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
Jesus assures all those who follow him a place among “the family of Christians” and recalls that “we are all brothers and sisters”, but warns that “there will be persecutions, difficulties”. "Whoever follows me, must take the same route that I took”. It is a way, which leads to humbling oneself and which “ends on the Cross. There will always be difficulties and persecutions that come from the world, for he took this path first. When a Christian does not have difficulties in life and all goes well, something is not right”. One might think that he succumbed to the temptation to follow the spirit of the world instead of Jesus. Let us ask for this grace: to follow Jesus on the path which he has shown to us and taught us. This is beautiful: He never leaves us alone, never. He is always with us.
To reflect on the four possible attitudes with which one may deal with difficult situations would do us good. The first attitude is illustrated by the “slowness” of Lot’s reaction when the angel tells him to leave the city, before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. He was determined to leave, but when the time came he was cautious and “lingered”, even when the angel had urged him to flee. It is very hard to cut ties with a sinful situation. It is hard!... But the voice of God tells us this word: Flee! You cannot fight here, because the fire, the sulphur will kill you. Flee!.
The angel told him: Flee for your life, do not look back, go forward. The Exodus of the People of God in the desert had everything, promises of the Lord, everything, and yet they continued to have nostalgia for the “onions of Egypt”, forgetting that they had eaten them on “the table of slavery”. The angel's advice is wise: Do not look back! Keep going!. We must leave behind all nostalgia, because there is also the temptation of curiosity.... We must flee and not look back, for we are all weak and must protect ourselves.
Matthew 8: 23-27. When there is a storm at sea, waves swamp the boat. “Save us, Lord, we are perishing!” they say. Fear is also a temptation of the devil: to be afraid to continue on the Lord’s path. Fear, however is not a good counsellor. Jesus said so many times: “Do not be afraid’”.
The fourth attitude “is the grace of the Holy Spirit”. When Jesus calms the sea, the disciples on the boat are filled with awe. When faced with sin, nostalgia, fear we must always “look at the Lord” and “contemplate the Lord”. We must say: “Save us Lord, we are perishing”. Yes we are weak, but we must be courageous in our weakness.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today the Gospel passage (Mt 14:22-33) describes the episode about Jesus who, after praying all night on the shore of the Lake of Galilee, makes his way towards his disciples’ boat, walking on the water. The boat is in the middle of the lake, halted by a strong wind blowing against it. When they see Jesus come walking on the water, the disciples mistake him for a ghost and they are afraid. But he reassures them: “Take heart, it is I; have no fear!” (v. 27). Peter, with his characteristic impetuousness, says to him: “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water”; And Jesus calls him: “Come!” (vv. 28-29). Peter gets out of the boat and begins to walk on the water towards Jesus; but because of the wind, he is afraid and begins to sink. So he cries out: “Lord, save me!” And Jesus reaches out his hand and catches him (vv. 30-31).
This Gospel narrative contains rich symbolism and makes us reflect on our faith, both as individuals and as an ecclesial community, also the faith of all of us who are here today in the Square. Does the community, this ecclesial community, have faith? How is the faith in each of us, and the faith of our community? The boat is the life of each one of us, but it is also the life of the Church. The wind against it represents difficulties and trials. Peter’s invocation — “Lord, bid me come to you!” — and his cry — “Lord, save me!” — are very similar to our desire to feel the Lord’s closeness, but also the fear and anguish that accompany the most difficult moments of our life and of our communities, marked by internal fragility and external difficulties.
At that moment, Jesus’ word of reassurance, which was like an outstretched rope to cling to in the face of the hostile and turbulent waters, was not enough for Peter. This is what can happen to us as well. When one does not cling to the Word of the Lord to feel secure, but consults horoscopes and fortune tellers, one begins to sink. This means that the faith is not very strong. Today’s Gospel reminds us that faith in the Lord and in his Word does not open a way for us where everything is easy and calm; it does not rescue us from life’s storms. Faith gives us the assurance of a Presence, the presence of Jesus who encourages us to overcome the existential tempests, the certainty of a hand that grabs hold of us so as to help us face the difficulties, pointing the way for us even when it is dark. Faith, in short, is not an escape route from life’s problems, but it sustains the journey and gives it meaning.
