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,
This Sunday, the Gospel presents to us the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish (Mt 14:13-21). Jesus performed it along the Lake of Galilee, in a deserted place where he had withdrawn with his disciples after learning of the death of John the Baptist. But many people followed them and joined them there; and upon seeing them, Jesus felt compassion and healed their sick until the evening. And seeing the late hour, the disciples became concerned and suggested that Jesus send the crowd away so they could go into the villages and buy food to eat. But Jesus calmly replied: “You give them something to eat” (Mt 14:16); and he asked them to bring five loaves and two fish, blessed them, began to break them and give them to the disciples, who distributed them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and there were even leftovers!
We can understand three messages from this event. The first is compassion. In facing the crowd who follows him and — so to speak — “won’t leave him alone”, Jesus does not react with irritation; he does not say: “These people are bothering me”. No, no. He reacts with a feeling of compassion, because he knows they are not seeking him out of curiosity but out of need. But attention: compassion — which Jesus feels — is not simply feeling pity; it’s more! It means to suffer with, in other words to empathize with the suffering of another, to the point of taking it upon oneself. Jesus is like this: he suffers together with us, he suffers with us, he suffers for us. And the sign of this compassion is the healing of countless people he performed. Jesus teaches us to place the needs of the poor before our own. Our needs, even if legitimate, are not as urgent as those of the poor, who lack the basic necessities of life. We often speak of the poor. But when we speak of the poor, do we sense that this man or that woman or those children lack the bare necessities of life? That they have no food, they have no clothing, they cannot afford medicine.... Also that the children do not have the means to attend school. Whereas our needs, although legitimate, are not as urgent as those of the poor who lack life’s basic necessities.
The second message is sharing. The first is compassion, which Jesus felt, and the second is sharing. It’s helpful to compare the reaction of the disciples with regard to the tired and hungry people, with that of Jesus. They are different. The disciples think it would be better to send them away so they can go and buy food. Jesus instead says: “you give them something to eat”. Two different reactions, which reflect two contrasting outlooks: the disciples reason with worldly logic, by which each person must think of himself; they reason as if to say: “Sort it out for yourselves”. Jesus reasons with God’s logic, which is that of sharing. How many times we turn away so as not to see our brothers in need! And this looking away is a polite way to say, with white gloves, “Sort it out for yourselves”. And this is not Jesus’ way: this is selfishness. Had he sent away the crowds, many people would have been left with nothing to eat. Instead those few loaves and fish, shared and blessed by God, were enough for everyone. And pay heed! It isn’t magic, it’s a “sign”: a sign that calls for faith in God, provident Father, who does not let us go without “our daily bread”, if we know how to share it as brothers.
Compassion, sharing. And the third message: the miracle of the loaves foreshadows the Eucharist. It is seen in the gesture of Jesus who, before breaking and distributing the loaves, “blessed” them (Mt 14:19). It is the same gesture that Jesus was to make at the Last Supper, when he established the perpetual memorial of his Redeeming Sacrifice. In the Eucharist Jesus does not give just any bread, but the bread of eternal life, he gives Himself, offering Himself to the Father out of love for us. But we must go to the Eucharist with those sentiments of Jesus, which are compassion and the will to share. One who goes to the Eucharist without having compassion for the needy and without sharing, is not at ease with Jesus.
Compassion, sharing, Eucharist. This is the path that Jesus points out to us in this Gospel. A path which brings us to face the needs of this world with fraternity, but which leads us beyond this world, because it comes from God the Father and returns to Him. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Divine Providence, accompany us on this journey.
“Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean”… Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out his hand and touched him, and said: “I do choose. Be made clean!” (Mk 1:40-41). The compassion of Jesus! That compassion which made him draw near to every person in pain! Jesus does not hold back; instead, he gets involved in people’s pain and their need… for the simple reason that he knows and wants to show compassion, because he has a heart unashamed to have “compassion”.
“Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed in the country; and people came to him from every quarter” (Mk 1:45). This means that Jesus not only healed the leper but also took upon himself the marginalization enjoined by the law of Moses (cf. Lev 13:1-2, 45-46). Jesus is unafraid to risk sharing in the suffering of others; he pays the price of it in full (cf. Is 53:4).
Compassion leads Jesus to concrete action: he reinstates the marginalized! These are the three key concepts that the Church proposes in today’s liturgy of the word: the compassion of Jesus in the face of marginalization and his desire to reinstate.
Marginalization: Moses, in his legislation regarding lepers, says that they are to be kept alone and apart from the community for the duration of their illness. He declares them: “unclean!” (cf. Lev 13:1-2, 45-46).
Imagine how much suffering and shame lepers must have felt: physically, socially, psychologically and spiritually! They are not only victims of disease, but they feel guilty about it, punished for their sins! Theirs is a living death; they are like someone whose father has spit in his face (cf. Num 12:14).
In addition, lepers inspire fear, contempt and loathing, and so they are abandoned by their families, shunned by other persons, cast out by society. Indeed, society rejects them and forces them to live apart from the healthy. It excludes them. So much so that if a healthy person approached a leper, he would be punished severely, and often be treated as a leper himself.
True, the purpose of this rule was “to safeguard the healthy”, “to protect the righteous”, and, in order to guard them from any risk, to eliminate “the peril” by treating the diseased person harshly. As the high priest Caiaphas exclaimed: “It is better to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed” (Jn 11:50).
Reinstatement: Jesus revolutionizes and upsets that fearful, narrow and prejudiced mentality. He does not abolish the law of Moses, but rather brings it to fulfilment (cf. Mt 5:17). He does so by stating, for example, that the law of retaliation is counterproductive, that God is not pleased by a Sabbath observance which demeans or condemns a man. He does so by refusing to condemn the sinful woman, but saves her from the blind zeal of those prepared to stone her ruthlessly in the belief that they were applying the law of Moses. Jesus also revolutionizes consciences in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Mt 5), opening new horizons for humanity and fully revealing God’s “logic”. The logic of love, based not on fear but on freedom and charity, on healthy zeal and the saving will of God. For “God our Saviour desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:3-4). “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Mt 12:7; Hos 6:6).
Jesus, the new Moses, wanted to heal the leper. He wanted to touch him and restore him to the community without being “hemmed in” by prejudice, conformity to the prevailing mindset or worry about becoming infected. Jesus responds immediately to the leper’s plea, without waiting to study the situation and all its possible consequences! For Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family! And this is scandalous to some people!
Jesus is not afraid of this kind of scandal! He does not think of the closed-minded who are scandalized even by a work of healing, scandalized before any kind of openness, by any action outside of their mental and spiritual boxes, by any caress or sign of tenderness which does not fit into their usual thinking and their ritual purity. He wanted to reinstate the outcast, to save those outside the camp (cf. Jn 10).
There are two ways of thinking and of having faith: we can fear to lose the saved and we can want to save the lost. Even today it can happen that we stand at the crossroads of these two ways of thinking. The thinking of the doctors of the law, which would remove the danger by casting out the diseased person, and the thinking of God, who in his mercy embraces and accepts by reinstating him and turning evil into good, condemnation into salvation and exclusion into proclamation.
These two ways of thinking are present throughout the Church’s history: casting off and reinstating. Saint Paul, following the Lord’s command to bring the Gospel message to the ends of the earth (cf. Mt 28:19), caused scandal and met powerful resistance and great hostility, especially from those who demanded unconditional obedience to the Mosaic law, even on the part of converted pagans. Saint Peter, too, was bitterly criticized by the community when he entered the house of the pagan centurion Cornelius (cf. Acts 10).
The Church’s way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement. This does not mean underestimating the dangers of letting wolves into the fold, but welcoming the repentant prodigal son; healing the wounds of sin with courage and determination; rolling up our sleeves and not standing by and watching passively the suffering of the world. The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for eternity; to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart. The way of the Church is precisely to leave her four walls behind and to go out in search of those who are distant, those essentially on the “outskirts” of life. It is to adopt fully God’s own approach, to follow the Master who said: “Those who are well have no need of the physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call, not the righteous but sinners” (Lk 5:31-32).
In healing the leper, Jesus does not harm the healthy. Rather, he frees them from fear. He does not endanger them, but gives them a brother. He does not devalue the law but instead values those for whom God gave the law. Indeed, Jesus frees the healthy from the temptation of the “older brother” (cf. Lk 15:11-32), the burden of envy and the grumbling of the labourers who bore “the burden of the day and the heat” (cf. Mt 20:1-16).
In a word: charity cannot be neutral, antiseptic, indifferent, lukewarm or impartial! Charity is infectious, it excites, it risks and it engages! For true charity is always unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous! (cf. 1 Cor 13). Charity is creative in finding the right words to speak to all those considered incurable and hence untouchable. Finding the right words… Contact is the language of genuine communication, the same endearing language which brought healing to the leper. How many healings can we perform if only we learn this language of contact! The leper, once cured, became a messenger of God’s love. The Gospel tells us that “he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the word” (cf. Mk 1:45).
Dear new Cardinals, this is the “logic”, the mind of Jesus, and this is the way of the Church. Not only to welcome and reinstate with evangelical courage all those who knock at our door, but to go out and seek, fearlessly and without prejudice, those who are distant, freely sharing what we ourselves freely received. “Whoever says: ‘I abide in [Christ]’, ought to walk just as he walked” (1 Jn 2:6). Total openness to serving others is our hallmark, it alone is our title of honour!
