a greater love than we have for ourselves. This is his secret for entering our hearts. God knows that the only way to save us, to heal us from within, is by loving us: there is no other way. He knows that we become better only by accepting his unfailing love, an unchanging love that changes us. Only the love of Jesus can transform our life, heal our deepest hurts and set us free from the vicious circles of disappointment, anger and constant complaint.

To us a son is given. In the lowly manger of a darkened stable, the Son of God is truly present. But this raises yet another question. Why was he born at night, without decent accommodation, in poverty and rejection, when he deserved to be born as the greatest of kings in the finest of palaces? Why? To make us understand the immensity of his love for our human condition: even to touching the depths of our poverty with his concrete love. The Son of God was born an outcast, in order to tell us that every outcast is a child of God. He came into the world as each child comes into the world, weak and vulnerable, so that we can learn to accept our weaknesses with tender love. And to discover something important: as he did in Bethlehem, so too with us, God loves to work wonders through our poverty. He placed the whole of our salvation in the manger of a stable. He is unafraid of our poverty, so let us allow his mercy to transform it completely!

That sign, the Child in the manger, is also a sign for us, to guide us through life. In Bethlehem, a name that means “House of Bread”, God lies in a manger, as if to remind us that, in order to live, we need him, like the bread we eat. We need to be filled with his free, unfailing and concrete love. How often instead, in our hunger for entertainment, success and worldly pleasures, do we nourish life with food that does not satisfy and leaves us empty within! The Lord, through the prophet Isaiah, complained that, while the ox and the donkey know their master’s crib, we, his people, do not know him, the source of our life (cf. Is 1:2-3). It is true: in our endless desire for possessions, we run after any number of mangers filled with ephemeral things, and forget the manger of Bethlehem. That manger, poor in everything yet rich in love, teaches that true nourishment in life comes from letting ourselves be loved by God and loving others in turn. Jesus gives us the example. He, the Word of God, becomes an infant; he does not say a word, but offers life. We, on the other hand, are full of words, but often have so little to say about goodness.

To us a son is given. Parents of little children know how much love and patience they require. We have to feed them, look after them, bathe them and care for their vulnerability and their needs, which are often difficult to understand. A child makes us feel loved but can also teach us how to love. God was born a child in order to encourage us to care for others. His quiet tears make us realize the uselessness of our many impatient outbursts; and we have so many of them! His disarming love reminds us that our time is not to be spent in feeling sorry for ourselves, but in comforting the tears of the suffering. God came among us in poverty and need, to tell us that in serving the poor, we will show our love for him.

To us a son is given. Jesus, you are the Child who makes me a child. You love me as I am, not as I imagine myself to be; this I know! In embracing you, the Child of the manger, I once more embrace my life. In welcoming you, the Bread of life, I too desire to give my life. You, my Saviour, teach me to serve. You who did not leave me alone, help me to comfort your brothers and sisters, for you know that, from this night forward, all are my brothers and sisters.





Pope Francis General Audience 23.12.20

Christmas

Pope Francis Christmas  General Audience 23.12.2020
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above 

In this catechesis, as we approach Christmas, I would like to offer some food for thought in preparation for the celebration of Christmas. In the Midnight Mass liturgy the Angel’s proclamation to the Shepherds: “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:10-12).

In imitation of the shepherds, we too move spiritually towards Bethlehem, where Mary gave birth to the Child in a stable, “because there was no place for them in the inn” (2:7). Christmas has become a universal feast, and even those who do not believe perceive the appeal of this occasion. The Christian, however, knows that Christmas is a decisive event, an eternal fire that God has kindled in the world, and must not be confused with ephemeral things. It is important that it should not be reduced to a merely sentimental or consumerist festival. Last Sunday I drew attention to this problem, underscoring that consumerism has hijacked Christmas. No: Christmas must not be reduced to a merely sentimental or consumerist feast, full of gifts and good wishes but poor in Christian faith, and also poor in humanity. Therefore, it is necessary to curb a certain worldly mentality, incapable of grasping the incandescent core of our faith, which is this: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (Jn 1:14). And this is the kernel of Christmas; rather, it is the truth of Christmas, there is no other.

