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
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Good morning! Today I would like to reflect on another term by which the Second Vatican Council defined the Church: “People of God” (cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, n. 9; The Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 782). And I do so with several questions for each one of you to reflect on.
1. What does “People of God” mean? First of all it means that God does not belong in a special way to any one people; for it is He who calls us, convokes us, invites us to be part of his people, and this invitation is addressed to all, without distinction, for the mercy of God “desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4). Jesus does not tell the Apostles or us to form an exclusive group, a group of the elite. Jesus says: go out and make disciples of all people (cf. Mt 28:19). St Paul says that in the People of God, in the Church, “there is neither Jew nor Greek... for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). I would also like to say to anyone who feels far away from God and the Church, to anyone who is timid or indifferent, to those who think they can no longer change: the Lord calls you too to become part in his people and he does this with great respect and love! He invites us to be part of this people, the People of God!
2. How does one become a member of this people? It is not through physical birth, but through a new birth. In the Gospel, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he needs to be born from on high, from water and from the Spirit in order to enter the Kingdom of God (cf. Jn 3:3-5). It is through Baptism that we are introduced into this people, through faith in Christ, a gift from God that must be nourished and cultivated throughout our life. Let us ask ourselves: how do I make this faith that I received in my Baptism grow? How do I make this faith that I received and that belongs to the People of God grow?
3. Another question: what is the law of the People of God? It is the law of love, love for God and love for neighbour according to the new commandment that the Lord left to us (cf. Jn 13:34). It is a love, however, that is not sterile sentimentality or something vague, but the acknowledgment of God as the one Lord of life and, at the same time, the acceptance of the other as my true brother, overcoming division, rivalry, misunderstanding, selfishness; these two things go together. Oh how much more of the journey do we have to make in order to actually live the new law — the law of the Holy Spirit who acts in us, the law of charity, of love! Looking in newspapers or on television we see so many wars between Christians: how does this happen? Within the People of God, there are so many wars! How many wars of envy, of jealousy, are waged in neighbourhoods, in the workplace! Even within the family itself, there are so many internal wars! We must ask the Lord to make us correctly understand this law of love. How beautiful it is to love one another as true brothers and sisters. How beautiful! Let’s do something today. We may all have likes and dislikes; many of us are perhaps a little angry with someone; then let us say to the Lord: Lord, I am angry with this or that person; I am praying to you for him or her. To pray for those with whom we are angry is a beautiful step towards that law of love. Shall we take it? Let’s take it today!
4. What is this people’s mission? It is to bring the hope and salvation of God to the world: to be a sign of the love of God who calls everyone to friendship with Him; to be the leaven that makes the dough rise, the salt that gives flavour and preserves from corruption, to be a light that enlightens. Look around us — it is enough to open a newspaper, as I said — we see the presence of evil, the Devil is acting. However, I would like to say out loud: God is stronger! Do you believe this, that God is stronger? Let us say it together, let us say it all together: God is stronger! And do you know why he is stronger? Because He is Lord, the only Lord. And I would like to add that reality, at times dark and marked by evil, can change, if we first bring the light of the Gospel especially through our lives. If in a stadium — say the Olympic stadium in Rome or the San Lorenzo in Buenos Aires — on a dark night, if someone turns on a light, you can barely see it but if the other 70,000 spectators turn on their own light, the whole stadium shines. Let our lives together be the one light of Christ; together we will carry the light of the Gospel to the whole of reality.
5. What is the destination of this People? Our destination is the Kingdom of God, which God himself inaugurated on this earth and which must be extended until its fulfilment, when Christ, our life, shall appear (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 9). The end then is full communion with the Lord, familiarity with the Lord, entry into his own divine life, where we will live in the joy of his love beyond measure, a full joy.
Dear brothers and sisters, being the Church, to be the People of God, in accordance with the Father’s great design of love, means to be the leaven of God in this humanity of ours. It means to proclaim and to bring the God’s salvation to this world of ours, so often led astray, in need of answers that give courage, hope and new vigour for the journey. May the Church be a place of God’s mercy and hope, where all feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live according to the good life of the Gospel. And to make others feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged, the Church must be with doors wide open so that all may enter. And we must go out through these doors and proclaim the Gospel.
