Works of mercy

Works of mercy - Pope Francis       


  
We must come out of ourselves, we must take human routes if we are to discover that Jesus’ wounds are still visible today on the bodies of all our brothers and sisters who are hungry, thirsty, naked, humiliated or slaves, in prisons and hospitals. By touching and caressing these wounds we can adore God alive in our midst.

When Jesus made himself visible after the Resurrection. Some rejoiced, others were filled with doubt. Thomas, to whom the Lord showed himself eight days after he had shown himself to the others, was even incredulous. The Lord, knows when and how to do things. He granted Thomas eight days; and he wanted the wounds still to be visible on his body, although they were “clean, very beautiful, filled with light”, because the Apostle had said he would not believe unless he put his finger in them. He was stubborn! But the Lord, wanted a pig-headed man in order to explain something greater. Thomas placed his fingers in the Lord’s wounds. But he did not say: “it’s true, the Lord is risen”. He went further; he said: “My Lord and my God”. By this, we understand what the Lord wanted of Thomas. Starting with his disbelief he led him to profess not only his belief in the Resurrection but above all — and he was the first to do so — his belief in the divinity of the Lord.

In the Church’s history, there have been errors on the journey towards God when some believed the living God of the Christians was to be found “in loftier meditation” or in mortification and austerity, “they chose the road of penance, only penance”. They are respectively the Gnostics and the Pelagians . However, Jesus says: “we saw Thomas on the way”.

How can I find the wounds of Jesus today? I cannot see them as Thomas saw them. I find them in doing
works of mercy, in giving to the body — to the body and to the soul, but I stress the body — of your injured brethren, for they are hungry, thirsty, naked, humiliated, slaves, in prison, in hospital. These are the wounds of Jesus in our day; and Jesus asks us to make an act of faith to him through these wounds.

Mere philanthropic actions do not suffice. “We must touch the wounds of Jesus, caress them. We must heal the wounds of Jesus with tenderness. We must literally kiss the wounds of Jesus”. The life of St Francis, changed when he embraced the leper because “he touched the living God and lived in adoration”. What Jesus asks us to do with our works of mercy, is what Thomas asked: to enter his wounds.
 


 

John writes that all who keep his commandments ‘abide’ in God, and God in them. This ‘abiding’ in God is like the breath and the manner of Christian life. Thus we can say that “a Christian is one who abides in God”. John also writes in his letter: “by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us”. Therefore, a Christian is one who ‘has’ the Holy Spirit and is guided by God. We abide in God and God abides in us by the Spirit which he has given us. Then the problem comes. Be mindful, ‘do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God’. This is precisely the rule for daily life which John teaches us.

Therefore, we should “
test the spirits”, but what does it mean to test the spirits? It seems as if they are ghosts.... However, that is not the case, because John tells us to “test the spirits in order to gauge where they come from: to gauge the spirit, what is happening in my heart”. Thus, “it leads us there, to the heart”, to ask ourselves “what is happening, what do I feel in my heart, what do I want to do? The root of what is happening now, where does it come from?”.

This, is testing in order to ‘gauge’. Indeed, the verb ‘gauge’ is the most appropriate verb to truly determine “whether what I feel comes from God, from the spirit that enables me to abide in God, or if it comes from the other one”. Who is the other one: “
the antichrist”. After all John’s reasoning is simple, direct, I would say circular, because it turns on the same topic: either you are of Jesus or you are of the world. John also takes up what Jesus, too, asked of the Father for all of us: not to take us from the world, but to protect us from the world. Because worldliness is the spirit which distances us from the Spirit of God that enables us to abide in the Lord.

Okay Father, yes it is all clear, but what are the criteria to truly discern what is happening in my soul? John offers only one criterion, and he presents it in these words: ‘By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit’ — every emotion, every inspiration that I feel — ‘which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God’.

