Surprises

Surprises

Pope Francis    

24.07.13  28th World Youth Day      Revelations 12:13A,15-16A      Esther 5:3

Your Eminence,

https://sites.google.com/site/francishomilies/hope/24.07.13.jpg

My Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

What joy I feel as I come to the house of the Mother of every Brazilian, the Shrine of our Lady of Aparecida! The day after my election as Bishop of Rome, I visited the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome, in order to entrust my ministry to Our Lady. Today I have come here to ask Mary our Mother for the success of World Youth Day and to place at her feet the life of the people of Latin America.

There is something that I would like to say first of all. Six years ago the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean was held in this Shrine. Something beautiful took place here, which I witnessed at first hand. I saw how the Bishops – who were discussing the theme of encountering Christ, discipleship and mission – felt encouraged, supported and in some way inspired by the thousands of pilgrims who came here day after day to entrust their lives to Our Lady. That Conference was a great moment of Church. It can truly be said that the Aparecida Document was born of this interplay between the labours of the Bishops and the simple faith of the pilgrims, under Mary’s maternal protection. When the Church looks for Jesus, she always knocks at his Mother’s door and asks: “Show us Jesus”. It is from Mary that the Church learns true discipleship. That is why the Church always goes out on mission in the footsteps of Mary.

Today, looking forward to the World Youth Day which has brought me to Brazil, I too come to knock on the door of the house of Mary – who loved and raised Jesus – that she may help all of us, pastors of God’s people, parents and educators, to pass on to our young people the values that can help them build a nation and a world which are more just, united and fraternal. For this reason I would like to speak of three simple attitudes: hopefulness, openness to being surprised by God, and living in joy.

1. Hopefulness. The second reading of the Mass presents a dramatic scene: a woman – an image of Mary and the Church – is being pursued by a Dragon – the devil – who wants to devour her child. But the scene is not one of death but of life, because God intervenes and saves the child (cf. Rev 12:13a, 15-16a). How many difficulties are present in the life of every individual, among our people, in our communities; yet as great as these may seem, God never allows us to be overwhelmed by them. In the face of those moments of discouragement we experience in life, in our efforts to evangelize or to embody our faith as parents within the family, I would like to say forcefully: Always know in your heart that God is by your side; he never abandons you! Let us never lose hope! Let us never allow it to die in our hearts! The “dragon”, evil, is present in our history, but it does not have the upper hand. The one with the upper hand is God, and God is our hope! It is true that nowadays, to some extent, everyone, including our young people, feels attracted by the many idols which take the place of God and appear to offer hope: money, success, power, pleasure. Often a growing sense of loneliness and emptiness in the hearts of many people leads them to seek satisfaction in these ephemeral idols. Dear brothers and sisters, let us be lights of hope! Let us maintain a positive outlook on reality. Let us encourage the generosity which is typical of the young and help them to work actively in building a better world. Young people are a powerful engine for the Church and for society. They do not need material things alone; also and above all, they need to have held up to them those non-material values which are the spiritual heart of a people, the memory of a people. In this Shrine, which is part of the memory of Brazil, we can almost read those values: spirituality, generosity, solidarity, perseverance, fraternity, joy; they are values whose deepest root is in the Christian faith.

2. The second attitude: openness to being surprised by God. Anyone who is a man or a woman of hope – the great hope which faith gives us – knows that even in the midst of difficulties God acts and he surprises us. The history of this Shrine is a good example: three fishermen, after a day of catching no fish, found something unexpected in the waters of the Parnaíba River: an image of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Whoever would have thought that the site of a fruitless fishing expedition would become the place where all Brazilians can feel that they are children of one Mother? God always surprises us, like the new wine in the Gospel we have just heard. God always saves the best for us. But he asks us to let ourselves be surprised by his love, to accept his surprises. Let us trust God! Cut off from him, the wine of joy, the wine of hope, runs out. If we draw near to him, if we stay with him, what seems to be cold water, difficulty, sin, is changed into the new wine of friendship with him.

