The Acts

 Chapter 1

1-8

 
Pope Francis        29.05.19   General Audience, St Peter's Square   Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles -     Acts 1: 1-8
Pope Francis  29.05.19 Acts of the Apostles

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today we begin a journey of catechesis through the book of the Acts of the Apostles. This biblical book, written by St. Luke the Evangelist, talks about the journey – a journey: but what journey? The journey of the Gospel in the world and shows us the wonderful combination of the word of God and the
Holy Spirit that opens the time of evangelization. The protagonists of the Acts are precisely a lively and effective couple: the word of God and the Holy Spirit.

God sends upon the Earth his message and his Word runs quickly, says Psalm (147.4). The word of God runs, it is dynamic, irrigating every ground on which it falls. And what is its force? St. Luke tells us that the human Word becomes effective not thanks to rhetoric, which is the art of speaking well, but thanks to the Holy Spirit, which is  the dynamic of God, his strength, which has the power to purify the word , to make it the bearer of life. For example, in the Bible there are stories, human words; But what is the difference between the Bible and a history book? That the words of the Bible are filled by the Holy Spirit which gives it a huge strength, a different force and helps us as a seed of holiness and life and is effective. When the spirit visits the human word it becomes dynamic, like dynamite, capable of lighting up hearts and making strategies, resistances and walls of division break down, opening new routes and expanding the boundaries of God's people. And this is what happens through the book of the Acts of the Apostles, this new series of catechesis.

This gives vibrant sound and incisiveness to our human words which are so fragile, capable even of lying and dodging ones own responsibilities, it is only the Holy Spirit, through which the Son of God was created; the spirit who anointed and supported the mission; the spirit thanks to which he chose his Apostles and that ensured the announcement, perseverance and fertility.

The Gospel ends with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles begins precisely here, from the overabundance of the life of the risen one transfused in the Church. St. Luke tells us that Jesus "presented himself alive after His passion to them by many proofs, for forty days, appearing ... and speaking of the things about the Kingdom of God "(At 1.3). The risen Christ, the risen Jesus accomplishes very human acts such as sharing a meal with his friends, and invites them to live confident in the expectation of the fulfilment of the promise of the Father: "You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit" (At 1.5).

The baptism in the Holy Spirit, in fact, is the experience that allows us to enter into a personal communion with God and to participate in His universal salvific will, by acquiring the gift of speaking candidly, courage, the ability to pronounce a word as a son of God, not just men, not just humanity but children of God: clear, open, effective words, full of love for Christ and for our brothers and sisters.

There is therefore nothing to fight for to achieve or merit this gift of God. Everything is given free of charge and in its time. The Lord gives everything for free. Salvation is not bought, you do not pay for it: it is a free gift. Before the anxiety of knowing in advance the time when the events will happen that he has announced, Jesus responds to those around him: "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has decided by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the Earth "(At 1.7 -8).

The risen one invites his friends to not live with anxiety of the present but to make an alliance with time to kow how to wait for the unravelling of a sacred story that hasn't stopped but that advances, it always goes forward; and to be able to await the steps of God, the Lord of time and space. The risen Christ invites those around him to not fabricate from their own creation the mission, but to wait for the Father to dynamise their hearts with his spirit, in order to involve them in a missionary testimony capable of radiating from Jerusalem to Samaria and to beyond the boundaries of Israel to the peripheries of the world.

This expectation, the Apostles live it together, living as family of the Lord, in the upper room or cenacol, whose walls are still witnesses of the gift that Jesus gave himself to those around him in the Eucharist. And how do we await the strength, dýnamism of God? Praying with perseverence, as if we were not many but one. Praying in unity and with perseverance. It is through prayer that you defeat solitude, temptation, suspicion and opens ones hearts to communion. The presence of the women and of Mary the mother of Jesus, intensifies this experience: they learned first from the teacher to bear witness to the faithfulness of love and to the force of communion that overcomes every fear.

Let us ask the Lord for the patience to wait for his steps, to not want to fabricate ourselves his work and to remain docile, praying, invoking the spirit and cultivating the art of ecclesial communion.
  
 

 Chapter 2

1-11


 Pope Francis     19.05.13 St Peter's Square, Rome   Solemnity of Pentecost         Acts 2: 1-11   John 14: 15-16, 23B-26

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

https://sites.google.com/site/francishomilies/holy-spirit/19.05.13.jpg

Today we contemplate and re-live in the liturgy the outpouring of the Holy Spirit sent by the risen Christ upon his Church; an event of grace which filled the Upper Room in Jerusalem and then spread throughout the world.

But what happened on that day, so distant from us and yet so close as to touch the very depths of our hearts? Luke gives us the answer in the passage of the Acts of the Apostles which we have heard (2:1-11). The evangelist brings us back to Jerusalem, to the Upper Room where the apostles were gathered. The first element which draws our attention is the sound which suddenly came from heaven “like the rush of a violent wind”, and filled the house; then the “tongues as of fire” which divided and came to rest on each of the apostles. Sound and tongues of fire: these are clear, concrete signs which touch the apostles not only from without but also within: deep in their minds and hearts. As a result, “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”, who unleashed his irresistible power with amazing consequences: they all “began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability”. A completely unexpected scene opens up before our eyes: a great crowd gathers, astonished because each one heard the apostles speaking in his own language. They all experience something new, something which had never happened before: “We hear them, each of us, speaking our own language”. And what is it that they are they speaking about? “God’s deeds of power”.

In the light of this passage from Acts, I would like to reflect on three words linked to the working of the Holy Spirit: newness, harmony and mission.

   1. Newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure if we have everything under control, if we are the ones who build, programme and plan our lives in accordance with our own ideas, our own comfort, our own preferences. This is also the case when it comes to God. Often we follow him, we accept him, but only up to a certain point. It is hard to abandon ourselves to him with complete trust, allowing the Holy Spirit to be the soul and guide of our lives in our every decision. We fear that God may force us to strike out on new paths and leave behind our all too narrow, closed and selfish horizons in order to become open to his own. Yet throughout the history of salvation, whenever God reveals himself, he brings newness - God always brings newness -, and demands our complete trust: Noah, mocked by all, builds an ark and is saved; Abram leaves his land with only a promise in hand; Moses stands up to the might of Pharaoh and leads his people to freedom; the apostles, huddled fearfully in the Upper Room, go forth with courage to proclaim the Gospel. This is not a question of novelty for novelty’s sake, the search for something new to relieve our boredom, as is so often the case in our own day. The newness which God brings into our life is something that actually brings fulfilment, that gives true joy, true serenity, because God loves us and desires only our good. Let us ask ourselves today: Are we open to “God’s surprises”? Or are we closed and fearful before the newness of the Holy Spirit? Do we have the courage to strike out along the new paths which God’s newness sets before us, or do we resist, barricaded in transient structures which have lost their capacity for openness to what is new? We would do well to ask ourselves these questions all through the day.

   2. A second thought: the Holy Spirit would appear to create disorder in the Church, since he brings the diversity of charisms and gifts; yet all this, by his working, is a great source of wealth, for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity, which does not mean uniformity, but which leads everything back to harmony. In the Church, it is the Holy Spirit who creates harmony. One of Fathers of the Church has an expression which I love: the Holy Spirit himself is harmony – “Ipse harmonia est”. He is indeed harmony. Only the Spirit can awaken diversity, plurality and multiplicity, while at the same time building unity. Here too, when we are the ones who try to create diversity and close ourselves up in what makes us different and other, we bring division. When we are the ones who want to build unity in accordance with our human plans, we end up creating uniformity, standardization. But if instead we let ourselves be guided by the Spirit, richness, variety and diversity never become a source of conflict, because he impels us to experience variety within the communion of the Church. Journeying together in the Church, under the guidance of her pastors who possess a special charism and ministry, is a sign of the working of the Holy Spirit. Having a sense of the Church is something fundamental for every Christian, every community and every movement. It is the Church which brings Christ to me, and me to Christ; parallel journeys are very dangerous! When we venture beyond (proagon) the Church’s teaching and community – the Apostle John tells us in his Second Letter - and do not remain in them, we are not one with the God of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Jn v. 9). So let us ask ourselves: Am I open to the harmony of the Holy Spirit, overcoming every form of exclusivity? Do I let myself be guided by him, living in the Church and with the Church?

   3. A final point. The older theologians used to say that the soul is a kind of sailboat, the Holy Spirit is the wind which fills its sails and drives it forward, and the gusts of wind are the gifts of the Spirit. Lacking his impulse and his grace, we do not go forward. The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God and saves us from the threat of a Church which is gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself; he impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel, to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission. The events that took place in Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago are not something far removed from us; they are events which affect us and become a lived experience in each of us. The Pentecost of the Upper Room in Jerusalem is the beginning, a beginning which endures. The Holy Spirit is the supreme gift of the risen Christ to his apostles, yet he wants that gift to reach everyone. As we heard in the Gospel, Jesus says: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to remain with you forever” (Jn 14:16). It is the Paraclete Spirit, the “Comforter”, who grants us the courage to take to the streets of the world, bringing the Gospel! The Holy Spirit makes us look to the horizon and drive us to the very outskirts of existence in order to proclaim life in Jesus Christ. Let us ask ourselves: do we tend to stay closed in on ourselves, on our group, or do we let the Holy Spirit open us to mission? Today let us remember these three words: newness, harmony and mission.

   Today’s liturgy is a great prayer which the Church, in union with Jesus, raises up to the Father, asking him to renew the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. May each of us, and every group and movement, in the harmony of the Church, cry out to the Father and implore this gift. Today too, as at her origins, the Church, in union with Mary, cries out: “Veni, Sancte Spiritus! Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love!” Amen.



Pope Francis   19.06.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square       Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles         Acts 2: 1-4

Pope Francis 19.06.19 General Audience

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Fifty days after Easter, in that upper room that is now their home and where the presence of Mary, mother of God, is the element 0f cohesion, the Apostles live an event that exceeds their expectations. Gathered in prayer – prayer is the "Lung" continually gives breath to His disciples; without prayer you cannot be a disciple of Jesus; without prayer we cannot be Christians! It is the air, it is the lung of Christian life –, they are surprised by Gods powerful entry. This is an entry-that penetrates closed doors; opens the door through the force of a wind that is the Spirit, the primordial breath, and fulfils the promise of the "strength" made by the Risen before His departure (cf. At 1.8). Suddenly, from above, "a roar, like a rushing wind that comes crashing down, and it filled the whole house where they were" (At 2.2).

To the wind is then added the fire that recalls the burning Bush and the Sinai with the gift of the ten commandments (cf. Es 19.16 -19). In the biblical tradition fire accompanies the manifestation of God. In the fire God delivers his living and energetic word(cf. Heb 4.12) that opens up to the future; the fire symbolically expresses his work of warming, illuminating and testing hearts, his care in testing the resistance of human works, in purifying and revitalising them. While at Sinai God's voice is heard, in Jerusalem, on the feast of Pentecost, Peter speaks, the rock on which Christ chose to build his Church. His word, weak and incapable of denying the Lord, crossed by the fire of the spirit acquires strength, becomes capable to of piercing hearts and move to conversion. For God choses what is weak in the world to confuse the strong (cf. 1Cor 1.27).

The Church is therefore born from the fire of love and as a fire that burns at Pentecost and which manifests the power of the word of the risen one imbued with the Holy Spirit. The new and definitive Covenant is founded no longer on a law written on tablets of stone, but on the action of God's spirit which makes all things new and is etched into the hearts of the flesh.

The word of the Apostles is imbued with the spirit of the risen one and becomes a new different word, which can be understand, as if it were translated simultaneously into all languages: in fact each one heard them speaking in his own language (At 2.6). It is about the language of truth and love, which is the universal language: even the illiterate can understand it. It is a language of truth and love that everyone can understand. The truth is in your heart, it is in sincerity, and in love, everyone understands it. Even if you can't speak, but with a caress, which is truthful and loving.

The Holy Spirit not only manifests itself through a Symphony of sounds that harmoniously unites and composes diversity but he also presents himself as the conductor who plays the scores of the praises for the "mighty works" of God. The Holy Spirit is the author of communion, is the artist of reconciliation who knows how to remove the barriers between Jews and Greeks, among slaves and free, to make it one body. He builds up the community of believers by harmonising the unity of the body and the multiplicity of its members. He makes the Church grow by helping it to go beyond human limits, sins and any scandal.

The wonder is so great, and some people wonder if those men are drunk. Then Peter intervenes on behalf of all the Apostles and reads that event in the light of Joel 3, where he announces a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The followers of Jesus are not drunk, but live with what Saint Ambrose calls "the sober intoxication of the spirit, which re-kindles the prophesy among the people of God through dreams and visions. This prophetic gift is not reserved only to some, but to all who thos who invoke the name of the Lord.

From that moment, the spirit of God moves our hearts to welcome salvation which comes through a person, Jesus Christ, the one who men have nailed to the wood of the cross and whom God raised from the dead "freeing Him from pains of death (At 2.24). It is he who poured out that spirit who orchestrated the polyphony of praise that everyone can hear. As Benedict XVI said, "Pentecost is this: Jesus, and through him God himself comes to us and draws us into himself" (Homily, 3 June 2006). The spirit works the divine attraction: God seduces us with his love and so involves us, to move history and start processes by which it filters the new life. Only the Spirit of God has the power to humanize and fraternize every context, starting from those who receive it.

Let us ask the Lord to let us experience a new Pentecost that opens our hearts and tunes our feelings with those of Christ, so that we are able to announce without shame His transforming word.


  

 Chapter 2

42-47

 
Pope Francis    26.06.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square, Rome       Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles       Acts 2: 42-47

Pope Francis 26.06.19 General Audience

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

The fruit of Pentecost, the mighty outpouring of the spirit of God upon the first Christian community, was that many people felt pierced in their hearts by the good news – the kerygma – of the salvation in Christ and they joined him freely, converting, receiving baptism in His name and in turn, welcoming the gift of the Holy Spirit. About three thousand people entered to become a part of that fraternity and that habitat of believers and the ecclesial ferment of the work of evangelisation.

The warmth of the faith of these brothers and sisters in Christ makes in their lives the scene of the work of God that is manifested with wonders and signs through the Apostles. The extraordinary becomes ordinary and everyday life becomes a space for the manifestation of the living Christ.

The evangelist Luke tells us showing us the church of Jerusalem as a paradigm of every
Christian community, as the icon of a fraternity that fascinates and shouldn't be idealised but also should not be minimized. The account of the Acts allows us to look within the walls of the house where the first Christians gathered together as God's family, the space of koinonia, that is of communion and love between brothers and sisters in Christ. You can see that they live in a very specific way: "they are devoted to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life of the breaking of bread and to the prayers" (Acts 2.42). Christians listen assiduously to the "didache" or apostolic teaching; practicing high quality interpersonal relationships through the communion of spiritual and material goods; they make memory of the Lord through the "breaking of bread", that is, the Eucharist, and they dialogue with God in prayer. These are the attitudes of the Christian; the four tracks of a good Christian: First - assiduously listen to the apostolic teaching. Second, - practice a high quality of interpersonal relations also through communion of spiritual and material goods. Third, - make memory of the Lord through the breaking of bread the Eucharist. And Fourth, - the dialogue with God in prayer. Those are the signs of a good Christian.

