Philippians

  
 
Chapter 2

1-11


Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

https://sites.google.com/site/francishomilies/profession-of-faith/23.05.13.jpg

The biblical Readings we have heard make us think. They have made me think deeply. I have conceived of a sort of meditation for us bishops, first for me, a bishop like you, and I share it with you.

It is important — and I am particularly glad — that our first meeting should take place here, on the site that guards not only Peter’s tomb but also the living memory of his witness of faith, his service to the Truth, and his gift of himself to the point of martyrdom for the Gospel and for the Church.

This evening this Altar of the Confession thus becomes for us the Sea of Tiberias, on whose shores we listen once again to the marvellous conversation between Jesus and Peter with the question addressed to the Apostle, but which must also resonate in our own hearts, as Bishops.

“Do you love me?”. “Are you my friend?” (cf. Jn 21, 15ff.).

The question is addressed to a man who, despite his solemn declarations, let himself be gripped by fear and so had denied.

“Do you love me?”; “Are you my friend?”.

The question is addressed to me and to each one of us, to all of us: if we take care not to respond too hastily and superficially it impels us to look within ourselves, to re-enter ourselves.

“Do you love me?”; “Are you my friend?”.

The One who scrutinizes hearts (cf. Rom 8:27), makes himself a beggar of love and questions us on the one truly essential issue, a premiss and condition for feeding his sheep, his lambs, his Church. May every ministry be based on this intimacy with the Lord; living from him is the measure of our ecclesial service which is expressed in the readiness to obey, to humble ourselves, as we heard in the Letter to the Philippians, and for the total gift of self (cf. 2:6-11).

Moreover, the consequence of loving the Lord is giving everything — truly everything, even our life — for him. This is what must distinguish our pastoral ministry; it is the litmus test that tells us how deeply we have embraced the gift received in responding to Jesus’ call, and how closely bound we are to the individuals and communities that have been entrusted to our care. We are not the expression of a structure or of an organizational need: even with the service of our authority we are called to be a sign of the presence and action of the Risen Lord; thus to build up the community in brotherly love.

Not that this should be taken for granted: even the greatest love, in fact, when it is not constantly nourished, weakens and fades away. Not for nothing did the Apostle Paul recommend: “take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians, to feed the church of the Lord which he obtained with his own Son's blood” (cf. Acts 20:28).

A lack of vigilance — as we know — makes the Pastor tepid; it makes him absentminded, forgetful and even impatient. It tantalizes him with the prospect of a career, the enticement of money and with compromises with a mundane spirit; it makes him lazy, turning him into an official, a state functionary concerned with himself, with organization and structures, rather than with the true good of the People of God. Then one runs the risk of denying the Lord as did the Apostle Peter, even if he formally presents him and speaks in his name; one obscures the holiness of the hierarchical Mother Church making her less fruitful.

Who are we, Brothers, before God? What are our trials? We have so many; each one of us has his own. What is God saying to us through them? What are we relying on in order to surmount them?

Just as it did Peter, Jesus' insistent and heartfelt question can leave us pained and more aware of the weakness of our freedom, threatened as it is by thousands of interior and exterior forms of conditioning that all too often give rise to bewilderment, frustration, and even disbelief.

These are not of course the sentiments and attitudes that the Lord wants to inspire; rather, the Enemy, the Devil, takes advantage of them to isolate us in bitterness, complaint and despair.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, does not humiliate or abandon people to remorse. Through him the tenderness of the Father, who consoles and revitalizes, speaks; it is he who brings us from the disintegration of shame — because shame truly breaks us up — to the fabric of trust; he restores courage, re-entrusts responsibility, and sends us out on mission.

Peter, purified in the crucible of forgiveness could say humbly, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (Jn 21:17). I am sure that we can all say this with heartfelt feeling. And Peter, purified, urges us in his First Letter to tend “the flock of God... not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock” (1 Pet 5:2-3).

Yes, being Pastors means believing every day in the grace and strength that come to us from the Lord despite our weakness, and wholly assuming the responsibility for walking before the flock, relieved of the burdens that obstruct healthy apostolic promptness, hesitant leadership, so as to make our voice recognizable both to those who have embraced the faith and to those who “are not [yet] of this fold” (Jn 10:16). We are called to make our own the dream of God, whose house knows no exclusion of people or peoples, as Isaiah prophetically foretold in the First Reading (cf. Is 2:2-5).

For this reason being Pastors also means being prepared to walk among and behind the flock; being capable of listening to the silent tale of those who are suffering and of sustaining the steps of those who fear they may not make it; attentive to raising, to reassuring and to instilling hope. Our faith emerges strengthened from sharing with the lowly. Let us therefore set aside every form of arrogance, to bend down to all whom the Lord has entrusted to our care. Among them let us keep a special, very special, place for our priests. Especially for them may our heart, our hand and our door stay open in every circumstance. They are the first faithful that we bishops have: our priests. Let us love them! Let us love them with all our heart! They are our sons and our brothers!

Dear brothers, the profession of faith we are now renewing together is not a formal act. Rather, it means renewing our response to the “Follow me” with which John’s Gospel ends (21:19). It leads to living our life in accordance with God’s plan, committing our whole self to the Lord Jesus. The discernment that knows and takes on the thoughts, expectations and needs of the people of our time stems from this.

In this spirit, I warmly thank each one of you for your service, for your love for the Church.

And the Mother is here! I place you, and myself, under the mantle of Mary, Our Lady.

Mother of silence, who watches over the mystery of God,
Save us from the idolatry of the present time, to which those who forget are condemned.
Purify the eyes of Pastors with the eye-wash of memory:
Take us back to the freshness of the origins, for a prayerful, penitent Church.

Mother of the beauty that blossoms from faithfulness to daily work,
Lift us from the torpor of laziness, pettiness, and defeatism.
Clothe Pastors in the compassion that unifies, that makes whole; let us discover the joy of a humble, brotherly, serving Church.

Mother of tenderness who envelops us in patience and mercy,
Help us burn away the sadness, impatience and rigidity of those who do not know what it means to belong.
Intercede with your Son to obtain that our hands, our feet, our hearts be agile: let us build the Church with the Truth of love.
Mother, we shall be the People of God, pilgrims bound for the Kingdom. Amen.



