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
This is a beautiful story. First we have Jesus alone on the mountain, praying. He was praying alone (cf. Jn 8:1). Then he went back to the Temple, and all the people went to him (cf. v. 2). Jesus in the midst of the people. And then, at the end, they left him alone with the woman (cf. v. 9). That solitude of Jesus! But it is a fruitful solitude: the solitude of prayer with the Father, and the beautiful solitude that is the Church’s message for today: the solitude of his mercy towards this woman.
And among the people we see a variety of attitudes: there were all the people who went to him; he sat and began to teach them: the people who wanted to hear the words of Jesus, the people with open hearts, hungry for the word of God. There were others who did not hear anything, who could not hear anything; and there were those who brought along this woman: Listen, Master, this woman has done such and such ... we must do what Moses commanded us to do with women like this (cf. vv. 4-5).
I think we too are the people who, on the one hand want to listen to Jesus, but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others with, to condemn others. And Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think – and I say it with humility – that this is the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy. It was he himself who said: "I did not come for the righteous". The righteous justify themselves. Go on, then, even if you can do it, I cannot! But they believe they can. "I came for sinners" (Mk 2:17).
Think of the gossip after the call of Matthew: he associates with sinners! (cf. Mk 2:16). He comes for us, when we recognize that we are sinners. But if we are like the Pharisee, before the altar, who said: I thank you Lord, that I am not like other men, and especially not like the one at the door, like that publican (cf. Lk 18:11-12), then we do not know the Lord’s heart, and we will never have the joy of experiencing this mercy! It is not easy to entrust oneself to God’s mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension. But we must! "Oh, Father, if you knew my life, you would not say that to me!" "Why, what have you done?" "Oh, I am a great sinner!" "All the better! Go to Jesus: he likes you to tell him these things!" He forgets, he has a very special capacity for forgetting. He forgets, he kisses you, he embraces you and he simply says to you: "Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more" (Jn 8:11). That is the only advice he gives you. After a month, if we are in the same situation ... Let us go back to the Lord. The Lord never tires of forgiving: never! It is we who tire of asking his forgiveness. Let us ask for the grace not to tire of asking forgiveness, because he never tires of forgiving. Let us ask for this grace.
In this Fifth Sunday of Lent, the Gospel presents us with the story of the adulterous woman whom Jesus saves from being condemned to death. It captures Jesus' attitude: we do not hear words of contempt, we do not hear words of condemnation, but only words of love, of mercy, that invite us to conversion. 'Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more!' Well, brothers and sisters! God's face is that of a merciful father who is always patient. Have you thought about God's patience, the patience that He has with each of us? That is His mercy. He always has patience, is always patient with us, understanding us, awaiting us, never tiring of forgiving us if we know how to return to him with a contrite heart. 'Great is the Lord's mercy', says the Psalm.
“In these days, I have been able to read a book by a cardinal—Cardinal Kasper, a talented theologian, a good theologian—on mercy. And it did me such good, that book, but don't think that I'm publicizing the books of my cardinals. That is not the case! But it did me such good, so much good... Cardinal Kasper said that hearing the word mercy changes everything. It is the best thing that we can hear: it changes the world. A bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand God's mercy well, this merciful Father who has such patience... Think of the prophet Isaiah who asserts that even if our sins were scarlet red, God's love would make them white as snow. That is beautiful, [this aspect of mercy]. I remember when, just after I was made bishop, in 1992, the Madonna of Fatima came to Buenos Aires and a large Mass for the sick was celebrated. I went to hear confessions at that Mass. Near the end of the Mass I got up because I had to administer a confirmation. An over 80-year-old woman came up to me, humbly, very humbly. I asked her: 'Nonna [grandmother]—because that's how we address our elderly—Nonna, you want to confess?' 'Yes', she told me. 'But if you haven't sinned...' And she said to me: 'We have all sinned...' 'But perhaps the Lord will not forgive you...' 'The Lord forgives everyone', she told me, with certainty. 'But how do you know that, ma'am?' 'If the Lord didn't forgive everyone, the world would not exist.' I wanted to ask her: 'Tell me, have you studied at the Gregorian [Pontifical University]?', because that is the wisdom that the Holy Spirit gives: the inner wisdom of God's mercy. Let us not forget this word: God never tires of forgiving us, never! 'So, Father, what is the problem?' Well, the problem is that we get tired, we don't want to, we get tired of asking forgiveness. Let us never get tired. Let us never get tired. He is the loving Father who always forgives, who has that heart of mercy for all of us. And let us also learn to be merciful with everyone. Let us call upon the intercession of the Madonna who has held in her arms the Mercy of God made human.
This is no easy matter, and in general, we think that Jesus is asking too much of us. We think: ‘Let's leave this to the cloistered sisters who are holy, a few holy souls!’. But this is not the right attitude. Jesus says that you must do this, otherwise you are like the Publicans, like the pagans, and you are not Christians. In fact, how can we love those who decide to bomb and kill so many people? How can we love who for love of money do not allow medicines to get to those who are in need, to the elderly and let them die?. And once again: How can we love people who seek only their interests and power and do so much evil?.
This is the mystery of salvation: with forgiveness, with love for our enemy, we become poorer. But this poverty is a seed bearing fruit for others, as Jesus' poverty became grace for us all, salvation.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In the Liturgy today we read chapter 15 of the Gospel of Luke, which contains three parables of mercy: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and then the longest of them, characteristic of St Luke, the parable of the father of two sons, the “prodigal” son and the son who believes he is “righteous”, who believes he is saintly. All three of these parables speak of the joy of God. God is joyful. This is interesting: God is joyful! And what is the joy of God? The joy of God is forgiving, the joy of God is forgiving! The joy of a shepherd who finds his little lamb; the joy of a woman who finds her coin; it is the joy of a father welcoming home the son who was lost, who was as though dead and has come back to life, who has come home. Here is the entire Gospel! Here! The whole Gospel, all of Christianity, is here! But make sure that it is not sentiment, it is not being a “do-gooder”! On the contrary, mercy is the true force that can save man and the world from the “cancer” that is sin, moral evil, spiritual evil. Only love fills the void, the negative chasms that evil opens in hearts and in history. Only love can do this, and this is God’s joy!
Jesus is all mercy, Jesus is all love: he is God made man. Each of us, each one of us, is that little lost lamb, the coin that was mislaid; each one of us is that son who has squandered his freedom on false idols, illusions of happiness, and has lost everything. But God does not forget us, the Father never abandons us. He is a patient father, always waiting for us! He respects our freedom, but he remains faithful forever. And when we come back to him, he welcomes us like children into his house, for he never ceases, not for one instant, to wait for us with love. And his heart rejoices over every child who returns. He is celebrating because he is joy. God has this joy, when one of us sinners goes to him and asks his forgiveness.
What is the danger? It is that we presume we are righteous and judge others. We also judge God, because we think that he should punish sinners, condemn them to death, instead of forgiving. So ‘yes’ then we risk staying outside the Father’s house! Like the older brother in the parable, who rather than being content that his brother has returned, grows angry with the father who welcomes him and celebrates. If in our heart there is no mercy, no joy of forgiveness, we are not in communion with God, even if we observe all of his precepts, for it is love that saves, not the practice of precepts alone. It is love of God and neighbour that brings fulfilment to all the Commandments. And this is the love of God, his joy: forgiveness. He waits for us always! Maybe someone has some heaviness in his heart: “But, I did this, I did that...”. He expects you! He is your father: he waits for you always!
If we live according to the law “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”, we will never escape from the spiral of evil. The evil one is clever, and deludes us into thinking that with our human justice we can save ourselves and save the world! In reality, only the justice of God can save us! And the justice of God is revealed in the Cross: the Cross is the judgement of God on us all and on this world. But how does God judge us? By giving his life for us! Here is the supreme act of justice that defeated the prince of this world once and for all; and this supreme act of justice is the supreme act of mercy. Jesus calls us all to follow this path: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36). I now ask of you one thing. In silence, let's all think... everyone think of a person with whom we are annoyed, with whom we are angry, someone we do not like. Let us think of that person and in silence, at this moment, let us pray for this person and let us become merciful with this person. [silent prayer].
Let us now invoke the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy.
