Discouraged

The days Gospel tells how Jesus surprised Simon by climbing in his boat, and going out a little ways from the shore to teach the people. Then Jesus made another surprising move by asking Simon to put out into the deep and lower his nets for a catch.

Simon (to whom Jesus would later give the name Peter) seems at first to offer an objection; but inspired by the presence of Jesus, and illuminated by His word, Simon does as he is asked. It is the response of faith, the response that that we too are called to give; and the attitude of openness that the Lord asks of all His disciples, especially insofar as they have duties of responsibility in the Church.

It is Simon’s trusting obedience that prompts the miraculous catch of fish. When we come with generosity to His service, Jesus accomplishes great things in us.

This is how Jesus deals with each of us: He asks us to welcome Him into the boat of our life, to begin again with Him and set out on a new sea, that turns out to be full of surprises. Jesus’ invitation gives new meaning to our existence. If we, like Peter, are sometimes surprised or hesitant at this call, Jesus encourages us. If we trust in Him God will free us from our sin, and open us up to new horizons, to collaborate in his mission.

The greatest miracle accomplished by Jesus for Simon and the other disappointed and tired fishermen, is not so much the nets filled with fish, but to have helped them to not fall victim to disappointment and discouragement in the face of setbacks. He opened the way for them to become heralds and witnesses of His word and of the Kingdom of God.

10.02.19

The women bring spices to the tomb, but they fear that their journey is in vain, since a large stone bars the entrance to the sepulchre. The journey of those women is also our own journey; it resembles the journey of salvation that we have made this evening. At times, it seems that everything comes up against a stone: the beauty of creation against the tragedy of sin; liberation from slavery against infidelity to the covenant; the promises of the prophets against the listless indifference of the people. So too, in the history of the Church and in our own personal history. It seems that the steps we take never take us to the goal. We can be tempted to think that dashed hope is the bleak law of life.

Today however we see that our journey is not in vain; it does not come up against a tombstone. A single phrase astounds the woman and changes history: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Lk 24:5). Why do you think that everything is hopeless, that no one can take away your own tombstones? Why do you give into resignation and failure? Easter is the feast of tombstones taken away, rocks rolled aside. God takes away even the hardest stones against which our hopes and expectations crash: death, sin, fear, worldliness. Human history does not end before a tombstone, because today it encounters the “living stone” (cf. 1 Pet 2:4), the risen Jesus. We, as Church, are built on him, and, even when we grow disheartened and tempted to judge everything in the light of our failures, he comes to make all things new, to overturn our every disappointment. Each of us is called tonight to rediscover in the Risen Christ the one who rolls back from our heart the heaviest of stones. So let us first ask: What is the stone that I need to remove, what is its name?

Often what blocks hope is the stone of discouragement. Once we start thinking that everything is going badly and that things can’t get worse, we lose heart and come to believe that death is stronger than life. We become cynical, negative and despondent. Stone upon stone, we build within ourselves a monument to our own dissatisfaction: the sepulchre of hope. Life becomes a succession of complaints and we grow sick in spirit. A kind of tomb psychology takes over: everything ends there, with no hope of emerging alive. But at that moment, we hear once more the insistent question of Easter: Why do you seek the living among the dead? The Lord is not to be found in resignation. He is risen; he is not there. Don’t seek him where you will never find him: he is not the God of the dead but of the living (cf. Mk 22:32). Do not bury hope!

There is another stone that often seals the heart shut: the stone of sin. Sin seduces; it promises things easy and quick, prosperity and success, but then leaves behind only solitude and death. Sin is looking for life among the dead, for the meaning of life in things that pass away. Why do you seek the living among the dead? Why not make up your mind to abandon that sin which, like a stone before the entrance to your heart, keeps God’s light from entering in? Why not prefer Jesus, the true light (cf. Jn1:9), to the glitter of wealth, career, pride and pleasure? Why not tell the empty things of this world that you no longer live for them, but for the Lord of life?

Let us return to the women who went to Jesus’ tomb. They halted in amazement before the stone that was taken away. Seeing the angels, they stood there, the Gospel tells us, “frightened, and bowed their faces to the ground” (Lk 24:5). They did not have the courage to look up. How often do we do the same thing? We prefer to remain huddled within our shortcomings, cowering in our fears. It is odd, but why do we do this? Not infrequently because, glum and closed up within ourselves, we feel in control, for it is easier to remain alone in the darkness of our heart than to open ourselves to the Lord. Yet only he can raise us up. A poet once wrote: “We never know how high we are. Till we are called to rise” (E. Dickinson). The Lord calls us to get up, to rise at his word, to look up and to realize that we were made for heaven, not for earth, for the heights of life and not for the depths of death: Why do you seek the living among the dead?