Different from human society, where we tend to make our own interests and even overlook or even do things to the detriment of others, the community of believers banishes individualism to encourage sharing and solidarity. There is no room for selfishness in the soul of a Christian: If your heart is selfish you're not a Christian, you're a liar, that only looks for your favour, for what's in it for you. And Luke tells us that the Christians are together (cf. Acts 2.44). The closeness and unity are the style of the redeemed: they are close, concerned for each other, they do not speak poorly of others, no, they help them to be closer.

The grace of baptism is therefore the intimate connection between brothers in Christ who are called to share, to empathize with others and to give "according to the need of every one" (Acts 2.45), That is, generosity, charity, being concerned about the others, visiting the sick, visit those in need, those who need consolation.

And this is precisely because the fraternity chooses the path of communion and of attention to the needy. This fraternity that is the Church can live a true and authentic liturgical life. Luke says, that "every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and to breaking bread in their homes, they ate their meals with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favour with all the people" (Acts 2.46 -47).

Finally, the account of the Acts of the Apostles reminds us that the Lord ensures the growth of the Community (cf. 2.47): perseverance and a genuine alliance with God and with our brothers and sisters becomes the attractive force that fascinates and captivates many (cf. Evangelii gaudium, 14), this is a principle to which the community of believers has lived to throughout all time.

Let us pray to the Holy Spirit to make our communities places which welcome and practice a new life, the work of solidarity and communion, places where the liturgy is an encounter with God that becomes communion with our brothers and sisters, places where the doors are open to the celestial Jerusalem.
  

 Chapter 3

1-6

 
Pope Francis   07.08.19  General Audience  Paul VI Audience Hall, Rome     Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles    Acts 3: 1-6

Pope Francis  General Audience  07.08.19

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In the Acts of the Apostles preaching the Gospel does not rely only on words, but also on concrete actions that bear witness to the truth of the proclamation. These are wonders and signs (Acts 2.43) which confirm the work of the Apostles, confirming their word and proving that they act in the name of Christ. It happens thus that the Apostles intercede and Christ works, acting together with them and confirming the word with the signs that accompany it (Mc 16.20). Many signs, many miracles that the Apostles did were precisely a manifestation of the divinity of Jesus.

Today we have before us the first story of healing, before a miracle, which is the first healing account in the Book of Acts. It has a clear missionary purpose, which aims to inspire faith. Peter and John go to pray at the temple, the centre of Israel's faith experience, to which the first Christians are still strongly linked. The first Christians were praying in the temple in Jerusalem. Luke records the time: it is the ninth hour, i.e. three o'clock in the afternoon, when the sacrifice was offered as a burnt offering as a sign of people's communion with God; and also the time when Christ died offering himself once and for all (Heb 10: 9.10,12). And at the door of the temple called "Bella" – the Beautiful port – they see a beggar, a paralyzed man from birth. Why was he at the door, that man? Because the law of Moses (cf. Lv 21.18) prevented sacrifices from being offered to those with physical impairments, considered to be as a consequence of some faults. Let us remember that in faced with a blind man from birth, the people had asked Jesus, "Who has sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (Jn 9.2). According to that way of thinking, there's always blame at the origin of a malformation. And subsequently he was even denied access to the temple.

The lame man, is a paradigm of so many excluded from and rejected by society, there he is to beg as he does every day. He could not enter, but was at the door. When something unexpected happens: Peter and John arrive and a game of glances is triggered. The cripple looks at the two to beg, the Apostles instead stare at him, inviting him to look at them in a different way, to receive another gift. The cripple looks at them and Peter says to him: "I have neither silver nor gold, but what I have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!" (Acts 3.6). The Apostles have established a relationship, because this is the way God loves to manifest himself, in the relationship, always in dialogue, always in apparitions, always with the inspiration of the heart: they are God's relationship with us; through a real encounter between people that can happen only in love.

The temple, besides being the religious centre, was also a place of economic and financial exchanges: the prophets and even Jesus himself had protested against this debasement several times and even Jesus (cf. Lk 19: 45 -46). But how often do I think about this when I see some parish that thinks that money is more important than the sacraments! Please! A poor Church: let us ask the Lord for this. That beggar, meeting the Apostles, finds no money but finds the name that saves man: Jesus Christ the Nazarene. Peter invokes the name of Jesus, and orders the paralyzed man to stand up in the position of the living: standing, and he touches this sick man, that is, he takes him by the hand and raises him, a gesture in which St John Chrysostom sees "an image of the resurrection" (Homilies on acts of the Apostles, 8).

And here we see the portrait of the Church, who sees those in difficulty, does not closes her eyes, and knows how to look humanely in the face in order to create meaningful relationships, bridges of friendship and solidarity instead of barriers. The face of "a Church without borders that feels like the mother of all" (Evangelii gaudium, 210), who can take you by the hand and accompany to lift – not to condemn. Jesus always reaches out, always trying to lift, to make people feel better, to make them happy, and to let them meet God. This is the art of accompaniment which is characterized by the delicacy with which one approaches the sacred ground of the other, giving the journey a pace that is steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and compassionate gaze which always heals and liberates and encourages growth in a Christian life (ibid., 169).

And this is what the two Apostles do with the cripple: they look at him, and say, "look at us", they reach out their hands, they make him get up and they heal him. This is what Jesus does with all of us. Let us think about this when we are in bad moments, in moments of sin, in moments of sadness. There is Jesus who tells us: "look at me: I'm here!". Let us take the hand of Jesus and let us get up.

Peter and John teach us to not trust in the means used to heal, which are useful, but in the true wealth that is the relationship with the risen Lord. We are in fact – as Saint Paul said– "poor but capable of enriching many; as people who don't have anything and yet we possess everything "(2 COR 6.10). Our everything is the Gospel that manifests the power of Jesus ' name that performs wonders.

And we – all of us – what do we own? What is our wealth, how much is our treasure? With what can we make others rich? Let us ask the Father for the gift of a grateful memory in recalling the benefits of His love in our lives, to give witness and praise and recognition.  

Let us not forget: the outstretched hand and to always help each other to get up; It is the hand of Jesus through our hand that helps others to stand up.

 
  

 Chapter 4

1-12

 

Acts of the Apostles (4:1-12). To the question as to whether they had healed the cripple at the door of the Temple, Peter answered that they had done so “by the name of Christ”. In the name of Jesus: “He is the Saviour, this name, Jesus. When someone says Jesus, it is he himself, that is, the One who works miracles. And this name accompanies us in our heart”.

In John's Gospel too, the Apostles seemed to have taken leave of their senses, “because they had caught nothing after fishing all night. When the Lord asked them for something to eat they were replied somewhat curtly 'no'. Yet “when the Lord told them to 'cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some', perhaps they were thinking of the time when the Lord told Peter to start fishing and he had answered precisely: “We toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets'”.

Peter reveals a truth when he says: 'by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth'. Because he answers inspired by the Holy Spirit. In fact we, cannot profess Jesus, we cannot speak of Jesus, we cannot say anything about Jesus without the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit himself “who urges us to profess Jesus or to talk about Jesus or to have trust in Jesus”. And is it Jesus himself who is beside us “on our journey through life, always.

A man, the father of eight, who worked for 30 years in the Archiepiscopal Curia of Buenos Aires. Before going out, before going to do any of the things he had to do; he would always whisper to himself: 'Jesus!'. I once asked him 'But why do you keep saying “Jesus?”'. 'When I say 'Jesus', this humble man answered me, ‘I feel strong’, I feel able to work because I know he is beside me, that he is keeping me. And yet, this man had not studied theology: he had only the grace of Baptism and the power of the Spirit. And his witnessing, did me so much good. The name of Jesus. There is no other name. Perhaps it will to do good to all of us, who live in a “world that offers us such a multitude of 'saviours'”. At times,“whenever there are problems, people do not commend themselves to Jesus, but to others, even turning to self-styled “magicians”, that they may resolve matters; or people “go to consult tarot cards”, to find out and understand what they should do. Yet it is not by resorting to magicians or to tarot that salvation is found: it is “in the name of Jesus. And we should bear witness to this! He is the one Saviour.

Our Lady, always takes us to Jesus. Call upon Our Lady, and she will do what she did at Cana: 'Do whatever he tells you!'. She “always leads us to Jesus. She was the first person to act in the name of Jesus”. Today, which is a day in the week of the Lord's Resurrection, I would like us to think of this: I entrust myself to the name of Jesus; I pray, 'Jesus, Jesus!
  

  Chapter 4

13-21

 

When I read this Gospel it occurs to me that St Mark may not have liked Mary Magdalen much, since he recalled that the Lord had driven seven demons out of her, didn’t he? It was a question of liking....

Faith: “a grace”, and “a gift of the Lord” which should not be glossed over — and is thus extended “to the peoples who believe in you”, as the Collect of Mass says, for “we are not attached to a fantasy”, but “to a reality we have seen and heard”. Acts of the Apostles (4:13-21). In response to the order given by the head priests and Pharisees not to speak of Jesus, Peter and John, “stood firm in this faith” saying, “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard”.

Their testimony, reminds me of our faith. And what is our faith like? Is it strong? Or is it at times a little like rosewater, a somewhat watered down faith? When problems arise are we brave like Peter or inclined to be lukewarm?.

Peter, teaches us that “faith is not negotiable. Among the People of God this temptation has always existed: to downsize faith, and not even by “much”. However “faith”, is like this, as we say in the Creed so we must get the better of “the temptation to behave more or less ‘like everyone else’, not to be too, too rigid”, because it is “from this that a path which ends in apostasy unfolds”. Indeed, “when we begin to cut faith down, to negotiate faith and more or less to sell it to the one who makes the best offer, we are setting out on the road of apostasy, of no fidelity to the Lord”.

Yet the very “example of Peter and John helps us, gives us strength”; as does the example of the martyrs in the Church’s history. It is they “who say, like Peter and John, ‘we cannot but speak’. And this gives strength to us, whose faith is at times rather weak. It gives us the strength to carry on living with this faith we have received, this faith which is the gift that the Lord gives to all peoples”.

Lord, thank you so much for my faith. Preserve my faith, increase it. May my faith be strong and courageous. And help me in the moments when, like Peter and John, I must make it public
.
  

 Chapter 4

32 - 37

Chapter 5

1-10

 

We asked the Lord to show the world the fullness of new life. After Jesus’ Resurrection a new life begins: as Jesus told Nicodemus, who, a little earlier had answered Jesus: ‘but how can a man be born again, return to his mother’s womb and be born anew?’. Jesus was speaking of another dimension: ‘to be born from on high’, to be born of the Spirit . It is the new life we received in Baptism but which we must develop.

We must do our utmost to ensure that this life develops into new life. And what will this new life be like? It is not that we say today: ‘Yes, I was born today, that’s that, I am starting again’. It is a journey, an arduous journey we must toil to achieve. Yet it does not only depend on us: it depends mainly on the Spirit and we must open ourselves to the Spirit so that he creates this new life within us.

In the First Reading, we have as it were a foretaste, a preview of what ‘new life’ will and should be like. The multitude of those who had become believers were of one heart and one soul: that unity, unanimity and harmony of feelings of
love, mutual love, thinking “others are better than me”, and this is lovely isn’t it?

But this does not happen automatically after Baptism. It must be brought about within us, “on the journey through life by the Spirit”. “This
gentleness is a somewhat forgotten virtue: being gentle, making room for others. There are so many enemies of gentleness, aren’t there? Starting with gossip. When people prefer to tell tales, to gossip about others, to give others a few blows. These are daily events that happen to everyone, and to me too. They are temptations of the Evil One, who does not want the Spirit to create this gentleness, in Christian communities. In the parish the ladies of catechesis quarrel with the ladies of Caritas. These conflicts always exist, in the family, in the neighbourhood, even among friends. And this is not new life. When the Spirit causes us to be born to new life, he makes us gentle and kind, not judgmental: the only Judge is the Lord. The proposal to be silent fits in here. “If I have something to say, let me say it to the individual, not to the entire neighbourhood; only to the one who can remedy the situation”.

This, is only one step. If, with the grace of the Spirit, we succeed in never gossiping, it will be a great and beautiful step ahead and will do everyone good. Let us ask the Lord to show us and the world the beauty and fullness of this new life, of being born of the Spirit, of treating each other with
kindness, with respect. Let us ask for this grace for us all.



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

Pope Francis 21.08.19  General Audience

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  
 
Chapter 5
12-16
 

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 5

27-33

 
Pope Francis  11.04.13  Holy Mass  Santa Marta        Acts 5: 27-33,      John 3: 31-36

What does “obeying God” mean? Does it mean that we must be like slaves, in bondage? No, the one who obeys God is free, he is not a slave! And how can this be? I obey, I do not follow my own will, how am I free? It seems like a contradiction. It is not a contradiction. In fact, the word “'obey' comes from Latin, it means to listen, to hear others. Obeying God is listening to God, having an open heart to follow the path that God points out to us. Obedience to God is listening to God and it sets us free.

Peter, “in front of these scribes, priests even the high priest, and the Pharisees”, was called “to make a decision”. Peter “heard what the Pharisees and priests said and he listened to what Jesus was saying in his heart: 'what should I do?'. He said: 'I will do what Jesus tells me and not what you want me to do'. And he went ahead like this”.

In our lives we often are proposed things which do not come from Jesus, which do not come from God. It is clear that at times our weaknesses take us down the wrong road. Or even a more dangerous road. We make a pact, a little of God and a little of you. We make this pact and we go forward in life with a double life: a little bit of the life that Jesus tells us about and a little of the life that the world, the forces of the world and many others tell us about. This is a system that's no good. In fact in the book of Revelation, the Lord says: this is not good because you are neither good nor evil. You are lukewarm. I condemn you.

If Peter had said to these priests: 'let's speak like friends and let's find a status vivendi ', perhaps everything would have worked out”. But it would not have been a decision “of love which comes when we listen to Jesus”. It is a decision which has consequences. What happens when we hear Jesus? At times those who make the other proposal get angry and the road finishes with
persecution. In this moment, as I said, we have many brothers and sisters that who obey, hear, listen what Jesus asks them under persecution. We must always remember these brothers and sisters who placed themselves in the fire and they tell us with their lives: 'I want to obey and to follow the path that Jesus tells me.

In today's liturgy “the Church invites us to take Jesus' path” and “not to listen to the world's proposals, the so-so proposals, the half and half proposals”. They are, he said, a way of living “that is not right” and they “wont' make us happy”.

In choosing to obey God and not the world, in giving no way to compromise, the Christian is not alone. Where can we find help in finding the way to listening to Jesus? In the Holy Spirit. We ourselves are witnesses to this. God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey him. It is the Holy Spirit inside of us who gives us the strength to go forward. The Gospel of John (cf. 3:31-36), proclaimed at the celebration, includes this beautiful passage of assurance: “'He whom God sent utters the words of God, for it is not by measure that he gives the Spirit'. Our Father gives us the Spirit without measure to listen to Jesus, to hear Jesus and to follow the path of Jesus”.

Let us ask for the grace of
courage. We will always sin; we are all sinners. But we must have “the courage to say: 'Lord I am a sinner, sometimes I obey mundane things but I want to obey you, I want follow your path”. Let us ask for this grace, to always follow on Jesus' path. And when we do not, let us ask for forgiveness: the Lord forgives us, because he is so good.