Jesus’ invitation to mercy is intended to draw us into a deeper imitation of God our Father: be merciful, as your Father is merciful. However, it is not easy to understand this willingness to show mercy, because we are accustomed to presenting the bill to others: you’ve done this, now you have to do this. In short, we judge, and we fail … to leave space for understanding and mercy.
In order to be merciful, two attitudes are needed. The first is “self-knowledge”. In today’s first reading, Daniel recounts the humble prayer of the people before God and their acknowledgement that they are sinners: “We have sinned and done wrong, but to thee belongs righteousness, and to us shame”. In the presence of a repentant people, God’s justice is transformed into mercy and forgiveness.
This challenges us, by inviting us to make room for this same inner attitude. Therefore, to become merciful, we must first acknowledge that we have done many things wrong: we are sinners! We need to know how to say: Lord, I am ashamed of what I have done in life.
Even though none of us has ever killed anyone, nonetheless we still have committed many daily sins. Therefore, acknowledging that we have sinned against the Lord, and being ashamed in his presence is a grace: the grace of knowing that one is a sinner! It is easy, and yet “so very difficult” to say: “I am a sinner and I am ashamed of it before you and I ask for your forgiveness”.
Our Father Adam gave us an example of what one should not do. For he blamed the woman for having eaten the fruit and he justified himself, saying: “I have not sinned; it is she who made me go down this road!”. Eve then does the same thing, blaming the serpent. Yet one should acknowledge one's sin and one’s need for God’s forgiveness, and not look for excuses and load the blame onto others. Perhaps someone helped me to sin, and opened the road: but I did it!
If we act in this way, how many good things will follow: we will truly be men. Furthermore, with this attitude of repentance we will be more capable of being merciful, because we will feel God’s mercy for us. In the Our Father, in fact, we do not only pray: “forgive us our trespasses”. We also pray “forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us”.
The second attitude we need is “an openness to expanding our hearts”. It is precisely shame and repentance that expands a small, selfish heart, since they give space to God to forgive us. What does it mean to open and expand one’s heart? First, it means acknowledging ourselves to be sinners and not looking to what others have done. And from here, the basic question becomes: “Who am I to judge this? Who am I to gossip about this? Who am I, who have done the same things, or worse?”
The Lord says it in the Gospel: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap”. This is the “generosity of heart” that the Lord presents through the image of those going to collect grain who enlarged their aprons in order to received more. In fact, you can receive far more if you have a big heart! A big heart doesn’t get entangled in other peoples lives, it doesn’t condemn but forgives and forgets as “God has forgiven and forgotten my sins”.
In order to be merciful we need to call upon the Lord's help, since “it is a grace”. And we also need to “recognize our sins and be ashamed of them” and forgive and forget the offences of others. Men and women who are merciful have big, big hearts: they always excuse others and think more of their own sins. Were someone to say to them: ‘but do you see what so and so did?’, they respond in mercy saying: ‘but I have enough to be concerned over with all I have done’. If all of us, all peoples, all families, all quarters had this attitude, how much peace there would be in the world, how much peace there would be in our hearts, for mercy brings us peace! Let us always remember: who am I to judge? To be ashamed of oneself and to open and expand one’s heart, may the Lord give us this grace!
Several days ago, the Liturgy spoke of the work that was done by Jesus Christ, the Lord: the work of making peace and reconciling. And, the other day, on the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, we asked for this grace of peace and reconciliation.
Peace and reconciliation, therefore, is what Jesus did: he made peace, and this is why he is called the Prince of Peace. The Prophet Micah says in this regard that he shall be peace and that he brings peace, that he makes peace. Even in our hearts, in our souls. So, how did he make peace? By giving his life as an offering, a prayer for the forgiveness of all.
I wonder, if we are really thankful for this gift of peace that we received in Jesus. Because peace was made, but it wasn’t accepted. And thus, still, every day on the news, in the papers, we see that there are wars, destruction, hatred, enmity, and that enmity that the Lord spoke of to the serpent after the sin, it’s there!.
After all, there are also men and women who have worked so much — they work a lot! — to produce weapons to kill, arms that in the end become bathed in the blood of so many innocent people, so many people. There are wars and there is the wickedness of preparing for war, of making arms against the other, to kill. The terms of the issue are clear: Peace saves, peace lets you live, peace lets you grow; war destroys you, it brings you down. People often say, Father, it’s awful that this has happened there!. But certain situations, do not only happen in faraway places: War even exists in our Christian communities, among ourselves. The advice that today’s Liturgy offers us: ‘Make peace among yourselves’, Colossians 3:12-17.
So, there are two key words. The first is forgiveness: if we do not learn to forgive one another, we will always be at war. As the Lord has forgiven you, so should you do. But if you do not know how to forgive, you are not a Christian, because you do not do as the Lord did. Moreover, if you don’t forgive, you cannot receive the Lord’s peace, the Lord’s forgiveness.
Each day, when we pray the Our Father, we say: ‘forgive us, as we forgive’. And this, is in the ‘conditional’: we are trying to convince God to be good, as we are good in forgiving: in reverse. Words, no? Like she sings in that beautiful song: ‘Words, words, words’, no? I think the singer is Mina.... Words!.
This is the right path: Forgive one another! As the Lord has forgiven you, so should you do! Forgive one another! And some good advice for forgiving each other: forbear one another at home, in your neighbourhood, at work.... Bear with each other, without resorting to whispering: “He did that...”. It’s important to forbear, because he too bears with me”. In short, it takes Christian patience.
How many heroic women there are among our people who, for the good of their family, of their children, forbear so much brutality, so much injustice: they forbear and go forward with their family. And how many heroic men there are among our Christian people who forbear getting up early in the morning and going to work — often unfair, poorly paid work — to return late in the evening, in order to provide for their wife and children. These people are the just ones.
However, how many others there are who, instead of doing what they should, wag their tongue and create conflict. Indeed, the same damage that a bomb creates in a town, the tongue creates in a family, in a neighbourhood, in a workplace. Because the tongue destroys, it creates war. And I’m not saying this, the Apostle James says it. Here then is the practical advice of St Paul: “As the Lord has forgiven you, so should you do: forbear one another and forgive one another”.
Then, there is another word that Jesus says in the Gospel, because it repeats the same topic: mercy. In the passage of Luke 6:27-38, the Lord says: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”. It is an invitation to understand others, not to condemn them: the Lord, the Father, is so merciful, he always forgives, he always wants to make peace with us. But, if you are not merciful, how can the Lord be merciful with you, since we will be judged by the same standard by which we judge others?.
For this reason, if you are a priest and don’t feel you are merciful, tell your bishop so you can be given administrative work, but don’t go down to the confessional, please! Because a priest who isn’t merciful does so much harm in the confessional: he lambastes people!. Perhaps one could justify it, saying: “No, father, I am merciful, but I’m a little upset...”. Before entering the confessional, go to the doctor who can give a pill for your nerves! But be merciful!
One must be merciful even among ourselves. Instead of complaining — “he did this...” — we should ask ourselves: “what have I done?”. After all, who can say that he is a worse sinner than I am? None of us can say this. Only the Lord can. All of us, can say, ‘I am a sinner and I need mercy and I need forgiveness. And this is why I forbear others, I forgive others and I am merciful with others’. For when the soul is like this, the Christian way is what Paul teaches to his own in the Letter to the Colossians: ‘Put on compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience’.
This, then, is the Christian way: it is not arrogance, it is not condemnation, it is not speaking ill of others. The Christian way is compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience. Ultimately, it is the way of Jesus, the way by which Jesus made peace and reconciliation, until the end. Indeed, at the end, in the final yearnings of life, he managed to hear something that the thief said: ‘Yes, yes, yes, come with me, dear one, come to Paradise’.
Let us ask the Lord to give each of us the grace to forbear others, to forgive, to be merciful, as the Lord is merciful with us; and to have this Christian way of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today we celebrate the Feast of St Stephen. The remembrance of the first martyr follows immediately after the solemnity of Christmas. Yesterday we contemplated the merciful love of God, who became flesh for us. Today we see the consistent response of Jesus’ disciple, who gives his life. Yesterday the Saviour was born on earth; today his faithful servant is born in heaven. Yesterday, as today, the shadows of the rejection of life appear, but the light of love — which conquers hatred and inaugurates a new world — shines even brighter. There is a special aspect in today’s account of the Acts of the Apostles, which brings St Stephen close to the Lord. It is his forgiveness before he is stoned to death. Nailed to the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). Likewise, Stephen “knelt down and cried with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’” (Acts 7:60). Stephen is therefore a martyr, which means witness, because he does as Jesus did. Indeed, true witnesses are those who act as He did: those who pray, who love, who give, but above all those who forgive, because forgiveness, as the word itself says, is the highest expression of giving.