Consider carefully that, in these days when you have become Cardinals, we have asked Mary, Mother of the Church, who herself experienced marginalization as a result of slander (cf. Jn 8:41) and exile (cf. Mt 2:13-23), to intercede for us so that we can be God’s faithful servants. May she - our Mother - teach us to be unafraid of tenderly welcoming the outcast; not to be afraid of tenderness. How often we fear tenderness! May Mary teach us not to be afraid of tenderness and compassion. May she clothe us in patience as we seek to accompany them on their journey, without seeking the benefits of worldly success. May she show us Jesus and help us to walk in his footsteps.
Dear new Cardinals, my brothers, as we look to Jesus and our Mother, I urge you to serve the Church in such a way that Christians - edified by our witness - will not be tempted to turn to Jesus without turning to the outcast, to become a closed caste with nothing authentically ecclesial about it. I urge you to serve Jesus crucified in every person who is emarginated, for whatever reason; to see the Lord in every excluded person who is hungry, thirsty, naked; to see the Lord present even in those who have lost their faith, or turned away from the practice of their faith, or say that they are atheists; to see the Lord who is imprisoned, sick, unemployed, persecuted; to see the Lord in the leper – whether in body or soul - who encounters discrimination! We will not find the Lord unless we truly accept the marginalized! May we always have before us the image of Saint Francis, who was unafraid to embrace the leper and to accept every kind of outcast. Truly, dear brothers, the Gospel of the marginalized is where our credibility is at stake, is discovered and is revealed!
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,
In these Sundays, Mark the Evangelist speaks to us about Jesus’ actions against every type of evil, for the benefit of those suffering in body and spirit: the possessed, the sick, sinners.... Jesus presents Himself as the One who fights and conquers evil wherever He encounters it. In today’s Gospel (cf. Mk 1:40-45) this struggle of His confronts an emblematic case, because the sick man is a leper. Leprosy is a contagious and pitiless disease, which disfigures the person, and it was a symbol of impurity: a leper had to stay outside of inhabited centres and make his presence known to passersby. He was marginalized by the civil and religious community. He was like a deadman walking.
The episode of the healing of the leper takes place in three brief phases: the sick man’s supplication, Jesus’ response, the result of the miraculous healing. The leper beseeches Jesus, “kneeling”, and says to Him: “If you will, you can make me clean” (v. 40). Jesus responds to this humble and trusting prayer because his soul is moved to deep pity: compassion. “Compassion” is a most profound word: compassion means “to suffer-with-another”. Jesus’ heart manifests God’s paternal compassion for that man, moving close to him and touching him. And this detail is very important. Jesus “stretched out his hand and touched him.... And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean” (vv. 41-42). God’s mercy overcomes every barrier and Jesus’ hand touches the leper. He does not stand at a safe distance and does not act by delegating, but places Himself in direct contact with our contagion and in precisely this way our ills become the motive for contact: He, Jesus, takes from us our diseased humanity and we take from Him his sound and healing humanity. This happens each time we receive a Sacrament with faith: the Lord Jesus “touches” us and grants us his grace. In this case we think especially of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which heals us from the leprosy of sin.
Once again the Gospel shows us what God does in the face of our ills: God does not come to “give a lesson” on pain; neither does He come to eliminate suffering and death from the world; but rather, He comes to take upon Himself the burden of our human condition and carries it to the end, to free us in a radical and definitive way. This is how Christ fights the world’s maladies and suffering: by taking them upon Himself and conquering them with the power of God’s mercy.
The Gospel of the healing of the leper tells us today that, if we want to be true disciples of Jesus, we are called to become, united to Him, instruments of his merciful love, overcoming every kind of marginalization. In order to be “imitators of Christ” (cf. 1 Cor 11:1) in the face of a poor or sick person, we must not be afraid to look him in the eye and to draw near with tenderness and compassion, and to touch him and embrace him. I have often asked this of people who help others, to do so looking them in the eye, not to be afraid to touch them; that this gesture of help may also be a gesture of communication: we too need to be welcomed by them. A gesture of tenderness, a gesture of compassion.... Let us ask you: when you help others, do you look them in the eye? Do you embrace them without being afraid to touch them? Do you embrace them with tenderness? Think about this: how do you help? From a distance or with tenderness, with closeness? If evil is contagious, so is goodness. Therefore, there needs to be ever more abundant goodness in us. Let us be infected by goodness and let us spread goodness!
What is it within ourselves that makes us mock and belittle the weakest among us? Many Biblical stories tell of a powerful person humiliating someone weaker and more vulnerable. The devil is behind this type of attitude, because there is no compassion in him.
1 Samuel 1: 1-8: Elkanah, had two wives: Hannah, who was barren, and Peninnah, who had borne him several children. Instead of consoling Hannah, Peninnah scorned and humiliated her on account of her infertility.
Other Biblical stories also tell of scorn towards the weak, as does the story of Abraham’s wives, Hagar and Sarah. The same attitude of scorn and contempt occurs between men. Goliath ridiculed David. Both Job's and Tobias’ wives belittled their suffering husbands
I ask myself: What is within these people? What is it within ourselves that pushes us to mock and mistreat others weaker than ourselves? It is understandable when a person resents someone stronger than them, perhaps as a result of envy… but towards the weak? What makes us do that? It is something habitual, as if I needed to ridicule another person in order to feel confident. As if it were a necessity…”
Even among children this happens. When I was young, there was a woman with a mental illness, Angelina, who lived in his neighbourhood. She would walk the streets all day, and people would give her food to eat and clothes. Local children, however, would make fun of her. They would say: “Let’s find Angelina and have some fun”.
How much evil there is, even in children, that they treat the weak in this way!”
And today we see it constantly in our schools; the phenomenon of bullying, attacking the weak, because you’re fat or foreign, or because you’re black… Attacking and attacking… Children and young people, too. It wasn’t just Peninnah, Hagar, or the wives of Tobias and Job: even children. This means there is something within us that makes us act aggressively toward the weak.
The desire to destroy another person is the work of Satan .
Psychologists would probably give another explanation of this desire to destroy another because they are weak, but, I believe it is a consequence of Original Sin. This is the work of Satan. Satan, has no compassion.
And so, when we already have a good desire to do a good act, like an act of charity, we say ‘It’s the Holy Spirit inspiring me to do this’. And when we realize we harbour within ourselves the desire to attack someone because they are weak, we have no doubt: It is the devil. Because attacking the weak is the work of Satan.
Finally, let us ask the Lord to give us the grace of God’s compassion. He is the One who has compassion on us and helps us to move forward.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today’s Gospel passage (Mk 6:30-34) tells us that after their first mission, the Apostles returned to Jesus and told him “all that they had done and taught” (v. 30). After the experience of the mission, which was undoubtedly thrilling but also arduous, they needed to rest. And understanding this well, Jesus wished to give them some relief and said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest for a while” (v. 31). But Jesus’ intention could not be fulfilled this time because the crowd, guessing the location of the lonely place where he would take the disciples by boat, ran there and got there ahead of them.
The same can happen today. At times we are not able to complete our projects because something urgent and unexpected occurs, disrupting our plans and [this] requires flexibility and being available to the needs of others.
In these situations, we are called to imitate what Jesus did: “As he landed he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things” (v. 34). With this brief sentence, the Evangelist offers us a flash of singular intensity, taking a snapshot of the eyes of the divine Master and his teaching. Let us observe the three verbs in this frame: to see, to have compassion, to teach. We can call them the Shepherd’s verbs. The gaze of Jesus is not a neutral one — or worse, a cold and detached one because Jesus always looks with the eyes of the heart. And his heart is so tender and filled with compassion, that he is able to understand even the most hidden needs of people. Moreover, his compassion does not simply suggest an emotional response toward people in situations of distress. It is much more. It is God’s attitude and predisposition toward mankind and its history. Jesus appears as the fulfilment of God’s concern and care for his people.
Because Jesus was moved when he saw all those people in need of guidance and help, we would now expect him to perform some miracles. Instead, he began teaching them many things. This is the first bread that the Messiah offers to the starving and lost crowd; the bread of the Word. We all need the Word of truth to guide and illuminate our way. Without the truth which is Christ himself, it is not possible to find the right direction in life. When we distance ourselves from Jesus and his love, we become lost and life is transformed into disappointment and dissatisfaction. With Jesus by our side, we can proceed with confidence and overcome all trials, advancing in love toward God and neighbour. Jesus gave himself for others, thus becoming an example of love and service for each of us.
May Mary Most Holy help us to bear the problems, suffering and difficulties of our neighbours with an attitude of sharing and service.
What gave Jesus authority, was that “he spent most of his time on the road”, touching, embracing, listening and looking at the people in the eye. “He was near them”. This is what gave him authority.
Jesus taught the same thing that many others taught. It was how he taught that was different. Jesus was meek, and did not cry out. He did not punish the people. He never trumpeted the fact that he was the Messiah or a Prophet. In the Gospel, when Jesus was not with people, he was with the Father praying. His meekness toward the Father was expressed when he visited the house of his Father which had become a shopping mall…. He was angry and threw everyone out. He did this because he loved the Father, because he was humble before the Father.
Jesus was overcome with compassion for the widow. Jesus “thought with his heart”, which was not separated from his head. Then Jesus tenderly touches her and speaks to her, “Do not weep”. “This is the icon of the pastor”. The pastor “needs to have the power and authority that Jesus had, that humility, that meekness, that nearness, the capacity to be compassionate and tender.
it was also the people who yelled “crucify him”. Jesus then compassionately remained silent because “the people were deceived by the powerful”. His response was silence and prayer. Here the shepherd chooses silence when the “Great Accuser” accuses him through so many people. Jesus suffers, offers his life, and prays.
That prayer carried him even to the Cross, with strength; even there he had the capacity of drawing near to and healing the soul of the repentant thief.
"Who is my neighbour ?"