Christmas invites us to reflect, on the one hand, on the drama of history, in which men and women, wounded by sin, ceaselessly search for truth, the search for mercy, and the search for redemption; and, on the other hand, on the goodness of God, who has come towards us to communicate to us the Truth that saves and to make us sharers in His friendship and His life. And this gift of life: this is pure grace, not by any merit of our own. There is a Holy Father who says: “But look there, over there, there: seek your merit and you will find nothing other than grace”. Everything is grace, a gift of grace. And this gift of grace, we receive it through the simplicity and humanity of Christmas, and it can remove from our hearts and minds the pessimism that has spread even more nowadays as a result of the pandemic. We can overcome that sense of disquieting bewilderment, not letting ourselves be overwhelmed by defeats and failures, in the rediscovered awareness that that humble and poor Child, hidden away and helpless, is God Himself, made man for us. But Jesus was born two thousand years ago, what does this have to do with me? It affects you, and me, each one of us. Jesus is one of us: God, in Jesus, is one of us.

This reality gives us much joy and courage. God did not look down on us, from afar, He did not pass us by, He was not repulsed by our misery, He did not clothe Himself only superficially in a body, but rather He fully assumed our nature and our human condition. He left nothing out except sin: the only thing He does not have. Christmas is the feast of Love incarnate, of love born for us in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the light of mankind shining in the darkness, giving meaning to human existence and to the whole of history.

We can become a little childlike by pausing to contemplate the scene of the Nativity, and by letting the wonder of the “marvellous” way in which God wanted to come into the world be reborn in us. Let us ask for the grace of wonder: before this mystery, a reality so tender, so beautiful, so close to our hearts, that the Lord may give us the grace of wonder, to encounter Him, to draw closer to Him, to draw closer to us all. This will revive tenderness in us. And today we are in great need of tenderness, we in in great need of a human touch, in the face of so much misery! If the pandemic has forced us to be more distant, Jesus, in the crib, shows us the way of tenderness to be close to each other, to be human. Let us follow this path. Merry Christmas!





Pope Francis Exchange of Christmas greetings with Vatican employees 21.12.20

Pope Francis - Exchange of Christmas greetings with the employees of the Vatican City State   21.12.2020
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

It is a joy for me to meet with you Vatican employees and your families, as we approach the Christmas holidays. I am grateful to each of you for the work you carry out with passion in the service of the Roman Curia and Vatican City. 
Christmas is a feast of joy “to us a child is born” and we are all called to go towards Him. The shepherds set an example to us. We too must go towards Jesus: shake ourselves from our numbness, our boredom, apathy, disinterest and fear, especially in this time of health emergency, in which it is difficult to regain the enthusiasm of life and faith.





Pope Francis Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia 21.12.20

The meaning of a Crisis

Pope Francis The Meaning of Crisis 21.12.2020
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

This Christmas is the Christmas of the pandemic, the health crisis, the social and even ecclesial economic crisis that has indiscriminately affected the whole world. 
The pandemic has been a time of trial and testing, but also a significant opportunity for conversion and renewed authenticity.
The storm has exposed our vulnerability and uncovered those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It has shown us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities.
No one can face life in isolation. We need a community that supports us, that helps us and in which we help each other to look ahead.





Pope Francis Angelus 20.12.2020

4th Sunday of Advent

Pope Francis  4th Sunday of Advent - Angelus  20.12.2020
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

On this Fourth and final Sunday of Advent, the Gospel proposes to us once again the account of the Annunciation. “Rejoice” says the angel to Mary, “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus”. It seems to be an announcement of pure joy, destined to make the Virgin happy. Among the women of that time, which woman did not dream of becoming the mother of the Messiah? But along with joy, those words foretell a great trial to Mary. Why? Because in that moment she was “betrothed”; she was unmarried. She was betrothed to Joseph. In such a situation, the Law of Moses stipulated there should be no relations or cohabitation. Therefore, in having a son, Mary would have transgressed the Law, and the punishment for women was terrible: stoning. Certainly the divine message would have filled Mary’s heart with light and strength; nevertheless, she found herself faced with a crucial decision: to say “yes” to God, risking everything, even her life, or to decline the invitation and to continue her ordinary life.

What does she do? She responds thus: “Let it be to me according to your word”. But in the language in which the Gospel is written, it is not simply “let it be”. The expression indicates a strong desire, it indicates the will that something happen. In other words, Mary does not say: “If it has to happen, let it happen..., if it cannot be otherwise…”. It is not resignation. No, she does not express a weak and submissive acceptance, but rather she expresses a strong desire, a vivacious desire. She is not passive, but active. She does not submit to God, she binds herself to God. She is a woman in love prepared to serve her Lord completely and immediately. She could have asked for a little time to think about it, or even for more explanations about what would happen; perhaps she could have set some conditions... Instead, she does not take time, she does not keep God waiting, she does not delay.

