Afraid

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.

13.04.13

To reflect on the four possible attitudes with which one may deal with difficult situations would do us good. The first attitude is illustrated by the “slowness” of Lot’s reaction when the angel tells him to leave the city, before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. He was determined to leave, but when the time came he was cautious and “lingered”, even when the angel had urged him to flee. It is very hard to cut ties with a sinful situation. It is hard!... But the voice of God tells us this word: Flee! You cannot fight here, because the fire, the sulphur will kill you. Flee!.

The angel told him: Flee for your life, do not look back, go forward. The Exodus of the People of God in the desert had everything, promises of the Lord, everything, and yet they continued to have nostalgia for the “onions of Egypt”, forgetting that they had eaten them on “the table of slavery”. The angel's advice is wise: Do not look back! Keep going!. We must leave behind all nostalgia, because there is also the temptation of curiosity.... We must flee and not look back, for we are all weak and must protect ourselves.

Matthew 8: 23-27. When there is a storm at sea, waves swamp the boat. “Save us, Lord, we are perishing!” they say. Fear is also a temptation of the devil: to be afraid to continue on the Lord’s path. Fear, however is not a good counsellor. Jesus said so many times: “Do not be afraid’”.

The fourth attitude “is the grace of the Holy Spirit”. When Jesus calms the sea, the disciples on the boat are filled with awe. When faced with sin, nostalgia, fear we must always “look at the Lord” and “contemplate the Lord”. We must say: “Save us Lord, we are perishing”. Yes we are weak, but we must be courageous in our weakness.

02.07.13


Pope Francis

02.04.17 Holy Mass, Piazza Martiri, Carpi

5th Sunday of Lent Year A

John 11: 1-45, Ezekiel 37: 12-14

Today’s readings tell us of the God of life, who conquers death. Let us pause in particular on the last of the miraculous signs which Jesus performs before his Easter, at the sepulchre of his friend, Lazarus.

Everything appears to have ended there: the tomb is sealed by a great stone; there is only weeping and desolation there. Even Jesus is shaken by the dramatic mystery of the loss of a dear person: “He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (Jn 11:33). Then “Jesus wept” (v. 35) and went to the sepulchre, the Gospel says, “deeply moved again” (v. 38). This is God’s heart: far from evil but close to those who are suffering. He does not make evil disappear magically, but he endures the suffering; he makes it his own and transforms it; he abides it.

We notice, however, that amid the general despair over the death of Lazarus, Jesus does not allow himself to be transported by despair. Even while suffering himself, he asks that people believe steadfastly. He does not close himself within his weeping but, moved, he makes his way to the sepulchre. He does not allow the resigned, emotional atmosphere that surrounds him to seize him, but rather, prays with trust and says, “Father, I thank thee” (v. 41). Thus, in the mystery of suffering, before which thoughts and progress are crushed like flies against glass, Jesus offers us the example of how to conduct ourselves. He does not run away from suffering, which is part of this life, but he does not allow himself to be held captive by pessimism.

A great “encounter-clash” thus occurred at that sepulchre. On the one hand, there is the great disappointment, the precariousness of our mortal life which, pierced by anguish over death, often experiences defeat, an interior darkness which seems insurmountable. Our soul, created for life, suffers upon hearing that its thirst for eternal good is oppressed by an ancient and dark evil. On the one hand, there is this defeat of the sepulchre. But on the other, there is the hope that conquers death and evil, and which has a name: the name of hope is Jesus.

He neither brings a bit of comfort nor some remedy to prolong life, but rather, proclaims: “I am the Resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live”, (v. 25). It is for this reason that he says decisively, “Take away the stone” (v. 39) and he calls to Lazarus, “Come out” (v. 43).

Dear brothers and sisters, we too are called to decide on which side to stand. One can stand on the side of the sepulchre or on the side of Jesus. There are those who allow themselves to be closed within their pain and those who open up to hope. There are those who remain trapped among the ruins of life, and those who, like you, with God’s help, pick up the ruins of life and rebuild with patient hope.

