Psalms

 Chapter 1

1-4, 6

 
Pope Francis        19.02.15   Holy Mass  Santa Marta      Deuteronomy 30: 15-20;       Psalms 1: 1-4,6            Luke 9: 22-25
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At the beginning of the Lenten journey, the Church makes us reflect on the words of Moses and of Jesus: “You have to choose”. It is thus a reflection on the need we all have, to make choices in life. And Moses is clear: ‘See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil’: choose. Indeed the Lord gave us freedom, the freedom to love, to walk on his streets. We are free and we can choose. However,  “it’s not easy to choose”. It’s more comfortable “to live by letting ourselves be carried by the inertia of life, of situations, of habits”. This is why today the Church tells us: ‘You are responsible; you have to choose’”. 

Have you chosen? How do you live? What is your lifestyle, your way of living, like? Is it on the side of life or on the side of death?

Naturally the response should be to choose the way of the Lord. ‘I command you to love the Lord’. This is how Moses shows us the path of the Lord: ‘If your heart turns back and if you do not listen and you let yourself be drawn to prostrate yourself before other gods and serve them, you will perish’. Choose between God and the other gods, those who do not have the power to give us anything, only little things that pass.

We always have this habit of going where the people go, somewhat like everyone. But, today the Church is telling us: ‘
stop and choose’. It’s good advice. And today it will do us good to stop during the day and think: what is my lifestyle like? Which road am I taking?

After all, in everyday life we tend to take the opposite approach. Many times, we live in a rush, we are on the run, without noticing what the path is like; and we let ourselves be carried along by the needs, by the necessities of the days, but without thinking. And thus came the invitation to stop: “Begin Lent with small questions that will help one to consider: ‘What is my life like?’”. The first thing to ask ourselves is: “who is God for me? Do I choose the Lord? How is my relationship with Jesus?”. And the second: “How is your relationship with your family: with your parents; with your siblings; with your wife; with your husband; with your children?”. In fact, these two series of questions are enough, and we will surely find things that we need to correct.

Why do  we hurry so much in life, without knowing which path we are on. Because we want to win, we want to earn, we want to be successful. But Jesus makes us think: “What advantage does a man have who wins the whole world, but loses or destroys himself?”. Indeed, “the wrong road" is that of always seeking success, one’s own riches, without thinking about the Lord, without thinking about family. Returning to the two series of questions on one’s relationship with God and with those who are dear to us, one can win everything, yet become a failure in the end. He has failed. That life is a failure. So are those who seem to have had success, those women and men for whom “they’ve made a monument” or “they’ve dedicated a portrait”, but didn’t “know how to make the right choice between life and death”.

It will do us good to stop for a bit — five, 10 minutes — and ask ourselves the question: what is the speed of my life? Do I reflect on my actions? How is my relationship with God and with my family?”. The Pope indicated that we can find help in “that really beautiful advice of the Psalm: ‘Blessed are they who trust in the Lord’”. And “when the Lord gives us this advice — ‘Stop! Choose today, choose’ — He doesn’t leave us on our own; He is with us and wants to help us. And we, for our part, need “only to trust, to have faith in Him”.

“Blessed are they who trust in the Lord”, be aware that God does not abandon us. Today, at the moment in which we stop to think about these things and to take decisions, to choose something, we know that the Lord is with us, is beside us, to help us. He never lets us go alone. He is always with us. Even in the moment of choosing. 

Let us have faith in this Lord, who is with us, and when He tells us: ‘choose between good and evil’ helps us to choose good”. And above all “let us ask Him for the grace to be courageous”, because it takes a bit of courage to stop and ask myself: how do I stand before God, how are my relationships in the family, what do I need to change, what should I choose?

 Chapter 23

1-3A, 3B-6


 

Jesus wanted to show us his heart as the heart that loved so deeply. This is why we have this commemoration today, especially of God’s love. God loved us, he loved us with such great love. I am thinking of what St Ignatius told us.... He pointed out two criteria on love. The first: love is expressed more clearly in actions than in words. The second: there is greater love in giving than in receiving.

These two criteria are like the pillars of true love: deeds, and the gift of self. The shepherd close to his flock, to his sheep that he knows one by one.The Lord loves us tenderly. The Lord knows the beautiful science of caresses — God’s tenderness. He does not love us with words. He approaches us, and in being close to us gives us his love with the deepest possible tenderness.

More difficult than loving God is letting ourselves be loved by him. Lord, I want to love you but teach me the difficult science, the difficult habit of letting myself be loved by you.... Perhaps this is what we should pray for at Mass.
 
Chapter 30

2,4,5-6,11-12,13
 

Dear Brothers and Sisters! 

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It is a joy for me to celebrate Mass with you in this Basilica. I greet the Archpriest, Cardinal James Harvey, and I thank him for the words that he has addressed to me. Along with him, I greet and thank the various institutions that form part of this Basilica, and all of you. We are at the tomb of Saint Paul, a great yet humble Apostle of the Lord, who proclaimed him by word, bore witness to him by martyrdom and worshipped him with all his heart. These are the three key ideas on which I would like to reflect in the light of the word of God that we have heard: proclamation, witness, worship.

1. In the First Reading, what strikes us is the strength of Peter and the other Apostles. In response to the order to be silent, no longer to teach in the name of Jesus, no longer to proclaim his message, they respond clearly: “We must obey God, rather than men”. And they remain undeterred even when flogged, ill-treated and imprisoned. Peter and the Apostles proclaim courageously, fearlessly, what they have received: the Gospel of Jesus. And we? Are we capable of bringing the word of God into the environment in which we live? Do we know how to speak of Christ, of what he represents for us, in our families, among the people who form part of our daily lives? Faith is born from listening, and is strengthened by proclamation.

2. But let us take a further step: the proclamation made by Peter and the Apostles does not merely consist of words: fidelity to Christ affects their whole lives, which are changed, given a new direction, and it is through their lives that they bear witness to the faith and to the proclamation of Christ. In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks Peter three times to feed his flock, to feed it with his love, and he prophesies to him: “When you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go” (Jn 21:18). These words are addressed first and foremost to those of us who are pastors: we cannot feed God’s flock unless we let ourselves be carried by God’s will even where we would rather not go, unless we are prepared to bear witness to Christ with the gift of ourselves, unreservedly, not in a calculating way, sometimes even at the cost of our lives. But this also applies to everyone: we all have to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel. We should all ask ourselves: How do I bear witness to Christ through my faith? Do I have the courage of Peter and the other Apostles, to think, to choose and to live as a Christian, obedient to God? To be sure, the testimony of faith comes in very many forms, just as in a great fresco, there is a variety of colours and shades; yet they are all important, even those which do not stand out. In God’s great plan, every detail is important, even yours, even my humble little witness, even the hidden witness of those who live their faith with simplicity in everyday family relationships, work relationships, friendships. There are the saints of every day, the “hidden” saints, a sort of “middle class of holiness”, as a French author said, that “middle class of holiness” to which we can all belong. But in different parts of the world, there are also those who suffer, like Peter and the Apostles, on account of the Gospel; there are those who give their lives in order to remain faithful to Christ by means of a witness marked by the shedding of their blood. Let us all remember this: one cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of one’s life. Those who listen to us and observe us must be able to see in our actions what they hear from our lips, and so give glory to God! I am thinking now of some advice that Saint Francis of Assisi gave his brothers: preach the Gospel and, if necessary, use words. Preaching with your life, with your witness. Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the Church’s credibility.