This episode offers a wonderful image of the reality of the Church throughout the ages: a boat that, as she makes the crossing, must also weather contrary winds and storms which threaten to capsize her. What saves her are not the courage and qualities of her men: the guarantee against shipwreck is faith in Christ and in his Word. This is the guarantee: faith in Jesus and in his Word. We are safe on this boat, despite our wretchedness and weaknesses, especially when we are kneeling and worshiping the Lord, like the disciples who, in the end, fell down before him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God!” (v. 33). How beautiful it is to say this to Jesus: “Truly you are the Son of God!”. Shall we say it together, all of us? “Truly you are the Son of God!”.
May the Virgin Mary help us to remain steadfast in the faith, to resist life’s tempests, to remain on the barque of the Church by shunning the temptation to embark on the seductive but insecure boats of ideologies, fashions and slogans.
Let us look at three things Jesus does in today’s Gospel.
First: while it is still day, he “leaves”. He leaves the crowds at the height of his success, acclaimed for his multiplication of the loaves. Though the disciples wanted to bask in the glory, he tells them to go ahead and then dismisses the crowd (cf. Mt 14:22-23). Sought by the people, he goes off by himself; as the excitement was winding down, he goes up the mountain to pray. Then, in the dead of night, he comes down and goes to the disciples, walking on the wind-swept waters. In all of this, Jesus goes against the current: first, he leaves behind success, and then tranquillity. He teaches us the courage to leave: to leave behind the success that swells the heart and the tranquillity that deadens the soul.
To go where? To God by praying, and to those in need by loving. These are the true treasures in life: God and our neighbour. And this is the road Jesus tells us to take: to go up to God and to come down to our brothers and sisters. He tears us away from grazing undisturbed in the comfortable meadows of life, from living a life of ease amid little daily pleasures. His disciples are not meant for the carefree calm of a normal life. Like Jesus, they make their way travelling light, ready to leave momentary glories behind, careful not to cling to fleeting goods. Christians know that their homeland is elsewhere, that they are even now – as Saint Paul reminds us in the second reading – “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (cf. Eph 2:19). They are used to being wayfarers. We do not live to accumulate; our glory lies in leaving behind the things that pass away in order to hold on to those that last. Let us ask God to make us like the Church described in the first reading: always on the move, good at leaving and faithful in serving (cf. Acts 28:11-14). Rouse us, Lord, from our idle calm, from the quiet lull of our safe harbours. Set us free from the moorings of self-absorption that weigh life down; free us from constantly seeking success. Teach us, Lord, to know how to “leave” in order to set out on the road you have shown us: to God and to our neighbour.
The second thing: in the heart of the night, Jesus reassures. He goes to his disciples, in the dark, walking “on the sea” (v. 25). The “sea” in this case was really a lake, but the idea of the “sea”, with its murky depths, evokes the forces of evil. Jesus, in effect, goes to meet his disciples by trampling on the malign foes of humanity. And this is the meaning of the sign: rather than a triumphant display of power, it is a revelation of the reassuring certainty that Jesus, and Jesus alone, triumphs over our greatest enemies: the devil, sin, death, fear, worldliness. Today, and to us, he says: “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid” (v. 27).
The boat of our life is often storm-tossed and buffeted by winds. Even when the waters are calm, they quickly grow agitated. When we are caught up in those storms, they seem to be our only problem. But the issue is not the momentary storm, but how we are navigating through life. The secret of navigating well is to invite Jesus on board. The rudder of life must be surrendered to him, so that he can steer the route. He alone gives life in death and hope in suffering; he alone heals our heart by his forgiveness and frees us from fear by instilling confidence. Today, let us invite Jesus into the boat of our life. Like the disciples, we will realize that once he is on board, the winds die down (cf. v. 32) and there can be no shipwreck. With him on board, there will never be a shipwreck! Only with Jesus do we then become capable of offering reassurance. How greatly we need people who can comfort others not with empty words, but with words of life, with deeds of life. In the name of Jesus, we are able to offer true comfort. It is not empty words of encouragement, but the presence of Jesus that grants strength. Reassure us, Lord: comforted by you, we will be able to bring true comfort to others.