Pope Francis    14.09.14 Holy Mass, Vatican Basilica      Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross     Numbers 21: 4B-9,     Philippians 2: 6-11,     John 3: 13-17

Pope Francis Marriage is all about: man and woman walking together 14.09.14

Today’s first reading speaks to us of the people’s journey through the desert. We can imagine them as they walked, led by Moses; they were families: fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, grandparents, men and women of all ages, accompanied by many children and the elderly who struggled to make the journey. This people reminds us of the Church as she makes her way across the desert of the contemporary world, reminds us of the People of God composed, for the most part, of families.
This makes us think of families, our families, walking along the paths of life with all their day to day experiences. It is impossible to quantify the strength and depth of humanity contained in a family: mutual help, educational support, relationships developing as family members mature, the sharing of joys and difficulties. Families are the first place in which we are formed as persons and, at the same time, the “bricks” for the building up of society.

Let us return to the biblical story. At a certain point, “the people became impatient on the way” (Num 21:4). They are tired, water supplies are low and all they have for food is manna, which, although plentiful and sent by God, seems far too meagre in a time of crisis. And so they complain and protest against God and against Moses: “Why did you make us leave?...” (cf. Num. 21:5). They are tempted to turn back and abandon the journey.

Here our thoughts turn to married couples who “become impatient on the way”, the way of conjugal and family life. The hardship of the journey causes them to experience interior weariness; they lose the flavour of matrimony and they cease to draw water from the well of the Sacrament. Daily life becomes burdensome, and often, even “nauseating”.

During such moments of disorientation – the Bible says – poisonous serpents come and bite the people, and many die. This causes the people to repent and to turn to Moses for forgiveness, asking him to beseech the Lord so that he will cast out the snakes. Moses prays to the Lord, and the Lord offers a remedy: a bronze serpent set on a pole; whoever looks at it will be saved from the deadly poison of the vipers.

What is the meaning of this symbol? God does not destroy the serpents, but rather offers an “antidote”: by means of the bronze serpent fashioned by Moses, God transmits his healing strength, namely his mercy, which is more potent than the Tempter’s poison.

As we have heard in the Gospel, Jesus identifies himself with this symbol: out of love the Father “has given” his only begotten Son so that men and women might have eternal life (cf. Jn 3:13-17). Such immense love of the Father spurs the Son to become man, to become a servant and to die for us upon a cross. Out of such love, the Father raises up his son, giving him dominion over the entire universe. This is expressed by Saint Paul in his hymn in the Letter to the Philippians (cf. 2:6-11). Whoever entrusts himself to Jesus crucified receives the mercy of God and finds healing from the deadly poison of sin.

The cure which God offers the people applies also, in a particular way, to spouses who “have become impatient on the way” and who succumb to the dangerous temptation of discouragement, infidelity, weakness, abandonment… To them too, God the Father gives his Son Jesus, not to condemn them, but to save them: if they entrust themselves to him, he will bring them healing by the merciful love which pours forth from the Cross, with the strength of his grace that renews and sets married couples and families once again on the right path.

The love of Christ, which has blessed and sanctified the union of husband and wife, is able to sustain their love and to renew it when, humanly speaking, it becomes lost, wounded or worn out. The love of Christ can restore to spouses the joy of journeying together. This is what marriage is all about: man and woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become ever more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more a man. This is the task that you both share. “I love you, and for this love I help you to become ever more a woman”; “I love you, and for this love I help you to become ever more a man”. Here we see the reciprocity of differences. The path is not always a smooth one, free of disagreements, otherwise it would not be human. It is a demanding journey, at times difficult, and at times turbulent, but such is life! Within this theology which the word of God offers us concerning the people on a journey, spouses on a journey, I would like to give you some advice. It is normal for husband and wife to argue: it’s normal. It always happens. But my advice is this: never let the day end without having first made peace. Never! A small gesture is sufficient. Thus the journey may continue. Marriage is a symbol of life, real life: it is not “fiction”! It is the Sacrament of the love of Christ and the Church, a love which finds its proof and guarantee in the Cross. My desire for you is that you have a good journey, a fruitful one, growing in love. I wish you happiness. There will be crosses! But the Lord is always there to help us move forward. May the Lord bless you!





It seems that the protagonist of today’s readings is the serpent, and there is a message here. Yes, there is a profound prophecy in this presentation of the serpent, which was the first animal to be presented to man, the first that the Bible mentions and defines as the smartest of the wild animals God created. The serpent’s figure is not beautiful, it always incites fear. Even if the snake’s skin is beautiful, the fact remains that the snake’s behaviour is scary.

The Book of Genesis describes the serpent as ‘the most cunning’, but also that he is a charmer that has the ability to fascinate, to charm you. Moreover, he is a liar, he is jealous; it is because of the devil’s envy — the serpent’s envy — that sin entered the world. He has this ability to ruin us with seduction: he promises you many things, but when the time comes to pay you he pays badly, he is an evil payer. However, the serpent has this ability to seduce and to charm. Paul, for example, was angry with the Christians in Galatia who gave him much to do, and he said to them, “O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you? You who were called to freedom, who has bewitched you?”. It was the serpent himself who corrupted them and this was nothing new: the people of Israel were conscious of it.

Numbers (21:4-9): to save them from the serpent’s venom, the Lord told Moses to make a bronze serpent, and that whoever looked at that serpent would be saved. This is an illustration, a prophecy, and a promise. It is a promise that is not easy to understand. Today’s Gospel (Jn 3:13-17) tells us that Jesus himself explained Moses’ act a bit further to Nicodemus: that just as he had lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. The bronze serpent was a figure of Jesus raised up on the Cross.

For what reason would the Lord choose this bad, ugly figure? It was simply because Jesus came to take all our sins upon himself, becoming the greatest sinner without having ever committed a sin. This is why Paul tells us that Jesus became sin for us. Using this figure, then, Christ became a serpent. It’s an ugly figure!” But He really did become sin to save us. This is the message in today’s Liturgy. This is precisely Jesus’ path: God became man and bore his sin.

In the Second Reading from the Letter to the Philippians (2:6-11), Paul explains this mystery, it was done out of love: Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not retain any privilege of being as God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men; he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.  Jesus emptied himself: he became sin for us, he who knew no sin. This, therefore, is the mystery, and we can say that he became like a serpent, so to speak, which is ugly and disgusting.

There are many beautiful paintings which may help us to contemplate Jesus on the cross. But the reality of it was very different: he was completely torn and bloodied by our sins. Moreover, this is the way that he has taken in order to defeat the serpent in his field. Therefore,  we ought to always look at Jesus’ cross, not at those well-painted artistic crosses, but instead at the reality of what the cross was at that time. Look at his path, recalling that he emptied himself and lowered himself in order to save us.

