Books of the Bible Index of Homilies
Matthew Mark Luke John The Acts Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians 1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 Timothy Titus Philemon Hebrews James 1 Peter 2 Peter 1 John 2 John 3 John Jude Revelation Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy Joshua Judges Ruth 1 Samuel 2 Samuel 1 Kings 2 Kings 1 Chronicles 2 Chronicles Ezra Nehemiah Tobit Judith Esther 1 Maccabees 2 Maccabees Job Psalms Proverbs Ecclesiastes The Song of Songs The Book of Wisdom Sirach Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations Baruch Ezekiel Daniel Hosea Joel Amos Obadiah Jonah Micah Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah Haggai Zechariah Malachi
Before ascending into heaven Jesus sent the Apostles out to evangelize, to preach the kingdom. He sent them to the ends of the earth. ‘Go into all the world’”, he urged them. Jesus did not tell the Apostles to go to Jerusalem or Galilee but sent them out into the entire world. This explains the missionary outreach of the Church which continues to preach to the whole world. But she does not go by herself. She goes with Jesus.
The Christian preaches the Gospel with his witness rather than with his words. Pray to the Lord that they “become missionaries in the Church with this spirit: great magnanimity and also great humility”.
28.07.13 Holy Mass Waterfront of Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro
28th World Youth Day
Romans 10: 9 1 Corinthians 9: 16,19
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dear Young Friends,
“Go and make disciples of all nations”. With these words, Jesus is speaking to each one of us, saying: “It was wonderful to take part in World Youth Day, to live the faith together with young people from the four corners of the earth, but now you must go, now you must pass on this experience to others.” Jesus is calling you to be a disciple with a mission! Today, in the light of the word of God that we have heard, what is the Lord saying to us? What is the Lord saying to us? Three simple ideas: Go, do not be afraid, and serve.
1. Go. During these days here in Rio, you have been able to enjoy the wonderful experience of meeting Jesus, meeting him together with others, and you have sensed the joy of faith. But the experience of this encounter must not remain locked up in your life or in the small group of your parish, your movement, or your community. That would be like withholding oxygen from a flame that was burning strongly. Faith is a flame that grows stronger the more it is shared and passed on, so that everyone may know, love and confess Jesus Christ, the Lord of life and history (cf. Rom 10:9).
Careful, though! Jesus did not say: “go, if you would like to, if you have the time”, but he said: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Sharing the experience of faith, bearing witness to the faith, proclaiming the Gospel: this is a command that the Lord entrusts to the whole Church, and that includes you; but it is a command that is born not from a desire for domination, from the desire for power, but from the force of love, from the fact that Jesus first came into our midst and did not give us just a part of himself, but he gave us the whole of himself, he gave his life in order to save us and to show us the love and mercy of God. Jesus does not treat us as slaves, but as people who are free , as friends, as brothers and sisters; and he not only sends us, he accompanies us, he is always beside us in our mission of love.
Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits: he sends us to everyone. The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some. It is not only for those who seem closer to us, more receptive, more welcoming. It is for everyone. Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Lord seeks all, he wants everyone to feel the warmth of his mercy and his love.
In particular, I would like Christ’s command: “Go” to resonate in you young people from the Church in Latin America, engaged in the continental mission promoted by the Bishops. Brazil, Latin America, the whole world needs Christ! Saint Paul says: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). This continent has received the proclamation of the Gospel which has marked its history and borne much fruit. Now this proclamation is entrusted also to you, that it may resound with fresh power. The Church needs you, your enthusiasm, your creativity and the joy that is so characteristic of you. A great Apostle of Brazil, Blessed José de Anchieta, set off on the mission when he was only nineteen years old. Do you know what the best tool is for evangelizing the young? Another young person. This is the path for all of you to follow!
2. Do not be afraid. Some people might think: “I have no particular preparation, how can I go and proclaim the Gospel?” My dear friend, your fear is not so very different from that of Jeremiah, as we have just heard in the reading, when he was called by God to be a prophet. “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth”. God says the same thing to you as he said to Jeremiah: “Be not afraid ... for I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:7,8). He is with us!