The third thing Jesus does: in the midst of the storm, he stretches out his hand (cf. v. 31). He takes hold of Peter who, in his fear and doubt, was sinking, and cried out: “Lord, save me!” (v. 30). We can put ourselves in Peter’s place: we are people of little faith, pleading for salvation. We are wanting in true life and we need the outstretched hand of the Lord to draw us out from evil. This is the beginning of faith: to cast off the pride that makes us feel self-sufficient, and to realize that we are in need of salvation. Faith grows in this climate, to which we adapt ourselves by taking our place beside those who do not set themselves on a pedestal but are needy and cry out for help. This is why it is important for all of us to live our faith in contact with those in need. This is not a sociological option, the fashion of a single pontificate; it is a theological requirement. It entails acknowledging that we are beggars pleading for salvation, brothers and sisters of all, but especially of the poor whom the Lord loves. In this way, we embrace the spirit of the Gospel. “The spirit of poverty and of love – says the Council – is in fact the glory and witness of the Church of Christ” (Gaudium et Spes, 88).
Jesus heard the cry of Peter. Let us ask for the grace to hear the cry of all those tossed by the waves of life. The cry of the poor: it is the stifled cry of the unborn, of starving children, of young people more used to the explosion of bombs than happy shouts of the playground. It is the cry of the elderly, cast off and abandoned to themselves. It is the cry of all those who face the storms of life without the presence of a friend. It is the cry of all those forced to flee their homes and native land for an uncertain future. It is the cry of entire peoples, deprived even of the great natural resources at their disposal. It is the cry of every Lazarus who weeps while the wealthy few feast on what, in justice, belongs to all. Injustice is the perverse root of poverty. The cry of the poor daily grows louder but is heard less and less. Every day that cry gets louder, but every day heard less, drowned out by the din of the rich few, who grow ever fewer and more rich.
In the face of contempt for human dignity, we often remain with arms folded or stretched out as a sign of our frustration before the grim power of evil. Yet we Christians cannot stand with arms folded in indifference, or with arms outstretched in helplessness. No. As believers, we must stretch out our hands, as Jesus does with us. The cry of the poor finds a hearing with God. Yet I ask, does it with us? Do we have eyes to see, ears to hear, hands outstretched to offer help? Or do we keep repeating: “Come back tomorrow”? “Christ himself appeals to the charity of his disciples in the person of the poor” (Gaudium et Spes, loc. cit.). He asks us to recognize him in all those who are hungry and thirsty, in the stranger and those stripped of dignity, in the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:35-36).
The Lord stretches out his hand, freely and not out of duty. And so it must be with us. We are not called to do good only to those who like us. That is normal, but Jesus demands that we do something more (cf. Mt 5:46): to give to those who have nothing to give back, to love gratuitously (cf. Lk 6:32-36). Let us look around in our own day. For all that we do, do we ever do anything completely for free, something for a person who cannot repay us? That will be our outstretched hand, our true treasure in heaven.
Stretch out your hand to us, Lord, and take hold of us. Help us to love as you love. Teach us to leave behind all that is passing, to be a source of reassurance to those around us, and to give freely to all those in need. Amen.
It is not by chance that at the beginning of Jesus' public life there is a wedding ceremony. In fact the whole mystery of the sign of Cana is based on the presence of this divine spouse who is beginning to make himself known.
Jesus manifests himself as the spouse of God's people, announced by the prophets, and reveals to us the depth of the relationship that unites us to Him: it is a new Covenant of love. By transforming into wine the water in jars used for the ritual purification of the Jews, Jesus makes an eloquent sign: he transforms the Law of Moses into the Gospel, the bearer of joy.
Mary's words to the servants underline the spousal picture at Cana: "Do whatever he tells you". Also today, Our Lady says to all of us: "Do whatever he says to you." These words are a precious inheritance that our Mother left us.
I would like to underline an experience that certainly many of us have had in our lives. When we are in difficult situations, when problems occur that we do not know how to solve, when we often feel anxiety and anguish, when we lack joy, go to Our Lady and say: "We have no wine. The wine is finished: look at how I am; look at my heart, look at my soul". Tell the mother. And she will go to Jesus and say: "Look at this, look at this: she/he has no wine". And then, she will come back to us and say to us, "Whatever he says to you, do it."