3. But all this is possible only if we recognize Jesus Christ, because it is he who has called us, he who has invited us to travel his path, he who has chosen us. Proclamation and witness are only possible if we are close to him, just as Peter, John and the other disciples in today’s Gospel passage were gathered around the Risen Jesus; there is a daily closeness to him: they know very well who he is, they know him. The Evangelist stresses the fact that “no one dared ask him: ‘Who are you?’ – they knew it was the Lord” (Jn 21:12). And this is important for us: living an intense relationship with Jesus, an intimacy of dialogue and of life, in such a way as to recognize him as “the Lord”. Worshipping him! The passage that we heard from the Book of Revelation speaks to us of worship: the myriads of angels, all creatures, the living beings, the elders, prostrate themselves before the Throne of God and of the Lamb that was slain, namely Christ, to whom be praise, honour and glory (cf. Rev 5:11-14). I would like all of us to ask ourselves this question: You, I, do we worship the Lord? Do we turn to God only to ask him for things, to thank him, or do we also turn to him to worship him? What does it mean, then, to worship God? It means learning to be with him, it means that we stop trying to dialogue with him, and it means sensing that his presence is the most true, the most good, the most important thing of all. All of us, in our own lives, consciously and perhaps sometimes unconsciously, have a very clear order of priority concerning the things we consider important. Worshipping the Lord means giving him the place that he must have; worshipping the Lord means stating, believing – not only by our words – that he alone truly guides our lives; worshipping the Lord means that we are convinced before him that he is the only God, the God of our lives, the God of our history.

This has a consequence in our lives: we have to empty ourselves of the many small or great idols that we have and in which we take refuge, on which we often seek to base our security. They are idols that we sometimes keep well hidden; they can be ambition, careerism, a taste for success, placing ourselves at the centre, the tendency to dominate others, the claim to be the sole masters of our lives, some sins to which we are bound, and many others. This evening I would like a question to resound in the heart of each one of you, and I would like you to answer it honestly: Have I considered which idol lies hidden in my life that prevents me from worshipping the Lord? Worshipping is stripping ourselves of our idols, even the most hidden ones, and choosing the Lord as the centre, as the highway of our lives.

Dear brothers and sisters, each day the Lord calls us to follow him with courage and fidelity; he has made us the great gift of choosing us as his disciples; he invites us to proclaim him with joy as the Risen one, but he asks us to do so by word and by the witness of our lives, in daily life. The Lord is the only God of our lives, and he invites us to strip ourselves of our many idols and to worship him alone. To proclaim, to witness, to adore. May the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Paul help us on this journey and intercede for us. Amen.

  

 Chapter 30

2,4-6,11-13

 
Pope Francis   05.06.16     Angelus, St Peter's Square    1 Kings 17: 17-14,     Galatians 1: 11-19,     Luke 7: 11-17     Psalms 30: 2,4-6, 11-13
   
The word of God, which we have just heard, points us to the central event of our faith: God’s victory over suffering and death. It proclaims the Gospel of hope, born of Christ’s paschal mystery, whose splendour is seen on the face of the Risen Lord and reveals God our Father as one who comforts all of us in our afflictions. That word calls us to remain united to the Passion of the Lord Jesus, so that the power of his resurrection may be revealed in us.

In the Passion of Christ, we find God’s response to the desperate and at times indignant cry that the experience of pain and death evokes in us. He tells us that we cannot flee from the Cross, but must remain at its foot, as Our Lady did. In suffering with Jesus, she received the grace of hoping against all hope (cf. Rom 4:18).

This was the experience of Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary, and Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad, who today are proclaimed saints. They remained deeply united to the passion of Jesus, and in them the power of his resurrection was revealed.

This Sunday’s first reading and Gospel offer us amazing signs of death and resurrection. The first took place at the hand of the Prophet Isaiah, the second by Jesus. In both cases, they involved the young children of widows, who were then given back alive to their mothers.

The widow of Zarephath — a woman who was not a Jew, yet had received the Prophet Elijah in her home — was upset with the prophet and with God, because when Elijah was a guest in her home her child had taken ill and had died in her arms. Elijah says to her: “Give me your son” (1 Kings 17:19). What he says is significant. His words tell us something about God’s response to our own death, however it may come about. He does not say: “Hold on to it; sort it out yourself!” Instead, he says: “Give it to me”. And indeed the prophet takes the child and carries him to the upper room, and there, by himself, in prayer “fights with God”, pointing out to him the absurdity of that death. The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, for it was in fact he, God, who spoke and acted in the person of the prophet. It was God who, speaking through Elijah, told the woman: “Give me your son”. And now it was God who gave the child back alive to his mother.

God’s tenderness is fully revealed in Jesus. We heard in the Gospel (Lk 7:11-17) of the “great compassion” (v. 13) which Jesus felt for the widow of Nain in Galilee, who was accompanying her only son, a mere adolescent, to his burial. Jesus draws close, touches the bier, stops the funeral procession, and must have caressed that poor mother’s face bathed in tears. “Do not weep”, he says to her (Lk 7:13), as to say: “Give me your son”. Jesus asks to takes our death upon himself, to free us from it and to restore our life. The young man then awoke as if from a deep sleep and began to speak. Jesus “gave him to his mother” (v. 15). Jesus is no wizard! It is God’s tenderness incarnate; the Father’s immense compassion is at work in Jesus.

The experience of the Apostle Paul was also a kind of resurrection. From a fierce enemy and persecutor of Christians, he became a witness and herald of the Gospel (cf. Gal 1:13-17). This radical change was not his own work, but a gift of God’s mercy. God “chose” him and “called him by his grace”. “In him”, God desired to reveal his Son, so that Paul might proclaim Christ among the Gentiles (vv. 15-16). Paul says that God the Father was pleased to reveal his Son not only to him, but in him, impressing as it were in his own person, flesh and spirit, the death and resurrection of Christ. As a result, the Apostle was not only to be a messenger, but above all a witness.

So it is with each and every
sinner. Jesus constantly makes the victory of life-giving grace shine forth. Today, and every day, he says to Mother Church: “Give me your children”, which means all of us. He takes our sins upon himself, takes them away and gives us back alive to the Mother Church. All that happens in a special way during this Holy Year of Mercy.

The Church today offers us two of her children who are exemplary witnesses to this mystery of resurrection. Both can sing forever in the words of the Psalmist: “You have changed my mourning into dancing / O Lord, my God, I will thank you forever” (Ps 30:12). Let us all join in saying: “I will extol you, Lord, for you have raised me up” (Antiphon of the Responsorial Psalm).
  
 
Chapter 34
2-3,17-18,19,23
 
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The readings this Sunday invite us to reflect on some basic features of the Christian family.

