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
In Psalm 104, “we praised the Lord”, saying: “You are very great, O Lord, my God! You are great indeed!”. This Psalm, is a song of praise: we praise the Lord for the things we heard in both readings, for creation, so great; and in the second reading, for the re-creation, the even more wondrous creation that Jesus makes. The Father labours and thus, Jesus says: ‘My Father labours and I too labour”. It is a way of saying ‘labour’, ad instar laborantis, as one who labours, as Saint Ignatius defines in the Exercises (cf. Spiritual Exercises, n. 236).
In this way, the Father labours to make this wonder of creation, and with the Son to make this wonder of re-creation; to make that passing from chaos to cosmos, from disorder to order, from sin to grace. And, this is the Father’s labour and for this reason we praised the Father, the Father who labours.
But, “why did God want to create the world?”. This is one of the difficult questions. Once, a boy put me in difficulty because he asked me this question: ‘tell me, Father, what did God do before he created the world; was he bored?”. Surely, children know how to ask questions, and they ask the right questions that put you in difficulty.
To answer that child, the Lord helped me and I told the truth: God loved; in his fullness, he loved, among the three Persons, he loved and needed nothing more. The answer, gave rise to another question: if God “needed nothing more, why did he create the world? This is a question, not posed in a childlike manner but as the first theologians did, the great theologians, the first. Thus, why did God “create the world?”. The response to give is this: “Simply to share his fullness, to have someone whom to give and with whom to share his fullness”. In a word, “to give”.
We can ask “the same question, in regard to re-creation: “why did he send his Son for this work of re-creation?”. He did so “in order to share, to re-organize”. And in the first creation, as in the second, he makes out of chaos a cosmos, out of ugliness something beautiful, out of a mistake a truth, out of bad something good. This is precisely the labour of creation that is God, and one he does by hand. And, in Jesus we clearly see: with his body he gives life completely. Thus, “when Jesus says: ‘The Father labours always, and I too labour always ’, the doctors of the law were scandalized and wanted to kill him because they did not know how to receive the things of God as a gift, but “only as justice”; and so they even came to think: the commandments are few: let’s make more!
Thus, instead of opening their heart to the gift, they hid; they sought refuge in the rigidity of the commandments, which they had increased up to 500 or more: they did not know how to receive the gift. The gift, is only received with freedom, but these rigid men were afraid of God-given freedom; they were afraid of love. For this reason, they wanted to kill Jesus, because He said the Father had done this wonder as a gift: receive the gift of the Father!
You are great, Lord, I love you, because you have given me this gift, you have saved me, you created me: this, is the prayer of praise, the prayer of joy, the prayer that gives us the cheerfulness of Christian life. It is not that closed, sad prayer of people who are never able to receive a gift because they are afraid of the freedom that a gift always brings. Thus, in the end, they know only duty, but a closed duty: slaves to duty, but not to love. But, when you become a slave to love you are free: it is a beautiful slavery, but they did not understand this.
Therefore, these are the two wonders of the Lord: the wonder of creation and the wonder of redemption, of re-creation; that of the beginning of the world and that, after the fall of man, of restoring the world and this is why he sent the Son: it is beautiful. Of course, we can ask ourselves how I receive these wonders, how I receive this creation God has given me as a gift. And, if I receive it as a gift, I love creation, I safeguard creation because it was a gift.
In this light, we should ask ourselves: how I receive redemption, the forgiveness that God has given me, making me a son or daughter with his Son, with love, with tenderness, with freedom. We must never hide in the rigidity of closed commandments that are always, always more ‘certain’ — in quotation marks — but which give you no joy because they do not make you free. Each one of us, can ask ourselves how we can live these two wonders: the wonder of creation and the even greater wonder of re-creation. We must do so with the hope that the Lord will help us understand this great thing and help us understand what he did before creating the world: he loved. May he help us understand his love for us and may we say — as we have said today — ‘You are very great, O Lord. Thank you, thank you!’”. And let us go forth in this way.