We could ask, however, what good is it to forgive? Is it merely a good deed or does it bring results? We find an answer in the very martyrdom of Stephen. Among those for whom he implores forgiveness there is a young man named Saul; this man persecuted the Church and tried to destroy her (cf. Acts 8:3). Shortly thereafter Saul becomes Paul, the great saint, the apostle of the people. He has received Stephen’s forgiveness. We could say that Paul is born by the grace of God and by Stephen’s forgiveness.
We too are born by the forgiveness of God. Not only in Baptism, but each time we are forgiven our heart is reborn, it is renewed. With each step forward in the life of faith the sign of divine mercy is imprinted anew. For only when we are loved are we in turn able to love. Let us remember this, it will be good for us: if we wish to progress in faith, first of all we must receive God’s forgiveness; we must meet the Father, who is willing to forgive all things, always, and who precisely in forgiving heals the heart and rekindles love. We must never tire of asking for divine forgiveness, because only when we are forgiven, when we feel we are forgiven, do we learn to forgive.
Forgiving, however, is not an easy thing, it is always very difficult. How can we imitate Jesus? From what point do we begin to pardon the small and great wrongs that we suffer each day? First of all, beginning with prayer, as St Stephen did. We begin with our own heart: with prayer we are able to face the resentment we feel, by entrusting to God’s mercy those who have wronged us: “Lord, I ask you for him, I ask you for her”. Then we discover that this inner struggle to forgive cleanses us of evil, and that prayer and love free us from the interior chains of bitterness. It is so awful to live in bitterness! Every day we have the opportunity to practice forgiving, to live a gesture so lofty that it brings man closer to God. Like our heavenly Father, may we too become merciful, because through forgiveness, we conquer evil with good, we transform hatred into love and in this way we make the world cleaner.
May the Virgin Mary, to whom we entrust those — and unfortunately there are so many — who like St Stephen suffer persecution in the name of the faith, our many martyrs of today, direct our prayer to receive and give forgiveness. Receive and give forgiveness.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In Chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel, we find three parables of mercy: that of the sheep found (vv. 4-7), that of the coin found (vv. 8-10), and the great parable of the prodigal son, or rather, of the merciful father (vv. 11-32). Today, it would be nice for each of us to open Chapter 15 of the Gospel according to Luke, and read these three parables. During the Lenten itinerary, the Gospel presents to us this very parable of the merciful Father, featuring a father with his two sons. The story highlights some features of this father who is a man always ready to forgive and to hope against hope. Especially striking is the father’s tolerance before the younger son’s decision to leave home: he could have opposed it, knowing that he was still immature, a youth, or sought a lawyer not to give him his inheritance, as the father was still living. Instead, he allows the son to leave, although foreseeing the possible risks. God works with us like this: He allows us to be free, even to making mistakes, because in creating us, He has given us the great gift of freedom. It is for us to put it to good use. This gift of freedom that God gives us always amazes me!
But the separation from his son is only physical; for the father always carries him in his heart; trustingly, he awaits his return; the father watches the road in the hope of seeing him. And one day he sees him appear in the distance (cf. v. 20). But this means that this father, every day, would climb up to the terrace to see if his son was coming back! Thus the father is moved to see him, he runs toward him, embraces him, kisses him. So much tenderness! And this son got into trouble! But the father still welcomes him so.
The father treated the eldest son the same way, but as he had always stayed at home, he is now indignant and complains because he does not understand and does not share all that kindness toward his brother that had wronged. The father also goes to meet this son and reminds him that they were always together, they share everything (v. 31), one must welcome with joy the brother who has finally returned home. And this makes me think of something: When one feels one is a sinner, one feels worthless, or as I’ve heard some — many — say: ‘Father, I am like dirt’, so then, this is the moment to go to the Father. Instead, when one feels righteous — ‘I always did the right thing …’ —, equally, the Father comes to seek us, because this attitude of feeling ‘right’, is the wrong attitude: it is pride! It comes from the devil. The Father waits for those who recognize they are sinners and goes in search of the ones who feel ‘righteous’. This is our Father!
In this parable, you can also glimpse a third son. A third son? Where? He’s hidden! And it is the one, ‘who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:6-7). This Servant-Son is Jesus!
He is ‘the extension of the arms and heart of the Father: he welcomed the prodigal Son and washed his dirty feet; he prepared the banquet for the feast of forgiveness. He, Jesus, teaches us to be “merciful as the Father is merciful”.
The figure of the Father in the parable reveals the heart of God. He is the Merciful Father who, in Jesus, loves us beyond measure, always awaits our conversion every time we make mistakes; he awaits our return when we turn away from him thinking, we can do without him; he is always ready to open his arms no matter what happened. As the father of the Gospel, God also continues to consider us his children, even when we get lost, and comes to us with tenderness when we return to him. He addresses us so kindly when we believe we are right. The errors we commit, even if bad, do not wear out the fidelity of his love. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we can always start out anew: He welcomes us, gives us the dignity of being his children and tells us: “Go ahead! Be at peace! Rise, go ahead!”
In this time of Lent that still separates us from Easter, we are called to intensify the inner journey of conversion. May the loving gaze of our Father touch us. Let us return and return to him with all our heart, rejecting any compromise with sin. May the Virgin Mary accompany us until the regenerating embrace with Divine Mercy.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today’s liturgy brings us to Chapter 15 of the Gospel of Luke, considered the chapter on mercy. It relates three parables with which Jesus responds to the grumbling of the scribes and the Pharisees, who are criticizing his actions, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (v. 2).
With these three stories, Jesus wants to make us understand that God the Father is the first one to have a welcoming and merciful attitude toward sinners. This is God’s attitude.
In the first parable, God is presented as a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep to go and look for the one that is lost. In the second, he is compared to a woman who has lost a coin and searches until she finds it. In the third parable, God is imagined as a father who welcomes the son who had distanced himself; the figure of the father reveals the heart of a merciful God, manifested in Jesus.
A common element in these parables is expressed by the verbs that mean rejoice together, join in merry-making. Mourning is not spoken of; there is rejoicing, there is celebrating. The shepherd calls his friends and neighbours and says, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost” (v 6). The woman calls her friends and neighbours, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost” (v. 9). And the father says to his other son: “It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found” (v. 32).
In the first two parables, the focus is on the joy that is so uncontainable that it must be shared with “friends and neighbours”. In the third parable, the focus is on the joy that springs from the heart of the merciful father and expands to the whole household. God’s rejoicing over those who return to Him repentant is intoned as never before in this Jubilee Year that we are living, as the term itself expresses: “jubilee”, that is, jubilation!
With these three parables, Jesus presents to us the true face of God, a God with open arms, a God who deals with sinners with tenderness and compassion. The parable that is most moving for everyone — because it manifests the infinite love of God — is that of the father who enfolds in a close embrace the son who has been found. What strikes us is not so much the sad story of a youth who falls into dissolute ways, but rather his decisive words, “I will arise and go to my father” (v. 18).
The path to return home is the path of hope and new life. God always expects us to resume our journey, he awaits us with patience, he sees us when we are still a long way off, he runs to meet us, he embraces us, he kisses us, he forgives us. That is how God is. That is how our Father is. And his forgiveness cancels the past and regenerates us in love. Forgetting the past — this is God’s weakness. When he embraces us, he forgives us, and forgets it. He doesn’t remember. He forgets the past. When we sinners convert and let ourselves be re-encountered by God, reproach and sternness do not await us, because God saves, he welcomes us home again with joy and prepares a feast.
Jesus himself in today’s Gospel says, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance” (Lk 15:7).
Let me ask you a question: Have you ever thought about how each time we go to the confessional, there is joy and celebration in heaven? Have you ever thought about this? It’s beautiful.
This fills us with a great hope because there is no sin into which we may have fallen, from which, with the grace of God, we cannot rise up again. There is never a person who can’t be recovered; no one is irrecoverable, because God never stops wanting our good — even when we sin!