The brigands who "beat the man", leaving him half dead "; the priest who when he saw the wounded man "passed by", without taking into account his mission, thinking only of the imminent "hour of Mass". So did the Levite, "a cultured man of the Law". Dwell on “passing by", a concept which must enter our hearts today. It is that of two "officials" who, consistent with being who they are, said: "it is not for me" to help the injured person. On the contrary, those who "do not pass by" are the Samaritan, "who was a sinner, one excommunicated by the people of Israel": the "greatest sinner. He had compassion. Perhaps he was a merchant who was traveling for business, too.
He did not look at his watch, did not think about blood. He came close to him - he got off his donkey - he tied his wounds, pouring oil and wine. He got his hands dirty, got his clothes dirty. Then he loaded him on his mount, took him to a hotel, all dirty ... blood ... And so he had to get there. And he took care of him. He did not say: "But, I’ll leave him here, call the doctors who’ll come. I'm leaving, I've done my part. " No. He took care, saying: "Now you are mine, not for a possession, but to serve you". He was not an official, he was a man with a heart, a man with an open heart.
The innkeeper was stunned to see a foreigner, a pagan - so we say - because he was not of the people of Israel who stopped to rescue the man, paying two denari and promising to pay any expenses on his return. The innkeeper does not doubt that he will receive what is owed, adds, it is the reaction of one who lives a testimony, one open to the surprises of God, just like the Samaritan.
Both were not officials. "Are you a Christian? Are you Christian? ". "Yes, yes, yes, I go on Sundays to Mass and I try to do the right thing ... less talk, because I always like to talk, but the rest I do well". Are you open? Are you open to God's surprises or are you a Christian official, closed? "I do this, I go to Mass on Sunday, Communion, Confession once a year, this, this ... I am up standing". These are the Christian officials, those who are not open to the surprises of God, those who know so much about God but do not meet God. Those who never enter into amazement before a testimony. On the contrary: they are incapable of giving witness.
I therefore, urge everyone, "laymen and pastors", to ask ourselves if we are Christians open to what the Lord gives us every day, to the surprises of God that often, like this Samaritan, makes things difficult for us, or are we a Christian official, doing what we have to, feeling that we abide by "the rules" and then being constrained by the same rules. Some ancient theologians, said that in this passage "the whole Gospel" is contained.
Each of us is the man there, wounded, and the Samaritan is Jesus. And he healed our wounds. He drew near to us. He took care of us. He paid for us. And he said to his Church: "But if you need more, you pay, I will come back and I will pay". Think about this: in this passage there is the whole Gospel.
The Apostle John explains how God manifests His love in us. "Let us love one another, because love is of God,” John writes.
This is the mystery of love: “God loved us first. He took the first step.” God loved us even though we don’t know how to love and need God’s caresses in order to love.
This first step God takes is His Son. He sent Him to save us and to give meaning to our lives and to renew and recreate us.
Jesus fed the crowd out of compassion.
God’s heart, Jesus’ heart, was moved when he saw these people, and he could not remain indifferent. Love is restless. Love does not tolerate indifference; love is compassionate. But love means putting your heart on the line for others; it means showing mercy.
Jesus taught them and the people many things, but they grew bored, because Jesus always said the same things.
As Jesus teaches with love and compassion, maybe they began to talk amongst themselves. They start to check their watches, saying “It’s getting late.”
Mark 6: “But Master, this is a deserted place and it is already very late. Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” They basically wanted the people to work it out themselves. But we can be sure that they surely had enough bread for themselves, and they wanted to keep it. This is indifference.
The disciples were not interested in the people. Jesus was interested, because he cared for them. They weren’t evil, just indifferent. They didn’t know what it meant to love. They didn’t know how to show compassion. They didn’t know what indifference was. They had to sin, betray the Master, and abandon him in order to understand the core of compassion and mercy. And Jesus’ response cuts deep: ‘Give them some food yourselves.’ Take their plight upon yourselves. This is the struggle between the compassion of Jesus and indifference, which is always repeated throughout history. Many people who are good, but don’t understand the needs of others, are incapable of compassion. They are good people, maybe because the love of God has not entered into their heart or they have not let it enter.
There is a photo hung on the wall of the Office of Papal Charities. It was a picture taken by a local man who offered it to the Papal Almoner. Daniel Garofani, now a photographer for the Osservatore Romano, took the photo after distributing food with Cardinal Krajewski to homeless people. It shows well-dressed people leaving a restaurant in Rome as a homeless woman lifts her hand to beg for alms. The picture was taken just as the people looked away, so that their gaze would not meet that of the homeless woman. This is the culture of indifference. That’s what the Apostles did.
God’s love always comes first and is compassionate and merciful. It is true that the opposite of love is hate, but that many people are not aware of a conscious hate.
The more-common opposite of the love of God – of God’s compassion – is indifference. ‘I’m satisfied; I lack nothing. I have everything. I’ve assured my place in this life and the next, since I go to Mass every Sunday. I’m a good Christian. But leaving the restaurant, I look the other way.’ Let’s reflect on this: Confronted with God who takes the first step, is compassionate, and is merciful, many times our attitude is indifference. Let us pray to the Lord that He heal humanity, starting with us. May my heart be healed from the sickness of the culture of indifference.
“While he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Lk 15:20).
Here the Gospel takes us to the heart of the parable, showing the father’s response at seeing the return of his son. Deeply moved, he runs out to meet him before he can even reach home. A son long awaited. A father rejoicing to see him return.
That was not the only time the father ran. His joy would not be complete without the presence of his other son. He then sets out to find him and invites him to join in the festivities (cf. v. 28). But the older son appeared upset by the homecoming celebration. He found his father’s joy hard to take; he did not acknowledge the return of his brother: “that son of yours”, he calls him (v. 30). For him, his brother was still lost, because he had already lost him in his heart.
By his unwillingness to take part in the celebration, the older son fails not only to recognize his brother, but his father as well. He would rather be an orphan than a brother. He prefers isolation to encounter, bitterness to rejoicing. Not only is he unable to understand or forgive his brother, he cannot accept a father capable of forgiving, willing to wait patiently, to trust and to keep looking, lest anyone be left out. In a word, a father capable of compassion.
At the threshold of that home, something of the mystery of our humanity appears. On the one hand, celebration for the son who was lost and is found; on the other, a feeling of betrayal and indignation at the celebrations marking his return. On the one hand, the welcome given to the son who had experienced misery and pain, even to the point of yearning to eat the husks thrown to the swine; on the other, irritation and anger at the embrace given to one who had proved himself so unworthy.
What we see here yet again is the tension we experience in our societies and in our communities, and even in our own hearts. A tension deep within us ever since the time of Cain and Abel. We are called to confront it and see it for what it is. For we too ask: “Who has the right to stay among us, to take a place at our tables and in our meetings, in our activities and concerns, in our squares and our cities?” The murderous question seems constantly to return: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (cf. Gen 4:9).
At the threshold of that home, we can see our own divisions and strife, the aggressiveness and conflicts that always lurk at the door of our high ideals, our efforts to build a society of fraternity, where each person can experience even now the dignity of being a son or daughter.
Yet at the threshold of that home, we will also see in all its radiant clarity, with no ifs and buts, the father’s desire that all his sons and daughters should share in his joy. That no one should have to live in inhuman conditions, as his younger son did, or as orphaned, aloof and bitter like the older son. His heart wants all men and women to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4).
It is true that many situations can foment division and strife, while others can bring us to confrontation and antagonism. It cannot be denied. Often we are tempted to believe that hatred and revenge are legitimate ways of ensuring quick and effective justice. Yet experience tells us that hatred, division and revenge succeed only in killing our peoples’ soul, poisoning our children’s hopes, and destroying and sweeping away everything we cherish.
Jesus invites us, then, to stop and contemplate the heart of our Father. Only from that perspective can we acknowledge once more that we are brothers and sisters. Only against that vast horizon can we transcend our short-sighted and divisive ways of thinking, and see things in a way that does not downplay our differences in the name of a forced unity or a quiet marginalization. Only if we can raise our eyes to heaven each day and say “Our Father”, will we be able to be part of a process that can make us see things clearly and risk living no longer as enemies but as brothers and sisters.
“All that is mine is yours” (Lk 15:31), says the father to his older son. He is not speaking so much about material wealth, as about sharing in his own love and own compassion. This is the greatest legacy and wealth of a Christian. Instead of measuring ourselves or classifying ourselves according to different moral, social, ethnic or religious criteria, we should be able to recognize that another criterion exists, one that no one can take away or destroy because it is pure gift. It is the realization that we are beloved sons and daughters, whom the Father awaits and celebrates.
“All that is mine is yours”, says the Father, including my capacity for compassion. Let us not fall into the temptation of reducing the fact that we are his children to a question of rules and regulations, duties and observances. Our identity and our mission will not arise from forms of voluntarism, legalism, relativism or fundamentalism, but rather from being believers who daily beg with humility and perseverance: “May your Kingdom come!”
The Gospel parable leaves us with an open ending. We see the father asking the older son to come in and share in the celebration of mercy. The Gospel writer says nothing about what the son decided. Did he join the party? We can imagine that this open ending is meant to be written by each individual and every community. We can complete it by the way we live, the way we regard others, and how we treat our neighbour. The Christian knows that in the Father’s house there are many rooms: the only ones who remain outside are those who choose not to share in his joy.
Dear brothers and dear sisters, I want to thank you for the way in which you bear witness to the Gospel of mercy in this land. Thank you for your efforts to make each of your communities an oasis of mercy. I encourage you to continue to let the culture of mercy grow, a culture in which no one looks at others with indifference, or averts his eyes in the face of their suffering (cf. Misericordia et Misera, 20). Keep close to the little ones and the poor, and to all those who are rejected, abandoned and ignored. Continue to be a sign of the Father’s loving embrace.