How often - let us think of ourselves now - how often is our life is made up of postponements, even the spiritual life! For example, I know it is good for me to pray, but today I do not have time… tomorrow… by saying “tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow”, we postpone things: I will do it tomorrow. I know it is important to help someone, yes, I must do it: I will do it tomorrow. Today, on the threshold of Christmas, Mary invites us not to postpone, but to say “yes”. “Must I pray!” “Yes, I will try to pray”. “Must I help others? Yes”. How shall I do it? And I do it. Without putting it off. Every “yes” costs something, every “yes” has its cost, but it always costs less than what that courageous and prompt “yes" cost her, that “let it be to me according to your word”, which brought us salvation.

What, then is the “yes” we can say? Instead of complaining in these difficult times about what the pandemic prevents us from doing, let us do something for someone who has less: not the umpteenth gift for ourselves and our friends, but for a person in need whom no-one thinks of! And another piece of advice: in order for Jesus to be born in us, let us prepare our hearts, let us go to pray, let us not let ourselves be swept up by consumerism. “Ah, I have to buy presents, I must do this and that”. That frenzy of doing things, more and more. It is Jesus that is important. Consumerism is not found in the manger in Bethlehem: there is reality, poverty, love. Let us prepare our hearts to be like Mary's: free from evil, welcoming, ready to receive God.

“Let it be to me according to your word”. This is the Virgin’s last word for this last Sunday of Advent, and it is the invitation to take a genuine step towards Christmas. For if the birth of Jesus does not touch our lives - mine, yours, yours, ours, everyone’s - if it does not touch our lives, it slips past us in vain. In the Angelus now, we too will say “let your word be fulfilled in me”: May Our Lady help us to say it with our lives, with our approach to these last days in which to prepare ourselves well for Christmas.





Pope Francis General Audience 16.12.20

The Prayer of Intercession

Pope Francis - The prayer of intercession - General Audience  16.12.2020
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Those who pray never turn their backs on the world. If prayer does not gather the joys and sorrows, the hopes and the anxieties of humanity, it becomes a “decorative” activity, a superficial, theatrical, solitary way of behaving. We all need interiority: to retreat within a space and a time dedicated to our relationship with God. But this does not mean that we evade reality. In prayer, God “takes us, blesses us, then breaks us and gives us”, to satisfy everyone’s hunger. Every Christian is called to become in God’s hands bread, broken and shared. That is, it is concrete prayer, that is not an escape.

So, men and women of prayer seek solitude and silence, not so as not be disturbed, but so as to listen better to God’s voice. Sometimes they withdraw from the world altogether, in the secret of their own room, as Jesus recommended (see Mt 6:6). But wherever they are, they always keep the doors of their hearts wide open: an open door for those who pray without knowing how to pray; for those who do not pray at all but who carry within themselves a suffocating cry, a hidden invocation; for those who have erred and have lost the way… Whoever can knock on the door of someone who prays finds a compassionate heart which does not exclude anyone. Prayer comes from our hearts and our voices and gives heart and voice to so many people who do not know how to pray or who do not want to pray or for whom it is impossible to pray: we are the heart and the voice of these people, rising to Jesus, rising to the Father as intercessors. These people pray for the whole world, bearing its sorrows and sins on their shoulders. They pray for each and every person: they are like God’s “antennas” in this world. The one who prays sees the face of Christ in every poor person who knocks at the door, in every person who has lost the meaning of things. In the Catechism we read: “intercession - asking on behalf of another (…) has been characteristic of a heart attuned to God's mercy”. Having mercy regarding our sins, being merciful with ourselves, but also merciful with all those who have asked to be prayed for, those for whom we want to pray in tune with God’s heart. This is true prayer. What does it mean to participate in Christ’s intercession? When I intercede for someone or pray for someone: because Christ is before the Father He is the intercessor, He prays for us, He prays showing the Father the wounds of His hands because Jesus is physically present before the Father with His body. And Jesus is our intercessor and to pray is to be a bit like Jesus: to intercede in Jesus to the Father, for others. This is very beautiful.

The human heart tends toward prayer. It is simply human. Those who do not love their brother or sister do not pray seriously. Someone might say: one cannot pray when steeped in hatred; one cannot pray when steeped in indifference. Prayer is offered only in the spirit of love. Those who do not love pretend to pray, they believe they are praying, but they are not praying because the lack the proper spirit, which is love. Human experience is present in every prayer, because no matter what mistakes people may have committed, they should never be rejected or set aside.

When believers, moved by the Holy Spirit, pray for sinners, no selection is made, no judgement or condemnation is uttered: they pray for everyone. And they pray for themselves. At that moment they know they are not that different from those for whom they pray. We are not better than anyone, we are all brothers and sisters who bear fragility, suffering and being sinners in common. And with this spirit, prayer is fruitful because we go humbly before God and pray for everyone.