Pope Francis   28.08.19   General Audience, St Peter's Square, Rome   Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles -  General Audience    Acts 5: 29

Pope Francis General Audience 28.08.19 Obey God

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

The ecclesial community described in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles is full of so much richness made available by the Lord — the Lord is generous! It experiences a growth in numbers and great success, despite external attacks. In order to show us this vitality, Luke, in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, also mentions significant places, such as Solomon’s Portico (cf. Acts 5:12), a meeting place for believers. The portico (stoà) is an open gallery that serves as a shelter, and as a place of encounter and witness. In fact, Luke makes a point of [narrating] the signs and wonders that accompany the Apostles’ words and the special care of the sick to whom they devote themselves.

In Chapter 5 of the Acts, the nascent Church shows that it is like a “field hospital” that welcomes the weakest, that is, the sick. Their suffering attracts the Apostles, who possess “no silver and gold” (Acts 3:6) — so says Peter to the cripple — but are strong in the name of Jesus. In their eyes, as in the eyes of Christians of all times, the sick are privileged recipients of the Good News of the Kingdom; they are brothers and sisters in whom Christ is present in a special way, so that they may be sought and found by all of us (cf. Mt 25:36, 40). The sick are privileged for the Church, for the priestly heart, for all the faithful. They are not to be discarded. On the contrary, they are to be healed, to be cared for. They are the object of Christian concern.

Among the Apostles, stands out Peter, who has pre-eminence in the apostolic group because of the primacy (cf. Mt 16:18) and mission received from the Risen One (cf. Jn 21:15-17). It is he who began preaching the kerygma on the Day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:14-41) and who plays a leading role at the Council of Jerusalem (cf. Acts 15 and Gal 2:1-10).

Peter approaches the stretchers and walks among the sick, as Jesus had done, taking their infirmities and diseases upon himself (cf. Mt 8:17; Is 53:4). And Peter, the fisherman from Galilee, passes through, but he lets Another manifest himself: that is the Christ alive and working! Indeed, the witness is whoever manifests Christ, both in words and with physical presence, who allows him to engage and to be an extension of the Verb made flesh in history.

Peter is the one who carries out the works of the Teacher (cf. Jn 14:12): looking to him with faith, one sees Christ himself. Filled with the Spirit of his Lord, Peter passes through and, without doing anything, his shadow becomes a healing “caress”, a communication of health, an effusion of the tenderness of the Risen One who bends over the sick and restores life, salvation and dignity. In this way, God manifests his proximity and makes his children’s wounds “the theological place of God’s tenderness” (Morning meditation, Domus Sanctae Marthae, 14 December 2017). In the wounds of the sick, in the illnesses that are a hindrance to going forward in life, there is always the presence of Jesus, the wound of Jesus. There is Jesus who calls each of us to care for them, support them and heal them.

The healing action of Peter stirs the hatred and envy of the Sadducees, who imprison the Apostles and, upset by their mysterious deliverance, forbid them to teach. These people saw the miracles the Apostles performed, not through magic, but in the name of Jesus, but they did not want to accept this and so they imprisoned and beat them. They were then miraculously freed, but the heart of the Sadducees was so hard that they did not want to believe what they saw. Peter then responds by offering a key [aspect] of Christian life: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Because they — the Sadducees — say: “You should not continue doing these things, you should not heal” — “I obey God before men”: it is the great Christian reply. This means listening to God without reserve, delay, calculation; adhering to Him in order to be able to have a Covenant with him and with those we meet on our journey.

Let us, too, ask the Holy Spirit for the strength to be unafraid when faced with those who order us to be quiet, who slander us and even make attempts against our lives. Let us ask him to strengthen us interiorly, to be certain of the loving and comforting presence of the Lord at our side.

.
  

 Chapter 5

 27 - 32, 40B - 41

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters! 

https://sites.google.com/site/francishomilies/proclamation/14.04.18.jpg

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 5

34-42

 

Gamaliel was a wise man, for “he gives us an example of how God acts in our life. When all the priests, pharisees, and teachers of the law were so nervous, maddened by what the Apostles were doing, and wanted to kill them, he said: but wait yet a while! And remember the stories of Judas the Galilean and of Thaddeus, who in the end managed to do nothing: they said they were Christ, the Messiah, saviours and then they came to nothing. 'Give it time' says Gamaliel”.

That is wise advice also for our life. For
time is the messenger of God: God saves us in time, not in a moment. Sometimes he does miracles, but in everyday life he saves us through time. At times we think that if the Lord comes into our life, we change. Yes, we do change: it is called conversion. 'I want to follow you, Lord'. But this must make history”. The Lord, therefore, “saves us in history: our personal history. The Lord does not do so like some fairy with a magic wand. No. He gives you the grace and he say, as he said to everyone he healed: 'go, walk'. He says it also to us: 'walk through your life, give witness of all that the Lord has done for us'”.

We also need to resist the temptation to
triumphalism. It is a temptation that also attacked the Apostles. Triumphalism is “to believe that in one moment everything happened! No, in a moment it began: there is a grace, but we are the ones who have to journey forward on the path of life.

There was this temptation after the multiplication of the loaves – as was narrated in the Gospel of John (6:1-15). The people “having seen what he had done, said: 'This man is surely the prophet. But Jesus, knowing that they were coming to make him a king', leaves”. He then is the triumphalism but Jesus rebukes them: “you follow me not to hear my words but because I fed you”.

Triumphalism is not from the Lord. The Lord entered the world humbly. He lived his life for 30 years, he grew like a normal child, he had the trial of work, as well as the trial of the cross. And then, at the end, he rose again. The Lord teaches us that in life not all is magic, that triumphalism is not Christian.

This is therefore, a matter of “perseverance on the path of the Lord, all the way to the end, every day. I don't mean to start again every day: no, continue on the path. Continue forever. It is a path of difficulty, of work, and of many joys. But it is the path of the Lord.



Pope Francis   18.09.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square, Rome    Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles    Acts 5: 39 
Pope Francis  18.09.19  General Audience - Discernment

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Let us continue the catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles. Before the prohibition of the Jews to teach in the name of Christ, Peter and the Apostles respond with courage that they cannot obey those who want to stop the gospel's journey around the world.

The Twelve thus show that they possess that "obedience of faith" that they would like then to arouse in all men (cf. Rm 1.5). Starting with Pentecost, in fact, they are no longer men who are alone. They experience that special synergy that makes them go out of themselves and makes them say "we and the
Holy Spirit"(Acts 5.32) or "the Holy Spirit with us"(Acts 15:28). They feel that they can't just say "I," they're men who are decentralized from themselves. Strengthened by this alliance, the Apostles are not intimidated by anyone. They were so courageous! We think they were cowards: they all ran away, they fled when Jesus was arrested. But, from cowards they have become so brave. Why? Because the Holy Spirit was with them. The same happens to us: if we have the Holy Spirit within us, we will have the courage to move forward, the courage to overcome so many battles, not by ourselves but from the Spirit that is within us. They do not go backwards in their march of intrepid witnesses to Jesus Risen, as the martyrs of all times, including our own. The martyrs give their lives, they do not hide that they are Christians. We think, a few years ago - even today there are many - but think four years ago, those Coptic Orthodox Christians, who were on the beach of Libya: all were slaughtered. But the last word they said was "Jesus, Jesus." They did not loose the faith, because the Holy Spirit was with them. These are the martyrs of today! The Apostles are the megaphones of the Holy Spirit, sent out by the Risen One to spread the Word that gives salvation promptly and without hesitation.

And indeed, this determination shakes the Jewish religious system of that time, which feels threatened and responds with violence and death sentences. The persecution of Christians is always the same: people who do not want Christianity feel threatened and so they bring death to Christians. But, in the midst of the Sanhedrin, a voice arises that is different from the Pharisees that chooses to contain the reaction of those around him: he was called Gamaliel, a prudent man, a doctor of the law, esteemed by all the people. In his school, St. Paul learned to observe "the Laws of the Father" (cf. Acts 22,3). Gamaliel takes the floor and shows his brothers how to exercise the art of discernment in the face of situations that go beyond the usual frameworks.

He shows, citing some people who had passed themselves off as the Messiah, that every human project can first be approved and then end up shipwrecked, but everything that comes from above and bears the "signature" of God is destined to last. Human projects always fail; given time, like us. Think of so many political projects, and how they change from one side to the other, in all countries. Think of the great empires, think of the dictatorships of the last century: they felt very powerful, they thought they would dominate the world. And then they all collapsed. Think even today of the empires of today: they will collapse, if God is not with them, because the strength that men have within themselves does not last. Only God's strength lasts. Let us think of the history of Christians, also of the history of the Church, with so many sins, with so many scandals, with so many bad things in these two millennia. And why didn't it collapse? Because God is there. We are sinners, and so many times we cause scandal. But God is with us. And God saves us first, and then them; but the Lord always saves. The force is "God with us." Gamaliel proves, citing some characters who had pretended to be Messiah, that every human project can first win acclaim and then founder. Therefore Gamaliel concludes that if the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth believed in an impostor, they would be destined to disappear into thin air; but if they were following one who comes from God, it is better to stop fighting them; and warns: "You may even find yourselves fighting against God!" (Acts 5:39). It teaches us to make this
discernment.

They are calm and forward-looking words, which allow us to see the Christian event in a new light and offers criteria that "know of the Gospel", because they invite us to recognize the tree by its fruits (cf. Mt 7.16). They touch hearts and achieve the desired effect: the other members of the Sanhedrin follow his opinion and renounce the intentions of death, that was, to kill the Apostles.

Let us ask the Holy Spirit to work within us so that, both personally and in the community, we can acquire this habit of discernment. Let us ask him to know how to always see the unity of the history of salvation through the signs of God's passage in our time and on the faces of those around us, so that we may learn that time and human faces are messengers of the living God.


  

 Chapter 6

1-7

 
Pope Francis  13.04.13  Holy Mass  Santa Marta        Acts 6: 1-7 

In the passage from the Acts of the Apostles (6:1-7), proclaimed in the First Reading, there is a piece of the history of the Church's early days: the Church was growing, the number of disciples was increasing, but “it was at this very moment that the problems arose”. Indeed, “those who spoke Greek murmured against those who spoke the Hebrew language because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Life, was not always calm and beautiful and the first thing they do is to murmur, to gossip about each other: “But look, the thing is …”. But this does not lead to any solution”.

“The Apostles”, on the contrary, “with the help of the Holy Spirit, reacted well. They summoned the group of disciples and spoke to them. This is the first step: when there are difficulties, it is necessary to examine them closely, to take them up and to talk about them. Never hide them. Life is like this.
Life must be taken as it comes, not as we would like it to come”. It is a little like the goalkeeper of the team, isn't it? He grabs the ball wherever it comes from, This is the reality. Thus the Apostles “spoke to each other and came up with a lovely proposal, a revolutionary proposal, for they said: “but we are the Apostles, those who Jesus chose”. However, that was not enough. They realized that their first duty was to pray and to serve the Word. “And as for the daily assistance to widows, we must do something else”. This is “what the deacons decided to do”.

Ask “the Lord for this grace: not to be
afraid, and not to use cosmetics on life”, in order to be able “to take life as it comes and to try to solve the problems as the Apostles did. And also to seek the encounter with Jesus who is always beside us, also at life's bleakest moments.
  
 
Chapter 6
5

Chapter 7
55-60
 
Pope Francis   12.05.13 Seventh Sunday of Easter Holy Mas and Canonizations   Acts 6:5   7:55-60     John 17:20-26  

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

https://sites.google.com/site/francishomilies/faith/12.05.13.jpg

On this Seventh Sunday of Easter we gather together in joy to celebrate a feast of holiness. Let us give thanks to God who made his glory, the glory of Love, shine on the Martyrs of Otranto, on Mother Laura Montoya and on Mother María Guadalupe García Zavala. I greet all of you who have come for this celebration — from Italy, Colombia, Mexico and other countries — and I thank you! Let us look at the new saints in the light of the word of God proclaimed. It is a word that has invited us to be faithful to Christ, even to martyrdom; it has reminded us of the urgency and beauty of bringing Christ and his Gospel to everyone; and it has spoken to us of the testimony of charity, without which even martyrdom and the mission lose their Christian savour.

1. When the Acts of the Apostles tell us about the Deacon Stephen, the Proto-Martyr, it is written that he was a man “filled with the Holy Spirit” (6:5; 7:55). What does this mean? It means that he was filled with the Love of God, that his whole self, his life, was inspired by the Spirit of the Risen Christ so that he followed Jesus with total fidelity, to the point of giving up himself.

Today the Church holds up for our veneration an array of martyrs who in 1480 were called to bear the highest witness to the Gospel together. About 800 people, who had survived the siege and invasion of Otranto, were beheaded in the environs of that city. They refused to deny their faith and died professing the Risen Christ. Where did they find the strength to stay faithful? In the faith itself, which enables us to see beyond the limits of our human sight, beyond the boundaries of earthly life. It grants us to contemplate “the heavens opened”, as St Stephen says, and the living Christ at God’s right hand. Dear friends, let us keep the faith we have received and which is our true treasure, let us renew our faithfulness to the Lord, even in the midst of obstacles and misunderstanding. God will never let us lack strength and calmness. While we venerate the Martyrs of Otranto, let us ask God to sustain all the Christians who still suffer violence today in these very times and in so many parts of the world and to give them the courage to stay faithful and to respond to evil with goodness.

2. We might take the second idea from the words of Jesus which we heard in the Gospel: “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us” (Jn 17:20). St Laura Montoya was an instrument of evangelization, first as a teacher and later as a spiritual mother of the indigenous in whom she instilled hope, welcoming them with this love that she had learned from God and bringing them to him with an effective pedagogy that respected their culture and was not in opposition to it. In her work of evangelization Mother Laura truly made herself all things to all people, to borrow St Paul’s words (cf. 1 Cor 9:22). Today too, like a vanguard of the Church, her spiritual daughters live in and take the Gospel to the furthest and most needy places.

This first saint, born in the beautiful country of Colombia, teaches us to be generous to God and not to live our faith in solitude — as if it were possible to live the faith alone! — but to communicate it and to make the joy of the Gospel shine out in our words and in the witness of our life wherever we meet others. Wherever we may happen to be, to radiate this life of the Gospel. She teaches us to see Jesus’ face reflected in others and to get the better of the indifference and individualism that corrode Christian communities and eat away our heart itself. She also teaches us to accept everyone without prejudice, without discrimination and without reticence, but rather with sincere love, giving them the very best of ourselves and, especially, sharing with them our most worthwhile possession; this is not one of our institutions or organizations, no. The most worthwhile thing we possess is Christ and his Gospel.

3. Lastly, a third idea. In today’s Gospel, Jesus prays to the Father with these words: “I made known to them your name, and I will make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (Jn 17:26). The martyr’s fidelity event to the death and the proclamation of the Gospel to all people are rooted, have their roots, in God’s love, which was poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5), and in the witness we must bear in our life to this love.

St Guadalupe García Zavala was well aware of this. By renouncing a comfortable life — what great harm an easy life and well-being cause; the adoption of a bourgeois heart paralyzes us — by renouncing an easy life in order to follow Jesus’ call she taught people how to love poverty, how to feel greater love for the poor and for the sick. Mother Lupita would kneel on the hospital floor, before the sick, before the abandoned, in order to serve them with tenderness and compassion. And this is called “touching the flesh of Christ”. The poor, the abandoned, the sick and the marginalized are the flesh of Christ. And Mother Lupita touched the flesh of Christ and taught us this behaviour: not to feel ashamed, not to fear, not to find “touching Christ’s flesh” repugnant. Mother Lupita had realized what “touching Christ’s flesh” actually means. Today too her spiritual daughters try to mirror God’s love in works of charity, unsparing in sacrifices and facing every obstacle with docility and with apostolic perseverance (hypomon?), bearing it with courage.