“Do not be afraid!” When we go to proclaim Christ, it is he himself who goes before us and guides us. When he sent his disciples on mission, he promised: “I am with you always” (Mt 28:20). And this is also true for us! Jesus never leaves anyone alone! He always accompanies us .
And then, Jesus did not say: “One of you go”, but “All of you go”: we are sent together. Dear young friends, be aware of the companionship of the whole Church and also the communion of the saints on this mission. When we face challenges together, then we are strong, we discover resources we did not know we had. Jesus did not call the Apostles to live in isolation, he called them to form a group, a community. I would like to address you, dear priests concelebrating with me at this Eucharist: you have come to accompany your young people, and this is wonderful, to share this experience of faith with them! Certainly he has rejuvenated all of you. The young make everyone feel young. But this experience is only a stage on the journey. Please, continue to accompany them with generosity and joy, help them to become actively engaged in the Church; never let them feel alone! And here I wish to thank from the heart the youth ministry teams from the movements and new communities that are accompanying the young people in their experience of being Church, in such a creative and bold way. Go forth and don’t be afraid!
3. The final word: serve. The opening words of the psalm that we proclaimed are: “Sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalm 95:1). What is this new song? It does not consist of words, it is not a melody, it is the song of your life, it is allowing our life to be identified with that of Jesus, it is sharing his sentiments, his thoughts, his actions. And the life of Jesus is a life for others. The life of Jesus is a life for others. It is a life of service.
In our Second Reading today, Saint Paul says: “I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more” (1 Cor 9:19). In order to proclaim Jesus, Paul made himself “a slave to all”. Evangelizing means bearing personal witness to the love of God, it is overcoming our selfishness, it is serving by bending down to wash the feet of our brethren, as Jesus did.
Three ideas: Go, do not be afraid, and serve. Go, do not be afraid, and serve. If you follow these three ideas, you will experience that the one who evangelizes is evangelized, the one who transmits the joy of faith receives more joy. Dear young friends, as you return to your homes, do not be afraid to be generous with Christ, to bear witness to his Gospel. In the first Reading, when God sends the prophet Jeremiah, he gives him the power to “pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (1:10). It is the same for you. Bringing the Gospel is bringing God’s power to pluck up and break down evil and violence, to destroy and overthrow the barriers of selfishness, intolerance and hatred, so as to build a new world. Dear young friends, Jesus Christ is counting on you! The Church is counting on you! The Pope is counting on you! May Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, always accompany you with her tenderness: “Go and make disciples of all nations”. Amen.
26.01.14 Angelus, St Peter's Square
Third Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
This Sunday’s Gospel recounts the beginnings of the public life of Jesus in the cities and villages of Galilee. His mission does not begin in Jerusalem, the religious centre and also the social and political centre, but in an area on the outskirts, an area looked down upon by the most observant Jews because of the presence in that region of various foreign peoples; that is why the Prophet Isaiah calls it “Galilee of the nations” (Is 9:1).
It is a borderland, a place of transit where people of different races, cultures, and religions converge. Thus Galilee becomes a symbolic place for the Gospel to open to all nations. From this point of view, Galilee is like the world of today: the co-presence of different cultures, the necessity for comparison and the necessity of encounter. We too are immersed every day in a kind of “Galilee of the nations”, and in this type of context we may feel afraid and give in to the temptation to build fences to make us feel safer, more protected. But Jesus teaches us that the Good News, which he brings, is not reserved to one part of humanity, it is to be communicated to everyone. It is a proclamation of joy destined for those who are waiting for it, but also for all those who perhaps are no longer waiting for anything and haven’t even the strength to seek and to ask.
Starting from Galilee, Jesus teaches us that no one is excluded from the salvation of God, rather it is from the margins that God prefers to begin, from the least, so as to reach everyone. He teaches us a method, his method, which also expresses the content, which is the Father’s mercy. “Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel” (Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 20).
Jesus begins his mission not only from a decentralized place, but also among men whom one would call, refer to, as having a “low profile”. When choosing his first disciples and future apostles, he does not turn to the schools of scribes and doctors of the Law, but to humble people and simple people, who diligently prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus goes to call them where they work, on the lakeshore: they are fishermen. He calls them, and they follow him, immediately. They leave their nets and go with him: their life will become an extraordinary and fascinating adventure.