May the Merciful and Compassionate One – as our Muslim brothers and sisters frequently invoke him – strengthen you and make your works of love ever more fruitful.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today's Gospel recounts the famous parable of the good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10: 25-37 ). Asked by a scholar of the law about what to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus invites him to find the answer in the Scriptures which say: "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind , and your neighbour as yourself "(v. 27). However, there were different interpretations about who was understood to be our neighbour. In fact that the man continues by asking: "and who is my neighbour?" (v. 29). At this point, Jesus answers with the parable, this beautiful parable: I invite all of you to pick up the Gospel today, the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 10, verse 25. It is one of the most beautiful Gospel parables. And this parable has become a paradigm of Christian life. It has become the model of how a Christian should act. Thanks to the evangelist Luke, we have this treasure.
The protagonist of the short story is a Samaritan, who comes across a man along his path who has been striped and beaten by robbers and takes care of him. We know that the Jews treated the Samaritans with contempt, considering them strangers to the chosen people. So It is no coincidence that Jesus chooses a Samaritan as a positive character in the parable. In this way he wants to overcome prejudice, and show that even a foreigner, even one who does not know the true God and does not attend His temple, is capable of behaving according to His will, feeling compassion for his brother in need and helping him with all means at its disposal.
Before the Samaritan on that same road, a priest and a Levite had come across the man. They were people dedicated to the worship of God. However, seeing the poor man on the ground, they went ahead without stopping, probably so as not to contaminate themselves with his blood. They had given precedence to a human rule – not to become contaminated by human blood – to the law God's great commandment that wants mercy above all.
Jesus, therefore, holds up the Samaritan as a model, a person who did not have faith! Many times we look at other people that we might know, we might label them as agnostic, yet they do good. Jesus choses as a model someone who is not a man of faith. And this man, by loving his brother as himself, shows that he loves God with all his heart and with all his strength – a God that he did not know! – and at the same time expresses true religiosity and full humanity.
After telling this beautiful parable, Jesus turns back to the scholar of the law who had asked him "who is my neighbour?", and says to him: "which one of these three was neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?» (v. 36). In this way He reverses the question of his interlocutor, and also our own logic. He helps us understand that it is not us on the basis of our criteria who defines who is neighbour and who is not, but rather the person in need who must be able to recognize who is his neighbour, that is, "the one who treated him with mercy" (v. 37). Being able to have compassion: this is key. This is our key. If you face a person in need and do not feel compassion, if your heart is not moved, it means that something is wrong. Be careful, be careful. Do not allow ourselves to be overcome by selfish insensitivity. The capacity of mercy has become the rock of a Christian, or rather of Jesus ' teaching. Jesus himself is the Father's compassion and mercy toward us. If you go down the street and see a homeless man lying there and walk without looking at him or think, "He is drunk, he is this way because he drinks ". We need to ask ourselves not is the person drunk, but ask yourself if your heart is hard, if your heart has become like ice. This conclusion of Jesus tells us that mercy towards a human life in need is the true face of love. That's how you become true disciples of Jesus and reveals the face of the Father's: "be merciful, as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6.36). And God, our father, is merciful, because he has compassion; He is capable of having this compassion, of drawing near to us, to our sorrow, to our sin, to our defects and also to our miseries.
May the Virgin Mary help us to understand and above all to increasingly live that inseparable bond that exists between our love for God and a concrete and generous love for our brothers and sisters, and may she give us the grace to have compassion and to grow in compassion.
Compassion is like "the lens of the heart" that makes us understand the dimensions of reality, it is also the language of God, whereas so often human language is indifference.
Open your hearts to compassion and do not to close yourselves in indifference. Compassion, in fact, takes us on the path of true justice, thus saving us from closure in ourselves.
Luke's Gospel of today's liturgy (Luke 7: 11-17) tells of Jesus’ encounter with a widow in the city of Nain who is mourning the death of her only son as he taken to the grave. The evangelist does not say that Jesus had compassion but that "the Lord was moved with compassion," as if he had been overwhelmed with the sentiment.
There was the crowd that followed him, there were the people accompanying that woman but Jesus sees his reality: she is alone, she is a widow, she has lost her only child. It is compassion, in fact, that makes us understand reality deeply.
Compassion allows you to see reality; compassion is like the lens of the heart: it really makes us to take in and understand the true dimensions. In the Gospels, Jesus is often moved by compassion. And compassion is also God's language.
Compassion makes its appearance in the Bible long before the arrival of Christ: it was God who said to Moses, "I have witnessed the pain of my people," and it is thanks to the compassion of God that He sends Moses to save the people.
Our God is a God of compassion, and compassion - we can say – is the weakness of God, but also His strength. It was compassion that moved Him to send His son to us. Compassion is the language of God.
Compassion is not a feeling of pity, a sentiment one would feel for example when seeing a dog die on the road. But it is getting involved in the problems of others.
In the parable of the multiplication of the loaves Jesus told the disciples to feed the crowd that followed him, whereas they wanted to dismiss those present and send them off to buy something to eat themselves. The disciples were prudent. I believe that at that moment Jesus was angry, in his heart, considering the answer "Give them food!" His invitation is to take charge of the people, without thinking that after a day or so they could go to the villages to buy bread.
The Lord had compassion because he saw these people as sheep without a shepherd. The Gospel speaks, on the one hand, of Jesus’ gesture of compassion, and on the other of the selfish attitude of the disciples who seek a solution without compromise, who do not get their hands dirty, as if to leave these people to get on with it:
If compassion is the language of God, so often human language is that of indifference.
One of our photographers, from the Roman Observer, took a picture that is now in the Hemosineria, which is called "Indifference". I've talked about this before. One winter night, in front of a luxury restaurant, a lady who lives on the street reaches out to another well dressed lady who comes out from the restaurant, and this other lady looks the other way. That is indifference. Go and look at that photograph: this is indifference. Our indifference.
We must ask ourselves "How many times do we look away...?" By doing so we close the door to compassion. Can we examine our conscience and ask ourselves "Do I habitually look somewhere else? Or do I let the Holy Spirit lead me on the path of compassion? That it is a virtue of God.
I am touched by the words from todays Gospel when Jesus says to this mother "Do not weep". A caress of compassion. Jesus touches the coffin, telling the young man to stand up. Then, the young man sits down and starts talking. "And Jesus returned him to his mother."
He returned him: an act of justice. This word is used in justice: to give back.
Compassion takes us along the path to true justice. We must always return what rightfully belongs to someone else, and this always saves us from selfishness, from indifference, from self-closure. Let us continue with this word: "The Lord was taken with great compassion". May He also have compassion for each of us: We need it.
At the heart of the Gospel we have just heard (Mk 6:30-37) is the “compassion” of Jesus (cf. v. 34). Compassion is a key word in the Gospel. It is written in Christ’s heart; it is forever written in the heart of God.
In the Gospels, we often see Jesus’ compassion for those who are suffering. The more we read, the more we contemplate, the more we come to realize that the Lord’s compassion is not an occasional, sporadic emotion, but is steadfast and indeed seems to be the attitude of his heart, in which God’s mercy is made incarnate.
Mark, for example, tells us that when Jesus first passed through Galilee preaching and casting out demons, “a leper came to him begging him, and kneeling said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean’. Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’” (1:40-42). In this gesture and with these words, we see the mission of Jesus, the Redeemer of mankind. He is a compassionate Redeemer. He incarnates God’s will to purify men and women afflicted by the scourge of sin; he is “the outstretched hand of God”, who touches our sickly flesh and accomplishes this work by bridging the chasm of separation.
Jesus goes out in search of the outcast, those without hope. People like the man paralyzed for thirty-eight years who lay beside the pool of Bethzatha, waiting in vain for someone to bring him to the waters (cf. Jn 5:1-9).
This compassion did not appear suddenly at one moment in the history of salvation. No, it was always there in God, impressed on his paternal heart. Let us think about the account of the calling of Moses, for example, when God spoke from the burning bush and said: “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry… indeed, I know their sufferings” (Ex 3:7). This is the compassion of the Father!
God’s love for his people is drenched with compassion, to the extent that, in this covenant relationship, what is divine is compassionate, while, sad to say, it appears that what is human is so often lacking in compassion. God himself says so: “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? ... My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender… For I am God and no mortal, the holy one in your midst, and I will not come in wrath” (Hos 11:8-9).
Jesus’ disciples often show themselves lacking compassion, as in this case, when they are faced with the problem of having to feed the crowds. In effect, they say: “Let them worry about it themselves…” This is a common attitude among us human beings, even those of us who are religious persons or even religious “professionals”. We wash our hands of it. The position we occupy is not enough to make us compassionate, as we see in the conduct of the priest and Levite who, seeing a dying man on the side of the road, pass to the other side (cf. Lk 10:31-32). They would have thought: “It’s not up to me”. There are always excuses and justifications for looking the other way. And when a man of the Church becomes a mere functionary, the result is even more sour. There are always justifications; at times they are even codified and give rise to “institutional disregard”, as was the case with lepers: “Of course, they have to keep their distance; that is the right thing to do”. That was the way of thinking and it still is. This all too human attitude also generates structures lacking compassion.
At this point we can ask ourselves: are we conscious – we, in the first place – of having been the object of God’s compassion? In a particular way, I ask this of you, brother cardinals and those about to become cardinals: do you have a lively awareness of always having been preceded and accompanied by his mercy? This awareness was always present in the immaculate heart of the Virgin Mary, who praises God as her “Saviour”, for he “looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant” (Lk 1:48).