This new Mexican saint invites us to love as Jesus loved us. This does not entail withdrawal into ourselves, into our own problems, into our own ideas, into our own interests, into this small world that is so harmful to us; but rather to come out of ourselves and care for those who are in need of attention, understanding and help, to bring them the warm closeness of God’s love through tangible actions of sensitivity, of sincere affection and of love.

Faithfulness to Christ and to his Gospel, in order to proclaim them with our words and our life, witnessing to God’s love with our own love and with our charity to all: these are the luminous examples and teachings that the saints canonized today offer us but they call into question our Christian life: how am I faithful to Christ? Let us take this question with us, to think about it during the day: how am I faithful to Christ? Am I able to “make my faith seen with respect, but also with courage? Am I attentive to others, do I notice who is in need, do I see everyone as brothers and sisters to love? Let us ask the Lord, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the new saints, to fill our life with the joy of his love. So may it be.

  

 Chapter 6

1- 15

Chapter 7

1-60


 
Pope Francis     25.09.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square      Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles      Acts 6: 1 to  Acts 7: 60   

Pope Francis  25.09.19

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Through the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, we continue to follow a journey: the journey of the Gospel in the world. St. Luke, with great realism, shows both the fruitfulness of this journey and the onset of some problems within the Christian community. From the beginning there were always problems. How can we harmonize the differences that coexist within the Christian community without conflict and rifts happening?

The community welcomed not only the Jews, but also the Greeks, that is, people from the diaspora, non-Jews, with their own culture and sensibilities and with another religion. Today, we say "pagans. And these were welcomed. This coexistence leads to fragile and precarious balances; and in the face of difficulties comes the "weed", and what is the worst weed that destroys a community? The weed of the murmur, the weeds of the chatter: the Greeks murmur for the inattention of the community towards their widows.

The Apostles initiate a process of discernment that consists of carefully considering difficulties and seeking solutions together. They find a way out by dividing the various tasks for the serene growth of the entire church body to maintain the harmony between the service of the Word and the care of the poorest members.

The Apostles are increasingly aware that their main vocation is prayer and preaching the Word of God: praying and announcing the Gospel; and resolve the issue by establishing a core of "seven men of good reputation, full of Spirit and wisdom"(Acts 6:3), who, after receiving the imposition of hands, carried out works of charity. These are the deacons that are created for this service. The deacon in the Church is not a second priest , he is something else; he is not for the altar, but for service. He is the guardian of service in the Church. When a deacon likes to go to the altar too much, he's wrong. This is not his way. This harmony between service to the Word and service to charity represents the yeast that makes the church body grow.

In fact St Luke immediately afterwards notes that the word of God was spreading the number of disciples in Jerusalem were greatly multiplying.

And the Apostles create seven deacons, and among the seven "deacons" Stephen and Philip are particularly distinguished . Stephen evangelized with strength and energy, but his word met the most stubborn resistance. Finding no other way to make stop him , what do his opponents do? They choose the worst solution to annihilate a human being: that is, slander and perjury. And we know that slander always kills. This "diabolical cancer", which arises from the desire to destroy a person's reputation, also attacks the rest of the Church's body and severely damages it when, for petty interests or to cover up their own inadequacies, they join together as a group to smear the name of someone.

Led into the Sanhedrin and accused by false witnesses – they had done the same with Jesus and they will do the same with all
martyrs through false witnesses and slander – Stephen proclaimed a re-reading of the sacred history that was centred in Christ, to defend himself. And there is a link that crosses all the history of the Jewish people from Abraham to Jesus. And it's a progression in faith that in Christ reached it's full maturation. The Easter of Jesus who died and rose is the key to the whole history of the covenant. In the face of this overabundance of the divine gift, Stephen courageously denounces the hypocrisy with which the prophets and Christ himself were treated. And remind them of history by saying, "Who of the prophets of your fathers you not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become"(Acts 7:52). He doesn't mince his words, but spoke clearly, he told the truth.

This provoked the violent reaction of those listening to him, and Stephen was condemned to death, condemned to stoning. However he showed his true being as a disciple of Christ. He didn't seek ways to escape, he didn't appeal to the people who could of saved him, but instead he put his life back in the Lord's hands, and Stephen's prayer is beautiful, at that moment: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts 7:59) – and he died as a son of God, forgiving: "Lord, do not hold this sin against them "(Acts 7:60).

These words of Stephen teach us that it is not the beautiful speeches that reveal our identity as children of God, but only the abandonment of one's life into the hands of the Father and forgiveness for those who offend us show us the quality of our faith. Stephen was the first martyr. The other Christ. That is the man whom the Holy Spirit made similar to Jesus. Free from fear, free from the fear of losing himself, but capable of witnessing the love of God right to the end.

Today there are more martyrs than at the beginning of the life of the Church, and martyrs are everywhere. The Church today is rich in martyrs, and is irrigated by their blood which is "the seed of new Christians" (Tertullian, Apologetic,50,13) and ensures the growth and fruitfulness of the People of God. Martyrs are not just holy, but men and women of flesh and blood who, as the Apocalypse says, "have washed their clothing, making them white in the blood of the Lamb" (7:14). They are the real winners.

Let us also ask the Lord that, looking at the martyrs of the past and present, we can learn to live a full life, welcoming the martyrdom of daily fidelity to the Gospel and conformity to Christ.
  

  Chapter 6

8-15

 

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 6

8-10

Chapter 7

54-59

 
Pope Francis       26.12.18   Angelus  St Peter's Square       Acts 6: 8-107: 54-59
https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-12/pope-francis-angelus-saint-stephen.html

Forgiveness broadens the heart, generates sharing, and gives serenity and peace.

The contrast between the joyful birth of the little Child and the cruel drama of St. Stephen’s martyrdom may seem strange.

In reality this is not the case, because the Child Jesus is the Son of God made man, who will save humanity by dying on the cross.


St. Stephen was the first person to follow in Jesus’ footsteps through martyrdom. He died like Jesus, entrusting his life to God and forgiving his persecutors.
Stephen displayed an attitude of faithful acceptance of whatever life brings, be it positive or negative. Trust in God helps us to welcome difficult moments and to live them as an opportunity for growth in faith and for building new relationships with our brothers and sisters.

Stephen, also imitated Jesus with an attitude of forgiveness, praying for his persecutors.

We are called to learn from his example to forgive, to forgive always.

Stephen’s example is a way to live our relationships with other people: in the family, at school or work, and in parish life. The logic of forgiveness and mercy always prevails and opens up horizons of hope.

Forgiveness, is cultivated through prayer, which allows us to keep our gaze fixed upon Jesus.

Stephen was able to forgive his killers because, full of the Holy Spirit, he looked up intensely to heaven and his eyes were opened by God.

Prayer gave him the strength to suffer martyrdom.

We too need to pray insistently to the Holy Spirit for the gift of strength that heals our fears, our weaknesses, and our small-mindedness.
  

  Chapter 7

51 - 60

Chapter 8

1A

 
 
Stephan’s words are strong: 'You stiff-necked people... you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. The prophets, “you killed them”, and then venerated them. See there, that is a manifestation of resistance to the Holy Spirit.

Even among us, we see manifestations of this resistance to the Holy Spirit. Actually, to get to the point, the Holy Spirit annoys us, because he moves us, he makes us travel, he pushes the Church forward. And we are like Peter at the Transfiguration: ‘Oh, how wonderful it is for us to be here, all together!’ as long as it does not inconvenience us. We would like the Holy Spirit to doze off. We want to subdue the Holy Spirit. And that just will not work. For he is God and he is that wind that comes and goes, and you do not know from where. He is the strength of God; it is he who gives us consolation and strengthen to continue forward. To go forward! And this is bothersome. Convenience is nicer. You all could say: ‘But Father, that happened in those times. Now we are all content with the Holy Spirit’. No, that is not true! This is still today’s temptation.

In our personal life, in our private lives, the same thing happens: the Spirit pushes us to take a more evangelical path, and we [say]: ‘But no, it goes like this, Lord’.... Do not put up resistance to the Holy Spirit: this is the grace for which I wish we would all ask the Lord; docility to the Holy Spirit, to that Spirit who comes to us and makes us go forward on the path of holiness, that holiness of the Church which is so beautiful.
  

 Chapter 8

1B - 8

 

The Church cannot be merely “a babysitter who cares for the child just to get him to sleep”. If she were this, hers would be a “slumbering Church”. Whoever knows Jesus has the strength and the courage to proclaim him. And whoever has received Baptism has the strength to walk, to go forward, to evangelize and “when we do this the Church becomes a mother who generates children” capable of bringing Christ to the world.

During persecutions in Japan in the early 17th century, Catholic missionaries were expelled and communities were left for 200 years without priests. On their return, the missionaries found “all communities in place, everyone baptized, everyone catechized, all married in the Church” — and this thanks to the work of the baptized
.

It is our great responsibility, as baptized persons, to proclaim Christ, to carry the Church — this fruitful motherhood of the Church — forward. Mary, during the persecution of the first Christians, “prayed so much” and moved those who had been baptized to go forward with courage.

Let us ask the Lord, for the grace to become baptized persons who are brave and sure that the Holy Spirit who is in us, received at Baptism, always moves us to proclaim Jesus Christ with our life, our testimony and even with our words.
  

 Chapter 8

1-40

 
Pope Francis   02.10.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square   Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles -  General Audience   Acts 8: 1-40
Pope Francis 02.10.19 General Audience

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

After Stephen's martyrdom, the "race" of the Word of God seems to suffer a setback, for broke out a severe persecution against the church in Jerusalem"(Acts 8:1). As a result, the Apostles remain in Jerusalem, while many Christians go out to other places in Judea and In Samaria. 

In the Book of Acts, persecution appears to be the permanent state of the life of the disciples, in accordance with what Jesus said: "If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you"(John 15:20). But persecution, instead of extinguishing the fire of evangelization, feeds it even more. 

We have heard what the deacon Philip has done, beginning to evangelize the cities of Samaria, and there are numerous signs of liberation and healing that accompany the proclamation of the Word. At this point, the Holy Spirit begins a new stage in the Gospel's journey: he pushes Philip to meet a stranger with a heart open to God. Philip rises and leaves passionately onto a deserted and dangerous road. He meets a senior official of the Queen of Ethiopia, an administrator of her treasures. This man, a eunuch, after being in Jerusalem for worship, is returning to his country. He was a Jewish proselyt of Ethiopia. Sitting in his carriage, he was reading the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, in particular the fourth canticle about the servant of the Lord. 

Philip approaches the carriage and asks, "Do you understand what you are reading?" (Acts 8.30). The Ethiopian replies, "And how could I understand, if there is no one to guide me?" (Acts 8.31). That powerful man recognizes that he needs to be guided to understand the Word of God. He was a great banker, he was the minister of the economy, he had all the power of money, but he knew that without explanations he could not understand, he was humble.

And this dialogue between Philip and the Ethiopian also makes us reflect on the fact that it is not enough to read Scripture, it is necessary to understand its meaning, to find the "juice" going beyond the "peal", to draw from the Spirit that enlivens the letters. As Pope Benedict said at the beginning of the Synod on the Word of God, "the exegesis, the true reading of the Sacred Scripture, is not only a literary phenomenon, [...]. It is the movement of my existence"(Meditation,October 6, 2008). To enter into the Word of God is to be willing to go beyond our own limits, to encounter God and conform ourselves to Christ who is the Living Word of the Father.

So who is the protagonist of this reading, the fourth canticle of the servant of the Lord, that the Ethiopian was reading? Philip offers his interlocutor a key to reading: that meek suffering servant, who does not react to evil with evil and who, although considered a failure, sterile and finally taken out from the middle of the question, he liberates the people from iniquity and bears fruit for God, it is precisely that Christ that Philip and the Church all announce! That with Easter has redeemed us all. Finally, the Ethiopian recognizes Christ and asks for Baptism and professes faith in the Lord Jesus. This story is beautiful, but who pushed Philip to go to the desert to meet this man? Who pushed Philip to approach the carriage? It is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the protagonist of evangelization. "Father, I am going to evangelize" – "Yes, what are you going to do?" – "Ah, I announce the gospel and say who Jesus is, I am going to try and convince people that Jesus is God." Dear one , this is not evangelization, if there is no Holy Spirit there is no evangelization. This can be proselytizing, advertising... But evangelization is to be guided by the Holy Spirit, that he should push you to the proclamation, to the proclamation with your witness, and even with martyrdom, even with the word. 

After having the Ethiopian meet with the Risen One – the Ethiopian meets Jesus who has risen because he understands that prophecy – Philip disappears, the Spirit takes him and sends him to do something else. I said that the protagonist of evangelization is the Holy Spirit and what is the sign that you as a Christian, are an evangelizer? Joy. Even in martyrdom. And Philip, is full of joy, he goes out somewhere else to preach the gospel.

May the Spirit make all of us baptized men and women who
proclaim the Gospel to attract others not to themselves but to Christ, and to know how to make space for God's action, and to know how to make others free and responsible before the Lord.

  

 Chapter 9

1-20

 
Pope Francis 10.05.19  Santa Marta

The moment of St Paul's conversion marked a change in the course of Salvation History. It exposed the Church’s universality and its openness to pagans, Gentiles, and those who were not Israelites, which the Lord permitted because it was important.

First of all, he was consistent, because he was a man open to God. If he persecuted Christians, it was because he was convinced that God desired it. But how can that be? Never mind how: he was convinced of it. This is the zeal he carried for the purity of the house of God, for the glory of God. A heart open to the voice of the Lord. And he risked all, and charged ahead. Another characteristic of his actions is that he was a
docile man – full of docility – and was not hard-headed.

Even though he was stubborn, St. Paul was not hard-hearted. He was open to God’s indications.

He had incarcerated and killed Christians with a
fire inside him, but as soon as he heard the voice of the Lord, he became like a child, letting himself be led.

All his convictions stayed silent, waiting for the voice of the Lord: ‘What must I do, Lord?’ And he went to that encounter at Damascus, to meet that other docile man, and let himself be catechized like a child and be baptized like a child. Then he regains his strength, and what does he do? He is silent. He leaves for Arabia to pray, for how long we don’t know. Maybe years, we don’t know. Docility. Openness to the voice of God and docility. His is an example for our life.

There are numerous courageous men and women today who risk their lives to find new paths for the Church.

Let us seek new paths; it will do us all good. As long as they are the paths of the Lord. But charge forward in the depth of prayer, of docility and a heart open to God. This is how true change takes place in the Church, with people who know how to fight in the great and in the small.

The Christian, must have the charism of the great and of the small.

Let us pray for the grace to be docile to the voice of the Lord and for a heart open to the Lord; for the grace not to be afraid to do great things and the sensitivity to pay attention to the small things.




Pope Francis    09.10.19    General Audience, St Peters Square     - Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles       Acts 9: 1-19

Pope Francis  09.10.19  General Audience
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Starting with the episode of Stephen's stoning, a figure appears, that, next to Peter's, is the most present and incisive in the Acts of the Apostles: that of "a young man, called
Saul"(Acts 7:58). He is described at the beginning as one who approves of Stephen's death and wants to destroy the Church (cf. Acts 8:,3); but then he becomes the instrument chosen by God to proclaim the gospel to the people (see Acts 9:15; 22.21; 26.17).