Dear friends, the Lord is calling today too! The Lord passes through the paths of our daily life. Even today at this moment, here, the Lord is passing through the square. He is calling us to go with him, to work with him for the Kingdom of God, in the “Galilee” of our times. May each one of you think: the Lord is passing by today, the Lord is watching me, he is looking at me! What is the Lord saying to me? And if one of you feels that the Lord says to you “follow me” be brave, go with the Lord. The Lord never disappoints. Feel in your heart if the Lord is calling you to follow him. Let’s let his gaze rest on us, hear his voice, and follow him! “That the joy of the Gospel may reach to the ends of the earth, illuminating even the fringes of our world” (ibid., n. 288).
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning.
Today, in Italy and in other Countries, we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven, 40 days after Easter. The Acts of the Apostles recounts this episode, the final separation of the Lord Jesus from his disciples and from this world (cf. Acts 1:2-9). The Gospel of Matthew, however, reports Jesus’ mandate to his disciples: the invitation to go out, to set out in order to proclaim to all nations his message of salvation (cf. Mt 28:16-20). “To go” or, better, “depart” becomes the key word of today’s feast: Jesus departs to the Father and commands his disciples to depart for the world.
Jesus departs, he ascends to Heaven, that is, he returns to the Father from whom he had been sent to the world. He finished his work, thus, he returns to the Father. But this does not mean a separation, for he remains forever with us, in a new way. By his ascension, the Risen Lord draws the gaze of the Apostles — and our gaze — to the heights of Heaven to show us that the end of our journey is the Father. He himself said that he would go to prepare a place for us in Heaven. Yet, Jesus remains present and active in the affairs of human history through the power and the gifts of his Spirit; he is beside each of us: even if we do not see him with our eyes, He is there! He accompanies us, he guides us, he takes us by the hand and he lifts us up when we fall down. The risen Jesus is close to persecuted and discriminated Christians; he is close to every man and woman who suffers. He is close to us all; he is here, too, with us in the square; the Lord is with us! Do you believe this? Then let’s say it together: the Lord is with us!
When Jesus returns to Heaven, he brings the Father a gift. What is the gift? His wounds. His body is very beautiful, no bruises, no cuts from the scourging, but he retains his wounds. When he returns to the Father he shows him the wounds and says: “behold Father, this is the price of the pardon you have granted”. When the Father beholds the wounds of Jesus he forgives us forever, not because we are good, but because Jesus paid for us. Beholding the wounds of Jesus, the Father becomes most merciful. This is the great work of Jesus today in Heaven: showing the Father the price of forgiveness, his wounds. This is the beauty that urges us not to be afraid to ask forgiveness; the Father always pardons, because he sees the wounds of Jesus, he sees our sin and he forgives it.
But Jesus is present also through the Church, which He sent to extend his mission. Jesus’ last message to his disciples is the mandate to depart: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19). It is a clear mandate, not just an option! The Christian community is a community “going forth”, “in departure”. More so: the Church was born “going forth”. And you will say to me: what about cloistered communities? Yes, these too, for they are always “going forth” through prayer, with the heart open to the world, to the horizons of God. And the elderly, the sick? They, too, through prayer and union with the wounds of Jesus.
To his missionary disciples Jesus says: “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (v. 20). Alone, without Jesus, we can do nothing! In Apostolic work our own strengths, our resources, our structures do not suffice, even if they are necessary. Without the presence of the Lord and the power of his Spirit our work, though it may be well organized, winds up being ineffective. And thus, we go to tell the nations who Jesus is.
And together with Jesus Mary our Mother accompanies us. She is already in the house of the Father, she is the Queen of Heaven and this is how we invoke her during this time; as Jesus is with us, so too she walks with us; she is the Mother of our hope.
06.01.15 Angelus, St Peter's Square
Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord Year B
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning! Happy Feast Day!