The world keeps going thanks to this chain of people who pray, who intercede, and who are unknown for the most part…but not unknown to God! There are many anonymous Christians who, in times of persecution, have repeated the words of our Lord: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34).

The Church, in all of her members, has the mission to practice the prayer of intercession: to intercede for others. This is especially so for those who exercise roles of responsibility: parents, teachers, ordained ministers, superiors of communities. We are talking about protecting them with God’s eyes and heart, with His same invincible compassion and tenderness. Pray with tenderness for others.

Brothers and sisters, we are all leaves on the same tree: each one that falls reminds us of the great piety that must be nourished in prayer, for one another. So let us pray for each other. It will do us good and do good for everyone. Thank you.





Pope Francis Angelus 13.12.2020 

3rd Sunday of Advent

Pope Francis 3rd Sunday of Advent - Angelus 13.12.2020
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

The invitation to joy is characteristic of the season of Advent: the expectation of Jesus' birth that we experience is joyful, somewhat like when we await the visit of a person we love a great deal, for example, a friend whom we have not seen for a long time, a relative.... We are in joyful anticipation. And this dimension of joy emerges particularly today, the Third Sunday, which opens with Saint Paul's exhortation: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Entrance Antiphon; cf. Phil 4:4, 5). “Rejoice!” Christian joy. And what is the reason for this joy? That “the Lord is at hand” (v. 5). The closer the Lord is to us, the more joy we feel; the farther away he is, the more sadness we feel. This is a rule for Christians. Once a philosopher said something more or less like this: “I do not understand how one can believe today, because those who say they believe have a face from a funeral wake. They do not bear witness of the joy of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ”. Many Christians have that face, yes, a face from a funeral wake, a face of sadness.... But Christ is risen! Christ loves you! And you have no joy? Let us think a bit about this and let us ask: “Do I have joy because the Lord is close to me, because the Lord loves me, because the Lord has redeemed me?”.

The Gospel according to John today presents us the biblical character who – excluding Our Lady and Saint Joseph – first and most fully experienced the expectation of the Messiah and the joy of seeing him arrive: naturally, we are speaking of John the Baptist.

The Evangelist introduces him in a solemn way: “There was a man sent from God.... He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light”. The Baptist is the first witness of Jesus, with the word and with the gift of his life. All the Gospels agree in showing that he fulfilled his mission by indicating Jesus as the Christ, the One sent by God, promised by the Prophets. John was a leader of his time. His renown had spread throughout Judea and beyond, to Galilee. But he did not surrender even for an instant to the temptation to draw attention to himself: he always oriented himself toward the One who was to come. He used to say: “he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie”. Always indicating the Lord. Like Our Lady: always indicating the Lord: “Do whatever he tells you”. The Lord is always at the centre. The Saints around him, indicating the Lord. And one who does not indicate the Lord is not holy! This is the first condition of Christian joy: to decentralize from oneself and place Jesus at the centre. This is not alienation, because Jesus is effectively the centre; he is the light that gives full meaning to the life of every man and woman who comes into this world. It is the same dynamism of love, which leads me to come out of myself not to lose myself but to find myself again, while I give myself, while I seek the good of others.

John the Baptist undertook a long journey to come to bear witness to Jesus. The journey of joy is not a walk in the park. It takes work to always be joyful. John left everything, in his youth, to put God in first place, to listen to His Word with all his heart and all his strength. John withdrew into the desert, stripping himself of all things superfluous, in order to be freer to follow the wind of the Holy Spirit. Of course, some of his personality traits are unique, unrepeatable; they cannot be recommended for everyone. But his witness is paradigmatic for whoever wishes to seek the meaning of his or her life and find true joy. In particular, the Baptist is a model for those in the Church who are called to proclaim Christ to others: they are able to do so only by detaching from themselves and from worldliness, by not attracting people to themselves but directing them toward Jesus.

This is joy: directing toward Jesus. And joy must be the characteristic of our faith. And in dark moments, that inner joy, of knowing that the Lord is with me, that the Lord is with us, that the Lord is Risen. The Lord! The Lord! The Lord! This is the centre of our life, and this is the centre of our joy. Think well today: how do I behave? Am I a joyful person who knows how to transmit the joy of being Christian, or am I always like those sad people, as I said before, who seem to be at a funeral wake? If I do not have the joy of my faith, I cannot bear witness and others will say: “But if faith is so sad, it is better not to have it”.