I find it helpful to see myself reflected in the passage of Ezekiel 16 that speaks of God’s love for Jerusalem. It concludes with the words: “I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, in order that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I forgive you all that you have done” (Ezek 16:62-63). Or again, in that other prophecy of Hosea: “I will bring her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her… There shall she respond as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt (2:14-15). We can ask ourselves: Do I feel God’s compassion towards me? Do I sense in me the conviction of being a son of compassion?
Do we have a lively awareness of this compassion that God feels for us? It is not something optional, or a kind of “evangelical counsel”. No, it is essential. Unless I feel that I am the object of God’s compassion, I cannot understand his love. This is not a reality that can be explained. Either I feel it or I don’t. If I don’t feel it, how can I share it, bear witness to it, bestow it on others? Perhaps, I am not able to do this. Concretely: am I compassionate towards this or that brother or sister, that bishop, that priest? … Or do I constantly tear them down by my attitude of condemnation, of indifference, of looking the other way and actually washing my hands of it?
On this lively awareness also depends, for all of us, the ability to be loyal in our own ministry. This also holds true for you, brother cardinals. The word “compassion” came to my mind right from the moment I started writing my letter to you of 1 September. The readiness of a cardinal to shed his own blood – as signified by the scarlet colour of your robes – is secure if it is rooted in this awareness of having been shown compassion and in the ability to show compassion in turn. Otherwise, one cannot be loyal. So many disloyal actions on the part of ecclesiastics are born of the lack of a sense of having been shown compassion, and by the habit of averting one’s gaze, the habit of indifference. Today, let us implore, through the intercession of the apostle Peter, the grace to have a compassionate heart, in order to be witnesses of the One who loved and still loves us and who has looked with favour upon us, who chose us, consecrated us and sent us to bring to everyone his Gospel of salvation.
Todays Gospel tells how a leper approached Jesus, saying “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean”. The leper’s request is a simple prayer, an act of confidence — but at the same time, a true challenge. It is plea that comes from the depths of his heart, which also reveals something about Jesus and His compassion for us. Jesus, suffers with and for us, He takes the suffering of others upon Himself, comforting them and healing them in the name the love of the Father.
The phrase, “If you will…” is a prayer that gets God’s attention. It is a challenge, but also an act of confidence: I know that He can do it, and so I entrust myself to Him.
The leper was able to make this prayer, because he saw how Jesus acted. This man had seen the compassion of Jesus. Compassion, not pity, is a refrain in the Gospel — a common theme seen in the story of the widow of Nain, and in the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son:
Compassion gets involved, it comes from the heart and gets involved, and it leads you to do something. Compassion is suffering with, taking the suffering of the other person upon yourself in order to resolve it, to heal it. And this was the mission of Jesus. Jesus did not come to preach the law and then leave. Jesus came in compassion, that is, to suffer with and for us and to give us life itself. The love of Jesus is so great that compassion led Him precisely to the Cross, to give His life.
Let us repeat this little phrase often. Because Jesus has compassion, He is capable of involving Himself in our sorrows, in the problems of others. Jesus, did not come simply to give a few sermons and then return to heaven; not to wash His hands. He came to be close to us, and He remains always at our side.
This expression can be turned into a prayer that we can use every day:
“Lord, if you will, you can heal me; if you will, you can forgive me; if you will, you can help me.” Or, if you want, you can make it a little longer: “Lord, I am a sinner, have mercy on me, have compassion on me”. A simple prayer that can be said many times a day. “Lord, I, a sinner, ask you: have mercy on me”. Many times a day, inwardly, from the heart, without saying it out loud: “Lord, if you will, you can; if you will, you can. Have compassion on me”. Repeat this.
The leper, with his simple and miraculous prayer, was able to obtain healing thanks to the compassion of Jesus, who loves us despite our sinfulness.
He is not ashamed of us. “O Father, I am a sinner, how can I say this?...” This is better! For He came precisely for us sinners, and the greater a sinner you are, the closer the Lord is to you, for He has come for you, the greatest sinner; for me, the greatest sinner; for all of us. Let us make a habit of repeating this prayer, always: “Lord, if you will it, you can do it. If you will it, you can do it”, with confidence that the Lord is close to us; and with His compassion, He will take upon Himself our problems, our sins, our inner diseases, everything.
There is a lack of bread for the disciples who boarded the boat with Jesus and in them there is concern about the management of something material: "They discussed among themselves - says the Gospel of Mark today ( Mark 8:14-21) - because they had no bread." Jesus, aware of this, warned them: "Why do you argue that you have no bread? Don't you still understand and don't understand? Do you have a hardened heart? You have eyes and you don't see, you have ears and you don't hear? And don't you remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets you took away?"
Compassion is what the Lord wants in us: "Mercy I want, not sacrifice." A heart without compassion is an idolatrous heart. It is a self-sufficient heart which goes on sustained by its own selfishness, becoming strong only with ideologies.
Let us think about the four ideological groups of Jesus’ time – the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes and the Zealots. Four groups that had hardened their hearts to carry out a project that was not God's; there was no place for God's plan, there was no place for compassion.
However, against this hardheartedness there is a medicine, and it is memory. This is why in today’s Gospel and in many other Scripture passages, there echoes the need for the salvific power of memory, a grace to be asked for because it keeps the heart open and faithful.
When the heart becomes hardened, when the heart hardens, it forgets... One forgets the grace of salvation, one forgets gratuitousness. The hard heart leads to quarrels, it leads to wars, it leads to selfishness, it leads to the destruction of the brother, because there is no compassion. And the greatest message of salvation is that God has had compassion for us. That refrain of the gospel, when Jesus sees a person, a painful situation: He had compassion. Jesus is the compassion of the Father; Jesus is the slap to every hardness of heart.
Let us ask for the grace to have a heart that is not ideological and therefore hardened, but open and compassionate in the face of what is happening in the world because by this we will be judged on the day of judgment, not by our ideas or our ideologies. "I was hungry, you fed me; I've been in prison, you've come to see me; I was afflicted and you consoled me" is written in the Gospel and this is compassion, this is the non-hardness of heart. And humility, the memory of our roots and our salvation, will help us to preserve it.
Every one of us has something that has hardened within our hearts. Let us remember and let the Lord give us a righteous and sincere heart where the Lord lives.
The Lord cannot enter hard hearts; the Lord cannot enter ideological hearts. The Lord enters only the hearts that are like his heart: compassionate hearts, hearts that have compassion, open hearts. Let the Lord give us this grace.
Dear brothers and sisters, good day!
This Sunday’s Gospel presents to us the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves (see Mt 14,13-21). The scene takes place in a deserted place, where Jesus had retired with His disciples. But the people found Him so as to listen to Him and to be healed: indeed, His words and His gestures restore and bring hope. At sundown, the crowd was still present and the disciples, practical men, invited Jesus to send them away so that they could go and find something to eat. But He answered: “You give them something to eat” (v. 16). We can imagine the disciples’ faces! Jesus was well aware of what He was about to do, but He wanted to change their attitude: not to say, “send them away,” “let them fend for themselves”, “let them find something to eat”, but rather, “what does Providence offer us to share?” These are two opposite ways of behaving. And Jesus wants to bring them to the second way of behaving because the first proposal is that of the practical person, but is not generous: “send them away so they can go and find, let them fend for themselves.” Jesus thinks another way. Jesus wants to use this situation to educate His friends, both then and now, about God’s logic. And what is God’s logic that we see here? The logic of taking responsibility for others. The logic of not washing one’s hands, the logic of not looking the other way. No. The logic of taking responsibility for others. That “let them fend for themselves” should not enter into the Christian vocabulary.
As soon as one of the Twelve says, realistically, “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish”, Jesus answers, “Bring them here to me” (vv. 17-18). He takes the food in His hands, raises His eyes heavenward, recites the blessing and begins to break it and give the pieces to the disciples to hand out. And those loaves and fish did not run out; there was enough, and plenty left over for thousands of people.
With this gesture, Jesus demonstrates His power; not in a spectacular way but as a sign of charity, of God the Father’s generosity toward His weary and needy children. He is immersed in the life of His people, He understands their fatigue and their limitations, but He does not allow anyone to be lost, or to lose out: He nourishes them with His word and provides food in plenty for sustenance.
In this Gospel passage we can perceive a reference to the Eucharist, especially in the description of the blessing, the breaking of the bread, delivery to the disciples, and distribution to the people (v. 19). It is noteworthy how close the link is between the Eucharistic bread, nourishment for eternal life, and daily bread, necessary for earthly life. Before offering Himself to the Father as the Bread of salvation, Jesus ensures there is food for those who follow Him and who, in order to be with Him, forgot to make provisions. At times the spiritual and the material are in opposition, but in reality spiritualism, like materialism, is alien to the Bible. It is not biblical language.
The compassion and tenderness that Jesus showed towards the crowds is not sentimentality, but rather the concrete manifestation of the love that cares for the people’s needs. And we are called to approach the Eucharistic table with these same attitudes of Jesus: compassion for the needs of others, this word that is repeated in the Gospel when Jesus sees a problem, an illness or these people without food… “He had compassion.” “He had compassion”. Compassion is not a purely material feeling; true compassion is patire con [to suffer with], to take others’ sorrows on ourselves. Perhaps it would do us good today to ask ourselves: Do I feel compassion when I read news about war, about hunger, about the pandemic? So many things… Do I feel compassion toward those people? Do I feel compassion toward the people who are near to me? Am I capable of suffering with them, or do I look the other way, or “they can fend for themselves”? Let us not forget this word “compassion,” which is trust in the provident love of the Father, and means courageous sharing.
May Mary Most Holy help us to walk the path that the Lord shows us in today's Gospel. It is the journey of fraternity, which is essential in order to face the poverty and suffering of this world, especially in this tragic moment, and which projects us beyond the world itself, because it is a journey that begins with God and returns to God.