1. First: the family prays.  The Gospel passage speaks about two ways of praying, one is false – that of the Pharisee – and the other is authentic – that of the tax collector.  The Pharisee embodies an attitude which does not express thanksgiving to God for his blessings and his mercy, but rather self-satisfaction.  The Pharisee feels himself justified, he feels his life is in order, he boasts of this, and he judges others from his pedestal.  The tax collector, on the other hand, does not multiply words.  His prayer is humble, sober, pervaded by a consciousness of his own unworthiness, of his own needs.  Here is a man who truly realizes that he needs God’s forgiveness and his mercy.

The prayer of the tax collector is the prayer of the poor man, a prayer pleasing to God.  It is a prayer which, as the first reading says, “will reach to the clouds” (Sir 35:20), unlike the prayer of the Pharisee, which is weighed down by vanity.

In the light of God’s word, I would like to ask you, dear families: Do you pray together from time to time as a family?  Some of you do, I know.  But so many people say to me: But how can we? As the tax collector does, it is clear: humbly, before God.  Each one, with humility, allowing themselves to be gazed upon by the Lord and imploring his goodness, that he may visit us.  But in the family how is this done? After all, prayer seems to be something personal, and besides there is never a good time, a moment of peace…  Yes, all that is true enough, but it is also a matter of humility, of realizing that we need God, like the tax collector!  And all families, we need God: all of us! We need his help, his strength, his blessing, his mercy, his forgiveness.  And we need simplicity to pray as a family: simplicity is necessary! Praying the Our Father together, around the table, is not something extraordinary: it’s easy. And praying the Rosary together, as a family, is very beautiful and a source of great strength!  And also praying for one another! The husband for his wife, the wife for her husband, both together for their children, the children for their grandparents….praying for each other.  This is what it means to pray in the family and it is what makes the family strong: prayer.

2. The second reading suggests another thought: the family keeps the faith.  The Apostle Paul, at the end of his life, makes a final reckoning and says: “I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).  But how did he keep the faith?  Not in a strong box!  Nor did he hide it underground, like the somewhat lazy servant.  Saint Paul compares his life to a fight and to a race.  He kept the faith because he didn’t just defend it, but proclaimed it, spread it, brought it to distant lands.  He stood up to all those who wanted to preserve, to “embalm” the message of Christ within the limits of Palestine.  That is why he made courageous decisions, he went into hostile territory, he let himself be challenged by distant peoples and different cultures, he spoke frankly and fearlessly.  Saint Paul kept the faith because, in the same way that he received it, he gave it away, he went out to the fringes, and didn’t dig himself into defensive positions.

Here too, we can ask: How do we keep our faith as a family?  Do we keep it for ourselves, in our families, as a personal treasure like a bank account, or are we able to share it by our witness, by our acceptance of others, by our openness?  We all know that families, especially young families, are often “racing” from one place to another, with lots to do.  But did you ever think that this “racing” could also be the race of faith?  Christian families are missionary families. Yesterday in this square we heard the testimonies of missionary families. They are missionary also in everyday life, in their doing everyday things, as they bring to everything the salt and the leaven of faith!  Keeping the faith in families and bringing to everyday things the salt and the leaven of faith.

3. And one more thought we can take from God’s word: the family experiences joy.  In the responsorial psalm we find these words: “let the humble hear and be glad” (33/34:2).  The entire psalm is a hymn to the Lord who is the source of joy and peace.  What is the reason for this gladness?  It  is that the Lord is near, he hears the cry of the lowly and he frees them from evil.  As Saint Paul himself writes: “Rejoice always … The Lord is near” (Phil 4:4-5).  I would like to ask you all a question today. But each of you keep it in your heart and take it home. You can regard it as a kind of “homework”.  Only you must answer.  How are things when it comes to joy at home?  Is there joy in your family?   You can answer this question.

Dear families, you know very well that the true joy which we experience in the family is not superficial; it does not come from material objects, from the fact that everything seems to be going well...  True joy comes from a profound harmony between persons, something which we all feel in our hearts and which makes us experience the beauty of togetherness, of mutual support along life’s journey.  But the basis of this feeling of deep joy is the presence of God, the presence of God in the family and his love, which is welcoming, merciful, and respectful towards all.  And above all, a love which is patient: patience is a virtue of God and he teaches us how to cultivate it in family life, how to be patient, and lovingly so, with each other. To be patient among ourselves. A patient love.  God alone knows how to create harmony from differences.  But if God’s love is lacking, the family loses its harmony, self-centredness prevails and joy fades.  But the family which experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally.  That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world, it is the leaven of society as a whole.

Dear families, always live in faith and simplicity, like the Holy Family of Nazareth!  The joy and peace of the Lord be always with you!

  

 Chapter 37

3-6, 23-24, 39-40

 

"The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord” (Ps 37[36]:39). This Psalm verse, reminds us of the truth that “salvation is a gift the Lord gives”: it can’t be bought nor obtained through study, for it is always a gift, a present. But the real question is: “How to protect this salvation? What to do so this salvation remains in us and bears fruit, as Jesus explains, like a seed or kernel of mustard?” Mark (4:26-35).

Hebrews (10:32-39), there are criteria to protect this present, this gift of salvation; in order to allow this salvation to go forth and bear its fruit in us.

The first criterion is that of
memory. In fact, we read in the text: “Brethren, recall the former days, after you received the light of Christ”. Those are “the days of the first love”, as the prophets say: it is “the day of the encounter with Jesus”. Because, when we encountered Jesus, or better yet, when “He let Himself be encountered by us, for it is He who does all” — “it brought great joy, the will to do great things”, as the same author of the Letter explains. Therefore, the first criterion to protect the gift of salvation is “not to forget those first days” marked by “certain enthusiasm”: most of all, “do not forget” that “first love”.

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews then goes on, emphasizing the “joy that enabled you to bear all things”, to a point when “all seemed meagre in those former days, and one went forth with enthusiasm”. The Letter exhorts us not to abandon that courage — namely ‘this honesty’ — that parrhesìa of those former days. It is indeed that “first love” which made grow within us that courage, that ‘let’s go on!’, that enthusiasm.

The call, however, is to not abandon honesty. But, “abandon” is not even the right word, if we go to the original text we find a powerful expression: “Do not throw away, do not waste, do not reject honesty”. It is like a rejection: do not push away this honesty, this courage, the courage of the former days.

This is why memory is so important, to remember the grace received. Indeed, if we push away this enthusiasm which comes from our memory of that first love, this enthusiasm which comes from the first love then what comes is that serious danger to Christians: warmth. For
lukewarm Christians stay there, idle; and yes, they are Christians, but they have forgotten that first love, they have lost their enthusiasm. What’s more, lukewarm Christians have also lost patience, that ‘tolerating’ things in life with the spirit of Jesus’ love; that ‘tolerating’, that bearing difficulties “on one’s shoulders’. This is why, lukewarm Christians, the poor souls, are in grave danger.

In this regard, there are two images which really strike me, and of which each person should be warned: “But you are lukewarm, be careful!”. St Peter, in his Second Letter, uses the image of the dog who turns back to its own vomit. And this image is distasteful, however, it is a fitting example of “the lukewarm Christian” who returns to that “first love, as if that love never existed”.