By praying the Angelus now, we see all of this fully realized in the Virgin Mary: she silently awaited God's Word of salvation; she welcomed it; she listened to it; she conceived it. In her, God became close. This is why the Church calls Mary a “Cause of our joy”.




Pope Francis Holy Mass 12.12.20 

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Pope Francis Holy Mass on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe 2020.12.12
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Looking at the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we have the reflection of these three realities: abundance, blessing and gift.

Abundance, because God always offers himself in abundance, always gives in abundance.

Mary's encounter with Elizabeth is a blessing. Bless means "speak well." And God, since the first page of Genesis, has accustomed us to his style of speaking well. He gives himself in abundance, speaking well, blessing.

And this abundance, to speak well, is a gift. A gift that is given to us in the One who is all grace.

And looking at the image of our Mother, we understand a little of this abundance, of speaking well, of "blessing". And we understand this gift, the gift of God that presented to us in the abundance of his Son.

"Blessed are you among the women because you have brought us the Blessed One".

And so, contemplating today the image of Our Mother, we can see from God some of this style that He has: generosity, abundance, "speaking well", never cursing, and transforming our lives into a gift, a gift for all. Amen.





Pope Francis General Audience 09.12.20

The Prayer of Petition

Pope Francis - The Prayer of Petition - General Audience  09.12.2020
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Let us continue our reflections on prayer. Christian prayer is fully human - we pray as humans, as what we are - it includes praise and supplication. Indeed, when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He did so with the “Our Father”, so that we might place ourselves in a relationship of filial trust with God, and ask Him all our questions. We implore God for the highest gifts: the sanctification of His name among men, the advent of His lordship, the realisation of His will for good in relation to the world. The Catechism recalls that: “There is a hierarchy in these petitions: we pray first for the Kingdom, then for what is necessary to welcome it and cooperate with its coming”. But in the “Our Father” we also pray for the simplest gifts, for the most of everyday gifts, such as “daily bread” - which also means health, home, work, everyday things; and it also means for the Eucharist, necessary for life in Christ; and we also pray for the forgiveness of sins - which is a daily matter; we are always in need of forgiveness - and therefore peace in our relationships; and finally, that He may help us face temptation and free us from evil.

To ask, to supplicate. This is very human. Let us listen to the Catechism again: “By prayer of petition we express awareness of our relationship with God. We are creatures who are not our own beginning, not the masters of adversity, not our own last end. We are sinners who as Christians know that we have turned away from our Father. Our petition is already a turning back to Him”.

If one feels bad because he has done bad things - he is a sinner - when he prays the “Our Father” he is already approaching the Lord. At times we can believe we do not need anything, that we are enough for ourselves, and we live in total self-sufficiency. This happens at times! But sooner or later this illusion vanishes. The human being is an invocation, that at times becomes a cry, often withheld. The soul resembles a dry, parched land, as the Psalm says (see Psalm 63:2). We all experience, at some time or another in our existence, the time of melancholy, of solitude. The Bible is not ashamed of showing our human condition, marked by disease, injustice, the betrayals of friends, or the threat of enemies. At times it seems that everything collapses, that the life lived so far has been in vain. And in these situations, when it seems that everything is falling apart, there is only one way out: the cry, the prayer “Lord, help me!”. Prayer can open up a sliver of light in the densest darkness. “Lord, help me!”. This opens: it opens up the road, it opens up the path.

We human beings share this invocation of help with the rest of creation. We are not the only ones “praying” in this boundless universe: every fragment of creation bears the desire for God. And Saint Paul himself expressed it in this way. He says: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly” (Rom 8:22-24). This is good. There resounds in us the multiform cry of creatures: of trees, of rocks, of animals. Everything yearns for fulfilment. But we are the only ones to pray consciously, knowing that we are addressing the Father, and entering into dialogue with the Father.

Therefore, we should not be shocked if we feel the need to pray, we should not be ashamed. And, especially when we are in need, to ask. Jesus, speaking of a dishonest man, who had to settle the accounts with his landlord, says this: “Ask, I am ashamed”. And many of us have this feeling: we are ashamed to ask, to ask for help, to ask something of someone who can help us, to reach our purpose, and we are also ashamed to ask God. “No, this can’t be done”. Do not be ashamed to pray. “Lord, I need this”, “Lord, I am in difficulty”, “Help me!”: the cry, the cry of the heart to God who is the Father. And also to do so in happy moments, not only in bad times, but also in happy ones, to thank God for everything that is given to us, and not to take anything for granted or as if it were owed to us: everything is grace. We must learn this. The Lord always gives to us, always, and everything is grace, everything. The grace of God. However, we must not suffocate the supplication that rises up in us spontaneously. Prayer of petition goes in step with acceptance of our limit and our nature as creatures. One may even not reach the point of belief in God, but it is difficult not to believe in prayer: it simply exists, it presents itself to us as a cry; and we all know this inner voice that may remain silent for a long time, but one day awakens and cries out.