On Christmas Eve we meditated on the hastening of several shepherds of the people of Israel to the grotto of Bethlehem; today, the Solemnity of the Epiphany, we remember the arrival of the Magi, who came from the Orient to adore the new-born King of the Jews and Universal Saviour and to offer Him symbolic gifts. With their act of adoration, the Magi bear witness that Jesus has come to earth to save not one people alone but all peoples. Therefore, on today’s feast our gaze broadens to the horizons of the whole world in order to celebrate the “manifestation” of the Lord to all peoples, which is the manifestation of the love and universal salvation of God. He does not reserve his love to the privileged few, but offers it to all.
As the Creator and Father is of all people, so the Saviour wants to be for all people. That is why we are called to always nourish great faith and hope for every person and his or her salvation: even those who seem far from the Lord are followed — or better yet “chased” — by his passionate love, by his faithful and also humble love. For God’s love is humble, very humble!
The Gospel account of the Magi describes their journey from the East as a journey of the spirit, as a journey toward the encounter with Christ. They are attentive to signs that indicate his presence; they are tireless in facing the trials of the search; they are courageous in deducing the implications for life that derive from encounter with the Lord. This is life: Christian life is a journey, but being attentive, tireless and courageous. A Christian journeys like this. Journey attentively, tirelessly, courageously. The experience of the Magi evokes the journey of every man and woman towards Christ. As for the Magi, so for us, to seek God means to journey — and as I said: attentive, tireless and courageous — focused on the sky and discerning in the visible sign of the star the invisible God who speaks to our hearts. The star that is able to lead every man to Jesus is the Word of God, the Word that is in the Bible, in the Gospels. The Word of God is the light that guides our journey, nourishes our faith and regenerates it. It is the Word of God that continually renews our hearts and our communities. Therefore, let us not forget to read it and meditate upon it every day, so that it may become for each like a flame that we bear inside us to illuminate our steps, as well as those of others who journey beside us, who are perhaps struggling to find the path to Christ. Always with the Word of God! The Word of God carried in your hand: a little Gospel in your pocket, purse, always to be read. Do not forget this: always with me, the Word of God!
On this day of Epiphany, our thoughts turn also to our brothers and sisters of the Christian East, Catholics and Orthodox, many of whom are celebrating the Birth of the Lord tomorrow. May our warmest wishes reach them.
I would like to recall, then, that today we celebrate Children’s mission Day. It is the feast dedicated to children who joyfully live the gift of faith and pray for the light of Jesus to reach all the children of the world. I encourage teachers to cultivate the missionary spirit in the little ones. May they not be closed but open children and young people. May they see a great horizon, may their hearts move toward this horizon, in order that witnesses of God’s tenderness and heralds of the Gospel might arise among them. Now let us turn to the Virgin Mary and invoke her protection on the Universal Church, in order that the Gospel of Christ, the light of nations, the light of all peoples, might be spread through the entire world. And may she make us increasingly embrace the journey; may she make us journey and be attentive, untiring and courageous on that path.
22.01.17 Angelus, St Peter's Square
Third Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today’s Gospel passage (cf. Mt 4:12-23) recounts the beginning of Jesus’ preaching in Galilee. He leaves Nazareth, a village in the mountains, and settles in Capernaum, an important centre on the lakeshore, inhabited largely by pagans, a crossroads between the Mediterranean and the Mesopotamian inland. This choice indicates that the beneficiaries of his preaching are not only his compatriots, but those who arrive in the cosmopolitan “Galilee of the Gentiles” (v. 15, cf. Is 9:1): that’s what it was called. Seen from the capital Jerusalem, that land is geographically peripheral and religiously impure because it was full of pagans, having mixed with those who did not belong to Israel. Great things were not expected from Galilee for the history of salvation. Instead, right from there — precisely from there — radiated that “light” on which we meditated in recent Sundays: the light of Christ. It radiated right from the periphery.