The second image, also unpleasant is the one that Jesus recounts of the person who wants to follow Him, and does follow Him, and then He casts out the
demon. This demon, who has gone out of the man, passes through the desert with the intention of returning to that man, to that woman from which he came. And when he returns, he finds the house in order, clean and nice. Thus he gets angry, goes, looks for seven demons worse than him and returns to take possession of that house. And in this way the person isn’t wounded, because it involves ‘polite’ demons: who even knock on the door to come in, but they do come in. The same happens to a lukewarm Christian who doesn’t know who is knocking at the door and opens it, even saying come in! But, Jesus says, in the end, that soul ends up even worse than before.

These two images of the warmth of the Christian make us think. This way we must never forget our first love; rather, we should always remember that first love. This is why the answer to the question how do I go on? is: “with
hope”. That is what the Letter to the Hebrews says to every Christian: For yet a little while, and the coming one shall come and shall not tarry.

And thus there are two parameters available to the Christian: “memory and hope”. Ultimately it means reclaiming the memory so as not to lose that most beautiful experience of the first love which nourishes our hope. So often, hope is dark. But the Christian goes forward. He believes. He goes, for he knows that hope does not disappoint, to find Jesus.

These two parameters are the very framework in which we are able to protect this salvation of the righteous which comes from the Lord, this gift of the Lord. We must protect this salvation, for the little mustard seed to grow and bear its fruit. However, many Christians, cause pain, create heartache — so many Christians!. They are the many Christians who go halfway and fail along this path toward the encounter with Jesus. Even if the journey began with the encounter with Jesus, in the middle of the road, they have lost the memory of that first love and have no hope.

Ask the Lord for the grace to protect the present, the gift of salvation. It is a gift that each Christian must protect on this journey that always reclaims the memory and hope. But, He alone can give us this grace: may He send us the Holy Spirit to walk on this path.
 
Chapter 42
1-2
 


Dear Catechumens,

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This concluding moment of the Year of Faith sees you gathered here, with your catechists and family members, also representing many other men and women around the world who are in your same walk of faith. Spiritually, we are all connected at this moment. You come from many different countries, from different cultural traditions and experiences. Yet this evening we feel we have so many things in common among us. We especially have one: the desire for God. This desire is evoked by the words of the Psalmist: “As a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?” (Ps 42 [41]: 1-2). It is so important to keep this desire alive, this longing to behold the Lord and to experience him, to experience his love, to experience his mercy! If one ceases to thirst for the living God, faith is in danger of becoming a habit, it risks being extinguished, like a fire that is not fed. It risks becoming “rancid”, meaningless.

The Gospel account (cf. Jn 1:35-42) showed us John the Baptist who points out Jesus as the Lamb of God to his disciples. Two of them follow the Master, and then, in turn, become “mediators” who enable others to encounter the Lord, to know him and to follow him. There are three moments in this narrative that recall the experience of the catechumenate. First, there is the moment of listening. The two disciples listened to the witness of the Baptist. You too, dear Catechumens, have listened to those who have spoken to you about Jesus and suggested that you follow him by becoming his disciples through Baptism. Amid the din of many voices that echo around you and within you, you have listened and accepted the voice that points to Jesus as the One who can give full meaning to our life.

The second moment is the encounter. The two disciples encounter the Teacher and stay with him. After having encountered him, immediately they notice something new in their hearts: the need to transmit their joy to others, that they too may meet him. Andrew, in fact, meets his brother Simon and leads him to Jesus. What good it does us to meditate on this scene! It reminds us that God did not create us to be alone, closed in on ourselves, but in order to be able to encounter him and to open ourselves to encounter others. God first comes to each one of us; and this is marvellous! He comes to meet us! In the Bible God always appears as the one who takes the initiative in the encounter with man: it is he who seeks man, and usually he seeks him precisely while man is in the bitter and tragic moment of betraying God and fleeing from him. God does not wait in seeking him: he seeks him out immediately. He is a patient seeker, our Father! He goes before us and he waits for us always. He never tires of waiting for us, he is never far from us, but he has the patience to wait for the best moment to meet each one of us. And when the encounter happens, it is never rushed, because God wants to remain at length with us to sustain us, to console us, to give us his joy. God hastens to meet us, but he never rushes to leave us. He stays with us. As we long for him and desire him, so he too desires to be with us, that we may belong to him, we are his “belonging”, we are his creatures. He, too, we can say, thirsts for us, to meet us. Our God is thirsty for us. And this is God’s heart. It is so beautiful to hear this.

The last part of the narrative is walking. The two disciples walk toward Jesus and then walk a stretch of the road together with him. It is an important teaching for us all. Faith is a walk with Jesus. Remember this always: faith is walking with Jesus; and it is a walk that lasts a lifetime. At the end there shall be the definitive encounter. Certainly, at some moments on the journey we feel tired and confused. But the faith gives us the certainty of Jesus’ constant presence in every situation, even the most painful or difficult to understand. We are called to walk in order to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of the love of God, which reigns over us and permits us to live in serenity and hope.

Dear catechumens, today you begin the journey of the catechumenate. My wish for you is to follow it with joy, sure of the entire Church’s support, who is watching over you with great trust. May Mary, the perfect disciple, accompany you: it is beautiful to have her as our Mother in faith! I invite you to guard the enthusiasm of that first moment in which he opened your eyes to the light of faith; to remember, like the beloved disciple, the day, the hour in which for the first time you stayed with Jesus, felt his gaze upon you. Never forget the gaze of Jesus upon you; upon you, upon you... never forget his gaze! It is a gaze of love. And thus you shall be forever certain of the Lord’s faithful love. He is faithful. Be assured: he will never betray you!

 