This is also the Christian’s path. Indeed, if a Christian wants to make progress on the path of the Christian life, he must lower himself, as Jesus lowered himself: this is the path of humility, which means bringing humiliations upon yourself, as Jesus did. This is precisely the message given to us in today’s liturgy on this feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
Let us ask that the Lord give us the grace that we ask of Our Lady at the foot of the Cross: the grace to cry, to cry out of love, to cry out of gratitude, because our God loved us so much that he sent his Son to lower himself and allow himself to be crushed in order to save us.





Pope Francis 20.03.16  Palm Sunday

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (cf. Lk 19:38), the crowd of Jerusalem exclaimed joyfully as they welcomed Jesus. We have made that enthusiasm our own: by waving our olive and palm branches we have expressed our praise and our joy, our desire to receive Jesus who comes to us. Just as he entered Jerusalem, so he desires to enter our cities and our lives. As he did in the Gospel, riding on a donkey, so too he comes to us in humility; he comes “in the name of the Lord”. Through the power of his divine love he forgives our sins and reconciles us to the Father and with ourselves.

Jesus is pleased with the crowd’s showing their affection for him. When the Pharisees ask him to silence the children and the others who are acclaiming him, he responds: “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Lk 19:40). Nothing could dampen their enthusiasm for Jesus’ entry. May nothing prevent us from finding in him the source of our joy, true joy, which abides and brings peace; for it is Jesus alone who saves us from the snares of sin, death, fear and sadness.

Today’s liturgy teaches us that the Lord has not saved us by his triumphal entry or by means of powerful miracles. The Apostle Paul, in the second reading, epitomizes in two verbs the path of redemption: Jesus “emptied” and “humbled” himself (Phil 2:7-8). These two verbs show the boundlessness of God’s love for us. Jesus emptied himself: he did not cling to the glory that was his as the Son of God, but became the Son of man in order to be in solidarity with us sinners in all things; yet he was without sin. Even more, he lived among us in “the condition of a servant” (v. 7); not of a king or a prince, but of a servant. Therefore he humbled himself, and the abyss of his humiliation, as Holy Week shows us, seems to be bottomless.

The first sign of this love “without end” (Jn 13:1) is the washing of the feet. “The Lord and Master” (Jn 13:14) stoops to his disciples’ feet, as only servants would have done. He shows us by example that we need to allow his love to reach us, a love which bends down to us; we cannot do any less, we cannot love without letting ourselves be loved by him first, without experiencing his surprising tenderness and without accepting that true love consists in concrete service.

But this is only the beginning. The humiliation of Jesus reaches its utmost in
the Passion: he is sold for thirty pieces of silver and betrayed by the kiss of a disciple whom he had chosen and called his friend. Nearly all the others flee and abandon him; Peter denies him three times in the courtyard of the temple. Humiliated in his spirit by mockery, insults and spitting, he suffers in his body terrible brutality: the blows, the scourging and the crown of thorns make his face unrecognizable. He also experiences shame and disgraceful condemnation by religious and political authorities: he is made into sin and considered to be unjust. Pilate then sends him to Herod, who in turn sends him to the Roman governor. Even as every form of justice is denied to him, Jesus also experiences in his own flesh indifference, since no one wishes to take responsibility for his fate. And I think of the many people, so many outcasts, so many asylum seekers, so many refugees, all of those for whose fate no one wishes to take responsibility. The crowd, who just a little earlier had acclaimed him, now changes their praise into a cry of accusation, even to the point of preferring that a murderer be released in his place. And so the hour of death on the cross arrives, that most painful form of shame reserved for traitors, slaves and the worst kind of criminals. But isolation, defamation and pain are not yet the full extent of his deprivation. To be totally in solidarity with us, he also experiences on the Cross the mysterious abandonment of the Father. In his abandonment, however, he prays and entrusts himself: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Lk 23:46). Hanging from the wood of the cross, beside derision he now confronts the last temptation: to come down from the Cross, to conquer evil by might and to show the face of a powerful and invincible God. Jesus, however, even here at the height of his annihilation, reveals the true face of God, which is mercy. He forgives those who are crucifying him, he opens the gates of paradise to the repentant thief and he touches the heart of the centurion. If the mystery of evil is unfathomable, then the reality of Love poured out through him is infinite, reaching even to the tomb and to hell. He takes upon himself all our pain that he may redeem it, bringing light to darkness, life to death, love to hatred.

God’s way of acting may seem so far removed from our own, that he was annihilated for our sake, while it seems difficult for us to even forget ourselves a little. He comes to save us; we are called to choose his way: the way of service, of giving
, of forgetfulness of ourselves. Let us walk this path, pausing in these days to gaze upon the Crucifix; it is the “royal seat of God”. I invite you during this week to gaze often upon this “royal seat of God”, to learn about the humble love which saves and gives life, so that we may give up all selfishness, and the seeking of power and fame. By humbling himself, Jesus invites us to walk on his path. Let us turn our faces to him, let us ask for the grace to understand at least something of the mystery of his obliteration for our sake; and then, in silence, let us contemplate the mystery of this Week.




Pope Francis          01.10.17 Holy Mass, Stadium Dall'Ara, Bologna       26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A       Philippians 2: 1-11,        Matthew 21: 28-32
Pastoral visit to Bologna for the conclusion of the Diocese Eucharistic Congress

I celebrate with you the first Sunday of the Word: the Word of God makes the heart burn (cf. Lk 24:32), because it makes us feel loved and comforted by the Lord. The icon of "Our Lady of St. Luke", the evangelist, can help us to understand the maternal tenderness of the "living" word, which is at the same time "knife-sharp", as in today's Gospel: in fact it penetrates the soul (cf. Heb 4:12) and brings to light the secrets and contradictions of the heart.

Today it challenges us with the parable of the two sons, who respond to the Father's invitation to go into his vineyard: One says no, but then goes; the second says yes, but then doesn't work. There is, however, a big difference between the first son, who is lazy, and the second, who is hypocritical. Let's try to imagine what happened inside them. In the heart of the first, after his no, the invitation of his father still rang out; in the second, however, despite his yes, the father's voice was buried. The memory of the father awakened the first child from laziness, while the second, although he knew the good, contradicted his word with his actions. In fact, he had become impervious to the voice of God and of conscience, and without any problems accepted the duplicity of life. Jesus with this parable places two paths before us. Experience shows that we are not always willing to say yes in word and deed, because we are sinners. But we can choose whether to be sinners on the way, who listen to the Lord, and when they fall they repent and rise, like the first child; or sitting sinners, ready to always justify themselves and only with words according to what suits them.