Serving the Lord means, listening to and putting his word into practice. It is the simple and essential recommendation of the Mother of Jesus, it is the program of life of the Christian. For each of us, to draw from the jar is to entrust ourselves to the Word and the Sacraments to experience the grace of God in our lives.
Christian life is not a carnival or a continuous feast and joy. It has good times as well as ugly ones, moments of warmth and of detachment, where not everything has meaning... moments of desolation.
It is during a moment of internal persecution and inner state of the soul that the author of the Letter to the Hebrews urges Christians to perseverance. You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised. One needs perseverance to reach the promise.
Like the apostle, one must first of all recall the beautiful moments, the happy days of our encounter with the Lord, the time of love. And, secondly, we must have hope for what has been promised us. With life consisting of good and bad times, it is important not to allow oneself to fall and go back in moments of difficulty.
Christians should not give in to bad times, but should endure in memory and hope - an endurance of the heart which recalls good times and breathes when looking up to hope. Finding the consolation of the promise of the Lord is what we must do in moments of desolation.
In my apostolic visit to Lithuania, in September 2018, I was moved by the courage of so many Christians and martyrs who persevered in faith.
Even today, many men and women suffer for their faith but remember the first encounter with Jesus and gain hope and go ahead. Perseverance is the advice of the author of the Letter to the Hebrews to Christians in times of persecution and attacks.
May Christians always look to the Lord when the devil attacks us with temptations. With our miseries we must always look to the Lord, have the perseverance of the Cross recalling the first beautiful moments of love, of our encounter with the Lord and the hope that awaits us.
Sadness is not a Christian attitude. Even if life isn't a Carnival, and there are so many difficulties, you can overcome them and go forward but, it takes daily dialogue with the Holy Spirit, the one who accompanies us.
The central figure of todays Gospel passage is the Holy Spirit. In the farewell speech to His disciples before ascending into heaven, Jesus gives us a true catechesis on the Holy Spirit, He explains who he is. The disciples are sad to hear that their master will soon will leave them and Jesus rebukes them for this, pointing out that although "grief has filled your hearts, (…) it is better for you that I go.
But how can one not be sad? To counter sadness, we pray to the Lord to keep the renewed youth of the spirit within us. It is the Holy Spirit, who ensures that we continue to be renewed and youthful in our faith.
A great Saint said: a Saint is a sad sad Saint. So, a Christian is a sad sad Christian: not right. The Holy Spirit is the one who makes us able to carry our crosses. Today's first reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles, tells the storey of Paul and Silas who had been stripped, beaten, chained and imprisoned, sang hymns to God.
The Holy Spirit renews everything. The Holy Spirit accompanies us in life and sustains us, is the Paraclete. But what a strange name! I remember when as a priest at a mass for children on a Pentecost Sunday I asked them if they knew who is the Holy Spirit. And a child answered: the paralytic. And we too often think that the Holy Spirit is a paralytic, who does nothing ....
Paraclete: the word paraclete means "He who is near me and supports me so that I don’t fall, so I keep my spirit youthful. A Christian is always young: always. and when the heart of a Christian begins to age, so does his Christian vocation.
Either you are young in heart and soul, or you are not fully Christian.
In life there will be pain, Paul and Silas had been beaten and were suffering, but they were full of joy, sang ...
He explained that this is where the "youthful" part comes in as youth looks ahead with hope. But to be able to have this youthful attitude, we need a daily dialogue with the Holy Spirit, who is always with. It is the great gift that Jesus left us this support, that keeps you going.
And even though we are sinners, the Spirit helps us to repent and makes us look ahead. Talk to the spirit, he will give you support and give you back your youth. Sin on the other hand ages: ages the soul, everything gets older. Never this pagan sadness.
In life there are difficult times but at such times we feel that the Spirit helps us move forward (...) and overcome the difficulties. Even martyrdom.
"Let us ask the Lord to not lose this renewed youthfulness, not to be Christians who have lost their joy and not allowed themselves to carry on ... A Christian should never retires; a Christian lives, lives because he is young – when he is a true Christian ".