And, brothers and sisters, we know that God will respond. There is no prayer in the Book of Psalms that raises a lament that remains unheard. God always answers: maybe today, tomorrow, but he always answers, in one way or another. He always answers. The Bible repeats it countless times: God listens to the cry of those who invoke Him. Even our reluctant questions, those that remain in the depths of our heart, that we are ashamed to express: the Father listens to them and wishes to give us the Holy Spirit, which inspires every prayer and transforms everything. Brothers and sisters, in prayer there is always a question of patience, always, of supporting the wait. Now we are in the time of Advent, a time that is typically of expectation; of expectation of Christmas. We are in waiting. This is clear to see. But all our life is also in waiting. And prayer is always in expectation, because we know that the Lord will answer. Even death trembles when a Christian prays, because it knows that everyone who prays has an ally stronger than it has: the Risen Lord. 

Let us learn to stay in waiting; in expectation of the Lord. The Lord comes to visit us, not only in these great feasts - Christmas, Easter - but rather the Lord visits us every day, in the intimacy of our heart if we are in waiting. And very often we do not realise that the Lord is nearby, that He knocks on our door, and we let Him pass on by. “I am afraid of God when He passes”, Saint Augustine used to say. “I am afraid He will pass and I will not realise”. And the Lord passes, the Lord comes, the Lord knocks. But if your ears are filled with other noise, you will not hear the call of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters, staying in waiting: this is prayer. Thank you.






Pope Francis Angelus 08.12.20

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Pope Francis Angelus 08.12.2020
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Today’s liturgical feast celebrates one of the wonders of the story of salvation: the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. Even she was saved by Christ, but in an extraordinary way, because God wanted that the mother of His Son not be touched by the misery of sin from the moment of her conception. And so, for the entire course of her earthly life, Mary was free from any stain of sin, she was the “full of grace” (Lk 1:28), as the angel called her. She was favoured by a singular action of the Holy Spirit so as to always remain in perfect relationship with her Son, Jesus. Rather, she was Jesus’s disciple: His Mother and disciple. But there was no sin in her.

In the magnificent hymn that opens the Letter to the Ephesians (see 1:3-6, 11-12), St Paul makes us understand that every human being is created by God for that fullness of holiness, for that beauty of which the Madonna was clothed from the beginning. The goal to which we are called is also a gift of God for us, for which, the Apostles says He “chose us before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish” (v. 4); He predestined us (see v. 5), in Christ to be totally free from sin one day. And this is grace, it is gratuitous, it is a gift of God.

And what Mary had from the beginning, will be ours in the end, after we have passed through the purifying “bath” of God’s grace. What opens the gates of paradise to us is God’s grace, received by us with faithfulness. Even the most innocent were, nevertheless, marked by original sin and fought with all their strength against its consequences. They passed through the “narrow door” that leads to life. And do you know who is the first person we are sure entered paradise? Do you know who? A “ruffian”: one of the two who was crucified with Jesus. And he turned to Jesus saying: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. And He responded: “Today you will be with me in paradise”. Brothers and sisters, God’s grace is offered to everyone; and many who are the least on this earth will be the first in heaven.

But be careful. It does not pay to be clever – to continually postpone a serious evaluation of one’s own life, taking advantage of the Lord’s patience. He is patient. He waits for us, He is always ready to give us grace. We may be able to deceive people, but not God; He knows our hearts better than we ourselves do. Let us take advantage of the present moment! This, yes, is the Christian sense of seizing the day. Not to enjoy life in each passing moment – no, this is the worldly sense. But to seize today, to say “no” to evil and “yes” to God, to open oneself to His grace, to once and for all stop thinking of ourselves, dragging ourselves into hypocrisy and to face our own reality as we are –this is who we are – to recognize that we have not loved God and neighbour as we should have. And to confess it, this is the beginning of a journey of conversion, asking God’s pardon first of all in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and then to repair the harm done to others. But always open to grace: the Lord knocks on our door, He knocks on our heart to enter into friendship with us, in communion, to give us salvation.

And this, for us, is the path for becoming “holy and immaculate”. The uncontaminated beauty of our Mother is incomparable, but at the same time it attracts us. Let us entrust ourselves to her and say “no” to sin and “yes” to Grace once and for all.