21-22,25,27
 


The readings and the Psalm of our Mass speak of God’s “anointed ones”: the suffering Servant of Isaiah, King David and Jesus our Lord. All three have this in common: the anointing that they receive is meant in turn to anoint God’s faithful people, whose servants they are; they are anointed for the poor, for prisoners, for the oppressed… A fine image of this “being for” others can be found in the Psalm 133: “It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down upon the collar of his robe” (v. 2). The image of spreading oil, flowing down from the beard of Aaron upon the collar of his sacred robe, is an image of the priestly anointing which, through Christ, the Anointed One, reaches the ends of the earth, represented by the robe....
From the beauty of all these liturgical things, which is not so much about trappings and fine fabrics than about the glory of our God resplendent in his people, alive and strengthened, we turn now to a consideration of activity, action. The precious oil which anoints the head of Aaron does more than simply lend fragrance to his person; it overflows down to “the edges”. The Lord will say this clearly: his anointing is meant for the poor, prisoners and the sick, for those who are sorrowing and alone. My dear brothers, the ointment is not intended just to make us fragrant, much less to be kept in a jar, for then it would become rancid … and the heart bitter.
A good priest can be recognized by the way his people are anointed: this is a clear proof. When our people are anointed with the oil of gladness, it is obvious: for example, when they leave Mass looking as if they have heard good news. Our people like to hear the Gospel preached with “unction”, they like it when the Gospel we preach touches their daily lives, when it runs down like the oil of Aaron to the edges of reality, when it brings light to moments of extreme darkness, to the “outskirts” where people of faith are most exposed to the onslaught of those who want to tear down their faith. People thank us because they feel that we have prayed over the realities of their everyday lives, their troubles, their joys, their burdens and their hopes. And when they feel that the fragrance of the Anointed One, of Christ, has come to them through us, they feel encouraged to entrust to us everything they want to bring before the Lord: “Pray for me, Father, because I have this problem”, “Bless me Father”, “Pray for me” – these words are the sign that the anointing has flowed down to the edges of the robe, for it has turned into a prayer of supplication, the supplication of the People of God. When we have this relationship with God and with his people, and grace passes through us, then we are priests, mediators between God and men. What I want to emphasize is that we need constantly to stir up God’s grace and perceive in every request, even those requests that are inconvenient and at times purely material or downright banal – but only apparently so – the desire of our people to be anointed with fragrant oil, since they know that we have it. To perceive and to sense, even as the Lord sensed the hope-filled anguish of the woman suffering from hemorrhages when she touched the hem of his garment. At that moment, Jesus, surrounded by people on every side, embodies all the beauty of Aaron vested in priestly raiment, with the oil running down upon his robes. It is a hidden beauty, one which shines forth only for those faith-filled eyes of the woman troubled with an issue of blood. But not even the disciples – future priests – see or understand: on the “existential outskirts”, they see only what is on the surface: the crowd pressing in on Jesus from all sides (cf. Lk 8:42). The Lord, on the other hand, feels the power of the divine anointing which runs down to the edge of his cloak.
We need to “go out”, then, in order to experience our own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy: to the “outskirts” where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters. It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord: self-help courses can be useful in life, but to live our priestly life going from one course to another, from one method to another, leads us to become pelagians and to minimize the power of grace, which comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all.
The priest who seldom goes out of himself, who anoints little – I won’t say “not at all” because, thank God, the people take the oil from us anyway – misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart. Those who do not go out of themselves, instead of being mediators, gradually become intermediaries, managers. We know the difference: the intermediary, the manager, “has already received his reward”, and since he doesn’t put his own skin and his own heart on the line, he never hears a warm, heartfelt word of thanks. This is precisely the reason for the dissatisfaction of some, who end up sad – sad priests - in some sense becoming collectors of antiques or novelties, instead of being shepherds living with “the odour of the sheep”. This I ask you: be shepherds, with the “odour of the sheep”, make it real, as shepherds among your flock, fishers of men. True enough, the so-called crisis of priestly identity threatens us all and adds to the broader cultural crisis; but if we can resist its onslaught, we will be able to put out in the name of the Lord and cast our nets. It is not a bad thing that reality itself forces us to “put out into the deep”, where what we are by grace is clearly seen as pure grace, out into the deep of the contemporary world, where the only thing that counts is “unction” – not function – and the nets which overflow with fish are those cast solely in the name of the One in whom we have put our trust: Jesus.
Dear lay faithful, be close to your priests with affection and with your prayers, that they may always be shepherds according to God’s heart.
Dear priests, may God the Father renew in us the Spirit of holiness with whom we have been anointed. May he renew his Spirit in our hearts, that this anointing may spread to everyone, even to those “outskirts” where our faithful people most look for it and most appreciate it. May our people sense that we are the Lord’s disciples; may they feel that their names are written upon our priestly vestments and that we seek no other identity; and may they receive through our words and deeds the oil of gladness which Jesus, the Anointed One, came to bring us. Amen
 
Chapter 95
1
 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

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Dear Young Friends,

“Go and make disciples of all nations”. With these words, Jesus is speaking to each one of us, saying: “It was wonderful to take part in World Youth Day, to live the faith together with young people from the four corners of the earth, but now you must go, now you must pass on this experience to others.” Jesus is calling you to be a disciple with a mission! Today, in the light of the word of God that we have heard, what is the Lord saying to us? What is the Lord saying to us? Three simple ideas: Go, do not be afraid, and serve.

1. Go. During these days here in Rio, you have been able to enjoy the wonderful experience of meeting Jesus, meeting him together with others, and you have sensed the joy of faith. But the experience of this encounter must not remain locked up in your life or in the small group of your parish, your movement, or your community. That would be like withholding oxygen from a flame that was burning strongly. Faith is a flame that grows stronger the more it is shared and passed on, so that everyone may know, love and confess Jesus Christ, the Lord of life and history (cf. Rom 10:9).

Careful, though! Jesus did not say: “go, if you would like to, if you have the time”, but he said: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Sharing the experience of faith, bearing witness to the faith, proclaiming the Gospel: this is a command that the Lord entrusts to the whole Church, and that includes you; but it is a command that is born not from a desire for domination, from the desire for power, but from the force of love, from the fact that Jesus first came into our midst and did not give us just a part of himself, but he gave us the whole of himself, he gave his life in order to save us and to show us the love and mercy of God. Jesus does not treat us as slaves, but as people who are free , as friends, as brothers and sisters; and he not only sends us, he accompanies us, he is always beside us in our mission of love.

Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits: he sends us to everyone. The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some. It is not only for those who seem closer to us, more receptive, more welcoming. It is for everyone. Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Lord seeks all, he wants everyone to feel the warmth of his mercy and his love.

In particular, I would like Christ’s command: “Go” to resonate in you young people from the Church in Latin America, engaged in the continental mission promoted by the Bishops. Brazil, Latin America, the whole world needs Christ! Saint Paul says: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). This continent has received the proclamation of the Gospel which has marked its history and borne much fruit. Now this proclamation is entrusted also to you, that it may resound with fresh power. The Church needs you, your enthusiasm, your creativity and the joy that is so characteristic of you. A great Apostle of Brazil, Blessed José de Anchieta, set off on the mission when he was only nineteen years old. Do you know what the best tool is for evangelizing the young? Another young person. This is the path for all of you to follow!

2. Do not be afraid. Some people might think: “I have no particular preparation, how can I go and proclaim the Gospel?” My dear friend, your fear is not so very different from that of Jeremiah, as we have just heard in the reading, when he was called by God to be a prophet. “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth”. God says the same thing to you as he said to Jeremiah: “Be not afraid ... for I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:7,8). He is with us!

“Do not be afraid!” When we go to proclaim Christ, it is he himself who goes before us and guides us. When he sent his disciples on mission, he promised: “I am with you always” (Mt 28:20). And this is also true for us! Jesus never leaves anyone alone! He always accompanies us .

And then, Jesus did not say: “One of you go”, but “All of you go”: we are sent together. Dear young friends, be aware of the companionship of the whole Church and also the communion of the saints on this mission. When we face challenges together, then we are strong, we discover resources we did not know we had. Jesus did not call the Apostles to live in isolation, he called them to form a group, a community. I would like to address you, dear priests concelebrating with me at this Eucharist: you have come to accompany your young people, and this is wonderful, to share this experience of faith with them! Certainly he has rejuvenated all of you. The young make everyone feel young. But this experience is only a stage on the journey. Please, continue to accompany them with generosity and joy, help them to become actively engaged in the Church; never let them feel alone! And here I wish to thank from the heart the youth ministry teams from the movements and new communities that are accompanying the young people in their experience of being Church, in such a creative and bold way. Go forth and don’t be afraid!