3. The third attitude: living in joy. Dear friends, if we walk in hope, allowing ourselves to be surprised by the new wine which Jesus offers us, we have joy in our hearts and we cannot fail to be witnesses of this joy. Christians are joyful, they are never gloomy. God is at our side. We have a Mother who always intercedes for the life of her children, for us, as Queen Esther did in the first reading (cf Est 5:3). Jesus has shown us that the face of God is that of a loving Father. Sin and death have been defeated. Christians cannot be pessimists! They do not look like someone in constant mourning. If we are truly in love with Christ and if we sense how much he loves us, our heart will “light up” with a joy that spreads to everyone around us. As Benedict XVI said here, in this Shrine: “the disciple knows that without Christ, there is no light, no hope, no love, no future” (Inaugural Address, Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, Aparecida, 13 May 2007, 3).

Dear friends, we have come to knock at the door of Mary’s house. She has opened it for us, she has let us in and she shows us her Son. Now she asks us to “do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). Yes, Mother, we are committed to doing whatever Jesus tells us! And we will do it with hope, trusting in God’s surprises and full of joy. Amen.



Jonah1:1-16; 2:1-11 He had his entire life in order; he served the Lord, perhaps he even prayed a great deal. He was a prophet, a good man and he did much good”. Yet “he didn’t want to be disturbed in the way of life he had chosen; when he heard the word of God he sought to escape. And he fled from God”. Therefore, when “the Lord sent him to Ninevah, he boarded a ship to Spain. He was fleeing from the Lord”.

In the end, Jonah had already written his own story: “I want to be like this, this and this, according to the commandments”. He did not want to be disturbed. This is why he fled from God. We, too, can be tempted to flee. We can run away from God, as a Christian, as a Catholic, and even “as a priest, bishop or Pope”. We can all flee from God. This is a daily temptation: not to listen to God, not to hear his voice, not to hear his promptings, his invitation in our hearts.

Although we may make a direct getaway, there are also more subtle and sophisticated ways of fleeing from God. St Luke 10:25-37. A certain man, half dead, who had been thrown into the street. Now by chance a priest was going down that road. A good priest, in his cassock: good, very good. He saw him and looked: I'll be late for Mass, and he went on his way. He didn't hear the voice of God there. It was, different from Jonah’s escape, Jonah was clearly fleeing. Then a Levite passed by, he saw [the man half dead] and perhaps he thought: If I take care of him or go close to him, perhaps he is dead and tomorrow I’ll have to go to the judge to give testimony, and so he passed by on the other side. He was fleeing from the voice of God in that man.

It is curious to note that only a man “who habitually fled from God, a sinner”, the Samaritan, was the very one who “perceived the voice of God”. He “drew near” to the man. “He bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast. Oh how much time he lost: he brought him to an inn, and took care of him. He lost the whole evening!”. In the meantime, “the priest arrived in time for the Holy Mass and all the faithful were content. The next day, the Levite had a peaceful day and spent it just as he had planned” since he didn't have to go to the judge.

And why, did Jonah flee from God? Why did the priest flee from God? Why did the Levite flee from God?”. Because “their hearts were closed”. When your heart is closed you cannot hear the voice of God. Instead, it was a Samaritan on a journey “who saw” the wounded man and “had compassion. His heart was opened, he had a human heart. His humanity enabled him to draw near.

Jonah had a plan for his life: he wanted to write his own history well, according to God’s ways. But he was the one writing it, the same with the priest, the same with the Levite. However, “this other sinner allowed God to write the history of his life. He changed all his plans that evening” because the Lord placed before him “this poor, wounded man who had been thrown out onto the street”.

I ask myself and I also ask you: do we allow God to write the history of our lives or do we want to write it? This speaks to us of docility: are we docile to the Word of God? Yes, I want to be docile, but are you able to listen to his Word, to hear it? Are you able to find the Word of God in the history of each day, or do your ideas so govern you that you do not allow the Lord to surprise you and speak to you?”.