“And God saw that it was good” (Gen 1:25). God’s gaze, at the beginning of the Bible, rests lovingly on his creation. From habitable land to life-giving waters, from fruit-bearing trees to animals that share our common home, everything is dear in the eyes of God, who offers creation to men and women as a precious gift to be preserved.
Tragically, the human response to this gift has been marked by sin, selfishness and a greedy desire to possess and exploit. Egoism and self-interest have turned creation, a place of encounter and sharing, into an arena of competition and conflict. In this way, the environment itself is endangered: something good in God’s eyes has become something to be exploited in human hands. Deterioration has increased in recent decades: constant pollution, the continued use of fossil fuels, intensive agricultural exploitation and deforestation are causing global temperatures to rise above safe levels. The increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather phenomena and the desertification of the soil are causing immense hardship for the most vulnerable among us. Melting of glaciers, scarcity of water, neglect of water basins and the considerable presence of plastic and microplastics in the oceans are equally troubling, and testify to the urgent need for interventions that can no longer be postponed. We have caused a climate emergency that gravely threatens nature and life itself, including our own.
In effect, we have forgotten who we are: creatures made in the image of God (cf. Gen 1:27) and called to dwell as brothers and sisters in a common home. We were created not to be tyrants, but to be at the heart of a network of life made up of millions of species lovingly joined together for us by our Creator. Now is the time to rediscover our vocation as children of God, brothers and sisters, and stewards of creation. Now is the time to repent, to be converted and to return to our roots. We are beloved creatures of God, who in his goodness calls us to love life and live it in communion with the rest of creation.
For this reason, I strongly encourage the faithful to pray in these days that, as the result of a timely ecumenical initiative, are being celebrated as a Season of Creation. This season of increased prayer and effort on behalf of our common home begins today, 1 September, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, and ends on 4 October, the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. It is an opportunity to draw closer to our brothers and sisters of the various Christian confessions. I think in particular of the Orthodox faithful, who have celebrated this Day for thirty years. In this ecological crisis affecting everyone, we should also feel close to all other men and women of good will, called to promote stewardship of the network of life of which we are part.
This is the season for letting our prayer be inspired anew by closeness to nature, which spontaneously leads us to give thanks to God the Creator. Saint Bonaventure, that eloquent witness to Franciscan wisdom, said that creation is the first “book” that God opens before our eyes, so that, marvelling at its order, its variety and its beauty, we can come to love and praise its Creator (cf. Breviloquium, II, 5, 11). In this book, every creature becomes for us “a word of God” (cf. Commentarius in Librum Ecclesiastes, I, 2). In the silence of prayer, we can hear the symphony of creation calling us to abandon our self-centredness in order to feel embraced by the tender love of the Father and to share with joy the gifts we have received. We can even say that creation, as a network of life, a place of encounter with the Lord and one another, is “God’s own ‘social network’” (Audience for the Guides and Scouts of Europe, 3 August 2019). Nature inspires us to raise a song of cosmic praise to the Creator in the words of Scripture: “Bless the Lord, all things that grow on the earth, sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever” (Dan 3:76 Vg).
It is also a season to reflect on our lifestyles, and how our daily decisions about food, consumption, transportation, use of water, energy and many other material goods, can often be thoughtless and harmful. Too many of us act like tyrants with regard to creation. Let us make an effort to change and to adopt more simple and respectful lifestyles! Now is the time to abandon our dependence on fossil fuels and move, quickly and decisively, towards forms of clean energy and a sustainable and circular economy. Let us also learn to listen to indigenous peoples, whose age-old wisdom can teach us how to live in a better relationship with the environment.
This too is a season for undertaking prophetic actions. Many young people all over the world are making their voices heard and calling for courageous decisions. They feel let down by too many unfulfilled promises, by commitments made and then ignored for selfish interests or out of expediency. The young remind us that the earth is not a possession to be squandered, but an inheritance to be handed down. They remind us that hope for tomorrow is not a noble sentiment, but a task calling for concrete actions here and now. We owe them real answers, not empty words, actions not illusions.