This parable Jesus was addressed to some religious leaders of the time, the Son with his double life, while ordinary people often behaved like the other son. These leaders knew and explained everything, in a formally flawless way, like true intellectuals of religion. But they did not have the humility to listen, the courage to question themselves, and no strength to repent. And Jesus is very strict: he says that even tax collectors are more likely to enter the Kingdom of God. It is a harsh rebuke, because the tax collectors were corrupt traitors of the homeland. So what was the problem with these leaders? They were not simply mistaken about something, but they were mistaken in the way of life before God: they were, in words and with others, unyielding guardians of human traditions, unable to understand that life according to God is on the way and requires the humility to open up, repent and start again.

What does that say to us? That there is no Christian life designed on the drawing board, scientifically built, where it is sufficient to fulfil a few commandments to soothe consciences: Christian life is a humble path of a conscience never rigid and always relates to God, who knows how to repent and rely on Him in his poverty, without ever assuming that it is sufficient to itself. Thus we overcome the revised and up-to-date versions of that ancient evil, denounced by Jesus in the parable: hypocrisy, duplicity of life, clericalism that is accompanied by legalism, detachment from the people. The key word is repentance: it is repentance that allows us not to harden, to turn no to God into yes, and yes to sin into no for the sake of the Lord. The will of the Father, who every day gently speaks to our conscience, is carried out only in the form of repentance and continuous conversion. In the end, everyone has two paths ahead of them: to be repentant sinners or hypocritical sinners. But what matters is not the reasoning that justifies and attempts to save appearances, but a heart that moves forward with the Lord, struggles every day, repents and returns to Him. Because the Lord seeks the pure of heart, not pure "on the outside".

Thus we see, dear brothers and sisters, that the Word of God goes into the depths, "discerns the feelings and thoughts of the heart"(Heb 4:12). But it is also current: the parable also reminds us of the relationships, not always easy, between fathers and children. Today, at the rate at which one generation changes to the next, we feel more strongly the need for autonomy from the past, sometimes to the point of rebellion. But, after the closures and the long silences on one side or the other, it is good to recover the encounter, even if there are still conflicts simmering, which can become the stimulus to find a new balance. As in the family, so in the Church and in society: never give up encounter, dialogue, seek new ways to walk together.

The question often comes in the journey of the Church: where to go, how to move forward? I would like to leave you, at the end of this day, three reference points, three "P's". The first is the Word, which is the compass for humble walking, so as not to fall away from the way of God and fall into worldliness. The second is Bread, the Eucharistic bread, because from the Eucharist everything begins. It is in the Eucharist that we encounter the Church: not in gossip and chronicles, but here, in the Body of Christ shared by sinful and needy people, but who feel loved and then desire to love. From here we set off and meet again every time, this is the indispensable beginning of our being as a Church. The Eucharistic Congress proclaims it "out loud": the Church gathers like this, is born and lives around the Eucharist, with Jesus present and alive to worship, to receive and to give every day. Finally, the third P: the poor. Unfortunately, so many people lack the necessities. But there are also so many poor people of affection, lonely people, and poor people of God. In all of them we find Jesus, because Jesus in the world followed the path of poverty, of annihilation, as St Paul says in the second Reading: "Jesus emptied himself by assuming a condition of servant" (Ph 2:7) From the Eucharist to the poor, let us meet Jesus. You have reproduced the inscription that the Card. Lercaro loved to see engraved on the altar: "If we share the bread of heaven, how can we not share the earthly bread?" It will do us good to remember that all the time. The Word, the Bread, the poor: let us ask for the grace never to forget these basic foods that support us on our way.



Pope Francis      14.09.18    Holy Mass  Santa Marta         Numbers 21: 4B-9,       Philippians 2: 6-11
https://sites.google.com/site/francishomilies/defeat/14.09.18.jpg

We must not be afraid to contemplate the cross as a moment of defeat, of failure. When Paul reflects on the mystery of Jesus Christ, he says some powerful things. He tells us that Jesus emptied himself, annihilated himself, was made sin to the end and took all our sins upon himself, all the sins of the world: he was a ‘rag’, a condemned man. Paul was not afraid to show this defeat and even this can enlighten our moments of darkness, our moments of defeat. But the cross is also a sign of victory for us Christians.

The Book of Numbers tells of the moment during the Exodus when the people who complained “were punished by serpents”. This, refers to the ancient serpent,
Satan, the “Great Accuser”. But, the Lord told Moses that the serpent that brought death would be raised and would bring salvation. This  is a prophecy. In fact, having been made sin, Jesus defeated the author of sin, he defeated the serpent. And Satan, was so happy on Good Friday that he did not notice the great trap of history in which he was to fall.

As the Fathers of the Church say, Satan saw Jesus in such a bad state, and like a hungry fish that goes after the bait attached to the hook, he swallowed Him. But in that moment, he also swallowed His divinity because that was the bait attached to the hook. At that moment,  Satan was destroyed forever. He has no strength. In that moment the cross became a sign of victory.

Our victory is the cross of Jesus, victory over our enemy, the ancient serpent, the Great Accuser. We have been saved by the cross, by the fact that Jesus chose to sink to the very lowest point, but with the power of divinity.

Jesus said to Nicodemus: When I am lifted up I will draw all people to myself. Jesus was lifted up and Satan was destroyed. We must be attracted to the cross of Jesus: we must look at it because it gives us the strength to go forward. And the ancient serpent that was destroyed still barks, still threatens but, as the Fathers of the Church say, he is a chained dog: do not approach him and he will not bite you; but if you try to caress him because you attracted to him as if he were a puppy, prepare yourself, he will destroy you.

Our life goes on, with Christ victorious and risen, and who sends us the Holy Spirit; but also with that chained dog,
the devil, whom I must not draw close to because he will bite me.

The cross teaches us that in life there is failure and victory. We must be capable of tolerating defeat, of bearing our failures patiently, even those of our sins because He paid for us. We must tolerate them in Him, asking forgiveness in Him, but never allowing ourselves to be seduced by this chained dog. It will be good if today, when we go home, we would take 5, 10, 15 minutes in front of the crucifix, either the one we have in our house or on the rosary: look at it, it is our sign of defeat, it provokes persecutions, it destroys us; it is also our sign of victory because it is where God was victorious.


Pope Francis        05.11.18   Holy Mass  Santa Marta         Philippians 2: 1-4         Luke 14: 12-14
do not do things out of self-interest

Jesus’ teaching is clear: “do not do things out of self-interest”, do not choose your friendships on the basis of convenience.

Reasoning on the basis of one's own advantage is a form of selfishness, segregation and self-interest whilst Jesus’ message is exactly the opposite.

Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory but humbly regard others as more important than ourselves.

Gossip, stems from 
rivalry and is used to destroy others.