I am sure, that all of us today are saying ... the Priest and the Levite were selfish. It's true: the Samaritan, the sinner, did not flee from God!”. And so I ask that the “the Lord grant that we may hear his voice which says to us: Go and do likewise.



Pope Francis   13.10.13  Holy Mass for Marian Day, St Peter's Square   28th Sunday of Ordinary Time  Year C      2 Kings 5: 14-17,   2 Timothy 2: 8-13,   Luke 17: 11-19

Pope Francis 13.10.13

In the Psalm we said: “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things” (Ps 98:1).

Today we consider one of the marvellous things which the Lord has done: Mary! A lowly and weak creature like ourselves, she was chosen to be the Mother of God, the Mother of her Creator.

Considering Mary in the light of the readings we have just heard, I would like to reflect with you on three things: first, God surprises us, second, God asks us to be faithful, and third, God is our strength.

1. First:
God surprises us. The story of Naaman, the commander of the army of the king of Aram, is remarkable. In order to be healed of leprosy, he turns to the prophet of God, Elisha, who does not perform magic or demand anything unusual of him, but asks him simply to trust in God and to wash in the waters of the river. Not, however, in one of the great rivers of Damascus, but in the little stream of the Jordan. Naaman is left surprised, even taken aback. What kind of God is this who asks for something so simple? He wants to turn back, but then he goes ahead, he immerses himself in the Jordan and is immediately healed (cf. 2 Kg 5:1-4). There it is: God surprises us. It is precisely in poverty, in weakness and in humility that he reveals himself and grants us his love, which saves us, heals us and gives us strength. He asks us only to obey his word and to trust in him.

This was the experience of the Virgin Mary. At the message of the angel, she does not hide her surprise. It is the astonishment of realizing that God, to become man, had chosen her, a simple maid of Nazareth. Not someone who lived in a palace amid power and riches, or one who had done extraordinary things, but simply someone who was open to God and put her trust in him, even without understanding everything: “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). That was her answer. God constantly surprises us, he bursts our categories, he wreaks havoc with our plans. And he tells us: Trust me, do not be afraid, let yourself be surprised, leave yourself behind and follow me!

Today let us all ask ourselves whether we are afraid of what God might ask, or of what he does ask. Do I let myself be surprised by God, as Mary was, or do I remain caught up in my own safety zone: in forms of material, intellectual or ideological security, taking refuge in my own projects and plans? Do I truly let God into my life? How do I answer him?

2. In the passage from Saint Paul which we have heard, the Apostle tells his disciple Timothy: Remember Jesus Christ; if we persevere with him, we will also reign with him (cf. 2 Tim 2:8-13). This is the second thing: to remember Christ always – to be mindful of Jesus Christ – and thus to persevere in
faith. God surprises us with his love, but he demands that we be faithful in following him. We can be unfaithful, but he cannot: he is “the faithful one” and he demands of us that same fidelity. Think of all the times when we were excited about something or other, some initiative, some task, but afterwards, at the first sign of difficulty, we threw in the towel. Sadly, this also happens in the case of fundamental decisions, such as marriage. It is the difficulty of remaining steadfast, faithful to decisions we have made and to commitments we have made. Often it is easy enough to say “yes”, but then we fail to repeat this “yes” each and every day. We fail to be faithful.

Mary said her “yes” to God: a “yes” which threw her simple life in Nazareth into turmoil, and not only once. Any number of times she had to utter a heartfelt “yes” at moments of joy and sorrow, culminating in the “yes” she spoke at the foot of the Cross. Here today there are many mothers present; think of the full extent of Mary’s faithfulness to God: seeing her only Son hanging on the Cross. The faithful woman, still standing, utterly heartbroken, yet faithful and strong.