Our prayers and appeals are directed first at raising the awareness of political and civil leaders. I think in particular of those governments that will meet in coming months to renew commitments decisive for directing the planet towards life, not death. The words that Moses proclaimed to the people as a kind of spiritual testament at the threshold of the Promised Land come to mind: “Therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live” (Dt 3:19). We can apply those prophetic words to ourselves and to the situation of our earth. Let us choose life! Let us say “no” to consumerist greed and to the illusion of omnipotence, for these are the ways of death. Let us inaugurate farsighted processes involving responsible sacrifices today for the sake of sure prospects for life tomorrow. Let us not give in to the perverse logic of quick profit, but look instead to our common future!
In this regard, the forthcoming United Nations Climate Action Summit is of particular importance. There, governments will have the responsibility of showing the political will to take drastic measures to achieve as quickly as possible zero net greenhouse gas emissions and to limit the average increase in global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius with respect to pre-industrial levels, in accordance with the Paris Agreement goals. Next month, in October, the Amazon region, whose integrity is gravely threatened, will be the subject of a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Let us take up these opportunities to respond to the cry of the poor and of our earth!
Each Christian man and woman, every member of the human family, can act as a thin yet unique and indispensable thread in weaving a network of life that embraces everyone. May we feel challenged to assume, with prayer and commitment, our responsibility for the care of creation. May God, “the lover of life” (Wis 11:26), grant us the courage to do good without waiting for someone else to begin, or until it is too late.
Today, which is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, also the day of workers, we pray for all workers. For all of us. So that no one lacks work and that everyone is justly paid and can enjoy the dignity of work and the beauty of rest.
God created. (Gen 1:27). A Creator. He created the world, created man, and gave man a mission: to manage, to work, to carry on creation. And the word "work" is the one that the Bible uses to describe this activity of God: "He completed the work he had been doing and rested on the seventh day from all the work he had done," (Gen 2:2), and he gave this activity to man: "You must do this, watch over this, that other, you must work with me to create this world – it is as if he said it – for it to continue." So much so that the work is only the continuation of God's work: human work is the vocation of man received from God at the end of the creation of the universe.
And work is what makes man like God, because with work man is creator, he is able to create, to create so many things, even to create a family to move forward. Man is a creator and creates with work. This is the vocation. And the Bible says that "God looked at everything he had made and found it very good." (Gen 1:31). That is, work has within itself a goodness and creates the harmony of things – beauty, goodness – and involves man in everything: in his thought, in his act, everything. Man is involved in working. It is man's first vocation: to work. And this gives dignity to man. The dignity that makes him like God. The dignity of work.
Once, in a Caritas centre, an employee of Caritas said to a man who had no job and went to look for something for the family, : "At least he can bring bread home" – "But this is not enough for me, it is not enough", was the answer: "I want to earn bread to bring it home". He lacked the dignity, the dignity of "making" the bread his, with his work, and bringing him home. The dignity of work, which is so trampled on, unfortunately. In history we read the brutality that they did with slaves: they brought them from Africa to America – I think of that story that touches my land – and we say "how barbaric" ... But even today there are many slaves, so many men and women who are not free to work: they are forced to work, to survive, nothing more. They are slaves: forced labour . They are forced, unjust, unpaid and poorly paid jobs that lead man to live with trampled dignity. There are many, many in the world. Many. In the papers a few months ago we read, in that country of Asia, how a gentleman had beaten his employee who was earning less than half a dollar a day, because he had hurt one thing.
Today's slavery is our "in-dignity", because it takes away dignity from men and women, and all of us. "No, I work, I have my dignity": yes, but your brothers, don't. "Yes, Father, it is true, but this, as it is so far away, it is difficult for me to understand it. But here among us ...": also here, with us. Here, with us. Think of the workers, the day-to-day people, that work for a minimum wage and not eight, but twelve, fourteen hours a day: this happens today, here. All over the world, but also here. Think of the domestic worker who does not have a just wage, who has no social security care, who has no pension: this is not only the case in Asia. It is here.