Pope Francis Angelus 06.12.20

2nd Sunday of Advent

Pope Francis  2nd Sunday of Advent Angelus 06.12.20
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

This Sunday's Gospel passage (Mk 1:1-8) introduces the person and work of John the Baptist. He reveals to his contemporaries an itinerary of faith similar to the one that Advent proposes to us: that we prepare ourselves to receive the Lord at Christmas. This itinerary of faith is an itinerary of conversion. What does the word 'conversion' mean? In the Bible it means, first and foremost, to change direction and orientation; and thus also to change one’s way of thinking. In the moral and spiritual life, to convert means to turn oneself from evil to good, from sin to love of God. And this is what what the Baptist was teaching, who in the desert of Judea was “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”(v. 4). Receiving baptism was an outward and visible sign of the conversion of those who had listened to his preaching and decided to repent. That baptism occurred with immersion in the Jordan, in water, but it proved worthless; it was a only a sign and it was worthless if there was no willingness to repent and change one's life.

Conversion involves sorrow for sins committed, the desire to be free from them, the intention to exclude them from one’s own life forever. To exclude sin it is also necessary to reject everything that is connected to sin; the things that are connected to sin and that need to be rejected – a worldly mentality, excessive esteem for comforts, excessive esteem for pleasure, for well-being, for wealth. The example illustrating this comes to us once again from today's Gospel in the person of John the Baptist: an austere man who renounces excess and seeks the essential. This is the first aspect of conversion: detachment from sin and worldliness: Commencing a journey of detachment from these things.

The other aspect of conversion is the the aim of the journey, that is, the search for God and his kingdom. Detachment from worldly things and seeking God and his kingdom. Abandoning comforts and a worldly mentality is not an end in itself. Detachment is not an end in itself, but is a means of attaining something greater, namely, the kingdom of God, communion with God, friendship with God. But this is not easy, because there are many ties that bind us closely to sin; it is not easy... Temptation always pulls down, pulls down, and thus the ties that keep us close to sin: inconstancy, discouragement, malice, unwholesome environments, bad examples. At times the yearning we feel toward the Lord is too weak and it almost seems that God is silent; his promises of consolation seem far away and unreal to us, like the image of the caring and attentive shepherd, which resounds today in the reading from Isaiah (40:1,11). And so one is tempted to say that it is impossible to truly convert. How often we have heard this discouragement! “No, I can't do it. I barely start and then I turn back”. And this is bad. But it is possible. It is possible. When you have this discouraging thought, do not remain there, because this is quicksand. It is quicksand: the quicksand of a mediocre existence. This is mediocrity. What can we do in these cases, when one would like to go but feels he or she cannot do it? First of all, remind ourselves that conversion is a grace: no one can convert by his or own strength. It is a grace that the Lord gives you, and thus we need to forcefully ask God for it. To ask God to convert us to the degree in which we open ourselves up to the beauty, the goodness, the tenderness of God. Think about God's tenderness. God is not a bad father, an unkind father, no. He is tender. He loves us so much, like the Good Shepherd, who searches for the last member of his flock. It is love, and this is conversion: a grace of God. You begin to walk, because it is he who moves you to walk, and you will see how he will arrive. Pray, walk, and you will always take a step forward.

May Mary Most Holy, whom we will celebrate the day after tomorrow as the Immaculate Conception, help us to separate ourselves more and more from sin and worldliness, in order to open ourselves to God, to his Word, to his love which restores and saves.





Pope Francis Message for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 03.12.20

Disabled
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the file photo link above

This year’s celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is an occasion to express my closeness to those experiencing situations of particular difficulty during the crisis caused by the pandemic. All of us are in the same boat in the midst of a turbulent sea that can frighten us. Yet in this same boat, some of us are struggling more; among them are persons with serious disabilities.





Pope Francis General Audience 02.12.20

The Blessing

 Pope Francis -  Talks about Blessing - General Audience - 02.12.2020
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Today we will reflect on an essential dimension of prayer: blessing. We are continuing the reflections on prayer. In the creation accounts, God continually blesses life, always. He blesses the animals, He blesses the man and the woman, finally, He blesses the Sabbath, the day of rest and the enjoyment of all of creation. It is God who blesses. On the first pages of the Bible, there is a continual repetition of blessings. God blesses, but men give blessings as well, and soon they discover that the blessing possesses a special power that accompanies the person who receives it throughout his or her entire life, and disposes the person’s heart to allow God to change it.