Jesus’ message reiterates that of the Baptist, announcing the “kingdom of heaven” (v. 17). This kingdom does not involve the establishment of a new political power, but the fulfilment of the Covenant between God and his people, which inaugurates a season of peace and justice. To secure this covenant pact with God, each one is called to convert, transforming his or her way of thinking and living. This is important: converting is not only changing the way of life but also the way of thinking. It is a transformation of thought. It is not a matter of changing clothing, but habits! What differentiates Jesus from John the Baptist is the way and manner. Jesus chooses to be an itinerant prophet. He doesn’t stay and await people, but goes to encounter them. Jesus is always on the road! His first missionary appearances take place along the lake of Galilee, in contact with the multitude, in particular with the fishermen. There Jesus does not only proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God, but seeks companions to join in his salvific mission. In this very place he meets two pairs of brothers: Simon and Andrew, James and John. He calls them, saying: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (v. 19). The call reaches them in the middle of their daily activity: the Lord reveals himself to us not in an extraordinary or impressive way, but in the everyday circumstances of our life. There we must discover the Lord; and there he reveals himself, makes his love felt in our heart; and there — with this dialogue with him in the everyday circumstances of life — he changes our heart. The response of the four fishermen is immediate and willing: “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (v. 20). We know, in fact, that they were disciples of the Baptist and that, thanks to his witness, they had already begun to believe in Jesus as the Messiah (cf. Jn 1:35-42).
We, today’s Christians, have the joy of proclaiming and witnessing to our faith because there was that first announcement, because there were those humble and courageous men who responded generously to Jesus’ call. On the shores of the lake, in an inconceivable land, the first community of disciples of Christ was born. May the knowledge of these beginnings give rise in us to the desire to bear Jesus’ word, love and tenderness in every context, even the most difficult and resistant. To carry the Word to all the peripheries! All the spaces of human living are soil on which to cast the seeds of the Gospel, so they may bear the fruit of salvation.
May the Virgin Mary help us with her maternal intercession to respond joyfully to Jesus’ call, and to place ourselves at the service of the Kingdom of God.
13.05.18 Regina Caeli, St Peter's Square
Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today, in Italy and in many other countries, the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord is being celebrated. This Solemnity embraces two elements. On the one hand it directs our gaze toward heaven, where the glorified Jesus is seated at the right hand of God (cf. Mk 16:19). On the other, it reminds us of the mission of the Church: why? Because Jesus, Risen and Ascended into heaven, sends his disciples to spread the Gospel throughout the world. Therefore, the Ascension exhorts us to lift our gaze toward heaven, in order to return it immediately to the earth, to implement the tasks that the Risen Lord entrusts to us.
It is what we are invited to do in the day’s Gospel passage, in which the event of the Ascension occurs immediately after the mission that Jesus entrusts to the disciples. It is a boundless mission — that is, literally without boundaries — which surpasses human strength. Jesus says, in fact: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15). The task which Jesus entrusts to a small group of common men lacking great intellectual capacity seems truly too bold! Yet this small company, insignificant compared to the great powers of the world, is sent to bring the message of Jesus’ love and mercy to every corner of the earth.
But this plan of God can be accomplished only with the strength that God himself grants to the Apostles. In this sense, Jesus assures them that their mission will be supported by the Holy Spirit. And he says this: “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This is how this mission was able to be accomplished, and the Apostles began this work which was then continued by their successors. The mission that Jesus entrusted to the Apostles has continued through the centuries, and continues still today: it requires the cooperation of all of us. Each one, in fact, by the power of the Baptism that he or she received, is qualified in turn to proclaim the Gospel. Baptism is precisely what qualifies us and also spurs us to be missionaries, to proclaim the Gospel.
The Lord’s Ascension into heaven, while inaugurating a new form of Jesus’ presence among us, calls us to keep eyes and hearts open to encounter him, to serve him and bear witness to him to others. It is a matter of being men and women of the Ascension, that is, those who seek Christ along the paths of our time, bringing his word of salvation to the ends of the earth. On this journey we encounter Christ himself in our brothers and sisters, especially in the poorest, in those who suffer in their very flesh the harsh and humiliating experience of old and new forms of poverty. As at the beginning the Risen Christ sent his Apostles with the power of the Holy Spirit, so too does he send all of us today, with the same power, so as to establish concrete and visible signs of hope. Because Jesus gives us hope. He went to heaven and opened the gates of heaven and the hope that we will reach it.