Every injustice that is done to a working person is to trample on human dignity, even on the dignity of the one who does the injustice: the level is lowered and we end up in that tension between a dictator and a slave. Instead, the vocation that God gives us is so beautiful: to create, to re-create, to work. But this can only be done when the conditions are just and the dignity of the person is respected.
Today we join many men and women, believers and non-believers, who commemorate Worker's Day, Labour Day, for those who fight for justice at work, for those – good entrepreneurs – who manage work with justice, even if they themselves lose. Two months ago I heard a businessman on the phone, here in Italy, asking me to pray for him because he didn't want to fire anyone and said, "Because firing one of them is like firing myself."
This conscience of so many good employers, who take care of workers as if they were their children. Let us pray for them. And we ask St. Joseph - with this beautiful image with the tools of work in hand - to help us fight for the dignity of work, so that there is work for all and that it is dignified work. Not slave labour. May this be our prayer today.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
The first page of the Bible resembles a great hymn of thanksgiving. The story of creation is punctuated by refrains, in which the goodness and beauty of everything that exists is continually reaffirmed. God, with his word, calls into life, and everything enters existence. With the word, he separates light from darkness, alternates day and night, alternates the seasons, opens a colour palette with the variety of plants and animals. In this overflowing forest that quickly overcomes chaos, man finally appears. And this apparition causes an excess of exultation that amplifies satisfaction and joy: "God saw all that he had made, and he found it was very good"(Gen 1: 31). So good, but also beautiful: you see the beauty of all creation!
The beauty and mystery of creation generate in the heart of man the first movement that stirs prayer (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church,2566). This is how the Eighth Psalm, which we heard at the beginning, says: "When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man, that you care for him?" (Psalm 8: 4-5). Man in prayer contemplates the mystery of existence around him, he sees the starry sky that towers over him – and that astrophysics shows us today in all of its immensity – and wonders what the design of love must be behind such a wonderful work!... And, in this boundless vastness, what is man? "Almost nothing," says another Psalm (89: 48): a being who is born, a being that dies, a very fragile creature. Yet, throughout the universe, the human being is the only creature aware of so much profusion of beauty. A small being who is born, dies, here today and gone tomorrow, he is the only one aware of this beauty. We are aware of this beauty!
Man's prayer is closely linked with the feeling of wonder. Man's greatness is infinitesimal when compared to the size of the universe. His greatest achievements seem very little. But man is not nothing. In prayer, a feeling of mercy is overwhelmingly affirmed. Nothing exists by chance: the secret of the universe lies in a benevolent glance that catches our eyes. The Psalm states that we are made as little less than a god, we are crowned with honour and glory(cf. 8: 6). The relationship with God is the greatness of man: his enthronement. By nature we are almost nothing, today we are and tomorrow we are not, but by vocation, by our calling we are the children of the great King!
It's an experience that many of us have had. If the story of life, with all its bitterness, sometimes risks suffocating the gift of prayer in us, it is enough to contemplate a starry sky, a sunset, a flower, to rekindle the spark of thanksgiving. This experience is perhaps the basis of the first page of the Bible.
When the great biblical account of Creation is written, the people of Israel were not going through happy days. An enemy power had occupied the land; many had been deported, and now they were slaves in Mesopotamia. There was no more homeland, no temple, no social and religious life, nothing.
Yet, starting from the great account of creation, someone begins to find reasons for thanksgiving, to praise God for existence. Prayer is the first force of hope. You pray and hope grows, it goes on. I would say that prayer opens the door to hope. Hope is there, but with my prayer I open the door. Because men of prayer guard the basic truths; they are those who repeat, first to themselves and then to all others, that this life, despite all its labours and trials, despite its difficult days, is filled with a grace at which to marvel. And as such it must always be defended and protected.