May the Virgin Mary, Refuge of Sinners, kindle in our hearts the confidence that was lit in the heart of the prodigal son: “I will arise and go to my father and I shall say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you’” (v. 18). On this path, we can give glory to God, and his glory can become his celebration, and ours.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
This Sunday’s Gospel passage (cf. Mt 18:21-35) offers us a lesson on forgiveness which does not deny wrongdoing, but recognizes that human beings, created in God’s image, are always greater than the evil they commit. Saint Peter asks Jesus: “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” (v. 21). To Peter, forgiving the same person seven times already seemed the maximum possible. And perhaps to us it may already seem too much to do so twice. But Jesus answers, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven” (v. 22), meaning always. You must always forgive. And he confirms this by telling the parable of the merciful king and the wicked servant, in which he shows the inconsistency of the man who was first forgiven and then refused to forgive.
The king in the parable is a generous man who, spurred by compassion, forgives an enormous debt — “10,000 talents”: enormous — to a servant who beseeches him. That same servant, however, as soon as he meets another servant like himself who owes him 100 dinarii — which is much less — behaves in a ruthless way and has him thrown in prison. The servant’s inconsistent behaviour is the same as ours when we refuse to forgive our brothers and sisters. Whereas the king in the parable is the image of God who loves us with a love that is so rich in mercy as to welcome us, love us and forgive us continuously.
From the time of our Baptism, God has forgiven us, releasing us from an intractable debt: original sin. But that is the first time. Then, with boundless mercy, he forgives us all our faults as soon as we show even the least sign of repentance. This is how God is: merciful. When we are tempted to close our heart to those who have offended us and tell us they are sorry, let us remember our Heavenly Father’s words to the wicked servant: “I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” (vv. 32-33). Anyone who has experienced the joy, peace and inner freedom which come from being forgiven should open him or herself up to the possibility of forgiving in turn.
Jesus wished to introduce the teaching of this parable into the Our Father. He linked the forgiveness which we ask from God with the forgiveness that we should accord our brothers and sisters: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Mt 6:12). God’s forgiveness is the symbol of his “overflowing” love for each of us. It is the love that leaves us free to distance ourselves, like the prodigal son, but which awaits our return every day. It is the resourceful love of the shepherd for the lost sheep. It is the tenderness which welcomes each sinner who knocks at his door. The Heavenly Father — our Father — is filled, is full of love and he wants to offer it to us, but he cannot do so if we close our heart to love towards others.
May the Virgin Mary help us to become ever more aware of the gratuitousness and the greatness of the forgiveness received from God, to become merciful like him, Good Father, slow to anger and great in love.
The mystery of Christian life is loving our enemies and praying for our persecutors. Forgiveness, prayer, and love for those who seek to destroy us is the path Jesus has laid out for us. The challenge of Christian life is asking the Lord for the grace to bless our enemies and to love them..
To pray for those who want to destroy me, my enemies, so that God may bless them: This is truly difficult to understand. We can recall events of the last century, like the poor Russian Christians who, simply for being Christians, were sent to Siberia to die of cold. And they should pray for the executing government that sent them there? How can that be? Yet many did so: they prayed. We think of Auschwitz and other concentration camps. Should they pray for the dictator who sought a ‘pure race’ and killed without scruple, even to pray that God should bless him? And yet many did so.”
Jesus’ “difficult logic” is contained in his prayer for those who put him to death on the Cross. Jesus asks God to forgive them.
There is an infinite distance between us – we who frequently refuse to forgive even small things – and what the Lord asks of us, which he has exemplified for us: To forgive those who seek to destroy us. It is often very difficult within families, for example, when spouses need to forgive one another after an argument, or when one needs to forgive their mother-in-law. It’s not easy… Rather, [we are invited] to forgive those who are killing us, who want us out of the way… Not only forgive, but even pray that God may watch over them! Even more, to love them. Only Jesus’ word can explain this.
It is a grace “to understand this Christian mystery and be perfect like the Father, who gives good things to the good and the bad. It would do us well, today, to think of our enemy – I think all of us have one – someone who has hurt us or wants to hurt us. The Mafia’s prayer is: ‘You’ll pay me back.’ The Christian prayer is: ‘Lord, give them your blessing, and teach me to love them.’ Let us think of one enemy, and pray for them. May the Lord to give us the grace to love them.
St. Paul from the solitude of his imprisonment was writing to the Ephesians a true "hymn to unity", recalling the "dignity of vocation". Paul’s solitude would accompany him until his death in Rome, because Christians were “too busy” in their "internal struggles". And before Paul, Jesus Himself “asked for the grace of unity from the Father for all of us."
Yet, today we are "used to breathing the air of conflict". Every day, on the TV and in newspapers, we hear about conflicts and wars "one after the other", "without peace, without unity”. Agreements made to stop conflicts are ignored, thus the arms race and preparation for war and destruction go ahead.
Even world institutions created with the best of intentions for peace and unity, fail to come to an agreement because of a veto here and an interest there ... While they are struggling to arrive at peace agreements, children have no food, no school, no education and hospitals because the war has destroyed everything.
There is a tendency to destruction, war and disunity in us. It is the tendency that the devil, the enemy and destroyer of humanity sows in our hearts. The Apostle teaches us that the journey of unity is, so to say, clad or “armoured' with the bond of peace. Peace, he said, leads to unity.
Christians open your hearts and make peace in the world taking the path of the “three little things” - "humility, gentleness and patience". Paul's advice is “bear with one another in love". It’s not easy as there is always a judgement, a condemnation which leads to separation and distances…
When a rift is created between members of the family, the devil is happy with the start of war . The advice is then to bear with one another because we always have an excuse to be annoyed and impatient because we are all sinners with defects. St. Paul, inspired by Jesus at the Last Supper who urged for “one body and one spirit”, thus urges us to “preserve the unity of spirit through the bond of peace".
The next step is to see the horizon of peace with God, just as Jesus made us see the horizon of peace with prayer: “Father, may they be one, as You and I are one'. In today's Gospel of Luke Jesus advises us to strike an agreement with our adversary along the way. It’s good advice, because "it is not difficult to come to an agreement at the beginning of a conflict.
The advice of Jesus is to settle the matter and make peace at the beginning, which calls for humility, gentleness and patience. One can build peace throughout the world with these little things, which are the attitudes of Jesus who is humble, meek and forgives everything.
Today we, the world, our families and our society need peace. I invite Christians to start putting into practice humility, gentleness and patience saying this is the path to making peace and consolidating unity
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
The joy of Christmas still floods our hearts. The wondrous message continues to resonate: Christ is born for us and brings peace to the world. In this joyful climate, today we celebrate the Feast of Saint Stephen, deacon and first martyr. It might seem curious to place the memorial of Saint Stephen alongside Jesus’ birth, because a contrast stands out between the joy of Bethlehem and the tragedy of Stephen, stoned in Jerusalem during the first persecution against the nascent Church. In reality it is not so, because the Child Jesus is the Son of God made man, who will save humanity by dying on the Cross. We now contemplate him wrapped in swaddling cloths in the Nativity scene; after his crucifixion he will again be wrapped in bandages and laid in a tomb.
Saint Stephen was the first to follow in the footsteps of the divine Master in martyrdom; he died as Jesus did, by entrusting his own life to God and forgiving his persecutors. Two approaches: he entrusted his life to God and he forgave. As he was being stoned he said: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). They are words wholly similar to those spoken by Jesus on the Cross: “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” (Lk 23:46). The attitude of Stephen, who faithfully imitates Jesus’ actions, is an invitation addressed to each one of us to faithfully receive from the Lord’s hands the positive and also negative things that life reserves for us. Our existence is marked not only by happy circumstances — as we know — but also by moments of difficulty and dismay. But trust in God helps us to welcome trying times and to experience them as opportunities to grow in faith and to build new relationships with our brothers and sisters. It means abandoning ourselves into the hands of the Lord, who we know is a Father rich in goodness toward his children.