Rivalry is ugly: you can perpetrate it openly, in a direct way, or with white gloves. But it always aims to destroy the other and to ‘raise oneself up’ by diminishing the other. Rivalry stems from self- interest.

Equally harmful, is someone who prides himself on being superior to others.

This attitude, destroys communities and families: “Think of the rivalry between siblings for the father’s inheritance for example”, it is something we see every day.

Christians, must follow the example of the Son of God, cultivating “
gratuitousness”: doing good without expecting or wanting to be repaid, sowing unity and abandoning rivalry or vainglory.

Building peace with small gestures paves a path of harmony throughout the world
.

When we read of wars, of the famine of children in Yemen caused by the conflict there, we think “that’s far away, poor children… why don't they have food?”

The same war is waged at home and in our institutions, stemming from rivalry: that’s where war begins! And that’s where peace must be made: in the family, in the parish, in the institutions, in the workplace, always seeking unanimity and harmony and not one's own interest.


Pope Francis      06.11.18  Holy Mass Santa Marta         Philippians 2: 5-11,      Luke 14: 15-24

https://sites.google.com/site/francishomilies/busy/06.11.18.jpg

The parable of the man who gave a great banquet, and sent out many invitations. His servants told the guests, “‘Come: everything is now ready.’ But one by one they all began to excuse themselves. There is always an apology. They apologize. Apologizing is the polite word we use in order not to say, ‘I refuse.’

And so the master then told his servants to bring in here the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame.

This passage, ends with a second refusal, this one from the mouth of Jesus Himself. When someone rejects Jesus, the Lord waits for them, gives them a second chance, perhaps even a third, a fourth, a fifth… but in the end, He rejects them.

And this refusal makes us think of ourselves, of the times that Jesus calls us; calls us to celebrate with Him, to be close to Him, to change our life. Think about seeking out His most intimate friends and they refuse! Then He seeks out the sick… and they go; perhaps some refuse. How many times do we hear the call of Jesus to come to Him, to do a
work of charity, to pray, to encounter Him, and we say: “Excuse me Lord, I’m busy, I don’t have time. Yes, tomorrow today I can’t…” And Jesus remains there.

How often do we, too, ask Jesus to excuse us when “He calls us to meet Him, to speak with Him, to have a nice chat.” “We, too, refuse Him." 

Each one of us should think: In my life, how many times have I felt the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to do a work of charity, to encounter Jesus in that work of charity, to go to pray, to
change your life in this area, in this area that is not going well? And I have always found a reason to excuse myself, to refuse.

In the end, those who do not reject Jesus, and are not rejected by Him, will enter the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Father had a warning for those who think to themselves “Jesus is so good, in the end He forgives everything”.

Yes, He is good, He is merciful – He is merciful, but He is also just. And if you close the door of your heart from within, He cannot open it, because He is very respectful of our heart.
Refusing Jesus is closing the door from within, and He cannot enter.

It is Jesus Himself who pays for the feast. In the first Reading, St Paul reveals the cost of the banquet, speaking of Jesus, who “emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, humbling Himself to the point of dying on the Cross.” Jesus, paid for the feast with His life.”



35th World Youth Day
Pope Francis Palm Sunday 05.04.20

Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:7). Let us allow these words of the Apostle Paul to lead us into these holy days, when the word of God, like a refrain, presents Jesus as a servant: on Holy Thursday, he is portrayed as the servant who washes the feet of his disciples; on Good Friday, he is presented as the suffering and victorious servant (cf. Is 52:13); and tomorrow we will hear the prophecy of Isaiah about him: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold” (Is 42:1). God saved us by serving us. We often think we are the ones who serve God. No, he is the one who freely chose to serve us, for he loved us first. It is difficult to love and not be loved in return. And it is even more difficult to serve if we do not let ourselves be served by God.
But – just one question – how did the Lord serve us? By giving his life for us. We are dear to him; we cost him dearly. Saint Angela of Foligno said she once heard Jesus say: “My love for you is no joke”. His love for us led him to sacrifice himself and to take upon himself our sins. This astonishes us: God saved us by taking upon himself all the punishment of our sins. Without complaining, but with the humility, patience and obedience of a servant, and purely out of love. And the Father upheld Jesus in his service. He did not take away the evil that crushed him, but rather strengthened him in his suffering so that our evil could be overcome by good, by a love that loves to the very end.
The Lord served us to the point of experiencing the most painful situations of those who love: betrayal and abandonment.
Betrayal. Jesus suffered betrayal by the disciple who sold him and by the disciple who denied him. He was betrayed by the people who sang hosanna to him and then shouted: “Crucify him!” (Mt 27:22). He was betrayed by the religious institution that unjustly condemned him and by the political institution that washed its hands of him. We can think of all the small or great betrayals that we have suffered in life. It is terrible to discover that a firmly placed trust has been betrayed. From deep within our heart a disappointment surges up that can even make life seem meaningless. This happens because we were born to be loved and to love, and the most painful thing is to be betrayed by someone who promised to be loyal and close to us. We cannot even imagine how painful it was for God who is love.
Let us look within. If we are honest with ourselves, we will see our infidelities. How many falsehoods, hypocrisies and duplicities! How many good intentions betrayed! How many broken promises! How many resolutions left unfulfilled! The Lord knows our hearts better than we do. He knows how weak and irresolute we are, how many times we fall, how hard it is for us to get up and how difficult it is to heal certain wounds. And what did he do in order to come to our aid and serve us? He told us through the Prophet: “I will heal their faithlessness; I will love them deeply” (Hos 14:5). He healed us by taking upon himself our infidelity and by taking from us our betrayals. Instead of being discouraged by the fear of failing, we can now look upon the crucifix, feel his embrace, and say: “Behold, there is my infidelity, you took it, Jesus, upon yourself. You open your arms to me, you serve me with your love, you continue to support me… And so I will keep pressing on”.
Abandonment. In today’s Gospel, Jesus says one thing from the Cross, one thing alone: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46). These are powerful words. Jesus had suffered the abandonment of his own, who had fled. But the Father remained for him. Now, in the abyss of solitude, for the first time he calls him by the generic name “God”. And “in a loud voice” he asks the question “why?”, the most excruciating “why?”: “Why did you too abandon me?”. These words are in fact those of a Psalm (cf. 22:2); they tell us that Jesus also brought the experience of extreme desolation to his prayer. But the fact remains that he himself experienced that desolation: he experienced the utmost abandonment, which the Gospels testify to by quoting his very words.
Why did all this take place? Once again, it was done for our sake, to serve us. So that when we have our back to the wall, when we find ourselves at a dead end, with no light and no way of escape, when it seems that God himself is not responding, we should remember that we are not alone. Jesus experienced total abandonment in a situation he had never before experienced in order to be one with us in everything. He did it for me, for you, for all of us; he did it to say to us: “Do not be afraid, you are not alone. I experienced all your desolation in order to be ever close to you”. That is the extent to which Jesus served us: he descended into the abyss of our most bitter sufferings, culminating in betrayal and abandonment. Today, in the tragedy of a pandemic, in the face of the many false securities that have now crumbled, in the face of so many hopes betrayed, in the sense of abandonment that weighs upon our hearts, Jesus says to each one of us: “Courage, open your heart to my love. You will feel the consolation of God who sustains you”.
Dear brothers and sisters, what can we do in comparison with God, who served us even to the point of being betrayed and abandoned? We can refuse to betray him for whom we were created, and not abandon what really matters in our lives. We were put in this world to love him and our neighbours. Everything else passes away, only this remains. The tragedy we are experiencing at this time summons us to take seriously the things that are serious, and not to be caught up in those that matter less; to rediscover that life is of no use if not used to serve others. For life is measured by love. So, in these holy days, in our homes, let us stand before the Crucified One – look upon the Crucified One! – the fullest measure of God’s love for us, and before the God who serves us to the point of giving his life, and, – fixing our gaze on the Crucified One – let us ask for the grace to live in order to serve. May we reach out to those who are suffering and those most in need. May we not be concerned about what we lack, but what good we can do for others.
Behold my servant, whom I uphold. The Father, who sustained Jesus in his Passion also supports us in our efforts to serve. Loving, praying, forgiving, caring for others, in the family and in society: all this can certainly be difficult. It can feel like a crossroads. But the path of service is the victorious and life giving path by which we were saved. I would like to say this especially to young people, on this Day which has been dedicated to them for thirty-five years now. Dear friends, look at the real heroes who come to light in these days: they are not famous, rich and successful people; rather, they are those who are giving themselves in order to serve others. Feel called yourselves to put your lives on the line. Do not be afraid to devote your life to God and to others; it pays! For life is a gift we receive only when we give ourselves away, and our deepest joy comes from saying yes to love, without ifs and buts. To truly say yes to love, without ifs and buts. As Jesus did for us.