In facing life’s great ‘whys?’, we have two paths: either stay and wistfully contemplate past and present sepulchres, or allow Jesus to approach our sepulchres. Yes, because each one of us already has a small sepulchre, some area that has somewhat died within our hearts; a wound, a wrongdoing endured or inflicted, an unrelenting resentment, a regret that keeps coming back, a sin we cannot overcome. Today, let us identify these little sepulchres that we have inside, and let us invite Jesus into them. It is curious, but we often prefer to be alone in the dark caves within us rather than invite Christ inside them. We are tempted to always seek [solutions for] ourselves, brooding and sinking into anguish, licking our wounds, instead of going to him, who says, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”, (Mt 11:28). Let us not be held captive by the temptation to remain alone and discouraged, crying about what is happening to us. Let us not give in to the useless and inconclusive logic of fear, resignedly repeating that everything is going badly and nothing is as it once was. This is the sepulchral atmosphere. The Lord instead wishes to open the path of life, that of encounter with him, of trust in him, of the resurrection of the heart, the way of: “Arise, Arise, come out”. This is what the Lord asks of us, and he is by our side to do so.

Thus, we hear directed to each one of us Jesus’ words to Lazarus: “Come out”. Come out from the gridlock of hopeless sadness; unwrap the bandages of fear that impede the journey, the laces of the weaknesses and anxieties that constrain you; reaffirm that God unties the knots. By following Jesus, we learn not to knot our lives around problems which become tangled. There will always be problems, always, and when we solve one, another one duly arrives. We can however, find a new stability, and this stability is Jesus himself. This stability is called Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life. With him, joy abides in our hearts, hope is reborn, suffering is transformed into peace, fear into trust, hardship into an offering of love. And even though burdens will not disappear, there will always be his uplifting hand, his encouraging Word saying to all of us, to each of us: “Come out! Come to me!”. He tells all of us: “Do not be afraid”.

Today, just like then, Jesus says to us to: “take away the stone”. However burdensome the past, great the sin, weighty the shame, let us never bar the Lord’s entrance. Let us, before him, remove that stone which prevents him from entering. This is the favourable time to remove our sin, our attachment to worldly vanity, the pride that blocks our souls, so much hostility among us, in families.... This is the favourable time for removing all these things.

Visited and liberated by Jesus, we ask for the grace to be witnesses of life in this world that thirsts for it, witnesses who spark and rekindle God’s hope in hearts weary and laden with sadness. Our message is the joy of the living Lord, who says again today, as he did to Ezekiel, “Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people (Ez 37:12).

02.04.17


Pope Francis

21.06.20 Angelus, St Peter's Square

12th Sunday of Year A

Matthew 10: 26-33

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Good day!

In this Sunday's Gospel (cf. Mt 10:26-33) the invitation Jesus addresses to His disciples resonates: to have no fear, to be strong and confident in the face of life's challenges, as He forewarns them of the adversities that await them. Today's passage is part of the missionary discourse, with which the Teacher prepares the Apostles for their first experience of proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Jesus persistently exhorts them “not to be afraid”, “do not be afraid”, and Jesus describes three tangible situations that they will find themselves facing.

First and foremost, the first, the hostility of those who would like to stifle the Word of God by sugar-coating it, by watering it down or by silencing those who proclaim it. In this case, Jesus encourages the Apostles to spread the message of salvation that He has entrusted to them. For the moment, He has transmitted it cautiously, somewhat covertly within the small group of the disciples. But they are to utter His Gospel “in the light”, that is, openly; and are to proclaim it “from the housetops” - as Jesus says - that is, publicly.

The second difficulty that Christ's missionaries will encounter is the physical threat against them, that is, direct persecution against them personally, to the point of being killed. Jesus’s prophesy is fulfilled in every age: it is a painful reality, but it attests to the faithfulness of the witnesses. How many Christians are persecuted even today throughout the world! They suffer for the Gospel with love, they are the martyrs of our day. And we can say with certainty that there are more of them than the martyrs of the early times: so many martyrs, merely for the fact of being Christians. Jesus advises these disciples of yesterday and today who suffer persecution: “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (v. 28). There is no need to be frightened of those who seek to extinguish the evangelizing force with arrogance and violence. Indeed, they can do nothing against the soul, that is, against their union with God: no one can take this away from the disciples, because it is a gift from God. The only fear that a disciple should have is to lose this divine gift, this closeness to and friendship with God, to stop living according to the Gospel, thereby experiencing moral death, which is the effect of sin.