3. The final word: serve. The opening words of the psalm that we proclaimed are: “Sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalm 95:1). What is this new song? It does not consist of words, it is not a melody, it is the song of your life, it is allowing our life to be identified with that of Jesus, it is sharing his sentiments, his thoughts, his actions. And the life of Jesus is a life for others. The life of Jesus is a life for others. It is a life of service.

In our Second Reading today, Saint Paul says: “I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more” (1 Cor 9:19). In order to proclaim Jesus, Paul made himself “a slave to all”. Evangelizing means bearing personal witness to the love of God, it is overcoming our selfishness, it is serving by bending down to wash the feet of our brethren, as Jesus did.

Three ideas: Go, do not be afraid, and serve. Go, do not be afraid, and serve. If you follow these three ideas, you will experience that the one who evangelizes is evangelized, the one who transmits the joy of faith receives more joy. Dear young friends, as you return to your homes, do not be afraid to be generous with Christ, to bear witness to his Gospel. In the first Reading, when God sends the prophet Jeremiah, he gives him the power to “pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (1:10). It is the same for you. Bringing the Gospel is bringing God’s power to pluck up and break down evil and violence, to destroy and overthrow the barriers of selfishness, intolerance and hatred, so as to build a new world. Dear young friends, Jesus Christ is counting on you! The Church is counting on you! The Pope is counting on you! May Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, always accompany you with her tenderness: “Go and make disciples of all nations”. Amen

 
Chapter 100
1,2,3,5
 
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Beloved brothers and sisters: because these our sons, who are your relatives and friends, are now to be advanced to the Order of priests, consider carefully the nature of the rank in the Church to which they are about to be raised.

It is true that God has made his entire holy people a royal priesthood in Christ. Nevertheless, our great Priest himself, Jesus Christ, chose certain disciples to carry out publicly in his name, and on behalf of mankind, a priestly office in the Church. For Christ was sent by the Father and he in turn sent the Apostles into the world, so that through them and their successors, the Bishops, he might continue to exercise his office of Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd. Indeed, priests are established co-workers of the Order of Bishops, with whom they are joined in the priestly office and with whom they are called to the service of the people of God.

After mature deliberation and prayer, these, our brothers, are now to be ordained to the priesthood in the Order of the presbyterate so as to serve Christ the Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd, by whose ministry his body, that is, the Church, is built and grows into the people of God, a holy temple.

In being configured to Christ the eternal High Priest and joined to the priesthood of the Bishops, they will be consecrated as true priests of the New Testament, to preach the Gospel, to shepherd God’s people, and to celebrate the sacred Liturgy, especially the Lord’s sacrifice.

Now, my dear brothers and sons, you are to be raised to the Order of the Priesthood. For your part you will exercise the sacred duty of teaching in the name of Christ the Teacher. Impart to everyone the word of God which you have received with joy.  Remember your mothers, your grandmothers, your catechists, who gave you the word of God, the faith ... the gift of faith!  They transmitted to you this gift of faith.  Meditating on the law of the Lord, see that you believe what you read, that you teach what you believe, and that you practise what you teach.  Remember too that the word of God is not your property: it is the word of God.  And the Church is the custodian of the word of God.

In this way, let what you teach be nourishment for the people of God. Let the holiness of your lives be a delightful fragrance to Christ’s faithful, so that by word and example you may build up the house which is God’s Church.

Likewise you will exercise in Christ the office of sanctifying. For by your ministry the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful will be made perfect, being united to the sacrifice of Christ, which will be offered through your hands in an unbloody way on the altar, in union with the faithful, in the celebration of the sacraments. Understand, therefore, what you do and imitate what you celebrate. As celebrants of the mystery of the Lord’s death and resurrection, strive to put to death whatever in your members is sinful and to walk in newness of life.

You will gather others into the people of God through Baptism, and you will forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church in the sacrament of Penance.  Today I ask you in the name of Christ and the Church, never tire of being merciful.  You will comfort the sick and the elderly with holy oil: do not hesitate to show tenderness towards the elderly. When you celebrate the sacred rites, when you offer prayers of praise and thanks to God throughout the hours of the day, not only for the people of God but for the world—remember then that you are taken from among men and appointed on their behalf for those things that pertain to God. Therefore, carry out the ministry of Christ the Priest with constant joy and genuine love, attending not to your own concerns but to those of Jesus Christ.  You are pastors, not functionaries. Be mediators, not intermediaries.

Finally, dear sons, exercising for your part the office of Christ, Head and Shepherd, while united with the Bishop and subject to him, strive to bring the faithful together into one family, so that you may lead them to God the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit. Keep always before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve, and who came to seek out and save what was lost.

 Chapter 103

1B-4,  8-11

 

This is a true example of familiarity and respect for God. Abraham was more than 100 years old. He had been conversing with the Lord for a good 25 years and was well acquainted with him and so could ask the Lord “what to do with that sinful city”. Abraham feels “strong enough to speak to the Lord face to face and seeks to defend the city. He is insistent”.

The first thing we notice in the Bible, is the affirmation that “
prayer must be courageous”. When we speak of courage “we always think of apostolic courage” that spurs us “to go and preach the Gospel”. But there is also courage in standing before the Lord... in going bravely to the Lord to ask him things”. Abraham insists and “from 50, he manages to get the price down to 10”, although he knows it is impossible to save sinful cities from punishment.

How often we must have found ourselves praying for someone. But if a person wants the Lord to grant a grace he must go courageously and do what Abraham did with insistence, Jesus himself tells us we must pray like this. Abraham had been with the Lord for 25 years, he had acquired familiarity with him so he dared to embark on this form of prayer. Insistence, courage. It is tiring, true, but this is prayer. This is what receiving a grace from God is.

He does not say ‘poor things, they will be burned.... but ‘forgive them’. Do you want to do this? You who are so good, do you want to do the same to the wicked as to the righteous? Of course not! He takes the arguments of God’s own heart. “Convince the Lord with the virtues of the Lord and this is beautiful”.

The suggestion is to go to the Lord’s heart. Jesus teaches us: the Father knows things. Do not worry, the Father sends rain on the righteous and on sinners, he causes the sun to rise on the righteous and on sinners.

I would like us all to take up the Bible, starting today, and to recite slowly Psalm 103[102]: ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul’.... Pray it all and in this way we will learn what to say to the Lord when we ask for a grace.

 Chapter 104

1-2A,5,6,10,12,24,35C

 
Pope Francis             06.02.17   Holy Mass  Santa Marta           Genesis 1: 1-19,          Psalm 104: 1-2A, 5,6,10,12,24,35C,         Mark 6: 53-56 
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In Psalm 104, “we praised the Lord”, saying: “You are very great, O Lord, my God! You are great indeed!”. This Psalm, is a song of praise: we praise the Lord for the things we heard in both readings, for creation, so great; and in the second reading, for the re-creation, the even more wondrous creation that Jesus makes. The Father labours and thus, Jesus says: ‘My Father labours and I too labour”. It is a way of saying ‘labour’, ad instar laborantis, as one who labours, as Saint Ignatius defines in the Exercises (cf. Spiritual Exercises, n. 236).