The men and women who pray know that hope is stronger than discouragement. They believe that love is more powerful than death, and that one day it will triumph, albeit in times and ways that we do not know. The men and women of prayer reflect light on their faces: because, even on the darkest days, the sun does not stop illuminating them. Prayer illuminates you: it brightens your soul, brightens your heart and brightens your face. Even in the darkest times, even in times of greatest pain.
We are all bearers of joy. Have you thought about this? That you are a bearer of joy? Or do you prefer to bring bad news, things that are sad? We are all capable of bringing joy. This life is the gift that God has given us: and it is too short to consume it in sadness, in bitterness. We praise God, content simply to exist. We look at the universe, we look at the beauties and we also look at our crosses and say, "But, you exist, you did it like this, for you." It is necessary to feel that restlessness of the heart that leads to thanking and praising God. We are the children of the great King, of the Creator, able to read his signature in all creation; that creation that we do not care about today, but in that creation there is the signature of God who did it out of love. The Lord makes us understand this more and more deeply and leads us to say "thank you": and that "thank you" is a beautiful prayer.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
To emerge from a pandemic, we need to look after and care for each other. To look after and care for each other. And we must support those who care for the weakest, the sick and the elderly. Ah, there is the tendency to cast the elderly aside, to abandon them. And this is bad. These people - well defined by the Spanish term "cuidadores" (caretakers), those who take care of the sick - play an essential role in today's society, even if they often do not receive the recognition and recompense they deserve. Caring is a golden rule of our nature as human beings, and brings with it health and hope (cf. Encyclical Laudato Si’ [LS], 70). Taking care of those who are sick, of those who are in need, of those who are cast aside: this is a human, and also Christian, wealth.
We must also extend this care to our common home: to the earth and to every creature. All forms of life are interconnected (see ibid., 137-138), and our health depends on that of the ecosystems that God created and entrusted to us to care for (see Gen 2:15). Abusing them, on the other hand, is a grave sin that damages us, and harms us, and makes us sick (cf. LS, 8; 66). The best antidote against this misuse of our common home is contemplation (see ibid., 85, 214). But how come? Isn’t there a vaccine for this, for the care of the common home, so as not to set it aside? What is the antidote against the sickness of not taking care of our common home? It is contemplation. “If someone has not learned to stop and admire something beautiful, we should not be surprised if he or she treats everything as an object to be used and abused without scruple" (ibid., 215). Also in terms of using things and discarding them. However, our common home, creation, is not a mere "resource". Creatures have a value in and of themselves and each one "reflects in its own way a ray of God's infinite wisdom and goodness" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 339). This value and this ray of divine light must be discovered and, in order to discover it, we need to be silent, we need to listen, and we need to contemplate. Contemplation also heals the soul.
Without contemplation, it is easy to fall prey to an unbalanced and arrogant anthropocentrism, the “I” at the centre of everything, which gives excessive importance to our role as human beings, positioning us as absolute rulers of all other creatures. A distorted interpretation of biblical texts on creation has contributed to this misinterpretation, which leads to the exploitation of the earth to the point of suffocating it. Exploiting creation: this is the sin. We believe that we are at the centre, claiming to occupy God's place and so we ruin the harmony of creation, the harmony of God’s plan. We become predators, forgetting our vocation as custodians of life. Of course, we can and must work the earth so as to live and to develop. But work is not synonymous with exploitation, and it is always accompanied by care: ploughing and protecting, working and caring... This is our mission (cf. Gen 2:15). We cannot expect to continue to grow on a material level, without taking care of the common home that welcomes us. Our poorest brothers and sisters and our mother earth lament for the damage and injustice we have caused, and demand we take another course. It demands of us a conversion, a change of path; taking care of the earth too, of creation.
