Words

Pope Francis    - Words   

 

The Apostle John “tells us many times that we should abide in the Lord. “And he also tells us that the Lord abides in us”. Essentially, St John sums up the Christian life as an “abiding”, as a mutual indwelling — we in God and God in us. “Do not abide in the spirit of the world, do not abide in superficiality, do not abide in idolatry, do not abide in vanity. No, abide in the Lord!” And the Lord “reciprocates this” so that “he remains in us”. Indeed, “he first remains in us” even though “many times we turn him away”. Yet if we do, “we cannot remain in him”.

He who abides in
love abides in God and God in him,” St John writes further on. In practice, the Apostle tells us how “this abiding is the same as abiding in love”. And that “it is beautiful to hear this said about love”. Yet that “the love of which John speaks is not the love of which soap operas are made! No, it is something else!”.

In fact, “Christian love always possesses one quality: concreteness. Christian love is concrete. Jesus himself, when he speaks of love, tells us concrete things:
feed the hungry, visit the sick”. They are all “concrete things” for indeed “love is concrete”.

“When this concreteness is lacking” we end up “living a Christianity of illusions, for we do not understand the heart of Jesus’ message”. Love that is not concrete becomes “an illusory love”. Mark (6:45-52), the disciples had this sort of love when they looked at Jesus and believed they were seeing a ghost” and “an illusory love that is not concrete does not do us good”.

“But when does this occur?” The Gospel could not be clearer. When the disciples believed they are seeing a ghost, “they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened”. And “if your heart is hardened, you cannot love. You think that to love is to imagine things. No, love is concrete!”.

There is a basic criteria for truly living in love. “The criteria is to abide in the Lord and the Lord in us, and the criteria of Christian concreteness is the same, always: The Word came in the flesh”. The criteria is “the Incarnation of the Word, God made Man” and “Christianity without this foundation is not true Christianity. The key to Christian life is faith in Jesus Christ, the Word of God made Man”.

Concrete love criteria”. The first is that “love is found more in
deeds than words. Jesus himself said: it is not those who call me ‘Lord, Lord’, who talk much, who shall enter the Kingdom of heaven; but those who do the will of God”. The invitation set before us, then, is to be “concrete” by doing “the deeds of God”.

There is a question we must each ask ourselves: “If I abide in in Jesus, if I abide in the Lord, if I abide in love, what do I do for God— not what do I think or what do I say— and what do I do for others?”. Therefore, “the first criteria is to love with deeds, not with words”. “The wind carries away our words: today they are here and tomorrow they are gone”

The “second criteria for concreteness is that “in love it is more important to
give than to receive”. The person “who loves, gives, gives things, gives life, gives himself to God and to others”. Instead, the person “who does not love and who is selfish always seeks to receive. He seeks always to have things, to have the advantage”. Hence the spiritual counsel “to abide with an open heart, and not like the disciples whose hearts were closed” and who therefore did not understand. It is a matter of abiding in God” and of “God abiding in us. It is a matter of abiding in love.

The sole “criteria of abiding in our faith in Jesus Christ the Word of God made flesh is the very mystery that we celebrate in this season”. Tthe two practical consequences of this Christian concreteness, of this criteria, are that love is found more in deeds than words, and that in love it is more important to give than to receive”.

“As we gaze on the Child in these final three days of the Christmas Season”, “let us renew our faith in Jesus Christ, who is true God and true Man. And let us ask for the grace to be granted this concreteness of Christian love so that we might always abide in love” and that “he might abide in us”.



In these days the key word in the liturgy is ‘manifestation’: the Son of God manifests Himself in the Feast of the Epiphany, to the Gentiles; in Baptism, when the Holy Spirit descends upon Him; in the wedding at Cana, when he performs the miracle of changing water into wine. Indeed, these are the three signs that the liturgy brings in these days in order to speak to us about the manifestation of God: God makes Himself known. But the question is this: how can we know God? (1 Jn 4:7-10) The theme that the Apostle John takes up in the First Reading: knowledge of God. What does it mean to know God? How can one know God?

A first reply would be: one can know God through reason. But really, can I know God through reason? Somewhat, yes. Indeed, through my intellect, reasoning, looking at worldly things, one can begin to understand that there is a God and the existence of God can be understood in some of God’s personality traits. However, this is insufficient for knowing God, in so far as God is known totally in the encounter with Him, and reason alone does not suffice for the encounter, something more is needed: reason helps you to reach a certain point, then He accompanies you onward.

In his letter, John clearly states what God is: God is
love. For this reason, only on the path of love can you know God. Of course, reasonable love, accompanied by reason, but love. Perhaps one could ask at this point how can I love whom I don’t know?. The answer is clear: “Love those whom you have near”. In fact, this is the doctrine of two commandments: the most important one is to love God, for He is love. The second is to love your neighbour, but to get to the first, we have to climb the steps of the second. In a word, through love of our neighbour, we come to know God, who is love and only by loving reasonably, but by loving, we can reach this love.

John wrote: “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God”. But, you cannot love if God doesn’t give the love, doesn’t generate this love for you because he who loves knows God. On the contrary, St John writes, “he who does not love does not know God; for God is love”. This is not “soap opera love”, but rather sound, strong love, an eternal love that manifests itself — these days the word is ‘manifest’ — in his Son who has come to save us. It is, therefore, a concrete love, a love of works and not of
words. It is here, then, that it takes a lifetime to know God: a journey, a journey of love, of knowledge, of love for our neighbour, of love for those who hate us, of love for all.

Jesus himself gave us the example of love. And, indeed, in this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us first and sent his Son to be the victim of expiation for our sins. This is why we are able to contemplate the love of God in the person of Jesus. And by doing what Jesus taught us about love for our neighbour, we reach — step by step — the love of God, knowledge of God who is love.