And I ask myself: Am I a Christian by fits and starts, or am I a Christian full-time? Our culture of the ephemeral, the relative, also takes it toll on the way we live our faith. God asks us to be faithful to him, daily, in our everyday life. He goes on to say that, even if we are sometimes unfaithful to him, he remains faithful. In his mercy, he never tires of stretching out his hand to lift us up, to encourage us to continue our journey, to come back and tell him of our weakness, so that he can grant us his strength. This is the real journey: to walk with the Lord always, even at moments of weakness, even in our sins. Never to prefer a makeshift path of our own. That kills us. Faith is ultimate fidelity, like that of Mary.

3. The last thing: God is our strength. I think of the ten lepers in the Gospel who were healed by Jesus. They approach him and, keeping their distance, they call out: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Lk 17:13). They are sick, they need love and strength, and they are looking for someone to heal them. Jesus responds by freeing them from their disease. Strikingly, however, only one of them comes back, praising God and thanking him in a loud voice. Jesus notes this: ten asked to be healed and only one returned to praise God in a loud voice and to acknowledge that he is our strength. Knowing how to give thanks, to give praise for everything that the Lord has done for us.

Take Mary. After the Annunciation, her first act is one of charity towards her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth. Her first words are: “My soul magnifies the Lord”, in other words, a song of praise and thanksgiving to God not only for what he did for her, but for what he had done throughout the history of salvation. Everything is his gift. If we can realize that everything is God’s gift, how happy will our hearts be! Everything is his gift. He is our strength! Saying “
thank you” is such an easy thing, and yet so hard! How often do we say “thank you” to one another in our families? These are essential words for our life in common. “Sorry”, “excuse me”, “thank you”. If families can say these three things, they will be fine. “Sorry”, “excuse me”, “thank you”. How often do we say “thank you” in our families? How often do we say “thank you” to those who help us, those close to us, those at our side throughout life? All too often we take everything for granted! This happens with God too. It is easy to approach the Lord to ask for something, but to go and thank him: “Well, I don’t need to”.

As we continue our celebration of the Eucharist, let us invoke Mary’s intercessio
n. May she help us to be open to God’s surprises, to be faithful to him each and every day, and to praise and thank him, for he is our strength. Amen.





Pope Francis       08.10.18   Holy Mass  Santa Marta           Luke 10: 25-37
https://sites.google.com/site/francishomilies/compassion/08.10.18.jpg

"Who is my neighbour ?"
The brigands who "beat the man", leaving him half dead "; the priest who when he saw the wounded man "passed by", without taking into account his mission, thinking only of the imminent "hour of Mass". So did the Levite, "a cultured man of the Law". Dwell on “passing by", a concept which must enter our hearts today. It is that of two "officials" who, consistent with being  who they are, said: "it is not for me" to help the injured person. On the contrary, those who "do not pass by" are the Samaritan, "who was a sinner, one excommunicated by the people of Israel": the "greatest sinner. He had compassion. Perhaps he was a merchant who was traveling for business, too.

He did not look at his watch,  did not think about blood. He came close to him - he got off his donkey - he tied his wounds, pouring oil and wine. He got his hands dirty, got his clothes dirty. Then he loaded him on his mount, took him to a hotel, all dirty ... blood ... And so he had to get there. And he took care of him. He did not say: "But, I’ll leave him here, call the doctors who’ll come. I'm leaving, I've done my part. " No. He took care,  saying: "Now you are mine, not for a possession, but to serve you". He was not an official, he was a man with a heart, a man with an open heart.

The innkeeper was stunned to see a foreigner, a pagan - so we say - because he was not of the people of Israel who stopped to rescue the man, paying two denari and promising to pay any expenses on his return. The innkeeper does not doubt that he will receive what is owed, adds, it is the reaction of one who lives a testimony, one open to the surprises of God, just like the Samaritan.