Therefore, it is important to recover the contemplative dimension, that is, looking at the earth, creation as a gift, not as something to exploit for profit: no. When we contemplate, we discover in others and in nature something much greater than their usefulness. Here is the heart of the issue: contemplating is going beyond the usefulness of something. Contemplating the beautiful does not mean exploiting it, no: contemplating. It is free. We discover the intrinsic value of things given to them by God. As many spiritual masters have taught us, heaven, earth, sea, and every creature have this iconic capacity, or this mystical capacity to bring us back to the Creator and to communion with creation. For example, St. Ignatius of Loyola, at the end of his Spiritual Exercises, invites us to carry out "Contemplation to come to love", that is, to consider how God looks at His creatures and to rejoice with them; to discover God's presence in His creatures and, with freedom and grace, to love and care for them.
Contemplation, which leads us to an attitude of care, is not a question of looking at nature from the outside, as if we were not immersed in it. But we are inside nature, we are part of nature. Rather, it is done from within, recognising us as part of creation, making us protagonists and not mere spectators of an amorphous reality that is only to be exploited. Those who contemplate in this way experience wonder not only at what they see, but also because they feel they are an integral part of this beauty; and they also feel called to guard it and to protect it. And there is one thing we must not forget: those who cannot contemplate nature and creation, cannot contemplate people in their true wealth. And those who live to exploit nature end up exploiting people and treating them like slaves. This is a universal law. If you cannot contemplate nature, it will be very difficult for you to contemplate people, the beauty of people, your brother, your sister. All of us.
Those who know how to contemplate will more easily set to work to change what produces degradation and damage to health. They will strive to educate and promote new production and consumption habits, to contribute to a new model of economic growth that guarantees respect for our common home and respect for people. The contemplative in action: this is good! Each one of us should be a guardian of the environment, of the purity of the environment, seeking to combine ancestral knowledge of millennia-long cultures with new technical knowledge, so that our lifestyle may always be sustainable.
Finally, contemplating and caring: these are two attitudes that show the way to correct and rebalance our relationship as human beings with creation.
Oftentimes, our relationship with creation seems to be a relationship between enemies: destroying creation for our benefit. Exploiting creation for our profit. Let us not forget that this will be paid for dearly; let us not forget that Spanish saying: “God always forgives; we forgive sometimes; nature never forgives”. Today I was reading in the newspaper about those two great glaciers in Antarctica, near the Amundsen Sea: they are about to fall. It will be terrible, because the sea level will rise and this will bring many, many difficulties and cause so much harm. And why? Because of global warming, not caring for the environment, not caring for the common home. On the other hand, when we have this relationship - let me say the word - “fraternal": it is a figure of speech; a "fraternal" relationship with creation, we will become guardians of the common home, guardians of life and guardians of hope. We will guard the heritage that God has entrusted to us so that future generations may enjoy it. And some may say: "But, I can get by like this". But the problem is not how you are going to manage today - this was said by a German theologian, a Protestant, a good man: Bonhoeffer - the problem is not how you are managing today; the problem is: what will be the legacy, life for future generations? Let us think of our children, our grandchildren: what will we leave if we exploit creation? Let us protect this path of the "guardians" of our common home, guardians of life and also guardians of hope. They safeguard the heritage that God has entrusted to us (people, all people) so that future generations may enjoy it. I think especially of the indigenous peoples, to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude - also of penance, to repair the evil we have done to them. But I am also thinking of those movements, associations, popular groups, which are committed to protecting their territory with its natural and cultural values. These social realities are not always appreciated, and at times they are even obstructed; because they do not earn money; but in reality they contribute to a peaceful revolution, that we might call the “revolution of care”. Contemplating so as to care, contemplating to protect, to protect ourselves, creation, our children, and our grandchildren, and to protect the future. Contemplating to care for and to protect, and to leave a legacy to the future generation.
And this must not be delegated to others: this is the task of every human being. Each one of us can and must be a “guardian of the common home”, capable of praising God for His creatures, and of contemplating creatures, and protecting them. Thank you.