In this way, the Father labours to make this wonder of creation, and with the Son to make this wonder of re-creation; to make that passing from chaos to cosmos, from disorder to order, from sin to grace. And, this is the Father’s labour and for this reason we praised the Father, the Father who labours.

But, “why did God want to create the world?”. This is one of the difficult questions. Once, a boy put me in difficulty because he asked me this question: ‘tell me, Father, what did God do before he created the world;  was he bored?”. Surely, children know how to ask questions, and they ask the right questions that put you in difficulty.

To answer that child, the Lord helped me and I told the truth: God loved; in his fullness, he loved, among the three Persons, he loved and needed nothing more. The answer, gave rise to another question: if God “needed nothing more, why did he create the world? This is a question,not posed in a childlike manner but as the first theologians did, the great theologians, the first. Thus, why did God “create the world?”. The response to give is this: “Simply to share his fullness, to have someone whom to give and with whom to share his fullness”. In a word, “to give”.

We can ask “the same question, in regard to re-creation: “why did he send his Son for this work of re-creation?”. He did so “in order to share, to re-organize”. And in the first creation, as in the second, he makes out of chaos a cosmos, out of ugliness something beautiful, out of a mistake a truth, out of bad something good. This is precisely the labour of creation that is God, and one he does by hand. And,in Jesus we clearly see: with his body he gives life completely. Thus, “when Jesus says: ‘The Father labours always, and I too labour always ’, the doctors of the law were scandalized and wanted to kill him because they did not know how to receive the things of God as a gift, but “only as justice”; and so they even came to think: the commandments are few: let’s make more!

Thus,instead of opening their heart to the gift, they hid; they sought refuge in the rigidity of the commandments, which they had increased up to 500 or more: they did not know how to receive the gift. The gift, is only received with freedom, but these rigid men were afraid of God-given freedom; they were afraid of love. For this reason, they wanted to kill Jesus, because He said the Father had done this wonder as a gift: receive the gift of the Father!

You are great, Lord, I love you, because you have given me this gift, you have saved me, you created me: this, is the prayer of praise, the prayer of joy, the prayer that gives us the cheerfulness of Christian life. It is not that closed, sad prayer of people who are never able to receive a gift because they are afraid of the freedom that a gift always brings. Thus, in the end, they know only duty, but a closed duty: slaves to duty, but not to love. But, when you become a slave to love you are free: it is a beautiful slavery, but they did not understand this.

Therefore, these are the two wonders of the Lord: the wonder of creation and the wonder of redemption, of re-creation; that of the beginning of the world and that, after the fall of man, of restoring the world and this is why he sent the Son: it is beautiful. Of course, we can ask ourselves how I receive these wonders, how I receive this creation God has given me as a gift. And, if I receive it as a gift, I love creation, I safeguard creation because it was a gift.

In this light, we should ask ourselves: how I receive redemption, the forgiveness that God has given me, making me a son or daughter with his Son, with love, with tenderness, with freedom. We must never hide in the rigidity of closed commandments that are always, always more ‘certain’ — in quotation marks — but which give you no joy because they do not make you free. Each one of us, can ask ourselves how we can live these two wonders: the wonder of creation and the even greater wonder of re-creation. We must do so with the hope that the Lord will help us understand this great thing and help us understand what he did before creating the world: he loved. May he help us understand his love for us and may we say — as we have said today — ‘You are very great, O Lord. Thank you, thank you!’”. And let us go forth in this way.

 
Chapter 118
2-4, 13-15, 22-24
 

1. Today we are celebrating the Second Sunday of Easter, also known as "Divine Mercy Sunday". What a beautiful truth of faith this is for our lives: the mercy of God! God’s love for us is so great, so deep; it is an unfailing love, one which always takes us by the hand and supports us, lifts us up and leads us on.

2. In today’s Gospel, the Apostle Thomas personally experiences this mercy of God, which has a concrete face, the face of Jesus, the risen Jesus. Thomas does not believe it when the other Apostles tell him: "We have seen the Lord". It isn’t enough for him that Jesus had foretold it, promised it: "On the third day I will rise". He wants to see, he wants to put his hand in the place of the nails and in Jesus’ side. And how does Jesus react? With patience: Jesus does not abandon Thomas in his stubborn unbelief; he gives him a week’s time, he does not close the door, he waits. And Thomas acknowledges his own poverty, his little faith. "My Lord and my God!": with this simple yet faith-filled invocation, he responds to Jesus’ patience. He lets himself be enveloped by divine mercy; he sees it before his eyes, in the wounds of Christ’s hands and feet and in his open side, and he discovers trust: he is a new man, no longer an unbeliever, but a believer.

Let us also remember Peter: three times he denied Jesus, precisely when he should have been closest to him; and when he hits bottom he meets the gaze of Jesus who patiently, wordlessly, says to him: "Peter, don’t be afraid of your weakness, trust in me". Peter understands, he feels the loving gaze of Jesus, and he weeps. How beautiful is this gaze of Jesus – how much tenderness is there! Brothers and sisters, let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God!

Let us think too of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus: their sad faces, their barren journey, their despair. But Jesus does not abandon them: he walks beside them, and not only that! Patiently he explains the Scriptures which spoke of him, and he stays to share a meal with them. This is God’s way of doing things: he is not impatient like us, who often want everything all at once, even in our dealings with other people. God is patient with us because he loves us, and those who love are able to understand, to hope, to inspire confidence; they do not give up, they do not burn bridges, they are able to forgive. Let us remember this in our lives as Christians: God always waits for us, even when we have left him behind! He is never far from us, and if we return to him, he is ready to embrace us.

I am always struck when I reread the parable of the merciful Father; it impresses me because it always gives me great hope. Think of that younger son who was in the Father’s house, who was loved; and yet he wants his part of the inheritance; he goes off, spends everything, hits rock bottom, where he could not be more distant from the Father, yet when he is at his lowest, he misses the warmth of the Father’s house and he goes back. And the Father? Had he forgotten the son? No, never. He is there, he sees the son from afar, he was waiting for him every hour of every day, the son was always in his father’s heart, even though he had left him, even though he had squandered his whole inheritance, his freedom. The Father, with patience, love, hope and mercy, had never for a second stopped thinking about him, and as soon as he sees him still far off, he runs out to meet him and embraces him with tenderness, the tenderness of God, without a word of reproach: he has returned! And that is the joy of the Father. In that embrace for his son is all this joy: he has returned! God is always waiting for us, he never grows tired. Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence, hope – always! A great German theologian, Romano Guardini, said that God responds to our weakness by his patience, and this is the reason for our confidence, our hope (cf. Glaubenserkenntnis, Würzburg, 1949, p. 28). It is like a dialogue between our weakness and the patience of God, it is a dialogue that, if we do it, will grant us hope.