The second approach with which Stephen imitated Jesus at the extreme moment of the Cross is forgiveness. He does not curse his persecutors but prays for them: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). We are called to learn from him how to forgive, to always forgive, and it is not easy to do so, as we all know. Forgiveness expands the heart, creates sharing, gives serenity and peace. The Proto-martyr Stephen shows us the path to take with interpersonal relationships in the family, at school, in the workplace, in the parish and in the various communities. Always open to forgiveness. The logic of forgiveness and mercy is always successful and opens horizons of hope. But forgiveness is cultivated with prayer, which allows one to keep one’s gaze fixed on Jesus. Stephen was able to forgive his killers because, full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and opened his eyes to God (cf. Acts 7:55). He received from prayer the power to endure martyrdom. We must persevere in prayer to the Holy Spirit, that he pour out on us the gift of strength which heals our fears, our weaknesses, our pettiness, and expands our heart to forgive. Always to forgive! Let us invoke the intercession of Our Lady and of Saint Stephen: may their prayers help us always to entrust ourselves to God, especially in difficult times, and may they sustain us in the aim to be men and women capable of forgiveness!
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
This Sunday’s Gospel passage (cf. Lk 6:27-38) concerns a central point that characterizes Christian life: love for enemies. Jesus’ words are clear: “I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (vv. 27-38). And this is not optional, it is a command. It is not for everyone, but for the disciples, whom Jesus calls “you that hear”. He is well aware that loving enemies exceeds our possibilities, but this is why he became man: not to leave us as we are, but to transform us into men and women capable of a greater love, that of his Father and ours. This is the love that Jesus gives to those who ‘hear him’. Thus it becomes possible! With him, thanks to his love, to his Spirit, we are able to love even those who do not love us, even those who do us harm.
In this way, Jesus wants God’s love to triumph over hatred and rancour in every heart. The logic of love, which culminates in Christ’s Cross, is a Christian’s badge and induces us to meet everyone with the heart of brothers and sisters. But how is it possible to overcome human instinct and the worldly law of retaliation? Jesus provides the answer in the same Gospel passage: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (v. 36). Those who hear Jesus, who make an effort to follow him even at a cost, become children of God, and begin to truly resemble the Father who is in heaven. We become capable of things we never thought we could say or do, and of which we would have been rather ashamed, but which now give us joy and peace instead. We no longer need to be violent, with words and gestures: we discover that we are capable of tenderness and goodness; and we sense that all of this comes not from ourselves but from him! And thus we do not brag about it but are grateful for it.
There is nothing greater and more fruitful than love: it bestows all dignity to the person, while, on the contrary, hatred and vengeance decrease it, marring the beauty of the creature made in God’s image.
This command, to respond to insult and wrongdoing with love, has created a new culture in the world: “a culture of mercy” — we need to learn this well! And properly practice this culture of mercy — which “can set in motion a real cultural revolution” (Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera, 20). It is the revolution of love, in which the protagonists are the martyrs of all times. And Jesus assures us that our behaviour, inspired by love for those who do us harm, will not be in vain. He tells us: “forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you” (vv. 37-38). This is beautiful. God will give us something beautiful if we are generous, merciful. We must forgive because God has forgiven us and always forgives us. If we do not forgive completely, we cannot expect to be forgiven completely. However, if our hearts are open to mercy, if we seal forgiveness with a brotherly embrace and secure the bonds of communion, we proclaim to the world that it is possible to overcome evil with good. At times it is easier for us to remember the harm they have done to us and not the good things; to the point that there are people who have this habit and it becomes a sickness. They are “collectors of injustice”: they only remember the bad things done. And this is not a path. We must do the opposite, Jesus says. Remember the good things, and when someone comes with some gossip, and speaks ill of another, say: “Yes, perhaps ... but he has this good quality...”. Turn the discussion around. This is the revolution of mercy.
May the Virgin Mary help us to let our heart be touched by this holy word of Jesus, burning like fire, that it may transform us and make us able to do good without reciprocation, doing good without reciprocation, witnessing everywhere to the victory of love.
The mercy of God is such a great thing, very great. We must not forget this. How many people say: “I have done such terrible things. I have purchased my place in hell, I can’t turn back”. But do they think about the mercy of God? Let us remember that story about the poor widow lady who went to confess to the Curé of Ars. Her husband had committed suicide; he jumped from the bridge into the river. And she wept. She said, “But I am a sinner, a poor woman. But my poor husband! He is in hell. He committed suicide, and suicide is a mortal sin. He is in hell”. And the Curé of Ars said, “But wait a moment, ma’am, because between the bridge and the river, there is the mercy of God”. But to the very end, to the very end, there is the mercy of God.
Jesus gives three practical suggestions to help us get in the habit of being merciful. First: to not judge. We should refrain from judging, especially in this time of Lent.
Also, it is a habit that gets mixed up in our life even without us realizing it. Always! Even by beginning a conversation: “Did you see what he did?” Judgement of others. Let us think about how many times each day we judge. All of us. But always through beginning a conversation, a comment about someone else: “But look, that person had plastic surgery! They’re uglier than before”.
Learn the wisdom of generosity, the main way to overcome gossiping. When we gossip about others we are continually judging, continually condemning, and hardly forgiving.
The Lord teaches us: “Give and it will be given to you”: be generous in giving. Don’t be “closed pockets”; be generous in giving to the poor, to those who are in need, and also in giving many things: in giving counsel, in giving a smile to people, in smiling. “Give and it will be given to you. And it will be given to you in good measure, flowing over, pressed down, running over”, because the Lord will be generous: We give one, and He gives us one hundred of all that we have given. And this is the attitude that provides armour for not judging, not condemning; for forgiving. The importance of giving alms, but not only material alms, but spiritual alms too: spending time with someone in need, visiting someone who is sick, offering a smile.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, the liturgy presents us the episode of the adulterous woman (cf. Jn 8:1-11). In it, there are two contrasting attitudes: that of the scribes and the Pharisees on the one hand, and that of Jesus on the other. The former want to condemn the woman because they feel they are the guardians of the Law and of its faithful implementation. Jesus, on the other hand, wants to save her because he personifies God’s mercy which redeems by forgiving and renews by reconciling.
Let us thus look at the event. While Jesus is teaching in the Temple, the scribes and the Pharisees bring him a woman who has been caught in adultery. They place her in the middle and ask Jesus if they should stone her as the Law of Moses prescribes. The Evangelist explains that they asked the question in order “to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him” (v. 6). One might think that this was their purpose: behold the iniquity of these people — a ‘no’ to the stoning would have been a pretext to accuse Jesus of disobeying the Law; a ‘yes’ instead, to report him to the Roman Authority which had reserved such sentences to itself and did not permit lynching by the people. And Jesus must respond.
Jesus’ interrogators are confined to narrow legalism and want to oblige the Son of God to conform to their perspective of judgment and condemnation. However, he did not come into the world to judge and condemn, but rather to save and offer people a new life. And how does Jesus react to this test? First of all, he remains silent for some time and then he bends down to write on the ground with his finger, almost as if to remind them that the only Legislator and Judge is God who had inscribed the Law on stone. And then he says: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (v. 7). In this way, Jesus appeals to the conscience of those men: they felt they were the ‘champions of justice’, but he reminds them of their own condition as sinners, due to which they cannot claim the right to life or death over one of their fellow human beings. At that point, one after the other, beginning with the eldest — that is, those who were more fully aware of their own failings — they all went away, and desisted from stoning the woman. This episode also invites each of us to be aware that we are sinners, and to let fall from our hands the stones of denigration, of condemnation, of gossip, which at times we would like to cast at others. When we speak ill of others, we are throwing stones, we are like these people.
And in the end only Jesus and the woman are left there in the middle: “misery with mercy”, as Saint Augustine says (In Joh 33:5). Jesus is the only one without fault, the only one who could throw a stone at her, but he does not do so, because God “does not want the death of the wicked but that the wicked convert and live” (cf. Ez 33:11). And Jesus sends the woman on her way with these wonderful words: “Go and do not sin again” (Jn 8:11). And thus Jesus opens a new path to her, created by mercy, a path that requires her commitment not to sin again. It is an invitation that applies to each one of us. When Jesus forgives us, he always opens a new path on which to go forward. In this Lenten Season, we are called to recognize ourselves as sinners and to ask God for forgiveness. And, in its turn, while forgiveness reconciles us and gives us peace, it lets us start again, renewed. Every true conversion is oriented toward a new future, a new life, a beautiful life, a life free from sin, a generous life. Let us not be afraid to ask Jesus for forgiveness because he opens the door to this new life for us. May the Virgin Mary help us to bear witness to all of the merciful love of God, who through Jesus, forgives us and renders our lives new, by always offering us new possibilities.
Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the “Our Father”, we now consider the expression: “as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Since everything we have, including our very existence, comes as a gift from God, we are always in his debt, for our life was not simply willed, it was also loved into being. We can be confident, then, that the Lord will always forgive our trespasses when we ask him with contrite hearts. Yet this grace also calls us to forgive others, just as God has forgiven us. We see this in the parable of the unmerciful servant, who though having his own enormous debt written off, in turn refuses to cancel a much smaller debt owed to him. The message is clear: if you refuse to forgive, then you will not be forgiven. God, however, grants every Christian the grace to be able to transmit to others the precious gift of forgiveness, which we can do with a word, an embrace, or a smile.
Today's Gospel (Luke 15:1-32) begins with some criticizing Jesus, seeing him in the company of tax collectors and sinners, and they say with disdain: "He welcomes sinners and eats with them" (v. 2). This phrase actually turns out to be a wonderful announcement. Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them. This is what happens to us, in every Mass, in every church: Jesus is happy to welcome us to his table, where he offers himself for us. It is the phrase that we could write on the doors of our churches: "Here Jesus welcomes sinners and invites them to his table." And the Lord, responding to those who criticized him, recounts three parables, three beautiful parables, which show his preference for those who feel distant from him. Today it would be nice for each of you to take the Gospel, the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15, and read the three parables. They're beautiful.
In the first parable, he says, "Which one of you, if you have a hundred sheep and loses one, does not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go in search of the lost one?" (v. 4) Which one of you? A sensible person does not: he makes two calculations and sacrifices one to keep the ninety-nine. God, on the other hand, does not resign himself, for him you are at the centre of his heart, you who do not yet know the beauty of his love, you who have not yet welcomed Jesus to the centre of your life, you who cannot overcome your sin, you who perhaps because of the bad things that have happened in your life, you do not believe in love.
In the second parable, you are that little coin that the Lord does not resign himself to losing and he searches relentlessly: He wants to tell you that you are precious in his eyes, that you are unique. No one can replace you in God's heart. You have a place, it is you, and no one can replace you; and even me, no one can replace me in God's heart.
And in the third parable God is a father who awaits the return of the prodigal son: God always waits for us, he does not get tired, he does not lose heart. Because it is us, each of us is that reunited son, that rediscovered coin, that caressed sheep that he puts back on his shoulder. He waits every day for us to notice his love. And you say, "But I've done many horrible things, I've done too many!" Don't be afraid: God loves you, loves you as you are and knows that only his love can change your life.
But this infinite love of God for us sinners, which is the heart of the Gospel, can be rejected. That's what the eldest son of the parable does. He does not understand love at that moment and has in his mind a master other than a father. It can also happen to us: when we believe in a more rigorous than merciful God, a God who defeats evil with power rather than with forgiveness. It is not like that, God saves with love, not by force; He proposes and does not impose himself. But the eldest son, who does not accept his father's mercy, closes himself, makes a worse mistake: he believes he is right, he believes he has been betrayed and judges everything on the basis of his thought of justice. So he gets angry with his brother and reproaches his father: "You have killed the fat calf now that your son is back" (cf. v. 30). This son of yours: he doesn't call him my brother, but your son. He feels like an only child. We also make mistakes when we believe ourselves to be right, when we think that the bad ones are the others. Let us not believe ourselves to be good, because alone, without the help of God who is good, we do not know how to overcome evil. Today, don't forget, take the gospel, and read Luke's three parables, chapter 15. It will do you good, it will be healthy for you.
How do we defeat evil? By accepting God's forgiveness and the forgiveness of brothers and sisters. It happens every time we go to confession: there we receive the love of the Father who overcomes our sin: our sin is no more, because God forgets it. When God forgives, he loses his memory, He forgets our sins, forgets. He's so good to us! Not like us, who after saying "Don't mind about it", at the first opportunity we remember the injuries that we have suffered. No, God cancels evil, He makes us new inside and so makes joy reborn in us, not sadness, not darkness in our heart, not suspicion, but joy.
Brothers and sisters, courage, with God sin does not have the last word. Our Lady, who unties the knots of life, frees us from the pretence of believing ourselves to be righteous and makes us feel the need to go to the Lord, who is always waiting for us to embrace, and to forgive us.
The Lord guides His people, comforts them but also corrects them and punishes them with the tenderness of a father, a shepherd who carries the lambs in His bosom and leads the ewes with care.
The first reading from the Book of Isaiah speaks about God’s consolation for His people Israel as a proclamation of hope. "Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated."
The Lord always consoles us as long as we allow ourselves to be consoled. And God corrects with consolation, but how? "Like a shepherd He feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, Carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care." "In His bosom". But this is an expression of tenderness! How does the Lord console? With tenderness. How does the Lord correct? With tenderness. Can you imagine, being in the bosom of the Lord, after having sinned?
The Lord leads, the Lord leads His people, the Lord corrects; I would also say: the Lord punishes with tenderness. The tenderness of God, the caresses of God. It is not a didactic nor diplomatic attitude of God; it comes from within, it is the joy that He has when a sinner approaches. And joy makes Him tender.
In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the father saw his son from afar: because he was waiting for him, he went up on the terrace to see if his son returns. The heart of the father. And when he arrives and begins that speech of repentance he cuts his son's speech off short and starts celebrating. The Lord's tenderness.
In the Gospel, the shepherd returns, the one who has a hundred sheep and one that is lost. "Will he not leave the 99 in the hills and go in search for the one that's lost?" And if he can find her he will rejoice over it more than the 99 that were not lost. This is the joy of the Lord before the sinner, before us when we allow ourselves to be forgiven, we approach Him to forgive us. A joy that makes tenderness and that tenderness comforts us.
Many times, we complain about the difficulties we have: the devil wants us to fall into the spirit of sadness, embittered by life or our sins. I met a person who was consecrated to God who they called "Complaint", because he couldn't do anything other than complain, it was the Nobel Prize for complaints.
But how often do we complain, we complain, and we often think that our sins, our limitations cannot be forgiven. And it is then that the voice of the Lord comes and says, "I comfort you, I am near you", and He holds us tenderly. The powerful God who created the heavens and earth, the God-hero to put it this way, our brother, who allowed Himself to be brought to the cross to die for us, is able to caress us and say, "Do not cry".
With what tenderness, the Lord would have caressed the widow of Nain when he told her "Don't cry". Maybe, in front of her son’s coffin, He caressed her before He said, "Don't cry". Because there was a disaster there. We must believe this consolation of the Lord, because afterwards there is the grace of forgiveness.
"Father, I have so any sins, I have made so many mistakes in my life" - But let yourself be consoled - by the Lord - Ask for forgiveness: go, go! Be brave. Open the door. And He will caress you. He will approach with the tenderness of a father, a brother: "Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms He gathers the lambs, carrying them in His bosom, and leading the ewes with care", so the Lord comforts us.
Today's reading, taken from the Gospel according to Mark, presents an episode of Jesus' healing of a paralytic. Jesus is in Capernaum and the crowd gathers around him. Through an opening made in the roof of the house four men lowered a paralytic man lying on a mat. The hope is that Jesus will heal the paralytic, but He dismays everyone by saying to him, "Your sins are forgiven". Only then does He order him to get up, take his mat and go home. With His words Jesus allows us to go to the essentials. Jesus, a man of God, heals but He is not a medical man. He taught but was more than a teacher and in this episode He focuses on what is essential.
He looks at the paralytic and says, "Your sins are forgiven". Physical healing is a gift, physical health is a gift that we must guard. But the Lord teaches us that the health of the heart, the spiritual health must also be safeguarded.
Jesus also goes to the essentials with the sinful woman, of whom the Gospel speaks, when before her tears he says to her: 'Your sins are forgiven.' But those present are scandalized when Jesus goes to the essentials, they are scandalized, because there is prophecy, there is strength. Likewise, 'Go, but don't sin anymore,' Jesus says to the sick man by the pool who never gets into the water in time to be healed. To the Samaritan woman who asks him so many questions, -she was a bit of a theologian, Jesus asks about her husband. He goes to the essentials in life and the essential is your relationship with God. And we forget this so many times as if we are afraid to go right there where there is the encounter with the Lord, with God. We do so much for our physical health, we advice ourselves about doctors and medicines, and it's a good thing, but do we think about the health of the heart?