The Apostle John, in his letter, goes a little ahead when he states that in this is love and not that we loved God, but that He loved us first: God precedes us in love. In fact, when I meet God in prayer, I feel that God loved me before I began to seek Him. Yes, He is always first, He waits for us, He calls us. And when we arrive, He is there!

(Jer 1:11-12) How beautiful were God’s words to Jeremiah: ‘Jeremiah, what do you see?’ — ‘a rod of almond, Lord’ — ‘You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it’. The flower of the almond tree is the first to blossom in spring, the first. This signifies that the Lord is there, watching over, and He is always the first, like the almond tree, He loves us first. And we, too, will always have this surprise: when we draw near to God through
works of charity, through prayer, in Communion, in the Word of God, we find that He is there, first, waiting for us, this is how He loves us. And just like the flower of the almond tree, He is the first. Truly, that verse from Jeremiah tells us so much.

A similar proposal can be gleaned from the episode presented in today’s Reading from the Gospel according to Mark (6:34-44), which first says that Jesus had compassion on the crowd of people, it is the love of Jesus: He saw a large crowd, like sheep without a shepherd, confused. But today as well, there are so many confused people in our cities, in our countries: so many people.

When Jesus saw these confused people He was moved: He began to teach them the doctrine, the matters of God and the people heard Him, listened to Him very closely because the Lord was good at speaking, He spoke to the heart.

Then, Mark recounts in his Gospel that, realizing that those 5,000 people hadn’t eaten, Jesus asks his disciples to see to it. Thus, Christ is first to go meet with the people. Perhaps on their part, the disciples got somewhat upset, felt annoyed, and their response was harsh: ‘shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?’. Thus, God’s love was first; the disciples hadn’t understood. But God’s love is really like this: He is always waiting for us, He always surprises us. It is the Father, our Father who loves us so much, who is always ready to forgive us, always. And not once, but 70 times seven. Always!. Indeed, like a Father full of love. Therefore, in order to know this God who is love, we must climb the steps of love for our neighbour, by works of charity, by the
acts of mercy that our Lord has taught us.

Lord, in these days in which the Church makes us ponder the manifestation of God, grant us the grace to know Him on the path of love.



Pope Francis   10.07.16   Angelus, St Peter's Square, Rome   15th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C        Luke 10: 25-37

Pope Francis   10.07.16  Angelus

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Today’s liturgy presents us with the parable of the “
Good Samaritan”, taken from the Gospel of Luke (10:25-37). This passage, this simple and inspiring story, indicates a way of life, which has as its main point not ourselves, but others, with their difficulties, whom we encounter on our journey and who challenge us. Others challenge us. And when others do not challenge us, something is not right; something in the heart is not Christian. Jesus uses this parable in his dialogue with a lawyer when asked about the twofold commandment that allows us to enter into eternal life: to love God with your whole heart and your neighbour as yourself (cf. vv. 25-28). “Yes”, the lawyer replies, “but, tell me, who is my neighbour?” (v. 29). We too can ask ourselves this question: Who is my neighbour? Who must I love as myself? My parents? My friends? My fellow countrymen? Those who belong to my religion?... Who is my neighbour?

Jesus responds with this parable. A man, along the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, was attacked, beaten and abandoned by robbers. Along that road, a priest passed by, then a Levite, and upon seeing this wounded man, they did not stop, but walked straight past him (vv. 31-32). Then a Samaritan came by, that is, a resident of Samaria, a man who was therefore despised by the Jews because he did not practise the true religion; and yet he, upon seeing that poor wretched man, “had compassion. He went to him, bandaged his wounds [...], brought him to an inn and took care of him” (vv. 33-34); and the next day he entrusted him to the care of the innkeeper, paid for him and said that he would pay for any further costs (cf. v. 35).

At this point, Jesus turns to the lawyer and asks him: “Which of these three — the priest, the Levite, or the Samaritan — do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell victim to the robbers?”. And the lawyer, of course — because he was intelligent —, said in reply: “The one who had compassion on him” (vv. 36-37). In this way, Jesus completely overturned the lawyer’s initial perspective — as well as our own! —: I must not categorize others in order to decide who is my neighbour and who is not. It is up to me whether to be a neighbour or not — the decision is mine — it is up to me whether or not to be a neighbour to those whom I encounter who need help, even if they are strangers or perhaps hostile. And Jesus concludes, saying: “Go and do likewise” (v. 37). What a great lesson! And he repeats it to each of us: “Go and do likewise”, be a neighbour to the brother or sister whom you see in trouble. “Go and do likewise”.
Do good works, don’t just say words that are gone with the wind. A song comes to mind: “Words, words, words”. No. Works, works. And through the good works that we carry out with love and joy towards others, our faith emerges and bears fruit. Let us ask ourselves — each of us responding in his own heart — let us ask ourselves: Is our faith fruitful? Does our faith produce good works? Or is it sterile instead, and therefore more dead than alive? Do I act as a neighbour or simply pass by? Am I one of those who selects people according to my own liking? It is good to ask ourselves these questions, and to ask them often, because in the end we will be judged on the works of mercy. The Lord will say to us: Do you remember that time on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho? That man who was half dead was me. Do you remember? That hungry child was me. Do you remember? That immigrant who many wanted to drive away, that was me. That grandparent who was alone, abandoned in nursing homes, that was me. That sick man, alone in the hospital, who no one visited, that was me.

May the Virgin Mary help us to walk along the path of love, love that is generous towards others, the way of the Good Samaritan. My she help us to live the first commandment that Christ left us. This is the way to enter into eternal life.