May the Virgin Mary who, as Mother of the dead and Risen Lord, enlivened the faith of the first community of disciples, help us too to “lift up our hearts”, as the Liturgy exhorts us to do. And at the same time may she help us to keep our “feet on the ground”, and to bravely sow the Gospel in the practical situations of life and of history.
24.05.20 Regina Caeli, Apostolic Palace Library
Solemnity of the Lord's Ascension Year A
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today, in Italy and in other countries, we celebrate the solemnity of the Lord's Ascension. The passage of the Gospel ( Mt 28: 16-20) shows us the Apostles who gather in Galilee, "on the mountain that Jesus had told them to go to" (v. 16). Here on the mountain the final meeting of the Risen Lord with his followers takes place. The "mountain" has a strong symbolic, evocative meaning. On a mountain Jesus proclaimed the Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5,1-12); on the mountains he would retreat to pray (cf. Mt 14.23); there he welcomed the crowds and healed the sick (cf. Mt 15.29). But this time, on the mountain, he is no longer the Master who acts and teaches, but he is the Risen One who asks the disciples to act and to proclaim, entrusting them with the mandate to continue his work.
He invests them with the mission to all the people. He says, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (28: 19-20). The contents of the mission entrusted to the Apostles are these: to proclaim, baptize, and to teach how to walk the path laid down by the Master, that is the living Gospel. This message of salvation implies first of all the duty of witness - without witness one cannot proclaim - to which we, today's disciples, are also called to explain the reason for our faith. Faced with such a demanding task, and thinking of our weaknesses, we feel inadequate, as the Apostles themselves surely felt. But we should not be discouraged, remembering the words Jesus addressed to them before ascending to Heaven: "I am with you always until the end of the age" (see 20).
This promise ensures the constant and consoling presence of Jesus among us. But how is this presence be realized? Through his Spirit, which leads the Church to walk through history as a companion of every person. That Spirit, sent by Christ and the Father, works the remission of sins and sanctifies all those who are repentant and open themselves with confidence to his gift. With the promise to remain with us until the end of time, Jesus inaugurates the style of his presence in the world as the Risen One. Jesus is present in the world but in another style, the style of the Risen One, that is, a presence that is revealed in the Word, in the Sacraments, in the constant and inner action of the Holy Spirit. The feast of Ascension tells us that Jesus, although having ascended to Heaven to dwell gloriously at the right of the Father, is still and is always among us: this is the source of our strength, our perseverance and our joy, precisely from the presence of Jesus among us with the strength of the Holy Spirit.
May the Virgin Mary accompany our journey with her maternal protection: from her may we learn the gentleness and courage to be witnesses in the world of the Risen Lord.
06.01.21 Angelus, Library of the Apostolic Palace
Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord Year B
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany, that is, the manifestation of the Lord to all peoples: in fact, the salvation wrought by Christ knows no boundaries. It is for everyone. Epiphany is not an additional mystery, it is always the same mystery as the Nativity, viewed, however, from the dimension of light, the light that illumines every man and women, the light to be welcomed in faith and the light to bring to others in charity, through witness, in the proclamation of the Gospel.
Isaiah’s vision, reported in today’s Liturgy (see 60:1-6), resounds in our time and is more timely than ever: “darkness covers the earth, and thick darkness the peoples” (v. 2), the text from Isaiah says. With that background, the prophet announced the light: the light given by God to Jerusalem and destined to enlighten the path of all the peoples. This light has the power to attract everyone, near and far, everyone sets out on the path to reach it, (v 3). It is a vision that opens the heart, that makes the breath come easier, that invites hope. Certainly, the darkness is present and threatening in everyone’s life and in the story of humanity; but God’s light is more powerful. It needs to be welcomed so that it might shine on everyone. But, we can distance this light from us. But we can ask ourselves: “Where is this light?” The prophet caught a glimpse of it from afar, but that was already enough to fill the heart of Jerusalem with irrepressible joy.