The words here of Jesus will perhaps help us: "Child, sins are forgiven." Are we used to thinking of this medicine as the forgiveness of our sins, of our mistakes? We ask ourselves, "Do I have to ask God for forgiveness for something?" "Yes, yes, yes, in general, we are all sinners", and so it is watered down and loses the strength, this force of prophecy that Jesus has when He focuses on the essentials. And today Jesus, to each of us, says: "I want to forgive you the sins."
Perhaps someone does not find sins in himself to confess because there is a lack of the consciousness of sins. Concrete sins, diseases of the soul that must be healed and the medicine to heal them is forgiveness.
It is a simple thing that Jesus teaches us when he goes to the essentials. The essential is health, of both the body and soul. We care well for the body, but also for the soul. And let's go to that Doctor who can heal us, who can forgive sins. Jesus came for this, gave His life for this.
Jesus quotes the ancient law: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Mt 5:38; Ex 21:24). We know what that law meant: when someone takes something from you, you are to take the same thing from him. This law of retaliation was actually a sign of progress, since it prevented excessive retaliation. If someone harms you, then you can repay him or her in the same degree; you cannot do something worse. Ending the matter there, in a fair exchange, was a step forward.
But Jesus goes far beyond this: “But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil” (Mt 5:39). But how, Lord? If someone thinks badly of me, if someone hurts me, why can I not repay him with the same currency? “No”, says Jesus. Nonviolence. No act of violence.
We might think that Jesus’ teaching is a part of a plan; in the end, the wicked will desist. But that is not why Jesus asks us to love even those who do us harm. What, then, is the reason? It is that the Father, our Father, continues to love everyone, even when his love is not reciprocated. The Father “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (v. 45). In today’s first reading, he tells us: “You shall be holy; for I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Lev 19:2). In other words: “Live like me, seek the things that I seek”. And that is precisely what Jesus did. He did not point a finger at those who wrongfully condemned him and put him to a cruel death, but opened his arms to them on the cross. And he forgave those who drove the nails into his wrists (cf. Lk 23:33-34).
If we want to be disciples of Christ, if we want to call ourselves Christians, this is the only way; there is no other. Having been loved by God, we are called to love in return; having been forgiven, we are called to forgive; having been touched by love, we are called to love without waiting for others to love first; having been saved graciously, we are called to seek no benefit from the good we do. You may well say: “But Jesus goes too far! He even says: “Love your enemies and pray for those who they persecute you” (Mt 5:44). Surely he speaks like this to gain people’s attention, but he cannot really mean it”. But he really does. Here Jesus is not speaking in paradoxes or using nice turns of phrase. He is direct and clear. He quotes the ancient law and solemnly tells us: “But I say to you: love your enemies”. His words are deliberate and precise.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. This is the Christian innovation. It is the Christian difference. Pray and love: this is what we must do; and not only with regard to those who love us, not only with regard to our friends or our own people. The love of Jesus knows no boundaries or barriers. The Lord demands of us the courage to have a love that does not count the cost. Because the measure of Jesus is love without measure. How many times have we neglected that demand, behaving like everyone else! Yet his commandment of love is not simply a challenge; it is the very heart of the Gospel. Where the command of universal love is concerned, let us not accept excuses or preach prudent caution. The Lord was not cautious; he did not yield to compromises. He asks of us the extremism of charity. This is the only legitimate kind of Christian extremism: the extremism of love.
Love your enemies. We do well today, at Mass and afterwards, to repeat these words to ourselves and apply them to those who treat us badly, who annoy us, whom we find hard to accept, who trouble our serenity. Love your enemies. We also do well to ask ourselves: “What am I really concerned about in this life? About my enemies, or about those who dislike me? Or about loving?” Do not worry about the malice of others. about those who think ill of you. Instead, begin to disarm your heart out of love for Jesus. For those who love God have no enemies in their hearts.
The worship of God is contrary to the culture of hatred. And the culture of hatred is fought by combatting the cult of complaint. How many times do we complain about the things that we lack, about the things that go wrong! Jesus knows about all the things that don’t work. He knows that there is always going to be someone who dislikes us. Or someone who makes our life miserable. All he asks us to do is pray and love. This is the revolution of Jesus, the greatest revolution in history: from hating our enemy to loving our enemy; from the cult of complaint to the culture of gift. If we belong to Jesus, this is the road we are called to take! There is no other.
True enough, you can object: “I understand the grandeur of the ideal, but that is not how life really is! If I love and forgive, I will not survive in this world, where the logic of power prevails and people seem to be concerned only with themselves”. So is Jesus’ logic, his way of seeing things, the logic of losers? In the eyes of the world, it is, but in the eyes of God it is the logic of winners. As Saint Paul told us in the second reading: “Let no one deceive himself... For the wisdom of this world is folly with God” (1 Cor 3:18-19). God sees what we cannot see. He knows how to win. He knows that evil can only be conquered by goodness. That is how he saved us: not by the sword, but by the cross. To love and forgive is to live as a conqueror. We will lose if we defend the faith by force.
The Lord would repeat to us the words he addressed to Peter in Gethsemane: “Put your sword into its sheath” (Jn 18:11). In the Gethsemanes of today, in our indifferent and unjust world that seems to testify to the agony of hope, a Christian cannot be like those disciples who first took up the sword and later fled. No, the solution is not to draw our sword against others, or to flee from the times in which we live. The solution is the way of Jesus: active love, humble love, love “to the end” (Jn 13:1).
Dear brothers and sisters, today Jesus, with his limitless love, raises the bar of our humanity. In the end, we can ask ourselves: “Will we be able to make it?” If the goal were impossible, the Lord would not have asked us to strive for it. By our own effort, it is difficult to achieve; it is a grace and it needs to be implored. Ask God for the strength to love. Say to him: “Lord, help me to love, teach me to forgive. I cannot do it alone, I need you”. But we also have to ask for the grace to be able to see others not as hindrances and complications, but as brothers and sisters to be loved. How often we pray for help and favours for ourselves, yet how seldom do we pray to learn how to love! We need to pray more frequently for the grace to live the essence of the Gospel, to be truly Christian. For “in the evening of life, we will be judged on love” (Saint John of the Cross, Sayings of Light and Love, 57).
Today let us choose love, whatever the cost, even if it means going against the tide. Let us not yield to the thinking of this world, or content ourselves with half measures. Let us accept the challenge of Jesus, the challenge of charity. Then we will be true Christians and our world will be more human.
In these days, I will offer Mass for those who are sick from the coronavirus epidemic, for the doctors, nurses, volunteers who are helping them, for their families, for the elderly in nursing homes, for prisoners. Let us pray together this week, this strong prayer to the Lord: “Redeem me, O Lord, and have mercy on me. My foot stands on level ground; I will bless the Lord in the assembly."
The first Reading of the Prophet Daniel (9:4-10) is a confession of sins. The people recognize that they have sinned ... "Sir, you have been faithful to us, but we have sinned, we have acted as villains and been wicked. We've been rebellious, we've departed from your commandments and your laws. We have not obeyed your servants, the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers, and all the people of the land" (vv. 5-6).
This is a confession of sin, a recognition that we have sinned. And as we prepare to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we must do what is called an "examination of conscience" and see what I have done before God: I have sinned. Recognizing sin. But this recognition of sin cannot be just to make a list of intellectual sins, to say "I have sin", then I say it to the Father and the Father forgives me. It's not necessary, it's not right to do this. This would be like making a list of things I have to do or that I have to have or that I did wrong, but it stays in my head. A true confession of sins must remain in the heart. To go to confession is not only to tell the priest this list, "I did this, this, this, this ...", and then I leave, I am forgiven. No, that's not it. It takes one step, one more step, which is the confession of our miseries, but from the heart; that is, that that list that I have done bad things, goes down to the heart. And so does Daniel, the prophet. "Justice, O Lord, is on your side; we are shamefaced " (see v. 7).
When I recognize that I have sinned, that I have not prayed well, and I feel this in my heart, there is this feeling of shame: "I am ashamed to have done this. I ask your forgiveness with shame." And shame for our sins is a grace, we must ask it: "Lord, may I be ashamed." A person who has lost his sense of shame has lost a sense of moral judgement, loses the respect of others. He's a shame. . "Lord," continues Daniel , "we are shamefaced, like our kings, our princes, our fathers, because we have sinned against you" (v. 8). "But yours, O Lord, our God, are compassion and forgiveness" (v. 9).