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today's Gospel, set on the day of the Passover, tells the story of the two disciples of Emmaus (cf. Luke 24: 13-35). It's a story that starts and ends on the move. There is, in fact the outbound journey of the disciples who, sad about the end of the story of Jesus, leave Jerusalem and return home, to Emmaus, walking for about eleven kilometres. It is a journey that takes place during the day, with much of it downhill. And there is the return journey: another eleven kilometres, but made at nightfall, with part of the way uphill after the fatigue of the outward journey and all day. Two trips: one easy during the day and the other tiring at night. Yet the first takes place in sadness, the second in joy. In the first there is the Lord who walks by their side, but they do not recognize him; in the second they no longer see him, but they feel him near them. In the first they are despondent and hopeless; in the second they run to bring the good news of the encounter with the Risen Lord to others .
The two different paths of those early disciples tell us, the disciples of Jesus today, that in life we have two opposite directions in front of us: there is the path of those who, like those two at the beginning, allow themselves to be paralyzed by the disappointments of life and go ahead sadly; and there is the path of those who do not put themselves and their problems first, but Jesus who visits us, and the brothers who await his visit, that is, the brothers and sisters who wait for us to take care of them. Here is the turning point: to stop orbiting around one's self, the disappointments of the past, unrealized ideals, so many bad things that have happened in one's life. So many times we are led to orbit around ourselves. Leave that and move forward looking at the greatest and truest reality of life: Jesus is alive, Jesus loves me. This is the greatest reality. And I can do something for others. It's a beautiful reality, positive, sunny, beautiful!
The U-turn is this: to move from thoughts about myself to the reality of my God; pass – with another pun – from "ifs" to "yes". From "if" to "yes." What does it mean? "If he had freed us, if God had listened to me, if life had gone the way I wanted, if I had this and that..." in a tone of complaint. This "if" does not help, it is not fruitful, it does not help us or others. Here our ifs are similar to those of the two disciples. But they pass to yes: "yes, the Lord is alive, he walks with us. Yes, now, not tomorrow, we are on our way to announce it." "Yes, I can do this so that people are happier, because people will get better, to help so many people. Yes, yes, I can." From if to yes, from complaint to joy and peace, because when we complain, we are not joyful; we are in a grey area, that grey air of sadness. And that doesn't even help us grow well. From if to yes, from complaint to the joy of service.
This change of pace, from self to God, from if to yes, how did that happen with the disciples? Meeting Jesus: the two of Emmaus first open their hearts to him; then they listen to him explain the scriptures; so they invite him home. These are three steps that we too can take in our homes: first, open our heart to Jesus, entrust him with the burdens, the hardships, the disappointments of life, entrust him with the "ifs"; and then, second step, listen to Jesus, take t he Gospel in hand, read this passage today, chapter twenty-four of Luke's Gospel; thirdly, pray to Jesus, in the same words as those disciples: "Lord, "stay with us" (v. 29). Lord, stay with me. Lord, stay with all of us, because we need you to find our way. And without you there is night.
Dear brothers and sisters, we are always on our way in life. And we become what we're going towards. Let us choose God's way, not that of the self; the way of yes, not the way of the if. We will find that there is no unexpected events, there is no uphill path, there is no night that cannot be faced with Jesus. May Our Lady Mother of the journey, who, by receiving the Word, has made her entire life a "yes" to God, show us the way.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
In today's Gospel passage (John 14:1-12) we hear the beginning of Jesus' so-called "farewell discourse." These are the words he addressed to the disciples at the end of the last Supper, just before facing the Passion. In such a dramatic moment Jesus began by saying, "Do not let your hearts be troubled." He says it to us, too, in the dramas of life. But how can we make sure that our hearts are not troubled? Because our hearts do become troubled.
The Lord points out two remedies to being troubled. The first is, "Believe in me" (14: 1). It would seem to be rather theoretical, or abstract advice. Instead Jesus wants to tell us something specific. He knows that, in life, the worst anxiety, anguish, comes from the feeling of not being able to cope, from feeling alone and without points of reference when faced with events. This anguish, in which difficulties are added to difficulties, cannot be overcome alone. We need Jesus' help, and that is why Jesus asks us to have faith in him, that is, not to rely on ourselves, but on him. Because liberation from being troubled requires trust. Relying on Jesus, taking the leap. And this is the freedom from being troubled. And Jesus has risen and is alive precisely to be always by our side. So we can say to him, "Jesus, I believe that you have risen and that you are by my side. I believe that you are listening to me. I bring you what upsets me, my troubles: I have faith in you and I entrust myself to you."