God asks us to view life as he views it, for in each of us he never ceases to see an irrepressible kernel of beauty. In sin, he sees sons and daughters to be restored; in death, brothers and sisters to be reborn; in desolation, hearts to be revived. Do not fear, then: the Lord loves your life, even when you are afraid to look at it and take it in hand. In Easter he shows you how much he loves that life: even to the point of living it completely, experiencing anguish, abandonment, death and hell, in order to emerge triumphant to tell you: “You are not alone; put your trust in me!”.

Jesus is a specialist at turning our deaths into life, our mourning into dancing (cf. Ps 30:11). With him, we too can experience a Pasch, that is, a Passover– from self-centredness to communion, from desolation to consolation, from fear to confidence. Let us not keep our faces bowed to the ground in fear, but raise our eyes to the risen Jesus. His gaze fills us with hope, for it tells us that we are loved unfailingly, and that however much we make a mess of things, his love remains unchanged. This is the one, non-negotiable certitude we have in life: his love does not change. Let us ask ourselves: In my life, where am I looking? Am I gazing at graveyards, or looking for the Living One?

Why do you seek the living among the dead? The women hear the words of the angels, who go on to say: “Remember what he told you while he was still in Galilee” (Lk 24:6). Those woman had lost hope, because they could not recall the words of Jesus, his call that took place in Galilee. Having lost the living memory of Jesus, they kept looking at the tomb. Faith always needs to go back to Galilee, to reawaken its first love for Jesus and his call: to remember him, to turn back to him with all our mind and all our heart. To return to a lively love of the Lord is essential. Otherwise, ours is a “museum” faith, not an Easter faith. Jesus is not a personage from the past; he is a person living today. We do not know him from history books; we encounter him in life. Today, let us remember how Jesus first called us, how he overcame our darkness, our resistance, our sins, and how he touched our hearts with his word.

The women, remembering Jesus, left the tomb. Easter teaches us that believers do not linger at graveyards, for they are called to go forth to meet the Living One. Let us ask ourselves : In my life, where am I going? Sometimes we go only in the direction of our problems, of which there are plenty, and go to the Lord only for help. But then, it is our own needs, not Jesus, to guide our steps. We keep seeking the Living One among the dead. Or again, how many times, once we have encountered the Lord, do we return to the dead, digging up regrets, reproaches, hurts and dissatisfactions, without letting the Risen One change us?

Dear brothers and sisters: let us put the Living One at the centre of our lives. Let us ask for the grace not to be carried by the current, the sea of our problems; the grace not to run aground on the shoals of sin or crash on the reefs of discouragement and fear. Let us seek him in all things and above all things. With him, we will rise again.

20.04.19


Pope Francis

29.11.20 Angelus, St Peter's Square

1st Sunday of Advent Year B

1 Corinthians 1: 3-9

Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!

Today, the First Sunday of Advent, a new liturgical year begins. In it, the Church marks the passage of time with the celebration of the main events in the life of Jesus and the story of salvation. In so doing, as Mother, she illuminates the path of our existence, supports us in our daily occupations and guides us towards the final encounter with Christ. Today's liturgy invites us to live the first “important Season”, which is that of Advent, the first of the liturgical year, Advent, which prepares us for Christmas, and therefore it is a time of expectation and a time of hope. Expectation and hope.

Saint Paul (see 1 Cor 1:3-9) indicates the object of our expectation. What is it? The “manifestation of the Lord” (v. 7). The Apostle invites the Christians of Corinth, and we too, to focus our attention on the encounter with Jesus. For a Christian the most important thing is the continuous encounter with the Lord, being with the Lord. And in this way, accustomed to staying with the Lord of life, we prepare ourselves for the encounter, for being with the Lord for eternity. And this definitive encounter will come at the end of the world. But the Lord comes every day, so that, with His grace, we might accomplish good in our own lives and in the lives of others. Our God is a God-who-comes, do not forget this: God is a God who comes, who continually comes. Our waiting will not be disappointed by Him! The Lord never disappoints. He will perhaps make us wait, He will make us wait a few moments in the dark to allow our expectation to ripen, but He never disappoints. The Lord always comes, He is always by our side. At times He does not make Himself seen, but He always comes. He came at a precise moment in history and became man to take on our sins - the feast of the Nativity commemorates Jesus’ first coming in the historical moment -; He will come at the end of times as universal judge; He comes every day to visit His people, to visit every man and woman who receives Him in the Word, in the Sacraments, in their brothers and sisters. Jesus, the Bible tells us, is at the door and knocks. Every day. He is at the door of our heart. He knocks. Do you know how to listen to the Lord who knocks, who has come today to visit you, who knocks at your heart restlessly, with an idea, with inspiration? He came to Bethlehem, He will come at the end of the world, but every day He comes to us. Be careful, look at what you feel in your heart when the Lord knocks.

