Possessions


Possessions - Pope Francis    


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pope Francis      10.03.19        Angelus, St Peter's Square          Luke 4: 1-13
Pope Francis  10.03.19   Temptaions

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

The Gospel passage for this first Sunday of Lent (cf. Lk 4:1-13) recounts the experience of the temptation of Jesus in the desert. After fasting for 40 days, Jesus is tempted three times by the devil. First he invites Him to change stone into bread (v. 3); then, from above, he shows Him all the kingdoms of the world and the prospect of becoming a powerful and glorious messiah (vv. 5-6); lastly he takes Him to the pinnacle of the temple of Jerusalem and invites Him to throw himself down, so as to manifest His divine power in a spectacular way (vv. 9-11). The three temptations point to three paths that the world always offers, promising great success, three paths to mislead us: greed for possession — to have, have, have —, human vainglory and the exploitation of God. These are three paths that will lead us to ruin.

The first, the path of greed for possession. This is always the devil’s insidious logic He begins from the natural and legitimate need for nourishment, life, fulfilment, happiness, in order to encourage us to believe that all this is possible without God, or rather, even despite Him. But Jesus countervails, stating: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone’’’ (v. 4). Recalling the long journey of the chosen people through the desert, Jesus affirms his desire to fully entrust himself to the providence of the Father, who always takes care of his children.

The second temptation: the path of human vainglory. The devil says: “If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours” (v. 7). One can lose all personal dignity if one allows oneself to be corrupted by the idols of
money, success and power, in order to achieve one’s own self-affirmation. And one tastes the euphoria of a fleeting joy. And this also leads us to be ‘peacocks’, to vanity, but this vanishes. For this reason Jesus responds: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve” (v. 8).

And then the third temptation: exploiting God to
one’s own advantage. In response to the devil — who, citing Scripture, invites Him to seek a conspicuous miracle from God — Jesus again opposes with the firm decision to remain humble, to remain confident before the Father: “It is said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (v. 12). Thus, he rejects perhaps the most subtle temptation: that of wanting to ‘pull God to our side’, asking him for graces which in reality serve and will serve to satisfy our pride.

These are the paths that are set before us, with the illusion that in this way one can obtain success and
happiness. But in reality, they are completely extraneous to God’s mode of action; rather, in fact they distance us from God, because they are the works of Satan. Jesus, personally facing these trials, overcomes temptation three times in order to fully adhere to the Father’s plan. And he reveals the remedies to us: interior life, faith in God, the certainty of his love — the certainty that God loves us, that he is Father, and with this certainty we will overcome every temptation.

But there is one thing to which I would like to draw your attention, something interesting. In responding to the tempter, Jesus does not enter a discussion, but responds to the three challenges with only the Word of God. This teaches us that one does not dialogue with the devil; one must not discuss, one only responds to him with the Word of God.

Therefore, let us benefit from Lent as a privileged time to purify ourselves, to feel God’s comforting presence in our life.

May the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, icon of faithfulness to God, sustain us in our journey, helping us to always reject evil and welcome good.




Pope Francis    04.08.19   Angelus, St Peter's Square, Rome  18th Sunday of Ordinary time - Year C    Luke 12: 13-21,   Colossians  3: 1-5, 9-11

Pope Francis  Angelus  04.08.19

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today's Gospel (cf. Lk 12, 13-21) opens with the scene of a man who stands up in the crowd and asks Jesus to resolve a legal question about the inheritance of family. But in His answer He does not address the question, and exhorts us to stay away from
greed, that is the greed to possess. To distract His listeners from this frantic search for wealth, Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool, who believes he is happy because he has had the good fortune of an exceptional year and feels secure because of the goods he has accumulated. It would be nice that today you read this chapter twelve of Saint Luke, verse 13. It is a beautiful parable that teaches us much. The story comes alive when the contrast emerges between what the rich man plans for himself and between what God promises for him. 

The rich man puts three considerations before his soul: the many possessions piled up, the many years that these assets seem to assure him and third, tranquillity and unrestrained well-being (cf. v. 19). But the word that God address to him cancels these plans. Instead of the "many years", God indicates the immediacy of ' tonight; tonight you will die '; instead of "the enjoyment of life" He presents him with the rendering of life; with the consequent judgment. As for the reality of many accumulated goods on which the rich man had to base everything, it is covered by the sarcasm of the question: "and what he has prepared, who's will it be?" (v. 20). Let us think of the struggles for inheritance; so many family fights. And so many people, we all know some, that at the time that death begins to arrive: the grandchildren, the grandchildren come to see "But what is for me?", and take everything away. It is this contrast which justifies the nickname of "fool"- because he thinks about things that he believes to be concrete but are a fantasy - with which God speaks to this man. He is foolish because in practice he has renounced God, he has not come to terms with Him. 