Then there is a second remedy to being troubled, which Jesus expresses with these words: "In my Father's house there are many rooms. I'm going to prepare a place for you" (14: 2). This is what Jesus did for us: he reserved us a place in Heaven. He took our humanity upon himself to take it beyond death, to a new place, to Heaven, so that where he is, we might also be there. It is the certainty that consoles us: there is a reserved place for everyone. There's a place for me, too. Each of us can say: there is a place for me. We do not live aimlessly and without destination. We are expected, we are precious. God is in love with us, we are his children. And for us he has prepared the most worthy and beautiful place: Paradise. Let us not forget this: the dwelling place that awaits us is Paradise. Here we are passing through. We are made for Heaven, for eternal life, to live forever. Forever: it's something we can't even imagine now. But it is even more beautiful to think that this forever will be entirely in joy, in full communion with God and with others, without more tears, without resentments, without divisions and troubles.
But how to reach Heaven? What's the way? This is the decisive sentence of Jesus. Today he says: "I am the way" (14: 6). To ascend to Heaven the way is Jesus: it is to have a living relationship with him, it is to imitate him in love, it is to follow his steps. And I, a Christian, you, a Christian, each of us Christians, can ask ourselves: "What path do I follow?" There are ways that do not lead to Heaven: the ways of worldliness, the ways of self-assertion, the ways of selfish power. And there is the way of Jesus, the way of humble love, of prayer, of meekness, of trust, of service to others. It is not the way that puts me at the centre, it is the way of Jesus being the centre of my life. It is to go ahead every day asking him: "Jesus, what do you think of my choice? What would you do in this situation, with these people?" It will do us good to ask Jesus, who is the way, for the directions to Heaven. May Our Lady, Queen of Heaven, help us to follow Jesus, who opened Heaven for us.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good day!
This Sunday's Gospel passage (see Mt 14:22-33) speaks of Jesus walking on the water of the stormy lake. After feeding the crowds with five loaves and two fish – as we saw last Sunday – Jesus commands the disciples to get into the boat and return to the other shore. He dismisses the people and then climbs the hill, alone, to pray. He immerses Himself in communion with the Father.
During the crossing of the lake by night, the disciples' boat is hindered by a sudden wind storm. This is normal on a lake. At a certain point, they see someone walking on the water, coming toward them. Upset, they think it is a ghost and cry out in fear. Jesus reassures them: “Take heart, it is I; have no fear”. Then Peter – Peter who was so decisive – answers: “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water”. A challenge. And Jesus tells him: “Come”. Peter gets out of the boat and takes a few steps; then the wind and waves frighten him and he begins to sink. “Lord, save me”, he cries, and Jesus grasps him by the hand and says to him: “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?”.
This Gospel narrative is an invitation to abandon ourselves trustingly to God in every moment of our life, especially in the moment of trial and turmoil. When we have strong feelings of doubt and fear and we seem to be sinking, in life’s difficult moments where everything becomes dark, we must not be ashamed to cry out like Peter: “Lord, save me” (v. 30). To knock on God’s heart, on Jesus’s heart. “Lord, save me.” It is a beautiful prayer! We can repeat it many times. “Lord, save me.” And Jesus’s gesture, who immediately reaches out His hand and grasps that of His friend, should be contemplated at length: this is Jesus. Jesus does this. Jesus is the Father’s hand who never abandons us, the strong and faithful hand of the Father, who always and only wants what is good for us. God is not in the loud sound, God is not the hurricane, He is not in the fire, He is not in the earthquake – as the narrative about the Prophet Elijah also recalls today that says God is the light breeze – literally it says this: He is in the “ thread of melodious silence” – that never imposes itself, but asks to be heard (see 1 Kgs 19:11-13). Having faith means keeping your heart turned to God, to His love, to His Fatherly tenderness, amid the storm. Jesus wanted to teach this to Peter and the disciples, and also to us today. In dark moments, in sad moments He is well aware that our faith is weak –all of us are people of little faith, all of us, myself included, everyone – and that our faith is weak our journey can be troubled, hindered by adverse forces. But He is the Risen One! Let’s not forget this: He is the Lord who passed through death in order to lead us to safety. Even before we begin to seek Him, He is present beside us lifting us back up after our falls, He helps us grow in faith. Maybe in the dark, we cry out: “Lord, Lord!” thinking He is far away. And He says, “I am here.” Ah, He was with me! That is the Lord.