With the authorisation of the high priest, Saul hunts down Christians and captures them. Some of you, who have come from peoples that have been persecuted by dictatorships, you understand well what it means to hunt people down and capture them. So did Saul. And this he does thinking that he is serving the Lord's Law. Luke says that Saul breathed threats and massacres against the disciples of the Lord(Acts 9:1): in him there was a breath that tasted of death, not of life.

The young Saul is portrayed as an intransigent man, that is, one who shows intolerance towards those who think differently from him, he absolutizes his own political and religious identity and reduces the other to a potential enemy to fight. He is an ideologue. In Saul, religion had become an ideology: religious ideology, social ideology, political ideology. Only after being transformed by Christ, does he begin to teach that the real battle "is not against the flesh and blood, but against [...] the rulers of this dark world, against the spirits of evil"(Eph 6:12). He would teach that you must not fight people, but the evil that inspires their actions.

The angry condition – because Saul was angry – and Saul's conflict invites each one to ask: how do I live my life of faith? Do I go to meet others or am I against others? Do I belong to the universal Church (good and bad, all) or do I have a selective ideology? Do I love God or do I love dogmatic formulations? What's my religious life like? Does the faith in God I profess make me friendly or hostile to those who are different from me?

Luke recounts that while Saul is all intent on eradicating the Christian community, the Lord is on his trail to touch his heart and convert him to himself. It is the Lord's method: he touches the heart. The Risen takes the initiative and manifests himself to Saul on the way to Damascus, an event that is narrated three times in the Book of Acts (cf. Acts 9:3-19; 22:3-21; 26:4-23). Through the combination of "light" and "voice", typical of theophasy, the Risen One appears to Saul and asks him to account for his fratricidal fury: "Saul, Saul, why do you pursue me?" (Acts 9:4). Here the Risen One manifests his being one single thing to those who believe in him: to strike a member of the Church is to strike Christ himself! Also those who are ideologues because they want the "purity" – in quotation marks – of the Church, strike Christ.

The voice of Jesus says to Saul, "Get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do"(Acts 9:6). Once standing, however, Saul sees nothing, he has become blind, and from a strong man, authoritative and independent he becomes weak, needy and dependent on others, because he cannot see. The light of Christ dazzled him and blinded him: "Also on his exterior appears what his inner reality is, his blindness towards the truth, the light that is Christ" (Blessed XVI, General Audience, 3 September 2008).

From this "face-to-face" between Saul and the Risen One a transformation begins that shows the "personal easter" of Saul, his transition from death to life: what used to be "gains" becomes "rubbish" to be rejected in order to acquire the true gain that is Christ and life in Him (cf. Phil 3:7-8).

Paul receives Baptism through a member of the Christian community in Damascus, Ananias. Baptism thus marks for Saul, as for each of us, the beginning of a new life, and is accompanied by a new look at God, for himself and for others, who from enemies become brothers and sisters in Christ.

Let us ask the Father to make us, as in Saul, experience the impact of His love that can only make a heart of stone a heart of flesh (cf. Ez 11:19), capable of accepting in itself "the same feelings of Christ Jesus"(Phil 2:5).



  

 Chapter 10

1-49

Chapter 11

1-3


 
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.
  
 
Chapter 11
19 - 26
 
Pope Francis   23.04.13    Acts 11: 19-26,     John 10: 22-30 
https://sites.google.com/site/francishomilies/church-1/23.04.13%202.jpg

Today’s first reading makes me think that, at the very moment when persecution broke out, the Church’s missionary nature also "broke out". These Christians went all the way to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, and proclaimed the Word (cf. Acts 11:19). They had this apostolic fervor in their hearts; and so the faith spread! Some people from Cyprus and Cyrene, not these but others who had become Christians, came to Antioch and began to speak also to the Greeks (cf. Acts 11:20). This is yet another step. And so the Church moves forward. Who took this initiative of speaking to the Greeks, something unheard of, since they were preaching only to Jews? It was the Holy Spirit, the one who was pushing them on, on and on, unceasingly.

But back in Jerusalem, when somebody heard about this, he got a little nervous and they sent a Apostolic Visitation: they sent Barnabas (cf. Acts 11:22). Perhaps, with a touch of humor, we can say that this was the theological origin of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: this Apostolic Visitation of Barnabas. He took a look and saw that things were going well (cf. Acts 11:23). And in this way the Church is increasingly a Mother, a Mother of many, many children: she becomes a Mother, ever more fully a Mother, a Mother who gives us faith, a Mother who gives us our identity. But Christian identity is not an identity card. Christian identity means being a member of the Church, since all these people belonged to the Church, to Mother Church, for apart from the Church it is not possible to find Jesus. The great Paul VI said: it is an absurd dichotomy to wish to live with Jesus but without the Church, to follow Jesus but without the Church, to love Jesus but without the Church (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 16). And that Mother Church who gives us Jesus also gives us an identity which is not simply a rubber stamp: it is membership. Identity means membership, belonging. Belonging to the Church: this is beautiful!

The third idea which comes to my mind – the first was the outbreak of the Church’s missionary nature, and second, the Church as Mother – is that, when Barnabas saw that crowd – the text says: "and a great many people were brought to the Lord" (Acts 11:24) – when he saw that crowd, he rejoiced. "When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced" (Acts 11:23). It is the special joy of the evangelizer. It is, as Paul VI said, "the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing" (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 80). This joy begins with persecution, with great sadness, and ends in joy. And so the Church moves forward, as a Saint tells us, amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of the Lord (cf. Saint Augustine, De Civitate Dei, 18:51,2: PL 41, 614). This is the life of the Church. If we want to take the path of worldliness, bargaining with the world – as the Maccabeans were tempted to do back then – we will never have the consolation of the Lord. And if we seek consolation alone, it will be a superficial consolation, not the Lord’s consolation, but a human consolation. The Church always advances between the cross and the resurrection, between persecutions and the consolations of the Lord. This is the path: those who take this path do not go wrong.

Today let us think about the missionary nature of the Church: these disciples who took the initiative to go forth, and those who had the courage to proclaim Jesus to the Greeks, something which at that time was almost scandalous (cf. Acts 11:19-20). Let us think of Mother Church, who is increasing, growing with new children to whom she gives the identity of faith, for one cannot believe in Jesus without the Church. Jesus himself says so in the Gospel: but you do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep (cf. Jn 10:26). Unless we are "Jesus’ sheep", faith does not come; it is a faith which is watered down, insubstantial. And let us think of the consolation which Barnabas experienced, which was precisely the "delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing". Let us ask the Lord for this parrhesia, this apostolic fervour which impels us to move forward, as brothers and sisters, all of us: forward! Forward, bearing the name of Jesus in the bosom of holy Mother Church, as Saint Ignatius said, hierarchical and Catholic. Amen.


Pope Francis   23.10.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square     Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles     Acts 11: 19-26,     Acts 14: 27 to 15:31

Pope Francis  23.10.19 General Audience - Open Door Church

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

The Book of the Acts of the Apostles tells us that St. Paul, after that transforming encounter with Jesus, is taken into the Church of Jerusalem through the mediation of Barnabas and begins to announce Christ. However, due to the hostility of some, he is forced to move to Tarsus, his hometown, where Barnabas joins him to involve him in the long journey of the Word of God. The Book of the Acts of the Apostles, which we are commenting on in these catechesis's can be said to be the book of the long voyage of the Word of God: the Word of God must be announced, and announced everywhere. This journey begins after a strong persecution (cf. Acts 11:19); but this, instead of causing a setback for evangelization, becomes an opportunity to enlarge the field where the good seed of the Word is spread. Christians are not afraid. They must flee, but they flee with the Word, and they spread the Word everywhere.

Paul and Barnabas first arrive in Antioch of Syria, where they stop for a whole year to teach and help the community to put down roots (cf. Acts 11:26). They were telling the Jewish community, about the Jews. Antioch thus becomes the centre of missionary propulsion, thanks to the preaching with which the two evangelizers – Paul and Barnabas – influence the hearts of the believers, who here, in Antioch, are called for the first time "Christians" (cf. Acts 11:26).

The nature of the Church emerges from the Book of Acts, it is not a fortress, but a tent capable of enlarging its space (cf. Is 54:2) so that all can enter. The Church is "outgoing" or it is not Church, it is either on the path, enlarging itself always, or is not Church. "It is a Church with its doors open" (Exorc. Evangelii gaudium,46),always with the doors open. When I see some little church here, in this city, or when I see it in another diocese where I go, with the its doors closed, that's a bad sign. Churches must always have their doors open because this is a symbol of what a church is: always open. The Church is called to always be the open house of the Father. So that, if someone wants to follow a movement of the Spirit and approaches looking for God, they will not find themselves coming face to face with the coldness of a closed door(ibid., 47).

But now here come the problems, this newness of the open doors open to the pagans? To the pagans, because the Apostles preached to the Jews, but the pagans also came to knock on the door of the Church; and this novelty of the doors open to pagans unchains a very animated controversy. Some Jews affirm the necessity of circumcision for being saved, and then to receive baptism. They say, "If you do not let yourself be circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved"(Acts 15:1), that is, you cannot receive baptism later. First the Jewish rite and then the baptism: this was their position. And to resolve the issue, Paul and Barnabas consult the council of the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem, and what is considered to be the first council in the history of the Church, the council or assembly of Jerusalem, referred to by Paul in the Letter to Galatians (2:1-10).

A very delicate theological, spiritual and disciplinary question is addressed: that is, the relationship between faith in Christ and the observance of the Law of Moses. Decisive in the course of the assembly were the speeches of Peter and James, "pillars" of the Mother Church (cf. Acts 15.7-21; Gal 2.9). They invite them not to impose circumcision on the pagans, but to ask them only to reject idolatry in all of its expressions. From this comes a common path, and this decision is ratified by the apostolic letter sent to Antioch.

The Jerusalem Assembly offers us an important light on how to deal with differences and how to seek "truth in charity"(Ef 4.15). It reminds us that the Church's method for conflict resolution is based on dialogue of attentive and patient listening and discernment in the light of the Spirit. It is the Spirit, in fact, that helps to overcome closures and tensions and works in our hearts so that we may reach, in truth and good, unity. This text helps us to understand the synodality. It is interesting as the Letter writes: they begin, the Apostles, saying: "The Holy Spirit and we think that ...". It is precisely synodality, the presence of the Holy Spirit, otherwise it is not synodality, it is talk, it is a parliament, an other thing ...

Let us ask the Lord to strengthen in all Christians, especially in bishops and priests, the desire and responsibility of communion. May He help us to live the dialogue, the listening and the encounter with our brothers and sisters in faith and with those far from it, in order to taste and manifest the fruitfulness of the Church, called to be in every time the "joyful mother" of many children (cf. Sal 113.9).


  

 Chapter 11

21B-26

Chapter 13

1-3

 
https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope-francis/mass-casa-santa-marta/2018-06/pope-homily-santa-marta-barnabas-evangelization.html

Evangelization has three fundamental dimensions: proclamation, service and gratuitousness.

The readings for the Memorial of St Barnabas (Acts 11:21-26; 12: 1-3 and Matthew 10:7-13) demonstrate that the
Holy Spirit is the “protagonist” of the Gospel proclamation. That proclamation is unlike other types of communication. Due to the action of the Holy Spirit, it has the power to change hearts. There have been pastoral plans that seem to be perfect. They were incapable of changing hearts because they were ends in themselves. They were not instruments of evangelization.

It is not with an entrepreneurial attitude that Jesus sends us…. No, it is with the Holy Spirit. This is courage. The true courage behind evangelization is not human stubbornness. No, it is the Spirit who gives us courage and who carries you forward.

Service is the second dimension of evangelization. In fact, pursuing a career or success in the Church is a sure sign that someone doesn’t know what evangelization is…for the one who commands must be the one who serves.

We can say good things but without service it is not proclamation. It may seem to be, but it is not, because the Spirit not only carries you forward to proclaim the truths of the Lord and the life of the Lord, but He also brings you to the service of the brothers and sisters, even in small things. It’s awful when you find evangelizers who make others serve them and who live to be served. They are like the princes of evangelization – how awful.

Gratuitousness is the third aspect of evangelization because no one can be redeemed by his or her own merit. The Lord reminds us, “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give” (Matthew 10:8).

All of us have been saved gratuitously by Jesus Christ. Therefore, we must give gratuitously. Those who carry out the pastoral work of evangelization must learn this. Their life must be gratuitous, given in service, proclamation, borne by the Spirit. Their personal poverty forces them to open themselves up to the Spirit.

  

 Chapter 12

1-11

 
Pope Francis  29.06.16 Holy Mass, Vatican Basilica  Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul  Apostles   Year C    Acts 12: 1-11,   Matthew 16: 13-19,              2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 17-18  

Pope Francis 29.06.16 Saints Peter and Paul

The word of God in today’s liturgy presents a clear central contrast between closing and opening. Together with this image we can consider the symbol of the keys that Jesus promises to Simon Peter so that he can open the entrance to the kingdom of heaven, and not close it before people, like some of the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus reproached (cf. Mt 23:13).

The reading from the Acts of the Apostles (12:1-11) shows us three examples of “closing”: Peter is cast into prison; the community gathers behind closed doors in prayer
; and – in the continuation of our reading – Peter knocks at the closed door of the house of Mary, the mother of John called Mark, after being set free.

In these three examples of “closing”, prayer appears as the main way out. It is a way out for the community, which risks closing in on itself out of persecution and fear. It is a way out for Peter who, at the very beginning of the mission given him by the Lord, is cast into prison by Herod and risks execution. And while Peter was in prison, “the church prayed fervently to God for him” (Acts 12:5). The Lord responds to that prayer and sends his angel to liberate Peter, “rescuing him from the hand of Herod” (cf. v. 11). Prayer, as humble entrustment to God and his holy will, is always the way out of our becoming “closed”, as individuals and as a community. It is always the eminent way out of our becoming “closed”.

Paul too, writing to Timothy, speaks of his experience of liberation, of finding a way out of his own impending execution. He tells us that the Lord stood by him and gave him strength to carry out the work of evangelizing the nations (cf. 2 Tim 4:17). But Paul speaks too of a much greater “opening”, towards an infinitely more vast horizon. It is the horizon of eternal life, which awaits him at the end of his earthly “race”. We can see the whole life of the Apostle in terms of “going out” in service to the Gospel. Paul’s life was utterly projected forward, in bringing Christ to those who did not know him, and then in rushing, as it were, into Christ’s arms, to be “saved for his heavenly kingdom” (v. 18).

Let us return to Peter. The Gospel account (Mt 16:13-19) of his confession of faith and the mission entrusted to him by Jesus shows us that the life of Simon, the fishermen of Galilee – like the life of each of us – opens, opens up fully, when it receives from God the Father the grace of faith. Simon sets out on the journey – a long and difficult journey – that will lead him to go out of himself, leaving all his human supports behind, especially his pride tinged with courage and generous selflessness. In this, his process of liberation, the prayer of Jesus is decisive: “I have prayed for you [Simon], that your own faith may not fail” (Lk 22:32). Likewise decisive is the compassionate gaze of the Lord after Peter had denied him three times: a gaze that pierces the heart and brings tears of repentance (cf. Lk 22:61-62). At that moment, Simon Peter was set free from the prison of his selfish pride and of his fear, and overcame the temptation of closing his heart to Jesus’s call to follow him along the way of the cross.