  

 Chapter 3

20-21

 
Pope Francis     04.11.19 Vatican Basilica         2 Maccabees 12: 43-46,        Philippians 3: 20-21,      John 6: 37-40
Holy Mass for the repose of the souls of the Cardinals and Bishops who died in the last year
Pope Francis 04.11.19 Resurrection

The readings we have heard remind us that we came into this world in order to be raised up; we were not born for death but for resurrection. As Saint Paul writes in the second reading, even now “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil 3:20) and, as Jesus says in the Gospel, we shall be raised up on the last day (cf. Jn 6:40). It is likewise the thought of the resurrection that leads Judas Maccabaeus in the first reading to do “an excellent and noble thing” (2 Macc 12:43). Today we can ask ourselves: how does the thought of the resurrection affect me? How do I respond to my call to be raised up?

Help comes to us first from Jesus, who in today’s Gospel says: “Anyone who comes to me I will never drive away” (Jn 6:37). That is his invitation: “Come to me” (cf. Mt 11:28). To come to Jesus, the living one, in order to be inoculated against death, against the fear that everything will end. To come to Jesus: this might seem a generic and even banal spiritual exhortation. But let us try to make it concrete by asking a few questions. Today, in the files that I handled in the office, did I draw nearer to the Lord? Did I make them an occasion for speaking to him? In the persons whom I met, did I involve Jesus? Did I bring them to him in prayer? Or did I do everything while thinking only of my concerns, rejoicing only in things that went well for me and complaining about those that didn’t? In a word, did I live my day coming to the Lord, or was I simply orbiting around myself? And where am I headed? Do I seek only to make a good impression, to protect my role, my schedule and my free time? Or do I come to the Lord?

Jesus words are striking: “Anyone who comes to me I will never drive away”. As if to say that any Christian who does not come to him will be driven away. For those who believe, there is no middle ground. We cannot belong to Jesus and orbit around ourselves. Those who belong to Jesus live by constantly going forth from ourselves and towards him.

Life itself is a constant going forth: from our mother’s womb to our birth, from infancy to adolescence, from adolescence to adulthood and so on, until the day of our going forth from this world. Today, as we pray for our brother cardinals and bishops who have gone forth from this life in order to meet the risen Lord, we cannot forget the most important and difficult “going forth”, the one that gives meaning to all the others: that of going forth from our very selves. Only by going forth from ourselves do we open the door that leads to the Lord. Let us implore this grace: “Lord, I want to come to you, along the roads and with my traveling companions each day. Help me to go out of myself in order to come towards you, for you are life itself”.

I would like to propose a second thought, about the resurrection, drawn from the first reading and the “noble thing” that Judas Maccabeus did for those who had died. He did it, we are told, because “he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness” (2 Macc 12:45). Godliness, piety, is richly rewarded. Piety towards others opens the gates of eternity. To bow down before the needy in order to serve them is to be on the path to heaven. If, as Saint Paul says, “love never ends” (1 Cor 13:8), then love is itself the bridge linking earth to heaven. We can ask ourselves whether we are advancing along this bridge. Do I let myself be touched by the situation of someone in need? Can I weep with those who are suffering? Do I pray for those whom no one thinks about? Do I help someone who has nothing to give back to me? This is not to be sentimental or to engage in little acts of charity; these are questions of life, questions of resurrection.

Lastly, I would offer a third thought about the resurrection. I take it from the Spiritual Exercises, where Saint Ignatius suggests that before making any important decision, we should imagine ourselves standing before God at the end of time. That is the final and inevitable moment, one that all of us will have to face. Every life decision, viewed from that perspective, will be well directed, since it is closer to the resurrection, which is the meaning and purpose of life. As the departure is calculated by the goal, as the planting is judged by the harvest, so life is best judged by starting from its end and purpose. Saint Ignatius writes: “Let me consider myself as standing in the presence of my judge on the last day, and reflect what decision on the present matter I would then wish to have made; I will choose now the rule of life that I would then wish to have observed” (Spiritual Exercises, 187). It can be a helpful exercise to view reality through the eyes of the Lord and not only through our own; to look to the future, the resurrection, and not only to this passing day; to make choices that have the flavour of eternity, the taste of love.