The end of parable, formulated by the Evangelist, is of singular effectiveness: "so it is that of those who accumulate treasures for themselves and do not enrich themselves with God" (v. 21). It is a cautionary tale that reveals the horizon towards which we are all called to look. Material goods are necessary – they are real! -but are a means of living honestly and in sharing with those most in need. Today Jesus invites us to consider that
riches can chain the heart and distract it from the true treasure that is in heaven. Saint Paul also reminds us of this in today's second reading. It goes like this: "seek the things that are above. ... turn your thoughts to the things above, not of things on Earth "(Col 3, 1-2). 

This – you understand--does not mean being alienated from reality, but look for things that have a true value: justice, solidarity, hospitality, fraternity, peace, all of which constitute the true dignity of man. It is a matter of inclining towards a life lived
not in the worldly way, but according to the Gospel: to love God with our whole being, and to love our neighbour as Jesus loved him, that is in service and self-giving. The greed for possessions, the desire to have possessions, does not satisfy the heart, indeed it provokes more hunger! Greed is like those good candies: you take one and say "Ah! How good ", and then you take another; and one leads to another. So it is with greed: you will never be satisfied. Be careful! Love thus understood and lived is the source of true happiness while the boundless search for material goods and wealth is often source of restlessness, and of adversity, of prevarication, of wars. Many wars begin for greed. 

The Virgin Mary help us not to be fascinated by the securities that pass by, but to be credible witnesses every day to eternal values of the Gospel.



Pope Francis      21.08.19  General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall, Rome    Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles -  General Audience     Acts 4: 32-37,   5: 1-10

Pope Francis 21.08.19  General Audience

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning!

The
Christian community is born from the superabundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit and it grows thanks to the leaven of sharing among brothers and sisters in Christ. There is a dynamism of solidarity which builds up the Church as the family of God, for whom the experience of koinonia is central. What does this strange word mean? It is a Greek word which means “pooling one’s goods”, “sharing in common”, being a community, not isolated. This is the experience of the first Christian community, that is, “communality”, “sharing”, “communicating, participating”, not isolation. In the primitive Church, this koinonia, this communality, refers primarily to participation in the Body and Blood of Christ. This is why when we receive Holy Communion, we say that “we communicate”, we enter into communion with Jesus, and from this communion with Jesus we reach a communion with our brothers and sisters. And this communion in the Body and Blood of Christ that we share during Holy Mass translates into fraternal union and, therefore also into what is most difficult for us; pooling our resources and collecting money for the mother Church in Jerusalem (cf. Rm 12:13, 2 Cor 8-9) and the other Churches. If you want to know whether you are good Christians, you have to pray, try to draw near to Communion, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But the sign that your heart has converted is when conversion reaches the pocket, when it touches one’s own interests. That is when one can see whether one is generous to others, if one helps the weakest, the poorest. When conversion achieves this, you are sure that it is a true conversion. If you stop at words, it is not a real conversion.

Eucharistic life, prayer, the preaching of the Apostles and the experience of communion (cf. Acts 2:42) turn believers into a multitude of people who — the Book of the Acts of the Apostles says — are of “one heart and soul” and who do not consider
their property their own, but hold everything in common (cf. Acts 4:32). It is such a powerful example of life that it helps us to be generous and not miserly. This is why the Book says, “there was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need” (Acts 4:34-35). The Church has always had this gesture of Christians who stripped themselves of the things they had in excess, the things that were not necessary, in order to give them to those in need. And not just money: also time. How many Christians — you for example, here in Italy — how many Christians do volunteer work! This is beautiful. It is communion, sharing one’s time with others to help those in need. And thus: volunteer work, charity work, visits to the sick; we must always share with others and not just seek after our own interests.

In this way, the community, or koinonia, becomes the new way of relating among the Lord’s disciples. Christians experience a new way of being and behaving among themselves. And it is the proper Christian method, to such an extent that Gentiles would look at Christians and remark: “Look at how they love each other!”. Love was the method. But not love in word, not false love: love in works, in helping one another, concrete love, the concreteness of love. The Covenant with Christ establishes a bond among brothers and sisters which merges and expresses itself in the communion of material goods too. Yes this method of being together, of loving this way, ‘up to the pocket’, also brings one to strip oneself of the hindrance of
money and to give it to others, going against one’s own interests. Being the limbs of the Body of Christ makes believers share the responsibility for one another. Being believers in Jesus makes us all responsible for each other. “But look at that one, the problem he has. I don’t care, it’s his business”. No, among Christians we cannot say: “poor thing, he has a problem at home, he is going through this family problem”. But “I have to pray, I take him with me, I am not indifferent”. This is being Christian. This is why the strong support the weak (cf. Rom 15:1) and no one experiences poverty that humiliates and disfigures human dignity because they live in this community: having one heart in common. They love one another. This is the sign: concrete love.