In other words, the criterion is that Jesus has come in the flesh, the criterion is the incarnation. This means that I can feel many things inside, even good things, good ideas, but if these good ideas, if these feelings do not lead me to God who has come in the flesh, if they do not lead me to my neighbour, to my brother, then they are not of God. This is why John begins this passage of his letter by saying: ‘this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and
love one another’.

We can make many pastoral plans, conceive of new methods for drawing people close, but if we don’t take the path of God who has come in the flesh, of the Son of God who became man in order to walk with us, then we are not on the path of the good spirit. Instead what prevails is the antichrist, worldliness, the spirit of the world.

Yes, how many people do we find in life who seem spiritual, but who do not speak of doing
works of mercy? Yet why is this? Because the works of mercy are precisely the concrete sign of our confession that the Son of God has come in the flesh: visiting the sick, feeding those who do not have food, taking care of outcast. We must perform “works of mercy”, therefore, because each of our brothers and sisters, whom we must love, is the flesh of Christ: God has come in the flesh to identify himself with us and, and one who suffers is Christ who suffers.

Hence, if you take this path, if you feel this, you are on the right path because this is the criterion of
discernment, so as not to confuse feelings, spirits, so as not to go down a path that isn’t right.

Returning then to the words of John: ‘do not believe every spirit’ — be mindful — ‘but test the spirits to see whether they are of God’. For this reason, “
service to the neighbour, brother, sister who is in need — there are so many needs — of advice or of a listening ear: these are signs that we are on the path of the good spirit, that is, on the path of the Word of God who has come in the flesh”.

Ask the Lord for the grace to be well aware of what is happening in our hearts, what we prefer doing, that is to say, what touches me most: whether it is the Spirit of God, which leads me to the service of others, or the spirit of the world that roams within me, in my closure, in my
selfishness, in so many other things. Yes, let us ask for the grace to know what is happening in our hearts.




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.




Pope Francis    17.07.16   Angelus, St Peter's Square      16th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C       Luke 10: 38-42
Pope Francis  Angelus 17.07.16

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

In today’s Gospel the Evangelist Luke writes
about Jesus who, on the way to Jerusalem, enters a village and is welcomed into the home of two sisters: Martha and Mary (cf. Lk 10:38-42). Both welcome the Lord, but they do so in different ways. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and listens to his words (cf. v. 39), whereas Martha is completely caught up in preparing things; at a certain point she says to Jesus: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me” (v. 40). Jesus responds to her: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her” (vv. 41-42).

In bustling about and busying herself, Martha risks forgetting — and this is the problem — the most important thing, which is the presence of the guest, Jesus in this case. She forgets about the presence of the guest. A guest is not merely to be served, fed, looked after in every way. Most importantly he ought to be listened to. Remember this word: Listen! A guest should be welcomed as a person, with a story, his heart rich with feelings and thoughts, so that he may truly feel like he is among family. If you welcome a guest into your home but continue doing other things, letting him just sit there, both of you in silence, it is as if he were of stone: a guest of stone. No. A guest is to be listened to. Of course, Jesus’ response to Martha — when he tells her that there is only one thing that needs to be done — finds its full significance in reference to listening to the very word of Jesus, that word which illuminates and supports all that we are and what we do. If we go to pray, for example, before the Crucifix, and we talk, talk, talk, and then we leave, we do not listen to Jesus. We do not allow him to speak to our heart. Listen: this is the key word. Do not forget! And we must not forget that in the house of Martha and Mary, Jesus, before being Lord and Master, is a pilgrim and guest. Thus, his response has this significance first and foremost: “Martha, Martha why do you busy yourself doing so much for this guest even to the point of forgetting about his presence? — A guest of stone! — Not much is necessary to welcome him; indeed, only one thing is needed: listen to him — this is the word: listen to him — be brotherly to him, let him realize he is among family and not in a temporary shelter.