St John said that anyone who expresses resentment or hatred for his brother or sister is in fact a murderer at heart. There is a need to enter into the logic of perfecting or reviewing our conduct. Of course, this calls to mind the subject of discrediting our brother or sister, starting with our inner passions. In practice this is motivation for insult. Furthermore, recourse to marvellously imaginative insults is widespread in the Latin tradition, for we invent one insult after another.
As long as the epithet is friendly let it go. However the problem arises when there is another epithet that veers towards the offensive. We then go and qualify it with a series of definitions that are not exactly evangelical. Verbal abuse, is a way of taking people down a peg.
There is no need to go to a psychiatrist to know that when people do someone else down it is because they themselves are unable to develop and need to feel that the other is less important in order for them to feel that they count. What Jesus simply said was quite the opposite the: “do not speak badly of others, do not belittle them, do not discredit them; basically we are all walking on the same path”.
With regard to insulting, Jesus is even more radical and goes much further. For he says that when you begin to feel something negative in your heart against one of your brethren and express it with an insult, a curse or an outburst of anger, something is wrong. You must convert, you must change.
The Apostle James who says that “ships are guided by a rudder and people are guided by their tongue”. So if someone “is unable to control his tongue, he or she is lost”. This is man’s weakness.
Cain’s natural aggression towards his brother has been repeated in the course of history. It is not that we are wicked; we are weak and sinful. This explains why it is far easier to solve a situation with an insult, with slander, with mud-slinging, rather than with kind words, as Jesus says.
Ask the Lord for the grace for all to be a little more careful with their tongue regarding what we say of others. This is without a doubt a small penance, but it yields good fruits. It is true that it demands sacrifice and effort, since it is far easier to enjoy the fruit of a racy comment against another. In the long run this hunger is rewarding and does us good. Hence our need to ask the Lord for the grace to conform our life to this new law, which is the law of docility, the law of love, the law of peace. We must start by pruning our language a little, by cutting back a bit our comments about others or the explosions that lead us to insulting them and flaring up in anger.
One time, the disciples of Jesus were eating grain because they were hungry; but it was Saturday and on Saturday grain was not allowed to be eaten. Still, they picked it [rubbing his hands together] and ate the grain. And they [the Pharisees] said: “But look at what they are doing! Whoever does this breaks the Law and soils his soul, for he does not obey the Law!”. And Jesus responded: “nothing that comes from without soils the soul. Only what comes from within, from your heart, can soil your soul”. And I believe that it it would do us good today to think not about whether my soul is clean or dirty, but rather about what is in my heart, what do I have inside, what I know I have but no one else knows.
Being honest with yourself is not easy! Because we always try to cover it up when we see something wrong inside, no? So that it doesn’t come out, don’t we? What is in our heart: is it love? Let us think: do I love my parents, my children, my wife, my husband, people in the neighbourhood, the sick?... Do I love? Is there hate? Do I hate someone? Often we find hatred, don’t we? “I love everyone except for this one, this one and that one!”. That’s hatred, isn’t it? What is in my heart, forgiveness? Is there an attitude of forgiveness for those who have offended me, or is there an attitude of revenge — “he will pay for it!”. We must ask ourselves what is within, because what is inside comes out and harms, if it is evil; and if it is good, it comes out and does good. And it is so beautiful to tell ourselves the truth, and feel ashamed when we are in a situation that is not what God wants, it is not good; when my heart feels hatred, revenge, so many situations are sinful. How is my heart?...
Jesus said today, for example — I will give only one example: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘you shall not kill’. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother has killed him in his heart”. And whoever insults his brother, kills him in his heart, whoever hates his brother, kills his brother in his heart; whoever gossips against his brother, kills him in his heart. Maybe we are not conscious of it, and then we talk, “we write off” this person or that, we speak ill of this or that ... And this is killing our brother.
That is why it is important to know what is inside, what is happening in my heart. If one understands his brother, the people, he loves his brother, because he forgives: he understands, he forgives, he is patient.... Is this love or hate? We must be sure of this.