I mentioned that, in the continuation of the passage from the Acts of the Apostles, there is a detail worthy of consideration (cf. 12:12-17). When Peter finds himself miraculously freed from Herod’s prison, he goes to the home of the mother of John called Mark. He knocks on the closed door and a servant by the name of Rhoda comes. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in disbelief and joy, instead of opening the door, she runs to tell her mistress. The account, which can seem comical, and which could give rise to the “Rhoda complex”, makes us perceive the climate of fear that led the Christian community to stay behind closed doors, but also closed to God’s surprises. Peter knocks at the door. Behold! There is joy, there is fear… “Do we open, do we not?...”. He is in danger, since the guards can come and take him. But fear paralyzes us, it always paralyzes us; it makes us close in on ourselves, closed to God’s surprises. This detail speaks to us of a constant temptation for the Church, that of closing in on herself in the face of danger. But we also see the small openings through which God can work. Saint Luke tells us that in that house “many had gathered and were praying” (v. 12). Prayer enable grace to open a way out from closure to openness, from fear to courage, from sadness to joy. And we can add: from division to unity. Yes, we say this today with confidence, together with our brothers from the Delegation sent by the beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to take part in the celebration of the Holy Patrons of Rome. Today is also a celebration of communion for the whole Church, as seen by the presence of the metropolitan archbishops who have come for the blessing of the pallia, which they will receive from my representatives in their respective sees.

May Saints Peter and Paul intercede for us, so that we can joyfully advance on this journey, experience the liberating action of God, and bear witness to it before the world.
  

  Chapter 12

24 - 25

Chapter 13

1 - 5A

Pope Francis 24.04.13 Holy Mass Santa Marta Acts 12: 24 - 13: 5A

The First Reading, starts with the words: ‘The word of God continued to spread and grow’. It is a fact that, some could measure [growth] in purely quantitative terms. They want “more proselytes”, “more members” for the enterprise. In deed, some even “stoop to making deals just for growth”.

Instead, the path that Jesus wanted for his
Church, is another one: it is the hard way, the way of the cross, the way of persecution. And this too makes us think: “but what is this Church?”. The answer is in the Gospel: Jesus says, “Who believes in me, believes not in me but in the One who sent me”. 

And thus, the Church is not an organization, but “a mother”. Mothers: what do you feel when someone says: "But are you the house coordinator?"   “No, I am the mama! And the Church is the mother”. And we, by the power of the Holy Spirit, all together, we are one family in the Church who is our mother. This is how you can explain the First Reading: The Word of God continued to spread and grow. That is how she grows. Jesus' words explain this: 'Who believes in me, believes not me but in the One who sent me'. It was the Father who started this history of love”.

Let us ask the Madonna, who is our Mother, to give us the grace of joy, of spiritual joy to journey through this story of love.

  
 
Chapter 13
14, 42 - 52
 
https://sites.google.com/site/francishomilies/priests/21.04.13.jpg

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 13

44 - 52

 
Pope Francis
27.04.13 Holy Mass Santa Marta    Acts 13: 44-52

These people have perhaps forgotten their mothers' caresses when they were little. These communities do not know how to caress; they know duty, productivity, how to withdraw into apparent observation. Jesus said to them: 'You are like a tomb, a beautiful, white tomb but nothing more'. Let us think today of the Church, so beautiful. This Church that goes forward. Let us think of the many brothers who suffer for this freedom of the Holy Spirit and suffer persecution, now, in many places. But these brothers, in suffering, are full of joy and of the Holy Spirit. These brothers, these open communities, missionaries, pray to Jesus because they know that what he said is true and what we have heard now: 'Whatever you ask of me in my name I will do'. Jesus is the prayer. Closed communities pray to the powers of the earth to help them. And that is not a good path. Let us look to Jesus who send us to evangelize, to proclaim his name with joy, filled with joy. Let's have no fear of the joy of the Holy Spirit. And never, never let us involve ourselves in things that, in the long run, bring us to become closed in ourselves. In this closedness, there is neither the fruit nor the freedom of the Holy Spirit.
  

 Chapter 14

19-28

Pope Francis    21.05.19  Holy Mass, Santa Marta       Acts 14: 19-28 

Pope Francis 21.05.19 Talks about inner peace


How we can reconcile the tribulations and persecutions suffered by St Paul, related in the first reading; with the peace that Jesus promised to His disciples in His final words during the Last Supper, "I leave you peace, my peace I give you", which are recorded in the day’s Gospel.

Although a life of persecution and tribulations seems to be a life without peace; the last of the Beatitudes states "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account".
 
The peace of Jesus goes with this life of persecution, of tribulation. A peace that is deep down, deep down, very profound to all these things. A peace that no one can touch, a peace that is a gift, like the sea that deep down is tranquil, while on the surface there are waves. Living in peace with Jesus is having this experience within, which remains during all trials, all difficulties, all "tribulations".
 
This, is the only way we can understand how so many saints lived their final moments without losing peace, to the point that witnesses would say they went to their martyrdom "like guests to a wedding". This is the gift of the peace of Jesus, that we cannot obtain through human means, like going to a doctor or taking anti-anxiety drugs. This peace is something different, which comes from the Holy Spirit within us, and that brings with it strength.
 
There was a hard-working that I met who, because of an illness, had to give up all his plans, but managed to remain at peace. This is a Christian.
 
Peace, the peace of Jesus, teaches us to go forward in life. It teaches us to endure. To endure: a word we don’t understand well, a very Christian word, it means to carry a burden. To endure, to carry the burden of life, the difficulties, the labour, everything, without losing peace; but rather bearing the burden and having the courage to go forward. This can only be understood when there is the Holy Spirit within, who gives us the peace of Jesus.
 
On the other hand if we get caught up in a kind of fervent nervousness and lose this peace, there is something that isn’t working.
 
Let us face the greatest difficulties of life with this gift promised by Jesus, instead of that false peace that comes from the world, or from having money in the bank. Let us go forward in life with an even greater capacity, the ability to make the heart smile.
 
The person who lives this peace never loses their sense of humour. They know how to smile at themselves, at others, even when things are dark they know how to smile at everything… this sense of humour which is very close to the grace of God. The peace of Jesus in daily life, the peace of Jesus in tribulations and with that little sense of humour that helps us breathe easier. May the Lord grant us this peace that comes from the Holy Spirit, this peace that comes precisely from Him, and that helps us to endure, to carry, the many difficulties in life.

  
 
Chapter 14
21 - 27
 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

https://sites.google.com/site/francishomilies/new-things-of-god/28.04.13.jpg

Dear Confirmands,

I would like to offer three short and simple thoughts for your reflection.

1. In the second reading, we listened to the beautiful vision of Saint John: new heavens and a new earth, and then the Holy City coming down from God. All is new, changed into good, beauty and truth; there are no more tears or mourning… This is the work of the Holy Spirit: he brings us the new things of God. He comes to us and makes all things new; he changes us. The Spirit changes us! And Saint John’s vision reminds us that all of us are journeying towards the heavenly Jerusalem, the ultimate newness which awaits us and all reality, the happy day when we will see the Lord’s face – that marvelous face, the most beautiful face of the Lord Jesus - and be with him for ever, in his love.

You see, the new things of God are not like the novelties of this world, all of which are temporary; they come and go, and we keep looking for more. The new things which God gives to our lives are lasting, not only in the future, when we will be with him, but today as well. God is even now making all things new; the Holy Spirit is truly transforming us, and through us he also wants to transform the world in which we live. Let us open the doors to the Spirit, let ourselves be guided by him, and allow God’s constant help to make us new men and women, inspired by the love of God which the Holy Spirit bestows on us! How beautiful it would be if each of you, every evening, could say: Today at school, at home, at work, guided by God, I showed a sign of love towards one of my friends, my parents, an older person! How beautiful!

2. A second thought. In the first reading Paul and Barnabas say that “we must undergo many trials if we are to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). The journey of the Church, and our own personal journeys as Christians, are not always easy; they meet with difficulties and trials. To follow the Lord, to let his Spirit transform the shadowy parts of our lives, our ungodly ways of acting, and cleanse us of our sins, is to set out on a path with many obstacles, both in the world around us but also within us, in the heart. But difficulties and trials are part of the path that leads to God’s glory, just as they were for Jesus, who was glorified on the cross; we will always encounter them in life! Do not be discouraged! We have the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome these trials!

3. And here I come to my last point. It is an invitation which I make to you, young confirmandi, and to all present. Remain steadfast in the journey of faith, with firm hope in the Lord. This is the secret of our journey! He gives us the courage to swim against the tide. Pay attention, my young friends: to go against the current; this is good for the heart, but we need courage to swim against the tide. Jesus gives us this courage! There are no difficulties, trials or misunderstandings to fear, provided we remain united to God as branches to the vine, provided we do not lose our friendship with him, provided we make ever more room for him in our lives. This is especially so whenever we feel poor, weak and sinful, because God grants strength to our weakness, riches to our poverty, conversion and forgiveness to our sinfulness. The Lord is so rich in mercy: every time, if we go to him, he forgives us. Let us trust in God’s work! With him we can do great things; he will give us the joy of being his disciples, his witnesses. Commit yourselves to great ideals, to the most important things. We Christians were not chosen by the Lord for little things; push onwards toward the highest principles. Stake your lives on noble ideals, my dear young people!

The new things of God, the trials of life, remaining steadfast in the Lord. Dear friends, let us open wide the door of our lives to the new things of God which the Holy Spirit gives us. May he transform us, confirm us in our trials, strengthen our union with the Lord, our steadfastness in him: this is a true joy! So may it be.

  

 Chapter 14

27-28

Chapter 15

1-31

 
Pope Francis   23.10.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square     Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles     Acts 11: 19-26,     Acts 14: 27 to 15:31

Pope Francis  23.10.19 General Audience - Open Door Church

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

The Book of the Acts of the Apostles tells us that St. Paul, after that transforming encounter with Jesus, is taken into the Church of Jerusalem through the mediation of Barnabas and begins to announce Christ. However, due to the hostility of some, he is forced to move to Tarsus, his hometown, where Barnabas joins him to involve him in the long journey of the Word of God. The Book of the Acts of the Apostles, which we are commenting on in these catechesis's can be said to be the book of the long voyage of the Word of God: the Word of God must be announced, and announced everywhere. This journey begins after a strong persecution (cf. Acts 11:19); but this, instead of causing a setback for evangelization, becomes an opportunity to enlarge the field where the good seed of the Word is spread. Christians are not afraid. They must flee, but they flee with the Word, and they spread the Word everywhere.

Paul and Barnabas first arrive in Antioch of Syria, where they stop for a whole year to teach and help the community to put down roots (cf. Acts 11:26). They were telling the Jewish community, about the Jews. Antioch thus becomes the centre of missionary propulsion, thanks to the preaching with which the two evangelizers – Paul and Barnabas – influence the hearts of the believers, who here, in Antioch, are called for the first time "Christians" (cf. Acts 11:26).

The nature of the Church emerges from the Book of Acts, it is not a fortress, but a tent capable of enlarging its space (cf. Is 54:2) so that all can enter. The Church is "outgoing" or it is not Church, it is either on the path, enlarging itself always, or is not Church. "It is a Church with its doors open" (Exorc. Evangelii gaudium,46),always with the doors open. When I see some little church here, in this city, or when I see it in another diocese where I go, with the its doors closed, that's a bad sign. Churches must always have their doors open because this is a symbol of what a church is: always open. The Church is called to always be the open house of the Father. So that, if someone wants to follow a movement of the Spirit and approaches looking for God, they will not find themselves coming face to face with the coldness of a closed door(ibid., 47).

But now here come the problems, this newness of the open doors open to the pagans? To the pagans, because the Apostles preached to the Jews, but the pagans also came to knock on the door of the Church; and this novelty of the doors open to pagans unchains a very animated controversy. Some Jews affirm the necessity of circumcision for being saved, and then to receive baptism. They say, "If you do not let yourself be circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved"(Acts 15:1), that is, you cannot receive baptism later. First the Jewish rite and then the baptism: this was their position. And to resolve the issue, Paul and Barnabas consult the council of the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem, and what is considered to be the first council in the history of the Church, the council or assembly of Jerusalem, referred to by Paul in the Letter to Galatians (2:1-10).

A very delicate theological, spiritual and disciplinary question is addressed: that is, the relationship between faith in Christ and the observance of the Law of Moses. Decisive in the course of the assembly were the speeches of Peter and James, "pillars" of the Mother Church (cf. Acts 15.7-21; Gal 2.9). They invite them not to impose circumcision on the pagans, but to ask them only to reject idolatry in all of its expressions. From this comes a common path, and this decision is ratified by the apostolic letter sent to Antioch.

The Jerusalem Assembly offers us an important light on how to deal with differences and how to seek "truth in charity"(Ef 4.15). It reminds us that the Church's method for conflict resolution is based on dialogue of attentive and patient listening and discernment in the light of the Spirit. It is the Spirit, in fact, that helps to overcome closures and tensions and works in our hearts so that we may reach, in truth and good, unity. This text helps us to understand the synodality. It is interesting as the Letter writes: they begin, the Apostles, saying: "The Holy Spirit and we think that ...". It is precisely synodality, the presence of the Holy Spirit, otherwise it is not synodality, it is talk, it is a parliament, an other thing ...

Let us ask the Lord to strengthen in all Christians, especially in bishops and priests, the desire and responsibility of communion. May He help us to live the dialogue, the listening and the encounter with our brothers and sisters in faith and with those far from it, in order to taste and manifest the fruitfulness of the Church, called to be in every time the "joyful mother" of many children (cf. Sal 113.9).

  
 
Chapter 15
1-2, 22-29
 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is brave of you to come here in this rain … May the Lord bless you abundantly!

As part of the journey of the Year of Faith, I am happy to celebrate this Eucharist dedicated in a special way to confraternities: a traditional reality in the Church, which in recent times has experienced renewal and rediscovery. I greet all of you with affection, particularly the confraternities which have come here from all over the world! Thank you for your presence and your witness!

1. In the Gospel we heard a passage from the farewell discourses of Jesus, as related by the evangelist John in the context of the Last Supper. Jesus entrusts his last thoughts, as a spiritual testament, to the apostles before he leaves them. Today’s text makes it clear that Christian faith is completely centred on the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Whoever loves the Lord Jesus welcomes him and his Father interiorly, and thanks to the Holy Spirit receives the Gospel in his or her heart and life. Here we are shown the centre from which everything must go forth and to which everything must lead: loving God and being Christ’s disciples by living the Gospel. When Benedict XVI spoke to you, he used this expression: evangelical spirit. Dear confraternities, the popular piety of which you are an important sign is a treasure possessed by the Church, which the bishops of Latin America defined, significantly, as a spirituality, a form of mysticism, which is “a place of encounter with Jesus Christ”. Draw always from Christ, the inexhaustible wellspring; strengthen your faith by attending to your spiritual formation, to personal and communitarian prayer, and to the liturgy. Down the centuries confraternities have been crucibles of holiness for countless people who have lived in utter simplicity an intense relationship with the Lord. Advance with determination along the path of holiness; do not rest content with a mediocre Christian life, but let your affiliation serve as a stimulus, above all for you yourselves, to an ever greater love of Jesus Christ.