Do I go forth from myself each day in order to come to the Lord? Do I feel and practise compassion for those in need? Do I make important decisions in the sight of God? Let us allow ourselves to be challenged at least by one of these three thoughts. We will be more attuned to the desire that Jesus expresses in today’s Gospel: that he lose nothing of what the Father has given him (cf. Jn 6:39). Amid so many worldly voices that make us forget the meaning of life, let us grow attuned to the will of Jesus, risen and alive. Thus we will make of our lives this day a dawn of resurrection.
  

 Chapter 4

4-9

 

Pope Francis     05.10.14 Vatican Basilica  Holy Mass for the opening of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family    Isaiah 5: 1-7,    Philippians 4: 6-9,    Matthew 21: 33-43
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A


Today the prophet Isaiah and the Gospel employ the image of the Lord’s vineyard. The Lord’s vineyard is his “dream”, the plan which he nurtures with all his love, like a farmer who cares for his vineyard. Vines are plants which need much care!

God’s “dream” is his people. He planted it and nurtured it with patient and faithful love, so that it can become a holy people, a people which brings forth abundant fruits of justice.

But in both the ancient prophecy and in Jesus’ parable, God’s dream is thwarted. Isaiah says that the vine which he so loved and nurtured has yielded “wild grapes” (5:2,4); God “expected justice but saw bloodshed, righteousness, but only a cry of distress” (v. 7). In the Gospel, it is the farmers themselves who ruin the Lord’s plan: they fail to do their job but think only of their own interests.

In Jesus’ parable, he is addressing the chief priests and the elders of the people, in other words the “experts”, the managers. To them in a particular way God entrusted his “dream”, his people, for them to nurture, tend and protect from the animals of the field. This is the job of leaders: to nurture the vineyard with freedom, creativity and hard work.

But Jesus tells us that those farmers took over the vineyard. Out of greed and pride they want to do with it as they will, and so they prevent God from realizing his dream for the people he has chosen.

The temptation to greed is ever present. We encounter it also in the great prophecy of Ezekiel on the shepherds (cf. ch. 34), which Saint Augustine commented upon in one his celebrated sermons which we have just reread in the Liturgy of the Hours. Greed for money and power. And to satisfy this greed, evil pastors lay intolerable burdens on the shoulders of others, which they themselves do not lift a finger to move (cf. Mt 23:4)

We too, in the Synod of Bishops, are called to work for the Lord’s vineyard. Synod Assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent… They are meant to better nurture and tend the Lord’s vineyard, to help realize his dream, his loving plan for his people. In this case the Lord is asking us to care for the family, which has been from the beginning an integral part of his loving plan for humanity.

We are all sinners and can also be tempted to “take over” the vineyard, because of that greed which is always present in us human beings. God’s dream always clashes with the hypocrisy of some of his servants. We can “thwart” God’s dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us that wisdom which surpasses knowledge, and enables us to work generously with authentic freedom and humble creativity.

My Synod brothers, to do a good job of nurturing and tending the vineyard, our hearts and our minds must be kept in Jesus Christ by “the peace of God which passes all understanding” (Phil 4:7). In this way our thoughts and plans will correspond to God’s dream: to form a holy people who are his own and produce the fruits of the kingdom of God (cf. Mt 21:43).



Pope Francis      16.12.18   Angelus St Peter's Square    Zephaniah 3: 14-18A,     Philippians 4: 4-7,      Luke 3: 10-18

https://sites.google.com/site/francishomilies/joy/16.12.18.jpg
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

On this third Sunday of Advent, the liturgy invites us to joy. Listen carefully: to joy. The prophet Zephaniah addresses these words to a small group of the people of Israel: “Sing aloud, O Daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!” (3:14) Shout with joy, rejoice, exult: this is this Sunday’s invitation. The inhabitants of the Holy City are called to rejoice because the Lord has taken away his judgments against them (cf v. 15). God has forgiven, he did not wish to punish! As a result the people no longer have any reason for sadness. There is no longer reason for desolation, but rather, everything leads to joyful gratitude toward God who always wishes to deliver and save those he loves. And the Lord’s love for his people is endless, tantamount to the tenderness of a father for his children, of a groom for his bride, as Zephaniah again says: “he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (v. 17). This is — so it is called — the Sunday of joy: the third Sunday of Advent, before Christmas.

This appeal by the prophet is particularly appropriate during the Season in which we are preparing ourselves for Christmas, because it can be applied to Jesus, the Emmanuel, the God-with-us: his presence is the wellspring of joy. Indeed, Zephaniah proclaims: “The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst”, and a little later he repeats: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory” (vv. 15, 17). This message finds its full meaning in the moment of the Annunciation to Mary, narrated by the evangelist Luke. The words addressed to the Virgin by the Angel Gabriel are like an echo of those of the prophet. What does the Archangel Gabriel say? “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you! (Lk 1:28). He tells Our Lady to “Rejoice”. In an isolated hamlet of Galilee, in the heart of a young woman unknown to the world, God kindles the spark of happiness for the entire world. And today, the same announcement is addressed to the Church, called to receive the Gospel so that it may become flesh, concrete life. He says to the Church, to all of us: “Rejoice, little Christian community, poor and humble but beautiful in my eyes because you ardently desire my Kingdom, you hunger and thirst for justice, you patiently weave the fabric of peace, you do not pursue the powerful of the moment but remain faithfully beside the poor. And thus you fear nothing but your heart is in joy”. If we live like this, in the presence of the Lord, our heart will always be in joy — when there is ‘high-level’, full joy, and the humble everyday joy, which is peace. Peace is the smallest joy, but it is joy.

Saint Paul, too, exhorts us today to have no anxiety, to have no despair about anything, but rather, in every circumstance, to make our requests, our needs, our worries known to God “by prayer and supplication” (Phil 4:6). The awareness that we can always turn to the Lord in our difficulties, and that he never rejects our invocations, is a great reason for joy. No worry, no fear will ever be able to take away this serenity which comes not from human things, from human comforts, no: the serenity that comes from God, from knowing that God lovingly guides our lives, and he always does so. Even in the midst of problems and suffering, this certainty fosters hope and courage.

However, in order to receive the Lord’s invitation to joy, it is necessary to be people willing to call ourselves into question. What does this mean? Just like those who, after listening to the preaching of John the Baptist, ask him: You preach this, but we, “What then shall we do” (Lk 3:10). What should I do? This question is the first step for the conversion that we are called to carry out during this Season of Advent. Let each of us ask ourself: what should I do? A very small thing, but “what should I do?”. And may the Virgin Mary, who is our mother, help us to open our heart to the God-who-comes, so that he may shower our whole life with joy.




Pope Francis       04.10.20 Angelus, St Peter's Square      27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A        Philippians 4: 6-9,         Matthew 21: 33-43

Pope Francis Parable of the Murderous Winemakers - Angelus 04.10.20

Dear brothers and sisters, good day!