Where is this light? The Evangelist Matthew in his turn, recounting the episode of the Magi (see 2:1-12), shows that this light is the Baby of Bethlehem, it is Jesus, even if His kingship was not accepted by everyone. Rather some rejected it, like King Herod. He is the star who appeared on the horizon, the awaited Messiah, the One through whom God would inaugurate His kingdom of love, His kingdom of of justice and of peace. He was born not only for some, but for all men and women, for all peoples. The light is for all peoples, salvation is for all peoples.
And how does this “radiation” come? How does Christ’s light shine in every place and at every moment? It has its own method of expanding. It does not do so through the powerful means of this world’s empires who always seek to seize power. No, Christ’s light spreads through the proclamation of the Gospel. Through proclamation…by word and witness. And with this same “method”, God chose to come among us: the Incarnation, that is, by drawing near to the other, encountering the other, assuming the reality of the other and bringing the witness of our faith, everyone. This is the only way that Christ’s light, who is Love, can shine in those who welcome it and attract others. Christ’s light does not expand only through words, through fake methods, commercial ones…. No, no, through faith, word and witness. Thus the light of Christ expands. The star is Christ, but we too can and must also be the star for our brothers and sisters, as witnesses of the treasures of goodness and infinite mercy that the Redeemer offers freely to everyone. Christ’s light does not expand through proselytism. It expands through witness, through the confession of the faith. Even through martyrdom.
Therefore, the condition is to welcome this light within, to welcome it always more. Woe to us if we think we possess it, no; woe to us if we think that we only need to “manage” it! No. Like the Magi, we too are called to allow ourselves to be fascinated, attracted, guided, illuminated and converted by Christ: He is the journey of faith, through prayer and the contemplation of God’s works, who continually fills us with joy and wonder, an ever new wonder. That wonder is the always the first step to go forward in this light.
Let us invoke the protection of Mary on the universal Church, so that it might spread throughout the entire world the Gospel of Christ, the light of all the peoples, the light of every people.
22.01.23 Holy Mass, St Peter's Basilica
Sunday of the Word of God
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Jesus leaves the quiet and hidden life of Nazareth and moves to Capernaum, a port city located along the Sea of Galilee, at the crossroads of different peoples and cultures. The urgency that impels him is the proclamation of the Word of God, which must be brought to everyone. Indeed, we see in the Gospel that the Lord invites all to conversion and calls the first disciples so that they may also spread the light of the Word to others (cf. Mt 4:12-23). Let us appreciate this dynamism, which will help us live out the Sunday of the Word of God: the Word is for everyone, the Word calls everyone to conversion, the Word makes us heralds.
The Word of God is for everyone. The Gospel presents us with Jesus always on the move, on his way to others. On no occasion in his public life does he give us the idea that he is a stationary teacher, a professor seated on a chair; on the contrary, we see him as an itinerant, we see him as a pilgrim, travelling through towns and villages, encountering faces and their stories. His feet are those of the messenger announcing the good news of God’s love (cf. Is 52:7-8). In Galilee of the Gentiles, on the sea route, beyond the Jordan, where Jesus preaches, there was – the text notes – a people plunged into darkness: foreigners, pagans, women and men from various regions and cultures (cf. Mt 4:15-16). Now they too can see the light. And so Jesus “enlarges the boundaries”: the Word of God, which heals and raises up, is not only destined for the righteous of Israel, but for all; he wants to reach those far away, he wants to heal the sick, he wants to save sinners, he wants to gather the lost sheep and lift up those whose hearts are weary and oppressed. In short, Jesus ‘reaches out’ to tell us that God’s mercy is for everyone. Let us not forget this: God’s mercy is for everyone, for each one of us. Each person can say, “God’s mercy is for me”.