Both were not officials. "Are you a Christian? Are you Christian? ". "Yes, yes, yes, I go on Sundays to Mass and I try to do the right thing ... less talk, because I always like to talk, but the rest I do well". Are you open? Are you open to God's surprises or are you a Christian official, closed? "I do this, I go to Mass on Sunday, Communion, Confession once a year, this, this ... I am up standing". These are the Christian officials, those who are not open to the surprises of God, those who know so much about God but do not meet God. Those who never enter into amazement before a testimony. On the contrary: they are incapable of giving witness.

I therefore, urge everyone, "laymen and pastors", to ask ourselves if we are Christians open to what the Lord gives us every day, to the surprises of God that often, like this Samaritan, makes things difficult for us, or are we a Christian official, doing what we have to, feeling that we abide by "the rules" and then being constrained by the same rules. Some ancient theologians, said that in this passage "the whole Gospel" is contained.

Each of us is the man there, wounded, and the Samaritan is Jesus. And he healed our wounds. He drew near to us. He took care of us. He paid for us. And he said to his Church: "But if you need more, you pay, I will come back and I will pay". Think about this: in this passage there is the whole Gospel.



Pope Francis   10.02.19      Angelus, St Peter's Square       Luke 5: 1-11
Pope Francis 10.02.19 Angelus, St Peter's Square

The days Gospel tells how Jesus surprised Simon by climbing in his boat, and going out a little ways from the shore to teach the people. Then Jesus made another surprising move by asking Simon to put out into the deep and lower his nets for a catch.

Simon (to whom Jesus would later give the name Peter) seems at first to offer an objection; but inspired by the presence of Jesus, and illuminated by His word, Simon does as he is asked. It is the response of faith, the response that that we too are called to give; and the attitude of openness that the Lord asks of all His disciples, especially insofar as they have duties of responsibility in the Church.

It is Simon’s trusting obedience that prompts the miraculous catch of fish. When we come with generosity to His service, Jesus accomplishes great things in us.

This is how Jesus deals with each of us: He asks us to welcome Him into the boat of our life, to begin again with Him and set out on a new sea, that turns out to be full of surprises. Jesus’ invitation gives new meaning to our existence. If we, like Peter, are sometimes surprised or hesitant at this call, Jesus encourages us. If we trust in Him God will free us from our sin, and open us up to new horizons, to collaborate in his mission.

The greatest miracle accomplished by Jesus for Simon and the other disappointed and tired fishermen, is not so much the nets filled with fish, but to have helped them to not fall victim to disappointment and discouragement in the face of setbacks. He opened the way for them to become heralds and witnesses of His word and of the Kingdom of God.



Pope Francis   05.05.19     Holy Mass,  Prince Alexander I Square, Sofia, Bulgaria     3rd Sunday of Easter  Year C   John 21: 1-19 
 
Pope Francis 05.05.19  Holy Mass, Sofia, Bulgaria

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Christ is risen! Christos vozkrese!

It is wonderful to see how with these words Christians in your country greet one another in the joy of the Risen Lord during the Easter season.

The entire episode we have just heard, drawn from the final pages of the Gospels, helps us immerse ourselves in this joy that the Lord asks us to spread. It does so by reminding us of three amazing things that are part of our lives as disciples: God calls, God surprises, God loves.

God calls. Everything takes place on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus first called Peter. He had called him to leave behind his trade as a fisher in order to become a fisher of men (cf. Lk 5:4-11). Now, after all that had happened to him, after the experience of seeing the Master die and hearing news of his resurrection, Peter goes back to his former life. He tells the others disciples, “I am going fishing”. And they follow suit: “We will go with you” (Jn 21:3). They seem to take a step backwards; Peter takes up the nets he had left behind for Jesus. The weight of suffering, disappointment, and of betrayal had become like a stone blocking the hearts of the disciples. They were still burdened with pain and guilt, and the good news of the resurrection had not taken root in their hearts.