We are well aware that life is made up of highs and lows, of lights and shadows. Each one of us experiences moments of disappointment, of failure and being lost. Moreover, the situation we are living in, marked by the pandemic, generates worry, fear and discouragement in many people; we run the risk of falling into pessimism, the risk of falling into closure and apathy. How should we react in the face of all this? Today’s Psalm suggests: “Our soul waits for the Lord: he is our help and our shield. Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name” (Ps 33:20-21). That is, the soul awaiting, confidently waiting for the Lord, allows us to find comfort and courage in the dark moments of our lives. And what gives rise to this courage and this trustful pledge? Where do they come from? They are born of hope. And hope does not disappoint, that virtue that leads us ahead, looking at the encounter with the Lord.

Advent is a continuous call to hope: it reminds us that God is present in history to lead it to its ultimate goal and to lead us to its fullness, which is the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ. God is present in the history of humanity, He is the “God-with-us”, God is not distant, He is always with us, to the extent that very often He knocks on the door of our heart. God walks beside us to support us. The Lord does not abandon us; He accompanies us through the events of our lives to help us discover the meaning of the journey the meaning of everyday life, to give us courage when we are under duress or when we suffer. In the midst of life’s storms, God always extends His hand to us and frees us from threats. This is beautiful! In the book of Deuteronomy there is a very beautiful passage, in which the Prophet says to the people: “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us?” No-one, only we have this grace of having God close to us. We await God, we hope that He manifests Himself, but He too hopes that we manifest ourselves to Him!

May Mary Most Holy, the woman of expectation, accompany our steps at the beginning of this new liturgical year , and help us to fulfil the task of Jesus’ disciples, indicated by the Apostle Peter:. And what is this task? To account for the hope that is in us (see 1 Pet 3:15).


29.11.20


Pope Francis

13.06.21 Angelus, St Peter's Square

11th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B

Mark 4: 26-34

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Afternoon!

The two parables, which the Liturgy presents us today, – the two parables – are inspired precisely by ordinary life and reveal the attentive and deep gaze of Jesus, who observes reality and, through small everyday images, opens the windows on the mystery of God and on human history. Jesus spoke in a way that was easy to understand; he spoke with images of reality, of everyday life. In this way, he teaches us that even everyday things, which at times all seem the same and which we carry on with distraction or tiredness, are inhabited by God’s hidden presence; that is, they have meaning. So, we too need attentive eyes, to be able “to seek and find God in all things."

Today Jesus compares the Kingdom of God, that is, his presence that dwells in the heart of things and of the world, to the mustard seed, that is, to the smallest seed there is: it is really tiny. Yet, cast upon the ground, it grows until becoming the tallest tree (cf. Mk 4:31-32). This is what God does. At times, the din of the world, along with the many activities that fill our days, prevent us from stopping and seeing how the Lord is conducting history. Yet – the Gospel assures us – God is at work, like a good little seed that silently and slowly germinates. And, little by little, it becomes a lush tree, which gives life and rest to everyone. The seed of our good works too can seem like a small thing, yet all that is good pertains to God, and thus it humbly, slowly bears fruit. Good, let us remember, always grows in a humble way, in a hidden, often invisible way.

Dear brothers and sisters, with this parable Jesus wants to instil us with confidence. In so many of life’s situations, indeed, it may happen that we get discouraged, because we see the weakness of good as compared to the apparent power of evil. And we may allow ourselves to be paralyzed by doubt when we find we are working hard but the results are not achieved, and things seem never to change. The Gospel asks us to take a fresh look at ourselves and at reality; it asks us to have bigger eyes, that are able to see further, especially beyond appearances, in order to discover the presence of God who as humble love is always at work in the soil of our life and that of history. This is our confidence, this is what gives us the strength to go forward every day, patiently, sowing the good that will bear fruit.

How important this attitude also is for coming out of the pandemic well! To cultivate the confidence of being in God’s hands and at the same time for all of us to commit ourselves to rebuilding and starting up again, with patience and perseverance.

In the Church too, weeds of doubt can take root, especially when we witness the crisis of faith and the failure of different projects and initiatives. But let us never forget that the results of sowing do not depend our abilities: they depend on the action of God. It is up to us to sow, and sow with love, with dedication and with patience. But the force of the seed is divine. Jesus explains it in today’s other parable: the farmer sows the seed and then does not realize how it bears fruit, because it is the seed itself that grows spontaneously, day and night, when he least expects it (cf. vv. 26-29). With God in the most infertile soil there is always the hope of new sprouts.

May Mary Most Holy, the Lord’s humble handmaid, teach us to see the greatness of God who works in the little things and to overcome the temptation of discouragement. Let us trust in Him every day!

13.06.21