This aspect is fundamental also for us. It reminds us that the Word is a gift addressed to everyone; therefore we can never restrict its field of action, for beyond all our calculations, it springs forth in a spontaneous, unforeseen and unpredictable way (cf. Mk 4:26-28), in the ways and times that the Holy Spirit knows. Moreover, if salvation is destined for all, even the most distant and lost, then the proclamation of the Word must become the main priority of the ecclesial community, as it was for Jesus. May it not happen that we profess a God with an expansive heart, yet become a Church with a closed heart – this, I dare say, would be a curse; may it not happen that we preach salvation for all, yet make the way to receive it impractical; may it not happen that we recognize we are called to proclaim the Kingdom, yet neglect the Word, losing ourselves in so many secondary activities or discussions. Let us learn from Jesus to put the Word at the centre, to enlarge our boundaries, to open ourselves up to people, and to foster experiences of encounter with the Lord, realizing that the Word of God “is not encased in abstract or static formulas, but has a dynamic power in history which is made up of persons and events, words and actions, developments and tensions”. 
Let us now come to the second aspect: the Word of God, which is addressed to all, calls everyone to conversion. In fact, Jesus repeats in his preaching: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 4:17). This means that God’s nearness is not inconsequential, his presence does not leave things as they are, it does not advocate a quiet life. On the contrary, his Word shakes us, disturbs us, incites us to change, to conversion. It throws us into crisis because it “is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). Like a sword, the Word penetrates life, enabling us to discern the feelings and thoughts of the heart, that is, making us see where the light of goodness is to be afforded room and where, instead, the thick darkness of vices and sins is to be resisted. When it enters us, the Word transforms our hearts and minds; it changes us and leads us to direct our lives to the Lord.
Here is Jesus’ invitation: God has come close to you; recognize his presence, make room for his Word, and you will change your outlook on life. I can also put it like this: place your life under the Word of God. This is the path the Church shows us. All of us, even the pastors of the Church, are under the authority of the Word of God. Not under our own tastes, tendencies and preferences, but under the one Word of God that moulds us, converts us and calls us to be united in the one Church of Christ. So, brothers and sisters, we can ask ourselves: Where does my life find direction, from where does it draw its orientation? From the many “words” I hear, from ideologies, or from the Word of God that guides and purifies me? What are the aspects in me that require change and conversion?
Finally – the third step – the Word of God, which is addressed to everyone and calls us to conversion, makes us heralds. Indeed, Jesus walks along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and calls Simon and Andrew, two brothers who were fishermen. With his Word he invites them to follow him, telling them that he will make them “fishers of men” (Mt. 4,19): no longer just experts in boats, nets and fish, but experts in seeking others. And just as in sailing and fishing they had learned to leave the shore and cast their nets into the deep, in the same way they would become apostles capable of sailing upon the open seas of the world, of going out to meet their brothers and sisters and proclaiming the joy of the Gospel. This is the dynamism of the Word: it draws us into the “net” of the Father’s love and makes us apostles moved by an unquenchable desire to bring all those we encounter into the barque of the Kingdom. This is not proselytism because it is the Word of God that calls us, not our own word.
Today let us also hear the invitation to be fishers of men: let us feel that we are called by Jesus in person to proclaim his Word, to bear witness to it in everyday life, to live it in justice and charity, called to “give it flesh” by tenderly caring for those who suffer. This is our mission: to become seekers of the lost, oppressed and discouraged, not to bring them ourselves, but the consolation of the Word, the disruptive proclamation of God that transforms life, to bring the joy of knowing that He is our Father and addresses each one of us, to bring the beauty of saying, “Brother, sister, God has come close to you, listen and you will find in his Word an amazing gift!”
Brothers and sisters, I would like to conclude by simply thanking those who work to make sure that the Word of God is shared, proclaimed and put at the centre of our lives. Thank you to those who study and delve into the riches of the Word. Thank you to the pastoral workers and to all Christians engaged in the work of listening to and spreading the Word, especially lectors and catechists. Today I will confer these ministries on some of you. Thank you to those who have accepted the many invitations I have made to take the Gospel with them everywhere and to read it every day. And finally, I especially thank our deacons and priests. Thank you dear brothers, for you do not let God’s holy people be deprived of the nourishment of the Word. Thank you for committing yourselves to meditating on it, living it and proclaiming it. Thank you for your service and your sacrifices. May the sweet joy of proclaiming the Word of salvation be a consolation and reward for all of us.
 The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church, Instrumentum laboris for the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 2008, n. 10.