The third type of trial that Jesus indicates the Apostles will find themselves facing is the sensation, which some may feel, that God Himself has abandoned them, remaining distant and silent. Here too, Jesus exhorts them not to fear, because even while experiencing these and other pitfalls, the lives of the disciples rest firmly in the hands of God, who loves us and looks after us. They are like the three temptations: to sugar-coat the Gospel, to water it down; second, persecution; and third, the sensation that God has abandoned us. Even Jesus suffered this trial in the garden of olives and on the cross: “Father, why have you forsaken me?”, says Jesus. At times one feels this spiritual aridness. We must not be afraid of it. The Father takes care of us, because we are greatly valued in His eyes. What is important is the frankness, the courage of our witness, of our witness of faith: “recognizing Jesus before others” and continuing to do good.

May Mary Most Holy, model of trust and abandonment in God in the hour of adversity and danger, help us never to surrender to despair, but rather always to entrust ourselves to Him and to His grace, since the grace of God is always more powerful than evil.

21.06.20


Pope Francis

29.11.20 Angelus, St Peter's Square

1st Sunday of Advent Year B

1 Corinthians 1: 3-9

Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!

Today, the First Sunday of Advent, a new liturgical year begins. In it, the Church marks the passage of time with the celebration of the main events in the life of Jesus and the story of salvation. In so doing, as Mother, she illuminates the path of our existence, supports us in our daily occupations and guides us towards the final encounter with Christ. Today's liturgy invites us to live the first “important Season”, which is that of Advent, the first of the liturgical year, Advent, which prepares us for Christmas, and therefore it is a time of expectation and a time of hope. Expectation and hope.

Saint Paul (see 1 Cor 1:3-9) indicates the object of our expectation. What is it? The “manifestation of the Lord” (v. 7). The Apostle invites the Christians of Corinth, and we too, to focus our attention on the encounter with Jesus. For a Christian the most important thing is the continuous encounter with the Lord, being with the Lord. And in this way, accustomed to staying with the Lord of life, we prepare ourselves for the encounter, for being with the Lord for eternity. And this definitive encounter will come at the end of the world. But the Lord comes every day, so that, with His grace, we might accomplish good in our own lives and in the lives of others. Our God is a God-who-comes, do not forget this: God is a God who comes, who continually comes. Our waiting will not be disappointed by Him! The Lord never disappoints. He will perhaps make us wait, He will make us wait a few moments in the dark to allow our expectation to ripen, but He never disappoints. The Lord always comes, He is always by our side. At times He does not make Himself seen, but He always comes. He came at a precise moment in history and became man to take on our sins - the feast of the Nativity commemorates Jesus’ first coming in the historical moment -; He will come at the end of times as universal judge; He comes every day to visit His people, to visit every man and woman who receives Him in the Word, in the Sacraments, in their brothers and sisters. Jesus, the Bible tells us, is at the door and knocks. Every day. He is at the door of our heart. He knocks. Do you know how to listen to the Lord who knocks, who has come today to visit you, who knocks at your heart restlessly, with an idea, with inspiration? He came to Bethlehem, He will come at the end of the world, but every day He comes to us. Be careful, look at what you feel in your heart when the Lord knocks.

We are well aware that life is made up of highs and lows, of lights and shadows. Each one of us experiences moments of disappointment, of failure and being lost. Moreover, the situation we are living in, marked by the pandemic, generates worry, fear and discouragement in many people; we run the risk of falling into pessimism, the risk of falling into closure and apathy. How should we react in the face of all this? Today’s Psalm suggests: “Our soul waits for the Lord: he is our help and our shield. Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name” (Ps 33:20-21). That is, the soul awaiting, confidently waiting for the Lord, allows us to find comfort and courage in the dark moments of our lives. And what gives rise to this courage and this trustful pledge? Where do they come from? They are born of hope. And hope does not disappoint, that virtue that leads us ahead, looking at the encounter with the Lord.