At the world’s beginning, therefore, there is a God who “speaks well”, who blesses. He sees that every work of His hands is good and beautiful, and when He creates man, and creation is complete, He recognizes that he is “very good”. Shortly thereafter, the beauty that God had imprinted within His work will be altered, and the human being will become a degenerate creature, capable of spreading evil and death in the world; but nothing will ever take away God’s original imprint of goodness that God placed in the world, in human nature, in all of us: the capacity of blessing and of being blessed. God did not make a mistake with creation nor with the creation of man. The hope of the world lies entirely in God’s blessing: He continues to desire our good, He is the first, as the poet Péguy said, to continue to hope for our good.

God’s greatest blessing is Jesus Christ; His Son is God’s greatest. He is a blessing for all of humanity, He is the blessing that saved us all. He is the eternal Word with which the Father blessed us “while we were yet sinners”, St Paul says: the Word made flesh and offered for us on the cross.

St Paul proclaims with emotion God’s plan of love. And he says it this way: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved”. There is no sin that can completely erase the image of Christ present in each one of us. No sin can erase that image that God has given us – the image of Christ. Sin can disfigure it, but not remove it from God’s mercy. A sinner can remain in error for a long time, but God is patient till the end, hoping that the sinner’s heart will eventually open and change. God is like a good father, He is a Father, and like a good mother, He is a good mother as well: they never stop loving their child, no matter what he or she may have done wrong, always. What comes to my mind is the many times that I have seen people in line to go into a prison, how many mothers are there in line to see their imprisoned child. They do not cease to love their child and they know that the people passing by on the bus are thinking: “Ah, that is the mother of a prisoner…”. They are not embarrassed about this. Yes, they are embarrassed but they go ahead. Just as their child is more important than their embarrassment, so we are more important to God than all of the sins that we can commit. Because He is a Father, He is a Mother, He is pure love, He has blessed us forever. And He will never cease blessing us.

What an impressive experience it is to read these biblical texts of blessing in a prison, or in a rehabilitation group. To allow these people to hear that they are still blessed, notwithstanding their grave errors, that the heavenly Father continues to desire their good and to hope that they will open themselves in the end to the good. Even if their closest relatives have abandoned them – many abandon them, they are not like those mothers who wait in life to see them, they are not important, they abandon them – they have abandoned them since they by now judge them to be irredeemable, they are always children to God. God cannot erase in us the image of sons and daughters, each one of us is His son, His daughter. At times we see miracles happen: men and women who are reborn because they find this blessing that has anointed them as children. For God’s grace changes lives: He takes us as we are, but He never leaves us as we are.

Let us think about what Jesus did with Zacchaeus, for example. Everyone saw evil in him; instead, Jesus spots a glimmer of good, and from that – from his curiosity to see Jesus – He allows the mercy that saves to pass through. Thus, first Zaccaeus’s heart was changed, and then his life. Jesus sees the indelible blessing of the Father in the people who are rejected and repudiated. He was a public sinner, he had done so many awful things, but Jesus saw that indelible sign of the Father’s blessing and because of that, He had compassion. That phrase that is repeated often in the Gospel, “He was moved with compassion”, and that compassion leads Him to help him and to change his heart. What’s more, Jesus came to identify Himself with every person in need. In the passage about the final protocol on which all of us will be judged, Matthew 25, Jesus says: “I was there, I was hungry, I was naked, I was in prison, I was in hospital, I was there”.

To the God who blesses we, too, respond by blessing – God has taught us how to bless and we must bless – through the prayer of praise, of adoration, of thanksgiving. The Catechism writes: “The prayer of blessing is man's response to God's gifts: because God blesses, the human heart can in return bless the One who is the source of every blessing”. Prayer is joy and thanksgiving. God did not wait for us to convert ourselves before beginning to love us, but He loved us a long time before, when we were still in sin.

We cannot but bless this God who blesses us; we must bless everyone in Him, all people, to bless God and to bless our brothers and sisters, to bless the world – and this is the root of Christian meekness, the ability of feeling blessed and the ability to bless. If all of us were to do this, wars would surely not exist. This world needs blessings, and we can give blessings and receive blessings. The Father loves us. The only thing that remains for us is the joy of blessing Him, and the joy of thanking Him, and of learning from Him not to curse, but to bless. Here, just one word for the people who have the habit of cursing, people who always have a bad word, a curse, on their lips and in their hearts. Each one of us can think: Do I have this habit of cursing like this? And ask the Lord the grace to change this habit because we have a blessed heart and curses cannot come out of a heart that has been blessed. May the Lord teach us never to curse, but to bless.