Understood in this light, hospitality, which is one of the
works of mercy, is revealed as a truly human and Christian virtue, a virtue which in today’s world is at risk of being overlooked. In fact, nursing homes and hospices are multiplying, but true hospitality is not always practised in these environments. Various institutions are opened to care for many types of disease, of loneliness, of marginalization, but opportunities are decreasing for those who are foreign, marginalized, excluded, from finding someone ready to listen to them: because they are foreigners, refugees, migrants. Listen to that painful story. Even in one’s own home, among one’s own family members, it might be easier to find services and care of various kinds rather than listening and welcome. Today we are so taken, by excitement, by countless problems — some of which are not important — that we lack the capacity to listen. We are constantly busy and thus we have no time to listen. I would like to ask you, to pose a question to you, each one answer in your own heart: do you, husband, take time to listen to your wife? And do you, woman, take time to listen to your husband? Do you, parents, take time, time to “waste”, to listen to your children? or your grandparents, the elderly? — “But grandparents always say the same things, they are boring...” — But they need to be listened to! Listen. I ask that you learn to listen and to devote more of your time. The root of peace lies in the capacity to listen.

May the Virgin Mary, Mother of listening and of service and of attentive care, teach us to be welcoming and hospitable to our brothers and our sisters.




Pope Francis   07.08.16   Angelus, St Peter's Square, Rome       19th Sunday of Ordinary Time   Year C      Luke 12: 32-48

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

In the text of today’s Gospel (Lk 12:32-48), Jesus speaks to his disciples about the attitude to assume in view of the final encounter with him, and explains that the expectation of this encounter should impel us to live a life full of
good works. Among other things he says: “Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys” (v. 33). It is a call to give importance to almsgiving as a work of mercy, not to place trust in ephemeral goods, to use things without attachment and selfishness, but according to God’s logic, the logic of attention to others, the logic of love. We can be so attached to money, and have many things, but in the end we cannot take them with us. Remember that “the shroud has no pockets”.

Jesus’ lesson continues with three short parables on the theme of vigilance. This is important:
vigilance, being alert, being vigilant in life. The first is the parable of the servants waiting for their master to return at night. “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes” (v. 37): it is the beatitude of faithfully awaiting the Lord, of being ready, with an attitude of service. He presents himself each day, knocks at the door of our heart. Those who open it will be blessed, because they will have a great reward: indeed, the Lord will make himself a servant to his servants — it is a beautiful reward — in the great banquet of his Kingdom He himself will serve them. With this parable, set at night, Jesus proposes life as a vigil of diligent expectation, which heralds the bright day of eternity. To be able to enter one must be ready, awake and committed to serving others, from the comforting perspective that, “beyond”, it will no longer be we who serve God, but He himself who will welcome us to his table. If you think about it, this already happens today each time we meet the Lord in prayer, or in serving the poor, and above all in the Eucharist, where he prepares a banquet to nourish us of his Word and of his Body.

The second parable describes the unexpected arrival of the thief. This fact requires vigilance; indeed, Jesus exhorts: “You also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (v. 40).

The disciple is one who awaits the Lord and his Kingdom. The Gospel clarifies this perspective with the third parable: the steward of a house after the master’s departure. In the first scene, the steward faithfully carries out his tasks and receives compensation. In the second scene, the steward abuses his authority, and beats the servants, for which, upon the master’s unexpected return, he will be punished. This scene describes a situation that is also frequent in our time: so much daily injustice, violence and cruelty are born from the idea of behaving as masters of the lives of others. We have only one master who likes to be called not “master” but “Father”. We are all servants, sinners and children: He is the one Father.

Jesus reminds us today that the expectation of the eternal beatitude does not relieve us of the duty to render the world more just and more liveable. On the contrary, this very hope of ours of possessing the eternal Kingdom impels us to work to improve the conditions of earthly life, especially of
our weakest brothers and sisters. May the Virgin Mary help us not to be people and communities dulled by the present, or worse, nostalgic for the past, but striving toward the future of God, toward the encounter with him, our life and our hope.