And we must ask the Lord for two graces. The first: to know what is in our own heart, not to deceive ourselves, not to live in deceit. The second grace: to do what is good in our hearts and not to do the evil that is in our hearts.
And as for “killing”, remember that words can kill. Even ill-will toward another kills. Often, when we listen to people talking, saying evil things about others, it seems like the sin of slander. The sin of defamation had been removed from the Ten Commandments and yet to speak evil of a person is still a sin. Why is speaking ill of another a sin? Because there is hatred in my heart, aversion, not love.
We must always ask for this grace: to know what is happening in our heart, to constantly make the right choice, the choice for good. And that the Lord help us to love one another. And if I cannot love another well, why not? Pray for that person, pray that the Lord make me love him. And like this we move forward, remembering that what taints our lives is the evil that comes from our hearts. And that the Lord can help us.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
In today's catechesis, we face the third of the eight Beatitudes of Matthew's Gospel: "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth"(Mt 5:5).
The term "meek" used here means literally sweet, meek, gentle, free of violence. Meekness manifests itself in moments of conflict, you can see from how one reacts to a hostile situation. Anyone may seem meek when everything is quiet, but how does one react "under pressure" if he is attacked, offended, assaulted?
In one passage, St. Paul recalls "the gentleness and meekness of Christ"(2 Cor 10:1). And St. Peter in turn recalls Jesus' attitude during the Passion: He did not respond and did not threaten, because He "relied on the one who judges with justice"(1 Pt 2:23). And the meekness of Jesus is strongly seen in His Passion.
In Scripture the word "meek" also indicates the one who has no land ownership; and so it strikes us that the third Beatitude says precisely that the meek will inherit the earth.
In fact, this Beatitude mentions Psalm 37, which we heard at the beginning of the catechesis. There, too, the meekness and possession of the land are related. These two things, thinking about it, seem incompatible. In fact, the possession of the land is the typical area of conflict: it is often fought over for a territory, to obtain authority over a certain area. In wars the strongest prevails and conquers other lands.
But let us take a good look at the verb used to indicate the possession of meekness: they do not conquer the earth; it does not say "blessed the meek because they will conquer the earth." They inherit. Blessed are the meek because they will "inherit" the earth. In the scriptures, the verb "inherit" makes even greater sense. The People of God are called "inheritance" the very land of Israel is the Promised Land.
That land is a promise and a gift to the people of God, and becomes a sign of something much greater than a simple territory. There is a "land" – allow the play of words – that is Heaven, that is, the land towards which we walk: the new heavens and the new land to which we go (cf. Is 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pt 3:13; Ap 21:1).
So the meek are the ones who "inherit" the most sublime of the territories. He is not a coward, who finds a moral back-up to stay out of trouble. Not at all! He's someone who's been given an inheritance and doesn't want to dissipate it. The meek is not an accommodating person but is the disciple of Christ who has learned to defend much more than land. He defends his peace, he defends his relationship with God, he defends his gifts, the gifts of God, keeping mercy, fraternity, trust, hope. Because meek people are merciful, fraternal, confident, and hopeful people.
Here we must mention the sin of anger, a violent movement of which we all know the impulse. Who hasn't been angry sometimes? All. We must ask ourselves a question: how many things have we destroyed with anger? How many things have we lost? A moment of anger can destroy so many things; you lose control and you do not evaluate what is really important, and you can ruin your relationship with a brother, sometimes without remedy. Out of anger, so many brothers no longer speak to each other, they distance themselves from each other. It's the opposite of meekness. Meekness gathers, anger separates.
Meekness conquers so many things. Meekness is capable of winning the heart, saving friendships and much more, because people become angry but then calm down, think about it and get back on their feet, and so we can be rebuild with meekness.
The "land" to be conquered with meekness is the salvation of the brother of whom Matthew's Gospel speaks: "If he listens to you, you will have won over brother"(Mt 18:15). There is no land more beautiful than the heart of others, there is no more beautiful territory to gain than the peace found with a brother. And that is the land to be inherited with meekness!