The Lord knows what a strong temptation it is for us to return to the way things were before. In the Bible, Peter’s nets, like the fleshpots of Egypt, are a symbol of a tempting nostalgia for the past, of wanting to take back what we had decided to leave behind. In the face of
failure, hurt, or even the fact that at times things do not go the way we want, there always comes a subtle and dangerous temptation to become disheartened and to give up. This is the tomb psychology that tinges everything with dejection and leads us to indulge in a soothing sense of self-pity that, like a moth, eats away at all our hope. Then the worst thing that can happen to any community begins to appear – the grim pragmatism of a life in which everything appears to proceed normally, while in reality faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness (cf.
Evangelii Gaudium, 83).

But it was at the very moment of Peter’s failure that Jesus appears, starts over, patiently comes to him and calls him “Simon” (v. 15) – the name Peter received when he was first called. The Lord does not wait for perfect situations or frames of mind: he creates them. He does not expect to encounter people without problems, disappointments, without sins or limitations. He himself confronted sin and disappointment in order to encourage all men and women to persevere. Brothers and sisters, the Lord never tires of calling us. His is the power of a Love that overturns every expectation and is always ready to start anew. In Jesus, God always offers us another chance. He calls us day by day to deepen our love for him and to be revived by his eternal newness. Every morning, he comes to find us where we are. He summons us “to rise at his word, to look up and to realize that we were made for heaven, not for earth, for the heights of life and not for the depths of death”, and to stop seeking “the living among the dead” (
Homily at the Easter Vigil, 20 April 2019). When we welcome him, we rise higher and are able to embrace a brighter future, not as a possibility but as a reality. When Jesus’s call directs our lives, our hearts grow young.

God
surprises. He is the Lord of surprises. He invites us not only to be surprised, but also to do surprising things. The Lord calls the disciples and, seeing them with empty nets, he tells them to do something odd: to fish by day, something quite out of the ordinary on that lake. He revives their trust by urging them once more to take a risk, not to give up on anyone or anything. He is the Lord of surprises, who breaks down paralyzing barriers by filling us with the courage needed to overcome the suspicion, mistrust and fear that so often lurk behind the mindset that says, “We have always done things this way”. God surprises us whenever he calls and asks us to put out into the sea of history not only with our nets, but with our very selves. To look at our lives and those of others as he does, for “in sin, he sees sons and daughters to be restored; in death, brothers and sisters to be reborn; in desolation, hearts to be revived. Do not fear, then: the Lord loves your life, even when you are afraid to look at it and take it in hand” (
ibid.).

We can now turn to the third amazing thing: God calls and God surprises, because God loves. Love is his language. That is why he asks Peter, and us, to learn that language. He asks Peter: “Do you love me?” And Peter says yes; after spending so much time with Jesus, he now understands that to love means to stop putting himself at the centre. He now makes Jesus, and not himself, the starting point: “You know everything” (Jn 21:18), he says. Peter recognizes his weakness; he realizes that he cannot make progress on his own. And he takes his stand on the Lord and on the strength of his love, to the very end.

The Lord loves us: this is the source of our strength and we are asked to reaffirm it each day. Being a Christian is a summons to realize that God’s love is greater than all our shortcomings and sins. One of our great disappointments and difficulties today comes not from knowing that God is love, but that our way of proclaiming and bearing witness to him is such that, for many people, this is not his name. God is love, a love that bestows itself, that calls and surprises.

Here we see the miracle of God, who makes of our lives works of art, if only we let ourselves to be led by his love. Many of the witnesses of Easter in this blessed land created magnificent masterpieces, inspired by simple faith and great love. Offering their lives, they became living signs of the Lord, overcoming apathy with courage and offering a Christian response to the concerns that they encountered (cf. Christus Vivit, 174). Today we are called to lift up our eyes and acknowledge what the Lord has done in the past, and to walk with him towards the future, knowing that, whether we succeed or fail, he will always be there to keep telling us to cast our nets.