Dear brothers and sisters, good day!
In the parable in today’s Gospel reading, that of the merciful King (see Mt 18:21-35), twice we find this plea: “Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full” (vv. 26, 29). The first time it is pronounced by the servant who owes his master ten thousand talents, an enormous sum. Today it would be millions and millions of dollars. The second time it is repeated by another servant of the same master. He too is in debt, not towards the master, but towards the same servant who has that enormous debt. And his debt is very small, maybe a week’s wages.
The heart of the parable is the indulgence the master shows towards his servant with the bigger debt. The evangelist underlines that, “moved with compassion the master”- we should never forget this word of Jesus: “Have compassion”, Jesus always had compassion - “moved with compassion the master let him go and forgave him the loan” (v. 27). An enormous debt, therefore a huge remission! But that servant, immediately afterwards, showed himself to be pitiless towards his companion, who owed him a modest sum. He does not listen to him, he is extremely hostile against him and has him thrown in prison until he has paid his debt (see v. 30). The master hears about this and, outraged, calls the wicked servant back and has him condemned (see vv. 32-34). “I forgave you a great deal and you are not capable of forgiving so little?”
In the parable we find two different attitudes: God’s - represented by the king who forgives a lot, because God always forgives - and the human person’s. The divine attitude is justice pervaded with mercy, whereas the human attitude is limited to justice. Jesus exhorts us to open ourselves with courage to the strength of forgiveness, because in life not everything can be resolved with justice. We know this. There is a need for that merciful love, which is also at the basis of the Lord’s answer to Peter’s question, which precedes the parable. Peter’s question goes like this: “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?” (v. 21). And Jesus replies, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times” (v. 22). In the symbolic language of the Bible this means that we are called to forgive always.
How much suffering, how many wounds, how many wars could be avoided if forgiveness and mercy were the style of our life! Even in families, even in families. How many families are disunited, who do not know how to forgive each other. How many brothers and sisters bear resentment within. It is necessary to apply merciful love to all human relationships: between spouses, between parents and children, within our communities, in the Church and also in society and politics.
Today as we were celebrating the Mass, I paused, touched by a phrase in the first reading from the book of Sirach. The phrase says, remember the end and stop hating. A beautiful phrase. But think of the end. Just think, you will be in a coffin… and you take your hatred there. Think about the end, stop hating, stop resenting. Let’s think of this phrase that is very touching. Remember the end and stop hating.
It is not easy to forgive because although in moments of calm we think “Yes, this person has done so many things to me but I have done many too. Better to forgive so as to be forgiven”, but then resentment returns like a bothersome fly in the summer that keeps coming back. Forgiveness isn’t something we do in a moment, it is a something continuous, against that resentment, that hatred that keeps coming back. Let’s think of our end and stop hating.
Today’s parable helps us to grasp fully the meaning of that phrase we recite in the Lord’s Prayer: “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (see Mt 6:12). These words contain a decisive truth. We cannot demand God’s forgiveness for ourselves if we in turn do not grant forgiveness to our neighbour. It is a condition. Think of your end, of God’s forgiveness, and stop hating. Reject resentment, that bothersome fly that keeps coming back. If we do not strive to forgive and to love, we will not be forgiven and loved either.
Let us entrust ourselves to the maternal intercession of the Mother of God: May she help us to realise how much we are in debt to God, and to remember that always, so that our hearts may be open to mercy and goodness.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning
Once again in the Square! Today’s Gospel passage (cf. Mk 1:29-39) presents the healing, by Jesus, of Peter’s mother-in-law and then of many other sick and suffering people who gather round him. The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law is the first physical healing recounted by Mark: the woman is in bed with a fever; Jesus’ attitude and gesture toward her are emblematic: “he came and took her by the hand” (v. 31), the Evangelist notes. There is so much tenderness in this simple act, which seems almost natural: “the fever left her; and she served them” (ibid.). Jesus’ healing power meets no resistance; and the person healed resumes her normal life, immediately thinking of others and not of herself – and this is significant; it is the sign of true “health”!
That day was a sabbath day. The people of the village wait for sundown and then, the obligation of rest having ended, they go out and bring to Jesus all those who are sick and possessed by demons. And he heals them, but forbids the demons to reveal that he is the Christ (cf. vv. 32-34). Thus, from the very beginning, Jesus shows his predilection for people suffering in body and in spirit: it is a predilection of Jesus to draw near to people who suffer both in body and in spirit. It is the Father’s predilection, which he incarnates and manifests with deeds and words. His disciples were eyewitnesses to this; they saw this and then witnessed to it. But Jesus did not want just spectators of his mission: he involved them; he sent them; he also gave them the power to heal the sick and cast out demons (cf. Mt 10:1; Mk 6:7). And this has continued without interruption in the life of the Church, up to today. And this is important. Taking care of the sick of every kind is not an “optional activity” for the Church, no! It is not something extra, no. Taking care of the sick of every kind is an integral part of the Church’s mission, as it was for Jesus’. And this mission is to bring God’s tenderness to a suffering humanity. We will be reminded of this in a few days, on 11 February, with the World Day of the Sick.
The reality that we are experiencing throughout the world due to the pandemic makes this message, this essential mission of the Church, particularly relevant. The voice of Job, which echoes in today’s liturgy, is once again the interpreter our human condition, so lofty in dignity – our human condition, the loftiest in dignity - and at the same time so fragile. In the face of this reality, the question “why?” always arises in the heart.
And to this question Jesus, the Word Incarnate, responds not with an explanation – to this because we are so lofty in dignity and so fragile in condition, Jesus does not respond to this ‘why’ with an explanation –, but with a loving presence that bends down, that takes by the hand and lifts up, as he did with Peter’s mother-in-law (cf. Mk 1:31). Bending down to lift up the other. Let us not forget that the only legitimate way to look at a person from top down is when you stretch out a hand to help them get up. The only one. And this is the mission that Jesus entrusted to the Church. The Son of God manifests his Lordship not “from top down”, not from a distance, but in bending down, stretching out his hand; he manifests his Lordship in closeness, in tenderness, in compassion. Closeness, tenderness, compassion are the style of God. God draws near, and he draws near with tenderness and compassion. How many times in the Gospel do we read, before a health problem or any problem: “he had compassion”. Jesus’ compassion, God’s closeness in Jesus is the style of God. Today’s Gospel passage also reminds us that this compassion is deeply rooted in the intimate relationship with the Father. Why? Before daybreak and after sundown, Jesus withdrew and remained alone to pray (v. 35). From there he drew the strength to fulfil his mission, preaching and healing.
May the Holy Virgin help us to allow Jesus to heal us – we always need this, everyone – so that we might in our turn be witnesses to God’s healing tenderness.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
The Square is beautiful with the sun! It’s beautiful!
Today’s Gospel (cf Mk 1:40-45) presents us with the encounter between Jesus and a man who was sick with leprosy. Lepers were considered impure and, according to the prescriptions of the Law, they had to remain outside of inhabited centres. They were excluded from every human, social and religious relationship: for example, they could not enter a synagogue, they could not go into the temple, these were religious restrictions. Jesus, instead, allows this man to draw near him, he is moved even to the point of extending his hand and touching him. This was unthinkable at that time. This is how he fulfils the Good News he proclaims: God draws near to our lives, he is moved to compassion because of the fate of wounded humanity and comes to break down every barrier that prevents us from being in relationship with him, with others and with ourselves. He drew near… Nearness. Compassion. The Gospel says that Jesus, seeing the leper, was moved with compassion, tenderness. Three words that indicate God’s style: nearness, compassion, tenderness. In this episode, we can see two “transgressions” that intersect: the transgression of the leper who draws near to Jesus, and should not have done so; and Jesus who, moved with compassion, touches him compassionately to heal him. He should not have done that. Both of them are transgressors. There are two transgressions.
The first transgression is that of the leper: despite the prescriptions of the Law, he comes out of his isolation and goes to Jesus. His illness was considered a divine punishment, but, in Jesus, he is able to see another aspect of God: not the God who punishes, but the Father of compassion and love who frees us from sin and never excludes us from his mercy. Thus, that man can emerge from his isolation because in Jesus he finds God who shares his pain. Jesus’s behaviour attracts him, pushes him to go out of himself and entrust Him with his painful story. And allow me a thought here for the many good priest confessors who have this behaviour of attracting people, and many people who feel that they are nothing, who feel they are flat on the ground because of their sins, who with tenderness, with compassion… Good confessors who do not have a whip in their hands, but just welcome, listen and say that God is good and that God always forgives, that God does not get tired of forgiving. I ask all of you here today in the Square, to give a round of applause for these merciful confessors.
The second transgression is that of Jesus: even though the Law prohibited touching lepers, he is moved, extends his hand and touches him to cure him. Someone would have said: He sinned. He did something the law prohibits. He is a transgressor. It is true: He is a transgressor. He does not limit himself to words, but touches him. To touch with love means to establish a relationship, to enter into communion, to become involved in the life of another person even to the point of sharing their wounds. With that gesture, Jesus reveals that God, who is not indifferent, does not keep himself at a “safe distance”. Rather, he draws near out of compassion and touches our life to heal it with tenderness. It is God’s style: nearness, compassion and tenderness. God’s transgression. He is a great transgressor in this sense.