Advent is a continuous call to hope: it reminds us that God is present in history to lead it to its ultimate goal and to lead us to its fullness, which is the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ. God is present in the history of humanity, He is the “God-with-us”, God is not distant, He is always with us, to the extent that very often He knocks on the door of our heart. God walks beside us to support us. The Lord does not abandon us; He accompanies us through the events of our lives to help us discover the meaning of the journey the meaning of everyday life, to give us courage when we are under duress or when we suffer. In the midst of life’s storms, God always extends His hand to us and frees us from threats. This is beautiful! In the book of Deuteronomy there is a very beautiful passage, in which the Prophet says to the people: “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us?” No-one, only we have this grace of having God close to us. We await God, we hope that He manifests Himself, but He too hopes that we manifest ourselves to Him!

May Mary Most Holy, the woman of expectation, accompany our steps at the beginning of this new liturgical year , and help us to fulfil the task of Jesus’ disciples, indicated by the Apostle Peter:. And what is this task? To account for the hope that is in us (see 1 Pet 3:15).


29.11.20


Pope Francis

18.04.22 Regina Caeli, Saint Peter's Square

Easter Monday

Matthew 28: 8-15

Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!

The days of the Easter Octave are like a single day in which the joy of the Resurrection is prolonged. Thus, the Gospel of today’s liturgy continues to tell us about the Risen One, his appearance to the women who went to the tomb (cf. Mt 28:8-15). Jesus goes to meet them and greets them. Then the Lord says two things, two pieces of advice that would be good also for us to welcome as an Easter gift.

The first is he reassures them with simple words: “Do not be afraid” (v. 10). The Lord knows that our fears are our daily enemies. He also knows that our fears hide from the great fear, that of death: fear of fading away, of losing loved ones, of being sick, of not being able to cope further... But at Easter Jesus conquered death. So, no one else can tell us in a more convincing way: “Do not be afraid.” The Lord says this right there next to the tomb from which he came out victorious. He invites us to come out of the tomb of our fears. Listen closely: come out of the tombs of our fears, since our fears are like tombs, they bury us. He knows that fear is always lurking at the door of our heart, and we need to hear ourselves say do not be afraid, fear not on Easter morning as on the morning of every day, “do not be afraid.” Take courage. Brother, sister, who believe in Christ, do not be afraid! Jesus says: “I tasted death for you, I took your pain upon myself. Now I have risen to tell you: I am here with you forever. Do not be afraid!” Fear not.

But how can we combat fear? The second thing Jesus tells the women can help us: “Go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” (v. 10) Go and tell. Fear always closes us in on ourselves, while Jesus instead makes us go forth and sends us to others. This is the solution. We might say to ourselves, but I am not capable of doing this! But just think, the women were not perhaps the most suitable and prepared to proclaim the resurrection, but that did not matter to the Lord. He cares that we go forth and proclaim. Go and tell. Because the Easter joy is not to be kept to oneself. The joy of Christ is strengthened by giving it, it multiplies sharing it. If we open ourselves and bear the Gospel, our hearts will open and overcome fear. This is the secret: we proclaim and overcome fear.

Today’s text recounts that proclamation can encounter an obstacle: falsehood. The Gospel narrates a “counter-proclamation,” that of the soldiers who guarded the tomb of Jesus. The Gospel says they were paid “a sum of money” (v. 12), a good sum, and received these instructions: “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’” (v. 13) ‘You were sleeping? Did you see during your sleep how they stole the body?’ There is a contradiction there, but a contradiction that everyone believes because money was involved. It is the power of money, the other lord that Jesus says we must never serve. Here is the falsehood, the logic of concealment that opposes the proclamation of truth. It is a reminder for us also: falsehoods – in words and in life – they taint the announcement, they corrupt within, leading back to the tomb. Falsehoods take us backwards, they lead right to death, to the tomb. The Risen One instead wants us to come out of the tombs of falsehood and dependency. Before the Risen Lord, there is another “god” – the god of money that dirties and ruins everything, that closes the door to salvation. This is present everywhere in daily life with the temptation to adore the god of money.