Here I would like to repeat what I said to young people
in my recent Exhortation. A young Church, young not in terms of age but in the grace of the Spirit, is inviting us to testify to the love of Christ, a love that inspires and directs us to strive for the common good. This love enables us to serve the poor and to become protagonists of the revolution of charity and service, capable of resisting the pathologies of consumerism and superficial individualism. Brimming with the love of Christ, be living witnesses of the Gospel in every corner of this city (cf. Christus Vivit, 174-175). Do not be afraid of becoming the saints that this land greatly needs. Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, it will take away none of your vitality or joy. On the contrary, you and all the sons and daughters of this land will become what the Father had in mind when he created you (cf. Gaudete et Exsultate, 32).

Called, surprised and sent for love!



Pope Francis     16.10.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square    Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles     Acts 10: 1-49,    11:1-3

Pope Francis  16.10.19  General Audience

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

The Gospel's journey in the world, which St. Luke recounts in the Acts of the Apostles, is accompanied by the high creativity of God's who is manifested in a surprising way. God wants His children to overcome every particularism in order to open themselves to the universality of salvation. This is the purpose: to overcome particularisms and to open oneself up to the universality of salvation, because God wants to save everyone. All who are reborn from water and spirit – the baptized – are called to go out of themselves and open themselves to others, to live in proximity, the lifestyle of together, which transforms every interpersonal relationship into an experience of fraternity (cf. Esort. ap. Evangelii gaudium,87).

Testimony to this process of "fraternization" that the Spirit wants to trigger in history is Peter, protagonist in the Acts of the Apostles together with Paul. Peter lives an event that marks a decisive turning point for his existence. While he is praying, he receives a vision that acts as a divine "provocation", to arouse in him a change of mentality. He sees a great tablecloth coming down from on high, containing various animals: quadrupeds, reptiles and birds, and hears a voice inviting him to eat of those meats. As a good Jew, he reacts by claiming that he has never eaten anything impure, as required by the Law of the Lord (cf. Lev 11). Then the voice comes back forcefully: "What God has purified, you should not call profane"(Acts 10:15).

With this fact the Lord wants Peter to no longer evaluate events and people according to the categories of pure and impure, but to learn to go further, to look at the person and the intentions of his heart. What makes man unclean, in fact, does not come from outside but only from within, from the heart (cf. Mark 7:21). Jesus made it clear.

After that vision, God sends Peter to the home of an uncircumcised foreigner, Cornelius, "centurion of the cohort called Italica, who is religious and God-fearing, and he makes a lot of alms and always prays to God (cf. Acts 10:1-2), but he was not Jewish.

In that house of pagans, Peter preaches Christ the crucified and risen and he forgives the sins of anyone who believes in him. And as Peter speaks, the Holy Spirit descends over Cornelius and his family. And Peter baptizes them in the name of Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 10:48).

This extraordinary fact – this is the first time such a thing has happened – becomes renowned in Jerusalem, where the brothers, scandalized by Peter's behaviour, reproach him harshly (cf. Acts 11:1-3). Peter did something that went beyond custom, beyond the law, and for this they rebuke him. But after meeting Cornelius, Peter is more free from himself and more in communion with God and with others, because he has seen God's will in the action of the Holy Spirit. He can therefore understand that the election of Israel is not the reward for merit, but the sign of the gratuitous call to be mediating the divine blessing among pagan peoples.

Dear brothers and sisters, from the prince of the Apostles let us learn that an
evangelizer cannot be an impediment to God's creative work, who "wants all men to be saved"(1Tim 2:4), but one who favours a heartfelt encounter with the Lord. And how do we behave with our brothers and sisters, especially those who are not Christians? Are we an impediment to their encounter with God? Do we hinder their encounter with the Father or facilitate it?

Let us ask for the grace to be astonished by
God's surprises, to not hinder his creativity, but to recognize and favour ever new ways through which the Risen One can spread his Spirit into the world and attract hearts by making himself known as the "Lord of all" (Acts 10:36). Thank you.