The boat at the mercy of the storm is the image of the Church, which in every age encounters headwinds, very harsh trials at times: we recall certain long and ferocious persecutions of the last century and even today in certain places. In situations like that, she may be tempted to think that God has abandoned her. But in reality it is precisely in those moments that the witness of faith, the witness of love, the witness of hope shines the most. It is the presence of the Risen Christ in His Church that gives the grace of witness unto martyrdom, from which buds new Christians and fruit of reconciliation and peace for the entire world.
May the intercession of Mary help us to persevere in faith and fraternal love when the darkness and storms of life place our trust in God in crisis.
The Evangelist Matthew tells us that the Magi, when they came to Bethlehem, “saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him” (Mt 2:11). Worshiping the Lord is not easy; it does not just happen. It requires a certain spiritual maturity and is the fruit of an at times lengthy interior journey. Worshiping God is not something we do spontaneously. True, human beings have a need to worship, but we can risk missing the goal. Indeed, if we do not worship God, we will worship idols – there is no middle way, it is either God or idols; or, to use the words of a French writer: “Whoever does not worship God, worships the devil” – and instead of becoming believers, we will become idolaters. That's the way it is, either one or the other.
In our day, it is particularly necessary for us, both as individuals and as communities, to devote more time to worship. We need to learn ever better how to contemplate the Lord. We have somewhat lost the meaning of the prayer of adoration, so we must take it up again, both in our communities and in our own spiritual life. Today, then, let us learn a few useful lessons from the Magi. Like them, we want to fall down and worship the Lord. To worship him seriously, not as Herod said: “Let me know where the place is and I will go to worship him”. No, that worship is not good. Ours must be serious!
The Liturgy of the Word offers us three phrases that can help us to understand more fully what it means to be worshipers of the Lord. They are: “to lift up our eyes”, “to set out on a journey” and “to see”. These three phrases can help us to understand what it means to be a worshiper of the Lord.
The first phrase, to lift up our eyes, comes to us from the prophet Isaiah. To the community of Jerusalem, recently returned from exile and disheartened by great challenges and hardships, the prophet addresses these powerful words of encouragement: “Lift up your eyes and look around” (60:4). He urges them to lay aside their weariness and complaints, to escape the bottleneck of a narrow way of seeing things, to cast off the dictatorship of the self, the constant temptation to withdraw into ourselves and our own concerns. To worship the Lord, we first have to “lift up our eyes”. In other words, not to let ourselves be imprisoned by those imaginary spectres that stifle hope, not to make our problems and difficulties the centre of our lives. This does not mean denying reality, or deluding ourselves into thinking that all is well. On the contrary, it is a matter of viewing problems and anxieties in a new way, knowing that the Lord is aware of our troubles, attentive to our prayers and not indifferent to the tears we shed.
This way of seeing things, which despite everything continues to trust in the Lord, gives rise to filial gratitude. When this happens, our hearts become open to worship. On the other hand, when we focus exclusively on problems, and refuse to lift up our eyes to God, fear and confusion creep into our hearts, giving rise to anger, bewilderment, anxiety and depression. Then it becomes difficult to worship the Lord. Once this happens, we need to find the courage to break out of the circle of our foregone conclusions and to recognize that reality is much greater than we imagine. Lift up your eyes, look around and see. The Lord asks us first to trust in him, because he truly cares for everyone. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he provide for us? (cf. Lk 12:28). If we lift up our eyes to the Lord, and consider all things in his light, we will see that he never abandons us. The Word became flesh (cf. Jn 1:14) and remains with us always, for all time (cf. Mt 28:20). Always.