James, Peter and John, the three Apostles who were the “pillars” of the Church in Jerusalem, take a decision in common that Paul and Barnabas would evangelise the Gentiles while they evangelised the Hebrews, and they only asked Paul and Barnabas for one condition: not to forget the poor, to remember the poor (cf. Gal 2:9-10) Not only the material poor, but also the poor in spirit, the people with difficulty who need our closeness. A Christian always begins with him/herself, from his/her own heart and approaches others as Jesus approached us. This was the first Christian community.

A practical example of sharing and communion of goods comes to us from the testimony of Barnabas. He owns a field and sells it in order to give the proceeds to the Apostles (cf. Acts 4:36-37). But beside this positive example, there is another that is sadly negative: After selling their land, Ananias and his wife Sapphira decide to hand over only part of the proceeds to the Apostles and to keep part of the proceeds for themselves (cf. Acts 5:1-2). This deceit interrupts the chain of freely sharing, serene and disinterested sharing and the consequences are tragic. They are fatal (Acts 5:5-10). The Apostle Peter exposes Ananias and his wife’s deceit and says to them: “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? ... You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:3-4). We could say that Ananias lied to God because of an isolated conscience, a hypocritical conscience, that is due to an ecclesial belonging that is “negotiated”, partial and opportunistic.
Hypocrisy is the worst enemy of this Christian community, of this Christian love: pretending to love each other but only seeking one’s own interests.

Falling short of sincere sharing, indeed, falling short of the sincerity of love means cultivating hypocrisy, distancing oneself from the truth, becoming selfish, extinguishing the fire of communion and choosing the frost of inner death. Those who behave in this manner move in the Church like a tourist. There are many tourists in
the Church who are always passing through but never enter the Church. It is spiritual tourism that leads them to believe they are Christians whereas they are only tourists of the catacombs. No, we should not be tourists in the Church but rather one another’s brothers and sisters. A life based only on drawing gain and advantages from situations to the detriment of others, inevitably causes inner death. And how many people say they are close to the Church, friends of priests, of bishops, while they only seek their own interests. Such hypocrisy destroys the Church!

May the Lord — I ask this for all of us — pour over us his Spirit of tenderness which vanquishes all hypocrisy and generates that truth that nourishes Christian solidarity, which, far from being an activity of social work, is the inalienable expression of the Church, the most tender mother of all, especially of the poorest.




Pope Francis  22.09.19  Angelus, St Peter's Square, Vatican City       25th Sunday of Ordinary Time  Year C      Luke 16: 1-13
Pope Francis 22.09.19 Possessions

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

The parable contained in this Sunday's Gospel (cf. Luke 16:1-13) features a clever and dishonest steward who, accused of having squandered his master's assets, is about to be fired. In this difficult situation, he does not make counter accusations, seeks no justification and does not let himself be discouraged, but devises a way out to ensure a secure future for himself. His reaction at first is one of lucidity, recognising his limitations: "I do not have the strength to dig; I am ashamed to beg" (v. 3); then he acts cunningly, robbing his master for the last time. In fact, he calls the debtors and reduces the debts they have to the master, to make them friends and then be rewarded by them. This is making friends with corruption and getting gratitude with corruption, as is unfortunately customary today.

Jesus presents this example certainly not to encourage dishonesty, but to show shrewdness. In fact, he points out: "The master praised the dishonest steward, for his astuteness " (v. 8), meaning, that he acted with a mixture of intelligence and craftiness, which allows one to overcome difficult situations. The key to understanding this storey lies in Jesus' invitation at the end of the parable: "Make friends for yourself with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings" (v. 9). It seems a little confusing, but it is not: the "dishonest wealth" is money – also called "the devil's dung" – when we refer to material things.

Wealth can lead to building walls, to division and to discrimination. Jesus, on the other hand, invites his disciples to change course: "Make friends with wealth." It is an invitation to know how to turn goods and riches into relationships, because people are worth more than possessions and matter more than the wealth they possess. In life, in fact, those who are really wealthy are not necessarily those who are very rich, rather those who are truly rich are those who create and maintain many relationships, one who has many friends as a result of the different riches, that is, the different gifts which God has given him. Jesus also indicates the ultimate purpose of his exhortation: "Make friends with wealth, so that they may welcome you in eternal dwellings." To welcome us in Paradise, if we are able to transform riches into instruments of fraternity and solidarity, there will be not only God, but also those with whom we have shared, those to whom we administered, including all those the Lord has put into our hands.

Brothers and sisters, this gospel passage finds an echo in us particularly the question of the dishonest steward, driven out by the master: He asks himself "What am I going to do now?" (see 3). In the face of our shortcomings, and our failures, Jesus assures us that we are always in time to correct our wrongs by doing good. Whoever has caused tears, make someone happy; whoever has misappropriated something, give to those in need. In so doing, we will be praised by the Lord "because we have acted shrewdly", that is, with the wisdom of one who recognizes himself as a child of God and stake themselves for the Kingdom of Heaven.

May the Blessed Virgin help us to be shrewd in ensuring for ourselves not only worldly success, but eternal life, so that at the time of the final judgment all the needy people we have helped may testify that in them we have seen and served the Lord.