2. The passage of the Acts of the Apostles which we heard also speaks to us about what is essential. In the early Church there was immediately a need to discern what was essential about being a Christian, about following Christ, and what was not. The apostles and the other elders held an important meeting in Jerusalem, a first “council”, on this theme, to discuss the problems which arose after the Gospel had been preached to the pagans, to non-Jews. It was a providential opportunity for better understanding what is essential, namely, belief in Jesus Christ who died and rose for our sins, and loving him as he loved us. But note how the difficulties were overcome: not from without, but from within the Church. And this brings up a second element which I want to remind you of, as Benedict XVI did, namely: ecclesial spirit. Popular piety is a road which leads to what is essential, if it is lived in the Church in profound communion with your pastors. Dear brothers and sisters, the Church loves you! Be an active presence in the community, as living cells, as living stones. The Latin American Bishops wrote that the popular piety which you reflect is “a legitimate way of living the faith, a way of feeling that we are part of the Church” (Aparecida Document, 264). This is wonderful! A legitimate way of living the faith, a way of feeling that we are part of the Church. Love the Church! Let yourselves be guided by her! In your parishes, in your dioceses, be a true “lung” of faith and Christian life, a breath of fresh air! In this Square I see a great variety: earlier on it was a variety of umbrellas, and now of colours and signs. This is also the case with the Church: a great wealth and variety of expressions in which everything leads back to unity; the variety leads back to unity, and unity is the encounter with Christ.

3. I would like to add a third expression which must distinguish you: missionary spirit. You have a specific and important mission, that of keeping alive the relationship between the faith and the cultures of the peoples to whom you belong. You do this through popular piety. When, for example, you carry the crucifix in procession with such great veneration and love for the Lord, you are not performing a simple outward act; you are pointing to the centrality of the Lord’s paschal mystery, his passion, death and resurrection which have redeemed us, and you are reminding yourselves first, as well as the community, that we have to follow Christ along the concrete path of our daily lives so that he can transform us. Likewise, when you express profound devotion for the Virgin Mary, you are pointing to the highest realization of the Christian life, the one who by her faith and obedience to God’s will, and by her meditation on the words and deeds of Jesus, is the Lord’s perfect disciple (cf. Lumen Gentium, 53). You express this faith, born of hearing the word of God, in ways that engage the senses, the emotions and the symbols of the different cultures … In doing so you help to transmit it to others, and especially the simple persons whom, in the Gospels, Jesus calls “the little ones”. In effect, “journeying together towards shrines, and participating in other demonstrations of popular piety, bringing along your children and engaging other people, is itself a work of evangelization” (Aparecida Document, 264). When you visit shrines, when you bring your family, your children, you are engaged in a real work of evangelization. This needs to continue. May you also be true evangelizers! May your initiatives be “bridges”, means of bringing others to Christ, so as to journey together with him. And in this spirit may you always be attentive to charity. Each individual Christian and every community is missionary to the extent that they bring to others and live the Gospel, and testify to God’s love for all, especially those experiencing difficulties. Be missionaries of God’s love and tenderness! Be missionaries of God’s mercy, which always forgives us, always awaits us and loves us dearly.

Evangelical spirit, ecclesial spirit, missionary spirit. Three themes! Do not forget them! Evangelical spirit, ecclesial spirit, missionary spirit. Let us ask the Lord always to direct our minds and hearts to him, as living stones of the Church, so that all that we do, our whole Christian life, may be a luminous witness to his mercy and love. In this way we will make our way towards the goal of our earthly pilgrimage, towards that extremely beautiful shrine, the heavenly Jerusalem. There, there is no longer any temple: God himself and the lamb are its temple; and the light of the sun and the moon give way to the glory of the Most High. Amen.

  

 Chapter 16

8-34

 
Pope Francis    30.10.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square      Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles        Acts 16: 8-34

Pope Francis  30.10.19  General Audience

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Reading the Acts of the Apostles, we can see how the
Holy Spirit is the protagonist of the Church's mission: it is He who guides the path of the evangelizers by showing them the way forward.

We see this clearly when the Apostle Paul, who has arrived in Troas, receives a vision. A Macedonian begs him: "Come to Macedonia and help us!" (Acts 16:9). The people of Northern Macedonia are proud of this, they are so proud to have called Paul for Paul to
announce Jesus Christ. I remember so well the beautiful people who welcomed me with such warmth: that conserves the faith that Paul preached to them! The Apostle did not hesitate and left for Macedonia, sure that it is God who sends him, and arrives at Philippi, "Roman colony" (Acts 16:12) on the Via Ignatia, to preach the Gospel. Paul stops there for several days. There are three events that characterize his stay in Philippi, in these three days: three important events. 1) The evangelization and baptism of Lydia and her family; 2) his arrest, along with Silas, after exorcizing a slave exploited by her owners; 3) the conversion and baptism of his prison warden and his family. Let's look at these three episodes in Paul's life.

The power of the Gospel is addressed, above all, to the women of Philippi, in particular to Lidia, a merchant of purple cloth, in the city of Thyatira, she is a believer in God in whom the Lord opens his heart "to adhere to Paul's words"(Acts 16:14). Lydia, in fact, welcomes Christ, receives Baptism with her family and welcomes those who are of Christ, giving a home to Paul and Silas in her home. Here we have the testimony of the arrival of Christianity in Europe: the beginning of a process of inculturation that has lasted until today. It entered through Macedonia.

After the warmth experienced at Lydia's house, Paul and Silas then find themselves dealing with the harshness of prison: they go from the consolation of this conversion of Lydia and her family, to the desolation of the prison, where they are thrown for having freed in the name of Jesus "a slave who had a spirit of divination" and "provided much profit for her masters" as a fortune-teller (Acts 16:16). Her masters made a lot of money, and this poor slave did what fortune-tellers do: she saw the future, she read hands – as the song says, "take this hand, gypsy", and that's why people paid. Even today, dear brothers and sisters, there are people who pay for it. I remember in my diocese, a large park, there were more than 60 tables where the fortune-tellers would sit men and women and they would read the palms of hands and people believed these things! And they paid. And this also happened in the time of St Paul. Her owners, in retaliation, reported Paul and lead the Apostles before the magistrates on charges of public disorder.

What happens? Paul is in prison and during his captivity a surprising thing happens. There is desolation, but instead of complaining, Paul and Silas sing praise to God and this praise releases a power that frees them: during the prayer an earthquake shakes the foundations of the prison, opens the doors and the chains fall off of everyone (cf. 16:25-26). As the prayer of Pentecost, the prayer made in prison also has prodigious effects.

The prison warden, believing that the prisoners had escaped, was about to commit suicide, because the prison wardens paid with their own lives if a prisoner escaped; but Paul shouts to him: "We are all here!" (Acts 16:27-28). Then he asks, "What do I have to do to be saved?" (see 30). The answer is: "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your family will be saved" (v. 31). At this point a change happens: in the middle of the night, the prison warden listens to the word of the Lord together with his family, welcomes the apostles, he washes their wounds – because they had been beaten – and together with his family they receive Baptism. Then, "and with his family he rejoiced at having come to faith in God" (v. 34), he prepared a banquet and invited Paul and Silas to stay with them: the moment of consolation! In the middle of the night of this anonymous prison warden, the light of Christ shines and defeats the darkness: the chains of the heart fall and blossom in him and his family and they experience a joy they have never experienced. That is the Holy Spirit who is carrying out the mission: from the beginning, from Pentecost onwards the Holy Spirit instils the mission. And he carries us forward, we must be faithful to the vocation that the Holy Spirit moves us to do. To bring the gospel.

Let us today also ask the Holy Spirit for an open heart, sensitive to God and hospitable to our brothers and sisters, like that of Lydia, and a bold faith, like that of Paul and Silas, and also an openness of heart, like that of the prison warden who is touched by the Holy Spirit.
  

 Chapter 16

11 - 15

 Pope Francis     06.05.13 Holy Mass Santa Marta     Acts 16: 11 - 15

Lydia, the woman who listened to Paul: “It is said of her that the Lord opened her heart to make her pay heed to Paul’s words. The Holy Spirit does this: he opens our heart that we may know Jesus”. He works in us, “throughout the day, during our whole life, as a witness who tells us where Jesus is”.

The best moment to find him is at the end of the day, when following a good Christian habit, as one examine’s one’s conscience. Before going to bed the Christian “thinks about what has happened”, of what “the Lord has said, what the Holy Spirit has done in me”. This practice of examining our conscience will do us good... because this helps to render fruitful, to make present in every moment, the fruitfulness of Easter, as we asked today in the oration. Let us ask for this grace to accustom ourselves to the presence of this travelling companion: the Holy Spirit.

  

 Chapter 16

22-34

 
Pope Francis     28.05.19   Holy Mass, Santa Marta Tuesday of 6th week of Easter Year C      Acts 16: 22-34,       John 16: 5-11 

Pope Francis  28.05.19  Holy Mass Santa Marta

Sadness is not a Christian attitude. Even if life isn't a Carnival, and there are so many difficulties, you can overcome them and go forward but, it takes daily dialogue with the Holy Spirit, the one who accompanies us.

The central figure of todays Gospel passage is the Holy Spirit. In the farewell speech to His disciples before ascending into heaven, Jesus gives us a true catechesis on the Holy Spirit, He explains who he is. The disciples are sad to hear that their master will soon will leave them and Jesus rebukes them for this, pointing out that although "grief has filled your hearts, (…) it is better for you that I go.


But how can one not be sad? To counter sadness, we pray to the Lord to keep the renewed youth of the spirit within us. It is the Holy Spirit, who ensures that we continue to be renewed and youthful in our faith.

A great Saint said: a Saint is a sad sad Saint. So, a Christian is a sad sad Christian: not right. The Holy Spirit is the one who makes us able to carry our crosses. Today's first reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles, tells the storey of Paul and Silas who had been stripped, beaten, chained and imprisoned, sang hymns to God.

The Holy Spirit renews everything. The Holy Spirit accompanies us in life and sustains us, is the Paraclete. But what a strange name! I remember when as a priest at a mass for children on a Pentecost Sunday I asked them if they knew who is the Holy Spirit. And a child answered: the paralytic. And we too often think that the Holy Spirit is a paralytic, who does nothing ....

Paraclete: the word paraclete means "He who is near me and supports me so that I don’t fall, so I keep my spirit youthful. A Christian is always young: always. and when the heart of a Christian begins to age, so does his Christian vocation.

Either you are young in heart and soul, or you are not fully Christian.

In life there will be pain, Paul and Silas had been beaten and were suffering, but they were full of joy, sang ...

He explained that this is where the "youthful" part comes in as youth looks ahead with hope. But to be able to have this youthful attitude, we need a daily dialogue with the Holy Spirit, who is always with. It is the great gift that Jesus left us this support, that keeps you going.

And even though we are sinners, the Spirit helps us to repent and makes us look ahead. Talk to the spirit, he will give you support and give you back your youth. Sin on the other hand ages: ages the soul, everything gets older. Never this pagan sadness.

In life there are difficult times but at such times we feel that the Spirit helps us move forward (...) and overcome the difficulties. Even martyrdom.

"Let us ask the Lord to not lose this renewed youthfulness, not to be Christians who have lost their joy and not allowed themselves to carry on ... A Christian should never retires; a Christian lives, lives because he is young – when he is a true Christian ".
  

  Chapter 17

15 - 22

Chapter 18

1

 

Paul in the Areopagus (Acts 17:15-22, 18-1) proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ among the worshipers of idols. It is the way in which he did this, that is so important: “He did not say: Idolaters! You will go to hell... ”. No, he “tried to reach their hearts”; he did not condemn from the outset but sought dialogue. “Paul is a Pope, a builder of bridges. He did not want to become a builder of walls”. Building bridges to proclaim the Gospel, “this was the Paul’s outlook in Athens: build a bridge to their hearts, and then take a step further and proclaim Jesus Christ”. Paul followed the attitude of Jesus, who spoke to everyone, “he heard the Samaritan woman... ate with the Pharisees, with sinners, with publicans, with doctors of the law. Jesus listened to everyone and when he said a word of condemnation, it was at the end, when there was nothing left to do”. But Paul, too, was “aware that he must evangelize, not proselytize”. The Church “does not grow by proselytizing, as Benedict XVI has told us, but grows by attracting people, by its witness, and by its preaching”. Ultimately, “Paul acted because he was sure, sure of Jesus Christ. He had no doubt of his Lord”.

Paul teaches what the path of
evangelization should be, to follow with courage. And “when the Church loses this apostolic courage, she becomes a lifeless Church. Orderly, perhaps — nice, very nice — but barren, because she has lost the courage to go to the outskirts, where there are so many people who are victims of idolatry, worldliness, and weak thought”. In order to curb the fear of making a mistake, you have to realize that you can rise and continue to move forward. “Those who do not walk for fear of making a mistake make the most serious mistake.”
  

 Chapter 17

15-34

 
Pope Francis   06.11.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square      Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles        Acts 17: 15-34

Pope Francis 06.11.19 Paul in Athens

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

We continue our "journey" with the book of the Acts of the Apostles. After the trials in Philippi, Thessalonica, Beroea, Paul arrives in Athens, right in the heart of Greece (cf. Acts 17:15). This city, which lived in the shadow of the ancient glories despite the political decadence, still guarded the panacea of culture. Here the Apostle "trembles within himself to see the city full of idols"(Acts 17:16). This "impact" with paganism, however, instead of making him flee, pushes him to create a bridge to talk with that culture.

Paul chooses to become familiar with the city and thus begins to frequent the most significant places and people. He goes to the synagogue, a symbol of the life of faith; goes to the square, symbol of city life; and goes to the Areopagus, a symbol of political and cultural life. Meet Jews, epicurean and stoic philosophers, and many others. He meets all the people, he doesn't close himself, he goes to talk to all the people. In this way Paul observes the culture of Athens, starting from a contemplative outlook that discovers that God dwells in his homes, in his streets and in his squares"(Evangelii gaudium,71). Paul does not look at the city of Athens and the pagan world with hostility but with the eyes of faith. And this makes us wonder about our way of looking at our cities: do we observe them with indifference? With contempt? Or with the faith that recognizes God's children in the midst of anonymous crowds?

Paul chooses an outlook that urges him to build a bridge between the Gospel and the pagan world. In the heart of one of the most famous institutions of the ancient world, the Areopagus, he realizes an extraordinary example of enculture of the message of faith: he proclaims Jesus Christ to the worshippers of idols, and does not attack them, but makes himself "a Pope, a builder of bridges"(Homily in Santa Marta, May 8, 2013).

Paul takes his cue from the altar of the city dedicated to "an unknown god" (Acts 17:23) - there was an altar with "to the Unknown God"; no image, nothing, just that inscription. Starting from that "devotion" to the Unknown God, to empathize with his listeners proclaims that God "lives among the citizens"(Evangelii gaudium,71) and "does not hide from those who seek him with a sincere heart, " ( ibid.). It is precisely this presence that Paul seeks to reveal: "What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you"(Acts 17:23).