When we lift up our eyes to God, life’s problems do not go away, no; instead we feel certain that the Lord grants us the strength to deal with them. The first step towards an attitude of worship, then, is to “lift up our eyes”. Our worship is that of disciples who have found in God a new and unexpected joy. Worldly joy is based on wealth, success or similar things, always with ourselves at the centre. The joy of Christ’s disciples, on the other hand, is based on the fidelity of God, whose promises never fail, whatever the crises we may face. Filial gratitude and joy awaken within us a desire to worship the Lord, who remains ever faithful and never abandons us.
The second helpful phrase is to set out on a journey. Before they could worship the Child in Bethlehem, the Magi had to undertake a lengthy journey. Matthew tells us that in those days “wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying: ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him’” (Mt 2:1-2). A journey always involves a transformation, a change. After a journey, we are no longer the same. There is always something new about those who have made a journey: they have learned new things, encountered new people and situations, and found inner strength amid the hardships and risks they met along the way. No one worships the Lord without first experiencing the interior growth that comes from embarking on a journey.
We become worshipers of the Lord through a gradual process. Experience teaches us, for example, that at fifty we worship differently than we did at thirty. Those who let themselves be shaped by grace usually improve with time: on the outside, we grow older – so Saint Paul tells us – while our inner nature is being renewed each day (cf. 2 Cor 4:16), as we grow in our understanding of how best to worship the Lord. From this point of view, our failures, crises and mistakes can become learning experiences: often they can help us to be more aware that the Lord alone is worthy of our worship, for only he can satisfy our innermost desire for life and eternity. With the passage of time, life’s trials and difficulties – experienced in faith – help to purify our hearts, making them humbler and thus more and more open to God. Even our sins, the awareness of being sinners, of experiencing such bad things. “But I did this... I did...”: if you approach it with faith and repentance, with contrition, it will help you to grow. Paul says that everything can help us to grow spiritually, to encounter Jesus, even our sins. And Saint Thomas adds: “etiam mortalia”, even the bad sins, the worst. But if you respond with repentance it will help you on this journey towards encountering the Lord and to worship him better.
Like the Magi, we too must allow ourselves to learn from the journey of life, marked by the inevitable inconveniences of travel. We cannot let our weariness, our falls and our failings discourage us. Instead, by humbly acknowledging them, we should make them opportunities to progress towards the Lord Jesus. Life is not about showing off our abilities, but a journey towards the One who loves us. We are not to show off our virtues in every step of our life; rather, with humility we should journey towards the Lord. By keeping our gaze fixed on the Lord, we will find the strength needed to persevere with renewed joy.
And so we come to the third phrase: to see. To lift up our eyes; to set out on a journey; to see. The Evangelist tells us that, “going into the house they saw the child with Mary, his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him” (Mt 2:10-11). Worshiping was an act of homage reserved for sovereigns and high dignitaries. The Magi worshiped the One they knew was the king of the Jews (cf. Mt 2:2). But what did they actually see? They saw a poor child and his mother. Yet these wise men from far-off lands were able to look beyond those lowly surroundings and recognize in that Child a royal presence. They were able to “see” beyond appearances. Falling to their knees before the Babe of Bethlehem, they expressed a worship that was above all interior: the opening of the treasures they had brought as gifts symbolized the offering of their own hearts.
To worship the Lord we need to “see” beyond the veil of things visible, which often prove deceptive. Herod and the leading citizens of Jerusalem represent a worldliness enslaved to appearances and immediate attractions. They see, yet they cannot see. It is not that they do not believe, no; it is that they do not know how to see because they are slaves to appearances and seek what is attractive. They value only the sensational, the things that capture the attention of the masses. In the Magi, however, we see a very different approach, one we can define as theological realism – a very “high” word, yet helpful – a way of perceiving the objective reality of things and leads to the realization that God shuns all ostentation. The Lord is in humility, he is like that humble child, who shuns that ostentation which is precisely the product of worldliness. A way of “seeing” that transcends the visible and makes it possible for us to worship the Lord who is often hidden in everyday situations, in the poor and those on the fringes. A way of seeing things that is not impressed by sound and fury, but seeks in every situation the things that truly matter, and that seeks the Lord. With Saint Paul, then, let us “look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor 4:18).
May the Lord Jesus make us true worshipers, capable of showing by our lives his loving plan for all humanity. Let us ask for the grace for each of us and for the whole Church, to learn to worship, to continue to worship, to exercise this prayer of adoration often, because only God is to be adored.