Brothers and sisters, even in today’s world, many of our brothers and sisters still suffer from this illness, from Hansen’s disease, or from other illnesses and conditions that carry social stigmas with them. “This person is a sinner”. Think a moment about when that woman entered the banquet and poured out that perfume on Jesus’s feet… The others were saying: “But if he were a prophet he would know who this woman is: a sinner”. Disdain. Instead, Jesus welcomes, rather, thanks her: “Your sins are forgiven”. Jesus’s tenderness. Social prejudices distance these people through words: “This person is impure, that person is a sinner, this person is a crook, that person…” Yes, at times it is true. But not to judge through prejudice. Each one of us might experience wounds, failure, suffering, selfishness that make us close ourselves off from God and others because sin closes us in on ourselves because of shame, because of humiliation, but God wants to open our heart. In the face of all this, Jesus announces to us that God is not an idea or an abstract doctrine but God is the One who “contaminates” himself with our human woundedness and is not afraid to come into contact with our wounds. “But, Father, what are you saying? What God contaminates himself?” I am not saying this, St Paul said it: he made himself to be sin. He who was not a sinner, who could not sin, made himself to be sin. Look at how God contaminated himself to draw near to us, to have compassion and to make us understand his tenderness. Closeness, compassion, and tenderness.
To respect the rules regarding good reputation and social customs, we often silence pain or we wear masks that camouflage it. To balance the calculations of our selfishness and the interior laws of our fears we do not get that involved with the sufferings of others. Instead, let us ask the Lord for the grace to live these two “transgressions”, these two “transgressions” from today’s Gospel: that of the leper, so that we might have the courage to emerge from our isolation and, instead of staying put and feeling sorry for ourselves or crying over our failings, complaining, and instead of this, let us go to Jesus just as we are; “Jesus I am like this”. We will feel that embrace, that embrace of Jesus that is so beautiful. And then Jesus’s transgression, a love that goes beyond conventions, that overcomes prejudices and the fear of getting involved with the lives of others. Let us learn to be transgressors like these two: like the leper and like Jesus.
May the Virgin Mary accompany us on this journey.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
Jesus’s attitude that we observe in the Gospel of today’s liturgy (Mk 6:30-34) helps us to grasp two important aspects of life. The first is rest. To the Apostles returning from the labours of the mission who enthusiastically begin to relate everything they had done, Jesus tenderly directs this invitation to the Apostles: “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while” (v. 31). An invitation to rest.
In so doing, Jesus gives us a valuable teaching. Even though he rejoices on seeing his disciples’ happiness due to the wonders of their preaching, he does not spend time giving them compliments or asking questions. Rather, he is concerned about their physical and interior tiredness. And why does he do this? Because he wants to make them aware of a danger that is always lurking there for us too: the danger to be caught up in the frenzy of doing things, to fall into the trap of activism where what is most important are the results that we obtain and the feeling of being absolute protagonists. How many times this happens in the Church: we are busy, we run around, we think that everything depends on us and, in the end, we risk neglecting Jesus and we always make ourselves the centre. This is why He invites His disciples to rest a bit with Him on their own. It is not only physical rest, but also rest for the heart. For it is not enough to “unplug” ourselves, we need to truly rest. And how do we do this? To do so, we must return to the heart of things: to stop, to remain in silence, to pray so as not to go from the frenzy of work to the frenzy of times of relaxation. Jesus did not neglect the needs of the crowd, but each day, before anything else, he would withdraw in prayer, in silence, in intimacy with the Father. His tender invitation – rest a while – should accompany us. Let us beware, brothers and sisters, of efficiency, let us put a halt to the frantic running around dictated by our agendas. Let us learn how to take a break, to turn off the mobile phone, to contemplate nature, to regenerate ourselves in dialogue with God.
Nonetheless, the Gospel tells us that Jesus and his disciples could not rest as they had wished. The people find them and flock to them from all sides. At which point, he is moved with compassion. This is the second aspect: compassion, which is God’s style. God’s style is to draw near, compassion and tenderness. How many times we find this phrase in the Gospel, in the Bible: “He had compassion on them”. Touched, Jesus dedicates himself to the people and begins to teach again (cf. vv. 33-34). This seems to be a contradiction, but in reality, it is not. In fact, only a heart that does not allow itself to be taken over by hastiness is capable of being moved; that is, of not allowing itself to be caught up in itself and by things to do, and is aware of others, of their wounds, their needs. Compassion is born from contemplation. If we learn to truly rest, we become capable of true compassion; if we cultivate a contemplative outlook, we will carry out our activities without that rapacious attitude of those who want to possess and consume everything; if we stay in touch with the Lord and do not anesthetise the deepest part of ourselves, the things to do will not have the power to cause us to get winded or devour us. We need – listen to this – we need an “ecology of the heart”, that is made up of rest, contemplation and compassion. Let us take advantage of the summer time for this! It will help us quite a bit.
And now, let us pray to the Madonna, who cultivated silence, prayer and contemplation and who is always moved with tender compassion for us, her children.
The images that Jesus uses at the beginning of today’s Gospel leave us bewildered: the sun darkened, the moon no longer giving light, stars falling and the powers of heaven shaken (cf. Mk 13:24-25). Yet the Lord then invites us to hope, for precisely in that moment of utter darkness, the Son of Man will come (cf. v. 26). Even now, we can perceive the signs of his coming, just as the leaves that appear on the fig tree make us realize that summer is at hand (cf. v. 28).
This Gospel passage helps us to interpret history in two of its aspects: today’s pain and tomorrow’s hope. It evokes all those painful contradictions in which humanity in every age is immersed, and, at the same time, the future of salvation that awaits us: the encounter with the Lord who comes to set us free from all evil. Let us consider these two aspects through the eyes of Jesus.
First: today’s pain. We are part of a history marked by tribulation, violence, suffering and injustice, ever awaiting a liberation that never seems to arrive. Those who are most wounded, oppressed and even crushed, are the poor, the weakest links in the chain. The World Day of the Poor which we are celebrating asks us not to turn aside, not to be afraid to take a close look at the suffering of those most vulnerable. Today’s Gospel has much to say to them. The sun of their life is often darkened by loneliness, the moon of their expectations has waned and the stars of their dreams have fallen into gloom; their lives have been shaken. All because of the poverty into which they are often forced, victims of injustice and the inequality of a throwaway society that hurries past without seeing them and without scruple abandons them to their fate.
There is, however, another aspect: tomorrow’s hope. Jesus wants to open our hearts to hope, to remove our anxiety and fear before the pain of the world. And so, he tells us that even as the sun grows dark and everything around us seems to be falling, he himself is drawing near. Amid the groans of our painful history, a future of salvation is beginning to blossom. Tomorrow’s hope flowers amid today’s pain. Indeed, God’s salvation is not only a future promise, but is even now at work within our wounded history, spreading in the midst of the oppression and the injustice of our world. All of us have a wounded heart. Amid the tears of the poor, the kingdom of God is blossoming like the tender leaves of the tree and guiding history to its goal, to the final encounter with the Lord, the King of the universe who will definitively set us free.
At this point, let us ask: what is demanded of us as Christians in this situation? We are asked to nurture tomorrow’s hope by healing today’s pain. The two are linked: if you do not work to heal today’s pain, it will be hard to have hope for tomorrow. The hope born of the Gospel has nothing to do with a passive expectation that things may be better tomorrow, but with making God’s promise of salvation concrete today. Today and every day. Christian hope is not the naïve, even adolescent, optimism of those who hope that things may change – that won’t happen – but in the meantime go on with life; it has to do with building daily, by concrete gestures, the kingdom of love, justice, and fraternity that Jesus inaugurated. Christian hope, for example, was not sown by the Levite and the priest who walked by the man wounded by the thieves. It was sown by a stranger, a Samaritan who stopped and did that (cf. Lk 10:30-35). And today it is as if the Church is saying: “Stop and sow hope amid poverty. Draw near to the poor and sow hope”. Hope for that person, your hope and the hope of the Church. This is what is asked of us: to be, amid the ruins of the everyday world, tireless builders of hope; to be light as the sun grows dark, to be loving witnesses of compassion amid widespread disinterest; to be an attentive presence amid growing indifference. Witnesses of compassion. We will never be able to do good except by showing compassion. At most, we will do good things, but they do not touch the Christian way because they do not touch the heart. What touches the heart is compassion: we draw near, we feel compassion and we perform works of tender love. That is God’s way of doing things: closeness, compassion and tenderness. That is what is being asked of us today.
Recently I was thinking about what a bishop close to the poor, and himself poor in spirit, Don Tonino Bello, used to say: “We cannot be content to hope; we have to organize hope”. Unless our hope translates into decisions and concrete gestures of concern, justice, solidarity and care for our common home, the sufferings of the poor will not be relieved, the economy of waste that forces them to live on the margins will not be converted, their expectations will not blossom anew. We Christians, in particular, have to organize hope - this expression of Don Tonino Belli, to organize hope, is very fine – to make it concrete in our everyday lives, in our relationships, in our social and political commitments. I am reminded of the charitable works carried out by so many Christians, the work of the Office of the Papal Almoner… What are they doing there? They are organizing hope. Not giving a coin here and there, but organizing hope. This is what the Church is asking of us today.
Today Jesus offers us a simple yet eloquent image of hope. It is the image of the leaves of the fig tree, which quietly point to the approach of summer. Those leaves appear, Jesus says, when the branch becomes tender (cf. v. 28). Dear brothers and sisters, that is the word that makes hope blossom in the world and relieves the suffering of the poor: tenderness. Compassion that leads you to tenderness. We need to overcome our self-absorption, interior rigidity, which is the temptation nowadays, that of the “restorationists”, who want a Church completely orderly, completely rigid: this is not of the Holy Spirit. We have to overcome this, in order to make hope blossom amid this rigidity. It is up to us to overcome the temptation to be concerned only about our own problems; we need to grow tender before the tragedies of our world, to share its pain. Like the tender leaves of a tree, we are called to absorb the pollution all around us and turn it into goodness. It is useless to keep talking about problems, to argue and to be scandalized – all of us can do that. What we need to do is imitate the leaves that daily, imperceptibly, turn dirty air into clean air. Jesus wants us to be “converters” of goodness: people who breathe the same heavy air as everyone else, but respond to evil with good (cf. Rom 12:21). People who act: by breaking bread with the hungry, working for justice, lifting up the poor and restoring their dignity. As the Samaritan did.