3. I would like to emphasize one other thing: God’s patience has to call forth in us the courage to return to him, however many mistakes and sins there may be in our life. Jesus tells Thomas to put his hand in the wounds of his hands and his feet, and in his side. We too can enter into the wounds of Jesus, we can actually touch him. This happens every time that we receive the sacraments with faith. Saint Bernard, in a fine homily, says: "Through the wounds of Jesus I can suck honey from the rock and oil from the flinty rock (cf. Deut 32:13), I can taste and see the goodness of the Lord" (On the Song of Songs, 61:4). It is there, in the wounds of Jesus, that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of his heart. Thomas understood this. Saint Bernard goes on to ask: But what can I count on? My own merits? No, "My merit is God’s mercy. I am by no means lacking merits as long as he is rich in mercy. If the mercies of the Lord are manifold, I too will abound in merits" (ibid., 5). This is important: the courage to trust in Jesus’ mercy, to trust in his patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of his love. Saint Bernard even states: "So what if my conscience gnaws at me for my many sins? ‘Where sin has abounded, there grace has abounded all the more’ (Rom 5:20)" (ibid.). Maybe someone among us here is thinking: my sin is so great, I am as far from God as the younger son in the parable, my unbelief is like that of Thomas; I don’t have the courage to go back, to believe that God can welcome me and that he is waiting for me, of all people. But God is indeed waiting for you; he asks of you only the courage to go to him. How many times in my pastoral ministry have I heard it said: "Father, I have many sins"; and I have always pleaded: "Don’t be afraid, go to him, he is waiting for you, he will take care of everything". We hear many offers from the world around us; but let us take up God’s offer instead: his is a caress of love. For God, we are not numbers, we are important, indeed we are the most important thing to him; even if we are sinners, we are what is closest to his heart.

Adam, after his sin, experiences shame, he feels naked, he senses the weight of what he has done; and yet God does not abandon him: if that moment of sin marks the beginning of his exile from God, there is already a promise of return, a possibility of return. God immediately asks: "Adam, where are you?" He seeks him out. Jesus took on our nakedness, he took upon himself the shame of Adam, the nakedness of his sin, in order to wash away our sin: by his wounds we have been healed. Remember what Saint Paul says: "What shall I boast of, if not my weakness, my poverty? Precisely in feeling my sinfulness, in looking at my sins, I can see and encounter God’s mercy, his love, and go to him to receive forgiveness.

In my own life, I have so often seen God’s merciful countenance, his patience; I have also seen so many people find the courage to enter the wounds of Jesus by saying to him: Lord, I am here, accept my poverty, hide my sin in your wounds, wash it away with your blood. And I have always seen that God did just this – he accepted them, consoled them, cleansed them, loved them.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us be enveloped by the mercy of God; let us trust in his patience, which always gives us more time. Let us find the courage to return to his house, to dwell in his loving wounds, allowing ourselves be loved by him and to encounter his mercy in the sacraments. We will feel his wonderful tenderness, we will feel his embrace, and we too will become more capable of mercy, patience, forgiveness and love.

 Chapter 119

23-24, 26-27, 29-30

 

Slander is as old as the world and it is already mentioned in the Old Testament. It suffices to think of the episode of Queen Jezabel with the vineyard of Naboth, or that of Susanna with the two judges. When it is impossible to obtain something “in the right way, in a holy way”, people have recourse to slander which destroys. This reminds us, that we are sinners: all of us. We have sinned. But slander is something else. It is a sin but it is also something more, because “it wants to destroy God's work and is spawned by something very nasty: it is spawned by hatred. And the person who generates hatred is Satan”. Falsehood and slander go hand in hand since in order to make headway they need each other. And there is no doubt, wherever there is slander there is Satan, Satan himself.

Psalm 119 [118] : “Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes. Your testimonies are my delight”. The just man in this case is Stephen, the Proto-Martyr mentioned in the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Stephen “gazed at the Lord and obeyed the law”. He was the first in the long series of witnesses of Christ who spangle the history of the Church. Martyrs abound, not only in the past but also in our day. Here in Rome, we have a great many witnesses of martyrs, starting with Peter; but the season of martyrs is not over. We can truly say that today too the Church has more martyrs than she had in the early centuries. Indeed, the Church has so many men and women who are slandered,
persecuted and killed, in hatred of Jesus, in hatred of the faith. Several are killed for “teaching the Catechism”; others, for “wearing the cross”. Calumny finds room in the large number of countries where Christians are persecuted. They are our brothers and sisters, who are suffering today, in this age of martyrs. This must give us food for thought. Persecuted by hatred: it is actually the devil who sows hatred in those who instigate persecution.

The first Latin Antiphon of the Virgin Mary is “ Sub tuum praesidium ”. “Let us pray Our Lady to protect us”, and in times of spiritual turbulence the safest place is beneath Our Lady's mantle”. Indeed, she is the Mother who cares for the Church. And in this season of martyrs, she is, as it were, the protagonist of protection. She is Mother.

Trust in Mary, address to her the prayer that begins with the words “Under your protection”, and remember the ancient icon showing her “covering her people with her mantle: she is Mother”. This is the most useful thing: in this time of “hatred, of spiritual turbulence, the safest possible place is beneath Our Lady's mantle.

 Chapter 122

1,2,3-4AB,4CD-5

 

"With joy, let us go to the house of the Lord". And we did so, because the first Reading reminds us of a moment of joy for the people of God, a very beautiful moment when “a pagan king helped God's people return to their land and rebuild the temple”. The reference is to a passage from the Book of Ezra (6:7-8, 12, 14-20).

In the history of God's people, there are beautiful moments like this one, which bring great joy, and there are also ugly moments of suffering, martyrdom and sin. In good and bad moments alike, one thing always remains the same:
the Lord is there. He never abandons his people, for the Lord, on that day of sin, of the first sin, made a decision; he made a choice, to make history with his people.

God, who has no history since he is eternal, wanted to make history, to walk close to his people. But there is more: he wanted to make himself one of us and as one of us to walk with us in Jesus. And this speaks to us. It tells us about the
humility of God” who is “so very great” and powerful precisely in his humility. He “wanted to walk with his people, and when his people wandered far from him through sin, idolatry and the many things we see in the Bible, he was there”.

We also see this attitude of humility in Jesus, “Walking with God's people, walking with sinners, even walking with the proud: how much the Lord did in order to help the proud hearts of the Pharisees. He wanted to walk. Humility. God always waits, God is beside us.
God walks with us. He is humble. He waits for us always. Jesus always waits for us. This is the humility of God”.

Thus, “the Church joyfully sings of the humility of God who accompanies us as we did in the psalm: “With joy, let us go to the house of the Lord”. Let us go with joy; then he accompanies us, he along with us”.

The Lord Jesus, also accompanies us in our personal lives with the sacraments. A sacrament is not a magical rite, it is an encounter with Jesus Christ. In it, “we encounter the Lord. And he is by our side and accompanies us: a travelling companion”. And “the Holy Spirit also accompanies us and teaches us all that we do not know in our hearts. He reminds us of all that Jesus taught us and he makes us feel the beauty of the good way. Thus God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are our travelling companions. They make history with us”.

The Church, celebrates this with great joy at each Eucharist. That beautiful Eucharistic prayer that we will pray today, in which we sing of God's great love, which desired to be humble, to be a travelling companion with us, and that also wanted to make history with us. And if God, entered into our history, let us also enter a little into his history or at least ask of him the grace to let him write history. May he write our history. It is a reliable one.