Dear brothers and sisters, rightfully we are scandalized when in the news we discover deceit and lies in the lives of persons and society. But let us give a name also to the obscurity and falsehoods we have in ourselves! And let us place our own darkness and falsehoods before the light of the Risen Jesus. He wants to bring hidden things to light to make us transparent and luminous witnesses to the joy of the Gospel, of the truth that will make you free (cf Jn 8:32).

May Mary, Mother of the Risen One, help us overcome our fears and give us passion for the truth.

18.04.22


Pope Francis

07.08.22 Angelus, St Peter's Square, Rome

19th Sunday of Ordinary time - Year C

Luke 12: 32-48


Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!

In the Gospel of today’s Liturgy, Jesus speaks to the disciples to reassure them of any fear and to invite them to be vigilant. He addresses two fundamental exhortations to them: the first is, “Do not be afraid, little flock” (Lk 12:32); the second is, “Be ready” [literal translation of v. 35 used in the Italian original]. “Do not be afraid” and “be ready”. They are two key words for conquering the fears that paralyze us at times, and to overcome the temptation of a passive, slumbering life. “Do not be afraid” and “Be ready”. Let us look at these two invitations.

Do not be afraid. First of all, Jesus encourages the disciples. He has just finished speaking to them about the loving and provident care of the Father, who cares for the lilies of the fields and the birds of the air, and therefore, all the more for his children. So there is no need to worry and fret for our lives are firmly in God’s hands. We are heartened by Jesus’ invitation not to fear. Indeed, at times we feel imprisoned by a feeling of distrust and anxiety. It is the fear of failure, of not being acknowledged and loved, the fear of not being able to realize our plans, of never being happy, and so on. And so, we struggle to find solutions, to find a space in which to get out of the cycle, to accumulate goods and wealth, to obtain security. And where does this take us? We end up living anxiously and constantly worrying. Instead, Jesus reassures us: Do not be afraid! Trust in the Father who wants to give you all you truly need. He has already given you his Son, his Kingdom, and he will always accompany you with his providence, taking care of you every day. Do not be afraid -- this is the certainty that your hearts should be attached to! Do not be afraid – a heart attached to this certainty. Do not be afraid.

But knowing that the Lord watches over us with love does not entitle us to slumber, to let ourselves succumb to laziness! On the contrary, we must be alert, vigilant. Indeed, to love means being attentive to the other, being aware of his or her needs, being willing to listen and welcome, being ready.

The second word. Be ready. This is the second invitation today. This is Christian wisdom. Jesus repeats this invitation several times. And today he does so through three short parables, centred on the master of a house who, in the first, returns unexpectedly from a wedding banquet; in the second, does not want to be surprised by thieves; and in the third, returns from a long journey. The message in all of them is it is necessary to stay awake, not to fall asleep, that is, not to be distracted, not to give in to inner idleness, because the Lord comes even in situations in which we do not expect him. To be attentive to the Lord, not to go to sleep. We need to stay alert.

And at the end of our life, he will call us to account for the goods he has entrusted to us. Therefore, being vigilant also means being responsible, that is, safeguarding and administering those goods faithfully. We have received so much: life, faith, family, relationships, work, but also the places where we live, our city, creation. We have received so many things. Let us try to ask ourselves: Do we take care of this inheritance the Lord has left us? Do we safeguard its beauty or do we use things only for ourselves and for our immediate convenience? We have to think a little about this – are we guardians of the creation that has been given to us?

Brothers and sisters, let us walk without fear, in the certainty that the Lord accompanies us always. And let us stay awake lest we be asleep when the Lord passes by. Saint Augustine used to say, “I am afraid that the Lord will pass by and I will not notice”. To be asleep, and not to notice that the Lord passes by. Stay alert! May the Virgin Mary help us, who welcomed the Lord’s visit and readily and generously said, “Here I am”.

07.08.22