How lovely, evangelical and youthful is a Church ready to go out from herself and, like Jesus, proclaim good news to the poor (cf. Lk 4:18). Let me pause at that last adjective: young. A Church that sows hope is young. A prophetic Church that, by her presence, says to the broken-hearted and the outcast of the world, “Take heart, the Lord is near. For you too, summer is being born in the depths of winter. From your pain, hope can arise”. Brothers and sisters, let us bring this outlook of hope to our world. Let us bring it with tenderness to the poor, with closeness, with compassion, without judging them, for we will be judged. For there, with them, with the poor, is Jesus; because there, in them, is Jesus, who awaits us.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
The Gospel of today’s Liturgy recounts the parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10:25-37) – we all know it. In the backdrop is the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Jericho along which lies a man who had been beaten badly and robbed by brigands. A priest passing by sees him but does not stop; he keeps on going. A Levite, someone who performed services in the temple, does the same thing. “But a Samaritan”, the Gospel says, “as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion” (v. 33). Let us not forget this word – “he had compassion on him”. This is what God feels every time he sees we are having a problem, we have sinned, we are experiencing misery. “He had compassion on him”. The Evangelist makes it a point to specify that this Samaritan was on a journey. So, even though he had his own plans and was heading toward a distant destination, that Samaritan does not come up with an excuse but allows himself to get involved, he allows himself to get involved with what had happened along the road. Let us think about this: isn’t the Lord teaching us to do just that? To look off into the distance, to our final destination, while paying close attention to the steps to take here and now in order to get there.
It is significant that the first Christians were called “disciples of the Way” (cf. Acts 9:2). In fact, the believer strongly resembles the Samaritan – like him, the believer is on a journey, is a wayfarer. The believer knows they have not “arrived”, but wants to learn each day, following the Lord Jesus who said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6), “I am the way”. The disciple of Christ walks along following Him and thus becomes a “disciple of the Way”. He or she goes behind the Lord, is not sedentary, no, but is always on the way. Along the way, he or she meets people, heals the sick, visits villages and cities. This is what the Lord did, he was always on the move.
The “disciple of the Way”, that is, we Christians, observes, therefore, that his or her way of thinking and of acting gradually changes, becoming more and more conformed to that of the Master. Walking in the footsteps of Christ, the disciple becomes a wayfarer and – like the Samaritan – learns to see and to have compassion. He sees and has compassion on him. First of all, to see: their eyes are open to reality, not egoistically closed in on the circle of their own thoughts. Instead, the priest and the Levite see the unfortunate man, but they pass by as if they do not see him, they look the other way. The Gospel teaches us to see – it leads each of us to correctly understand reality, overcoming preconceptions and dogmatism each day. So many believers take refuge behind dogmatisms to defend themselves from reality. Then, it teaches us to follow Jesus, because following Jesus teaches us to have compassion – to see and to have compassion – to become aware of others, especially those who suffer, those who are in need, and to intervene like the Samaritan, not to pass by but to stop.
Faced with this Gospel parable, it can happen that we might blame others or blame ourselves, pointing fingers towards others, comparing them to the priest or the Levite – “That person, that person goes on, that one doesn’t stop…” – or even to blame ourselves, counting our own failures to pay attention to our neighbours. But I would like to suggest another type of exercise to you all, not one that finds fault, no. Certainly, we must recognize when we have been indifferent and have justified ourselves. But let us not stop there. We must acknowledge this, it is a mistake. But let us ask the Lord to help us overcome our selfish indifference and put ourselves on the Way. Let us ask him to see and to have compassion, this is a grace. We need to ask the Lord, “Lord, that I might see, that I might have compassions just like you see me and have compassion on me”. This is the prayer that I suggest to you today. “Lord, that I might see and have compassion just like you see me and have compassion on me” – that we might have compassion on those whom we encounter along the way, above all on those who suffer and are in need, to draw near to them and do what we can do to give them a hand. Many times, when I am with some Christian who comes to speak about spiritual things, I ask if they give alms. “Yes”, the person says to me.
“So, tell me, do you touch the hand of the person you gave the money to?”
“No, no, I throw it there.”
“And do you look into the eyes of that person?”
“No, it doesn’t cross my mind.”
If you give alms without touching the reality, without looking into the eyes of the person in need, those alms are for you, not for that person. Think about this. Do I touch misery, even the misery that I am helping? Do I look into the eyes of the people who suffer, of the people that I help? I leave you with this thought – to see and to have compassion.
May the Virgin Mary accompany us on this journey of growth. May she, who “shows us the Way”, that is Jesus, help us also to more and more become “disciples of the Way”.
Jesus is about to enter Nain; the disciples and “a great crowd” are walking with him (cf. Lk 7:11). As he approaches the city gate, another procession is setting out, but in the opposite direction: it is going to bury the only son of a widowed mother. The Gospel tells us that, “when the Lord saw her, he had compassion” (Lk 7:13). Jesus saw what happened and he was moved by compassion. Benedict XVI, whom we remember today, together with the Cardinals and Bishops who died in the past year, wrote in his first Encyclical that the programme of Jesus is “a heart that sees” (Deus Caritas Est, 31). How many times did he keep reminding us that faith is not primarily an idea to be understood or a moral precept to be followed, but a person to be encountered. That person is Jesus Christ, whose heart beats with love for us, whose eyes look with pity upon our suffering.
The Lord halts before the tragedy of death. It is significant that this is the first time that Luke’s Gospel calls Jesus “Lord”: “the Lord was moved with great compassion”. He is called Lord – the God who exercises lordship over all things – in the very act of showing compassion for a widowed mother who lost, along with her only son, her reason for living. Here we see our God, whose divinity shines forth in contact with our sorrow and grief, for his is a heart full of compassion. The raising of that young man, the gift of life that overcomes death, has its source precisely there, in the compassion of the Lord, who is moved by death, the greatest cause of our suffering. How important it is to communicate that same look of compassion to all those who grieve for the death of their loved ones!
Jesus’ compassion is concrete. The Gospel tells us that he “came forward and touched the bier” (cf. Lk 7:14). He did not have to do that, and in any event, in those days, touching the bier of a dead person was considered something unclean, defiling those who did so. Jesus, however, cares nothing about that; his compassion makes him reach out to all those who suffer. That is God’s “style”, one of closeness, compassion and tenderness. And one of few words. Christ does not start preaching about death, but simply tells the young man’s mother: “Do not weep!” (Lk 7:13). Why? Is it wrong to weep? No, Jesus himself weeps in the Gospels. He says to the mother, “Do not weep”, because with the Lord tears do not last forever; they have an end. Jesus is the God who, as Scripture prophesies, will “swallow up death” and “wipe away tears from all faces” (Is 25:8; cf. Rev 21:4). He has made our tears his own in order to take them away.
Here, then, we see the Lord’s compassion, which leads him to raise that young son. Yet here, unlike other miracles he performed, Jesus does not first ask the mother to have faith. Why this extraordinary and unusual miracle? Because it has to do with an orphan and a widow, those whom the Bible, along with strangers, considers most alone and forsaken, having no one else to trust but God. The widow, the orphan, the stranger: these are the people closest and dearest to the Lord. We cannot be close and dear to God if we ignore those who enjoy his protection and preferential love, for one day they will be the ones to welcome us to heaven: the widow, the orphan, the stranger.
Considering them too, we discover another important point, which I would condense into today’s second word: humility. For the orphan and the widow are “the humble” par excellence: those who, placing all their hope in the Lord and not in themselves, have made God the centre of their lives. They no longer rely on their own strength, but on him and his unfailing care. Rejecting any presumption of self-sufficiency, they recognize their need for God and put their trust in him. It is the humble, the poor in spirit, who reveal to us the “littleness” so pleasing to the Lord, the path that leads to heaven. God seeks the humble, those who hope in him and not in themselves and their own plans. Dear brothers and sisters, this is Christian humility, which is not simply one virtue among others, but the basic disposition of life: believing ourselves to be in need of God, making room for him and putting all our trust in him. This is Christian humility.
God loves humility because it permits him to interact with us. Even more, God loves humility because he himself is humble. He comes down to us; he lowers himself; he does not impose himself; he makes room for us. God is not only humble; he is humility itself. “You are humility, Lord” was the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi (Cf. Lodi: FF 261). We think of the Father, whose name is entirely a reference to the Son rather than to himself, and of the Son, whose name is completely in relation to the Father. God loves those who do not put themselves at the centre: the humble, who most resemble him. That is why, as Jesus says, “those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Lk 14:11). I like to recall the very first words with which Pope Benedict described himself following his election: “a humble labourer in the vineyard of the Lord.” Indeed, Christians, especially the Pope, the Cardinals and the Bishops, are called to be humble labourers: to serve, not to be served and to put the fruits of the Lord’s vineyard before their advantage. What a fine thing it is to renounce ourselves for the Church of Jesus!
Brothers and sisters, let us ask God to grant us a compassionate gaze and a humble heart. May we never tire of asking this, for it is on the path of compassion and humility that the Lord gives us his life, which triumphs over death. Let us pray for our beloved deceased brethren. Their hearts were pastoral, compassionate and humble, for the Lord was the centre of their lives. In him may they find eternal peace. May they rejoice with Mary, whom the Lord raised up by looking upon her humility (cf. Lk 1:48).