In today’s Gospel passage (see Mt 21:33-43) Jesus, foreseeing His passion and death, tells the parable of the murderous winemakers, to admonish the chief priests and elders of the people who are about to take the wrong path. Indeed, they have bad intentions towards Him and are seeking a way of eliminating Him.

The allegorical story describes a landowner who, after having taken great care of his vineyard (see v. 33), had to depart and leave it in the hands of farmers. Then, at harvest time, he sends some servants to collect the fruit; but the tenants welcome the servants with a beating and some even kill them. The owner sends other servants, more numerous, but they receive the same treatment (see vv. 34-36). The peak is reached when the landowner decides to send his son: the winegrowers have no respect for him, on the contrary, they think that by eliminating him they can take over the vineyard, and so they kill him too (cf. vv. 37-39).

The image of the vineyard is clear: it represents the people that the Lord has chosen and formed with such care; the servants sent by the landowner are the prophets, sent by God, while the son represents Jesus. And just as the prophets were rejected, so too Christ was rejected and killed.

At the end of the story, Jesus asks the leaders of the people: "When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" (v. 40). And, caught up in the logic of the narrative, they deliver their own sentence: the owner, they say, will severely punish those wicked people and entrust the vineyard “to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him at the proper time” (v. 41).

With this very harsh parable, Jesus confronts his interlocutors with their responsibility, and He does so with extreme clarity. But let us not think that this admonition applies only to those who rejected Jesus at that time. It applies to all times, including our own. Even today God awaits the fruits of His vineyard from those He has sent to work in it. All of us.

In any age, those who have authority, any authority, also in the Church, in God’s people, may be tempted to work in their own interests instead of those of God. And Jesus says that true authority is when you carry out service; it is in serving, not exploiting others. The vineyard is the Lord’s, not ours. Authority is a service, and as such should be exercised, for the good of all and for the dissemination of the Gospel. It is awful to see when people who have authority in the Church seek their own interests.

Saint Paul, in the second reading of today’s liturgy, tells us how to be good workers in the Lord’s vineyard: that which is true, noble, just, pure, loved and honoured; that which is virtuous and praiseworthy, let all this be the daily object of our commitment (cf. Phil 4:8). I repeat: that which is true, noble, just, pure, loved and honoured; that which is virtuous and praiseworthy, let all this be the daily object of our commitment. It is the attitude of authority and also of each one of us, because every one of us, even in a small, tiny way, has a certain authority. In this way we shall become a Church ever richer in the fruits of holiness, we shall give glory to the Father who loves us with infinite tenderness, to the Son who continues to give us salvation, and to the Spirit who opens our hearts and impels us towards the fullness of goodness.

Let us now turn to Mary Most Holy, spiritually united with the faithful gathered in the Shrine of Pompeii for the Supplication, and in October let us renew our commitment to pray the Holy Rosary.



  

 Chapter 4

12-14, 19-20


Pope Francis       12.10.14   Holy Mass, Vatican Basilica          Isaiah 25: 6-10A,      Philippians 4: 12-14, 19-20,         Matthew 22: 1-10
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A



We have heard Isaiah’s prophecy: “The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces…” (Is 25:8). These words, full of hope in God, point us to the goal, they show the future towards which we are journeying. Along this path the Saints go before us and guide us. These words also describe the vocation of men and women missionaries.

Missionaries are those who, in docility to the Holy Spirit, have the courage to live the Gospel. Even this Gospel which we have just heard: “Go, therefore, into the byways…”, the king tells his servants (Mt 22:9). The servants then go out and assemble all those they find, “both good and bad”, and bring them to the King’s wedding feast (cf. v. 10).

Missionaries have received this call: they have gone out to call everyone, in the highways and byways of the world. In this way they have done immense good for the Church, for once the Church stops moving, once she becomes closed in on herself, she falls ill, she can be corrupted, whether by sins or by that false knowledge cut off from God which is worldly secularism.

Missionaries have turned their gaze to Christ crucified; they have received his grace and they have not kept it for themselves. Like Saint Paul, they have become all things to all people; they have been able to live in poverty and abundance, in plenty and hunger; they have been able to do all things in him who strengthens them (cf. Phil 4:12-13). With this God-given strength, they have the courage to “go forth” into the highways of the world with confidence in the Lord who has called them. Such is the life of every missionary man and woman… ending up far from home, far from their homeland; very often, they are killed, assassinated! This is what has happened even now to many of our brothers and sisters.

The Church’s mission of evangelization is essentially a proclamation of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness, revealed to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Missionaries have served the Church’s mission by breaking the bread of God’s word for the poor and those far off, and by bringing to all the gift of the unfathomable love welling up from the heart of the Saviour.

Such was the case with Saint François de Laval and Saint Marie de l’Incarnation. Dear pilgrims from Canada, today I would like to leave you with two words of advice drawn from the Letter to the Hebrews. Keeping missionaries in mind, they will be of great benefit for your communities.

The first is this: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (13:7). The memory of the missionaries sustains us at a time when we are experiencing a scarcity of labourers in the service of the Gospel. Their example attracts us, they inspire us to imitate their faith. They are fruitful witnesses who bring forth life!

The second is this: “Recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings… Do not therefore abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance…” (10:32,35-36). Honouring those who endured suffering to bring us the Gospel means being ready ourselves to fight the good fight of faith with humility, meekness, and mercy, in our daily lives. And this bears fruit.

We must always remember those who have gone before us, those who founded the fruitful Church in Quebéc! The missionaries from Quebec who went everywhere were fruitful. The world was full of Canadian missionaries like François de Laval and Marie de l’Incarnation. So a word of advice: remembering them prevents us from renouncing candour and courage. Perhaps – indeed, even without perhaps – the devil is jealous and will not tolerate that a land could be such fertile ground for missionaries. Let us pray to the Lord, that Quebéc may once again bear much fruit, that it may give the world many missionaries. May the two missionaries, who we celebrate today, and who – in a manner of speaking – founded the Church in Québec, help us by their intercession. May the seed that they sowed grow and bear fruit in new courageous men and women, who are far-sighted, with hearts open to the Lord’s call. Today, each one must ask this for your homeland. The saints will intercede for us from heaven. May Quebéc once again be a source of brave and holy missionaries.

This, then, is the joy and the challenge of this pilgrimage of yours: to commemorate the witnesses, the missionaries of the faith in your country. Their memory sustains us always in our journey towards the future, towards the goal, when “the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces…”.

“Let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Is 25:9).