To reveal the identity of the god that the Athenians worship, the Apostle starts from creation, that is, from the biblical faith in the God of revelation, to arrive at redemption and judgment, that is, to the strictly Christian message. He shows the disproportion between the greatness of the Creator and the temples built by man, and explains that the Creator is always looking so that everyone can find him. In this way Paul, according to a beautiful expression of Pope Benedict XVI, "announces The One whom men ignore, yet know: the Unknown-Known" (Blessed XVI, Meeting with the world of culture at the Collège des Bernardins, 12 Sept. 2008) . Then, he invites everyone to go beyond "the times of ignorance" and to decide for conversion in view of the impending judgment. Paul thus arrives at the kerygma and alludes to Christ, without mentioning him, defining him as the "man that God has appointed, giving a sure proof to all by raising him from the dead"(Acts 17:31).

And here, there's the problem. The word of Paul, who until now had held the interlocutors in suspense – because it was an interesting discovery – finds a rock: the death and resurrection of Christ appears "foolish" (1Cor 1:23) and arouses ridicule and derision. Paul then departs: his attempt seems to have failed, but instead some adhere to his word and open themselves to the faith. Among them a man, Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, and a woman, Damaris. Even in Athens, the Gospel takes root and can run with two voices: that of man and that of women!

Today let us also ask the Holy Spirit to teach us to build bridges with culture, with those who do not believe or with those who have a different belief from our own. Always build bridges, always the outstretched hand, no aggression. Let us ask him for the ability to delicately enculturate the message of faith, placing on those in Christ's ignorance a contemplative look, moved by a love that warms even the most hardened hearts.
  

 Chapter 18

1-26

 
Pope Francis   13.11.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square     Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles       Acts 18: 1-26

Pope Francis  13.11.19 General Audience

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

This audience is happening in two groups: the sick are in the Paul VI Hall - I have been with them, I have greeted them and blessed them. There they will be more comfortable because of the rain – and we are here. But they're looking at us on the big screen. Let's say hello to both groups with a round of applause.

The Acts of the Apostles tell us that Paul, as a tireless
evangelizer, as he is, after his stay in Athens, continues the journey of the Gospel in the world. A new stop on his missionary journey is Corinth, capital of the Roman province of Achaea, a commercial and cosmopolitan city, thanks to the presence of two important ports.

As we read in chapter 18 of the Acts, Paul finds hospitality with a married couple, Aquila and Priscilla , forced to move from Rome to Corinth after Emperor Claudius ordered the expulsion of the Jews (cf. Acts 18:2). I'd like to do a parenthesis. The Jewish people have suffered so much in history. They were kicked out, persecuted ... And, in the last century, we have seen so many, so many brutalities that they have done to the Jewish people and we were all convinced that this was over. But today, the habit of persecuting Jews begins to be reborn here and there. Brothers and sisters, this is neither human nor Christian. The Jews are our brothers! And they should not be persecuted. Understand? These spouses demonstrate that they have a heart full of faith in God and generosity to others, able to make room for those who, like them, experience the strangers. This sensitivity leads them to decentralise themselves to practice the Christian art of hospitality (cf. Rom 12:13; Eb 13:2) and open the doors of their home to welcome the Apostle Paul. Thus they welcome not only the evangelizer, but also the proclamation he brings with him: the Gospel of Christ who is "God's power for the salvation of all who ever believe"(Rm 1.16). And from that moment their home is imbued with the scent of the living Word (Eb 4:12) that enlivens hearts.

Aquila and Priscilla also share with Paul the professional activity, that is, the construction of tents. Paul greatly valued manual labour and considered it a privileged space for Christian witness (cf. 1 Cor 4:12), as well as a just way to maintain himself without being a weight to others (cf. 1Ts 2.9; 2Ts 3.8) or the community.

The house of Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth opens its doors not only to the Apostle but also to other brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul, in fact, can speak of the "community that gathers in their home"(1 Cor 16:19), which becomes a "house of the Church", a "domus ecclesiae", a place of listening to the Word of God and celebration of the Eucharist. Even today in some countries where there is no religious freedom and there is no freedom of Christians, Christians gather in a house, somewhat hidden, to pray and celebrate the Eucharist. Even today there are these houses, these families that become a temple for the Eucharist.

After a year and a half of stay in Corinth, Paul leaves that city together with Aquila and Priscilla, who stop in Ephesus. Even there their house becomes a place of catechesis (cf. Acts 18:26). Finally, the spouses will return to Rome and will be the recipients of a splendid eulogy that the Apostle inserts in the letter to the Romans. He had a grateful heart, and so Paul wrote about these two spouses in the letter to the Romans. Saying: "Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my collaborators in Christ Jesus. To save my life, they risked their lives, and I am not only grateful to them, but all the Churches of the pagan world." How many families in times of persecution risk their lives to keep the persecuted hidden! This is the first example: a welcome family, even in bad times.

Among the many collaborators of Paul, Aquila and Priscilla emerge as "models of a married life responsibly committed to the service of the whole Christian community" and remind us that, thanks to the faith and commitment to the evangelization of so many lay people like them, Christianity has come to us. In fact, "to take root in the land of the people, to develop strongly, the commitment of these families was necessary. But think that Christianity from the beginning was preached by the lay people. You, too, are responsible by your Baptism for carrying on the faith. It was the commitment of so many families, of these spouses, of these Christian communities, of the lay faithful who offered the "humus" to the growth of the faith" (Blessed XVI, Catechesi,7 February 2007). This phrase by Pope Benedict XVI is beautiful: the lay people give the humus to the growth of faith.

We ask the Father, who has chosen to make the spouses his "real living sculpture" (Esort. ap. Amoris laetitia, 11) - I believe that here are the new spouses: listen to your vocation, you must be the true living sculpture - to spread its Spirit on all Christian couples so that, following the example of Aquila and Priscilla, may they know how to open the doors of their hearts to Christ and their brothers and transform their homes into domestic churches. Beautiful word: a house is a domestic church, where to live communion and offer life lived with faith, hope and charity. We must pray to these two Saints Aquila and Prisca, to teach our families to be like them: a domestic church where there is humus, for faith to grow.
  

 Chapter 19

1-40

Chapter 20

1-35

 
Pope Francis  04.12.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square    Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles      Acts 19: 1-40,     Acts 20: 1-35

Pope Francis  4.12.19 General Audience

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

The Gospel's journey through the world continues unabated in the Book of Acts of the Apostles, and crosses the city of Ephesus manifesting its full saving power. Thanks to Paul, about twelve men receive baptism in the name of Jesus and experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that regenerates them (cf. Acts 19:1-7). There are also several wonders that take place through the Apostle: the sick are healed and the obsessed are freed (cf. Acts 19:11-12). This happens because the disciple remembers his Master (cf. Lc 6.40) and makes him present by communicating to his brothers and sisters the same new life that he has received from him. In fact every evangelizer is aware that with His person and His action He is a mission on this land and to be branded by fire by the mission of enlightening, blessing, enlivening, lifting, healing and freeing.

The power of God that bursts into Ephesus unmasks those who want to use the name of Jesus to perform exorcisms but without having the spiritual authority to do so (cf. Acts 19:13-17), and reveals the weakness of the magical arts, which are abandoned by a large number of people who choose Christ (cf. Acts 19:18-19). A real reversal for a city, like Ephesus, which was a famous centre for the practice of magic! Luke thus emphasizes the incompatibility between faith in Christ and magic. If you choose Christ, you cannot resort to the magician: faith is trusting abandonment in the hands of a reliable God who makes himself known not through occult practices but by revelation and with free love. Perhaps some of you will say to me: "Ah, yes, this magic is an ancient thing: today, with Christian civilization this does not happen". But be careful! I ask you: how many of you go to tarot, how many of you go to get your hands read by palm readers or go to to card readers? Even today in the great cities practicing Christians do these things. And to the question: "But why, if you believe in Jesus Christ, go to the magician, to the future teller, to all these people?", they answer: "I believe in Jesus Christ but for palm reading I also go to them". Please: magic is not Christian! These things that you do to guess the future or guess so many things or change life situations, are not Christian. Christ's grace brings you everything: pray and trust the Lord.

The spread of the Gospel in Ephesus damages the trade of silversmiths – another problem – who made the statues of the goddess Artemis, making a religious practice a real bargain. I ask you to think about this. Seeing the activity that yielded a lot of money diminish, the silversmiths organized a riot against Paul, and Christians are accused of having put into crisis the category of craftsmen, the sanctuary of Artemis and the worship of this goddess (cf. Acts 19:23-28).

Paul then departs from Ephesus bound for Jerusalem and arrives at Miletus (cf. Acts 20:1-16). Here he sends a call to the elders of the Church of Ephesus – the priests: they would be priests – to make a "pastoral" handover (cf. Acts 20:17-35). We are at the final bars of Paul's apostolic ministry and Luke presents us with his farewell address, a kind of spiritual testament that the Apostle addresses to those who, after his departure, will have to lead the community of Epheus. And this is one of the most beautiful pages of the Book of Acts of the Apostles: I advise you to take today the New Testament, the Bible, chapter 20 and read this passage from Paul to the priests of Ephesus, and he does so in Miletus. It is a way of understanding how the Apostle says farewell and also how priests today must take leave and also how all Christians must take leave. It's a beautiful page.

In this autobiographical part with its retrospective look at his mission in Asia Minor Paul looks at the past and the total investment of himself, of his humble service, of the proofs that are his. He never spared himself to lead others to faith. In addition he sees the new time that awaits him, a future marked by trusting the Holy Spirit who leads him.

In the exhortation part, Paul encourages community leaders, who he knows he sees for the last time. And what does it tell them? "Watch over yourself and the whole flock." This is the work of the pastor: to watch, to watch over himself and the flock. The pastor must watch, the parish priest must watch, make a vigil, the priests must watch, the Bishops, the Pope must watch. Make a vigil to cherish the flock, and also to watch over yourself, examine your conscience and see how you fulfill this duty to watch. "Watch over yourself and the whole flock, in the midst of which the Holy Spirit has established you as guardians to be pastors of the Church of God, who has bought himself with the blood of his Own Son"(Acts 20:28): so says St. Paul. A future marked by trusting the Holy Spirit who leads him, and his master and Lord to Jerusalem. The episcopoles are asked to be close to the flock, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, and the readiness to defend Him from "wolves" who threaten the healthy doctrine and ecclesial communion (v. 29). The Bishops must be very close to the people in order to guard them, to defend them; not detached from the people. After entrusting this task to the leaders of Ephesus, Paul puts them in God's hands and entrusts them to the "word of His grace" (v. 32), the ferment of all growth and path of holiness in the Church, inviting them to work with their own hands, like him, so as not to be of weight to others, to help the weak, and to experience that "one is more blessed in giving than in receiving."

Dear brothers and sisters, we ask the Lord to renew in us the love for the Church and for the deposit of the faith which it preserves, and to make us all responsible in the custody of the flock, supporting in prayer the shepherds so that they may manifest the firmness and the tenderness of the Divine Shepherd.
  
 
Chapter 20
28
 

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

 Chapter 21: 1 to Chapter 26: 32


 
Pope Francis  11.12.19  General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall   Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles       Acts 21: 1 to Acts 26: 32 

Pope Francis General Audience 11.12.19

Dear brothers and sisters good morning!

As we read the Acts of the Apostles, the Gospel's journey through the world continues, and St. Paul's testimony is increasingly marked by the seal of suffering. But this is something that grows with time in Paul's life. Paul is not only an evangelist full of ardour, the intrepid missionary among the pagans who gives birth to new Christian communities, but is also the suffering witness of the Risen One (cf. Acts 9:15-16).

The arrival of the Apostle in Jerusalem, described in chapter 21 of the Acts, unleashes a fierce hatred towards him, and he is confronted: "But, he was a persecutor! Don't trust him!" As it was for Jesus, Jerusalem is also a hostile city for him. He went to the temple and was recognized, and led out to be lynched but was rescued by Roman soldiers. Accused of teaching against the Law in the Temple, he is arrested and begins his pilgrimage as a prisoner, first before the Sanhedrin, then before the Roman prosecutor at Caesarea, and finally before King Agrippa. Luke highlights the similarity between Paul and Jesus, both hated by adversaries, publicly accused and recognized as innocent by the imperial authorities; and so Paul is associated with his Master's passion, and his passion becomes a living Gospel. I have come from St. Peter's Basilica and there I had a first audience, this morning, with Ukrainian pilgrims, of a Ukrainian diocese. How persecuted these people have been; how much they have suffered for the Gospel! But they didn't negotiate their faith. Today in the world, in Europe, many Christians are persecuted and give their lives for their faith, or are persecuted with white gloves, that is, left aside, marginalized ... Martyrdom is the air of the life of a Christian, of a Christian community. There will always be martyrs among us: this is the sign that we are going on the path of Jesus. It is a blessing of the Lord, that among the people of God, some will bear this witness of martyrdom.

Paul is called to defend himself against accusations, and in the end, in the presence of King Agrippa II, his apology changes into effective testimony of faith (cf. Acts 26,1-23).

Then Paul recounts his conversion: the risen Christ made him a Christian and entrusted him with the mission among the people, "to open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may obtain forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been consecrated by faith in Christ (v. 18). Paul obeyed this assignment and did nothing but show how the prophets and Moses foretold what he now announces: that "Christ must suffer and that, as the first to rise from the dead, he would announce the light to both our people and to the Gentiles" (v. 23). Paul's passionate testimony touches the heart of King Agrippa, who is only missing the decisive step. And so the king says: "Convince me a little more to make me a Christian!" (see 28). Paul is declared innocent, but he cannot be released because he appealed to Caesar. Thus continues the unstoppable journey of the Word of God to Rome. Paul, chained, will end up here in Rome.

From this moment on, Paul's portrait is that of the prisoner whose chains are a sign of his fidelity to the Gospel and of his witness to the Risen One.

The chains are certainly a humiliating ordeal for the Apostle, who appears in the eyes of the world as an "evildoer" (2Tm 2.9). But his love for Christ is so strong that even these chains are seen through the eyes of faith; faith that for Paul is not "a theory, or an opinion about God and the world", but "the impact of God's love on his heart, [...] it is love for Jesus Christ" (Blessed XVI, Homily on the occasion of the Pauline Year,28 June 2008).

Dear brothers and sisters, Paul teaches us perseverance in trials and the ability to read everything through the eyes of faith. Today we ask the Lord, through the Intercession of the Apostle, to rekindle our faith and help us to be faithful to the end of our vocation as Christians, disciples of the Lord, missionaries.
  

  Chapter 22

30

Chapter 23

6-11

 

With our witness to the truth, Christians must cause discomfort in “our comfortable structures”, even to the point of ending up “in trouble”, because we must be enlivened by “a healthy spiritual craziness” in all “outskirts of existence”. Following the example of St Paul, who “fought one battle after another”, believers must not retreat “to a relaxed life. Today there are “too many arm-chair Christians”, those who are “lukewarm”, people for whom “everything goes well”, but who do not have “inner apostolic ardour.

It is “Paul who causes discomfort”. Paul was a man, who through his teaching and his attitude caused great discomfort because he proclaimed Jesus Christ. And the message of Jesus Christ makes our comfortable structures, even Christian ones, uncomfortable.

May the Holy Spirit give to all of us apostolic fervour; may he also give us the grace to feel uncomfortable about certain aspects of the Church which are too relaxed; the grace to go forward to the existential outskirts. The Church is in great need of this! Not only in far away lands, in young Churches, to peoples who do not yet know Jesus Christ. But here in the city, right in the city, we need Jesus Christ’s message. We thus ask the Holy Spirit for this grace of
apostolic zeal: be Christians with apostolic zeal. And if we make others uncomfortable, blessed be the Lord. Let’s go, and as the Lord says to Paul: ‘take courage!’