When we have not only the memory, the memory of the sins we have done, but also the feeling of shame, it touches God's heart and he responds with mercy. The path to God's mercy is to be ashamed of the bad things, the bad things we have done. So when I go to confess, I will say not only the list of sins, but the feelings of confusion, of shame for having done this to a God so good, so compassionate, so just.
Today we ask for the grace of feeling ashamed: to be ashamed of our sins. May the Lord grant this grace to all of us.
Jesus gives us a catechesis about the unity of brothers and sisters and ends it with a beautiful word: "I assure you that if two of you, two or three, will agree and ask for a grace, it will be granted to you." Unity, friendship and peace among brothers and sisters attracts the benevolence of God. And Peter asks the question: "Yes, but what should we do with the people that offend us? If my brother offends me, he offends me, how many times will I have to forgive him? Seven times?" And Jesus answered with that word that means, in their idiom, "always": "Seventy times seven." You must always forgive.
And it's not easy, to forgive. Because our selfish heart is always attached to hatred, revenge, resentment. We have all seen families destroyed by hate in the family that gets passed down in the family from one generation to the next. Brothers who, in front of the coffin of one of the parents, do not greet each other because they carry on old grudges. It seems that it is stronger to cling to hatred than to love, and this is precisely the treasure – let's say so – of the devil. He always occupies himself among our grudges, among our hates and makes them grow, keeps them there to destroy. Destroy everything. And so often, for small things, he destroys. And he also destroys the Lord who did not come to condemn, but to forgive. This God who is able to celebrate for a sinner who draws near to him and forgets everything.
When God forgives us, he forgets all the evil we have done. Someone said, "It's God's ailment" He has no memory, he is able to lose his memory, in these cases. God loses the memory of the awful stories of so many sinners, of our sins. He forgives us and he goes on. He only asks us: "Do the same: learn to forgive", do not carry on this unfruitful cross of hatred, and resentment, "you will pay for it". This word is neither Christian nor human. The generosity of Jesus who teaches us that in order to enter heaven we must forgive. Indeed, He tells us: "You, go to Mass?" – "Yes" – "But when you go to Mass and you remember that your brother has something against you, reconcile first; don't come to me with love for me in one hand and hate for your brother in the other." Consistency in love. Forgive. Forgiveness from the heart.
There are people who live condemning people, talking ill of people, constantly dirtying their workmates, dirtying neighbours, relatives, because they don't forgive something they've done to them, or they don't forgive something they didn't like. It seems that the devil's wealth is this: sowing love to non-forgiveness, living attached to non-forgiveness. And forgiveness is a condition for entering heaven.
The parable that Jesus tells us is very clear: to forgive. May the Lord teach us this wisdom of forgiveness that is not easy. And let us do one thing: when we go to confession, to receive the sacrament of reconciliation, let us first ask ourselves, "Do I forgive?" If I feel that I do not forgive, do not pretend to ask forgiveness, because I will not be forgiven. Asking for forgiveness is forgiving. They're both together. They can't separate. And those who ask for forgiveness for themselves like this servant, who the master forgives everything, but do not give forgiveness to others, will end up like this servant. "So too, my Heavenly Father will do with you if you do not forgive your brother from the heart."
May the Lord help us understand this and lower our heads, so that we are not proud, to be magnanimous in forgiveness. At least to forgive "out of interest." How come? Yes: forgive, because if I do not forgive, I will not be forgiven. But always forgiveness.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today we dwell on the fifth Beatitude, which says: "Blessed are the merciful, because they will find mercy"(Mt 5:7). In this Beatitude there is a peculiarity: it is the only one in which the cause and the fruit of happiness coincide, mercy. Those who exercise mercy will find mercy.
This theme of the reciprocity of forgiveness is not only present in this Beatitude, but is repeated in the Gospel. And how could it be otherwise? Mercy is God's very heart! Jesus says: "Do not judge and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven"(Luke 6:37). Always the same reciprocity. And James' Letter states that "mercy always triumphs over judgment" (2:13).
But it is above all in the Our Father that we pray: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" (Mt 6:12); and this is the only part of the prayer that is repeated at the end : "If you in fact forgive others for their faults, your Father who is in heaven will forgive you too; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions"(Mt 6:14-15; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church,2838).
There are two things that cannot be separated: the forgiveness given and the forgiveness received. But so many people are in difficulty, they can't forgive. So often the evil received is so great that being able to forgive seems like climbing a very high mountain: a huge effort; and one thinks: you can't, you can't. This fact of the reciprocity of mercy indicates that we need to turn our perspective upside down. We alone cannot, we need the grace of God, we must ask for it. Indeed, if the fifth Beatitude promises to find mercy and Our Father asks for the forgiveness of sins, it means that we are essentially debtors and we need to find mercy!
We're all indebted. All. To God, who is so generous, and to our brothers and sisters. Every person knows that he or she is not the father or mother they should be, the husband or wife, the brother or sister that they should be. We are all "deficient" in life. And we need mercy. We know that we too have done evil, there is always something missing from the good that we should have done.
But it is precisely this poverty of ours that becomes the force for forgiveness! We are indebted and if, as we heard at the beginning, we will be measured by the extent to which we measure others (cf. Luke 6:38), then we should enlarge the measure and pay back the debts, forgive. Everyone must remember that they need to forgive, we need forgiveness, we need patience; this is the secret of mercy: by forgiving you are forgiven. Therefore God precedes us and forgives us first (cf Rm 5:8). By receiving his forgiveness, we become capable in turn of forgiving. Thus one's own misery and lack of justice become an opportunity to open up to the kingdom of heaven, to a greater measure, the measure of God, which is mercy.
Where does our mercy come from? Jesus said to us: "Be merciful, as your Father is merciful"(Luke 6:36). The more you welcome the love of the Father, the more you love each other (cf. CCC,2842). Mercy is not a dimension among others, but it is the centre of Christian life: there is no Christianity without mercy. John Paul II said that. If all our Christianity does not lead us to mercy, we have gone the wrong way, because mercy is the only true goal of every spiritual journey. It is one of the most beautiful fruits of love. CCC, 1829).
I remember that this theme was chosen from the first Angelus that I had to say as Pope: mercy. And this has remained very imprinted in me, as a message that as Pope I should always give, a message that must be given everyday: mercy. I remember that day I also had the somewhat "shameless" attitude of advertising a book on mercy, just published by Cardinal Kasper. And that day I felt so strong that this is the message I must give, as Bishop of Rome: mercy, mercy, please, forgiveness.
God's mercy is our liberation and our happiness. We live with mercy and we cannot afford to be without mercy: it is the air to breathe. We are too poor to dictate the conditions, we need to forgive, because we need to be forgiven. Thank you!
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.
“Early in the morning Jesus came again to the temple; all the people came to him” (Jn 8:2). These words introduce the story of the woman caught in adultery. The background is serene: it is morning in the holy place, in the heart of Jerusalem. At the centre is the people of God, who are looking for Jesus, the Master, in the courtyard of the temple: they want to listen to him, because his words are insightful and heartwarming. There is nothing abstract in his teaching; it touches, frees, transforms and renews real life. Here we see the “intuition” of the people of God; they are not satisfied with the temple built of stones, but flock around the person of Jesus. In this passage, we can see the believers of every age, the holy people of God. Here in Malta, that people is numerous and lively, faithful in seeking the Lord through a concrete, lived faith. For this, I thank all of you.
In the presence of those people, Jesus takes his time: the Gospel tells us that, “he sat down and taught them” (v. 2). Yet, there are empty seats in that school of Jesus. Absent are the woman and her accusers. Unlike the others, they did not go to the Master. They all have their reasons: the scribes and the Pharisees think that they already know everything and do not need the teaching of Jesus; the woman, on the other hand, is lost and confused, someone who went astray looking for happiness in the wrong places. They were absent for different reasons, and the story will end differently for each of them. Let us reflect on these “absentees”.
First of all, let us consider the accusers of the woman. In them, we see a reflection of all those who pride themselves on being righteous, observers of God’s law, decent and respectable people. They disregard their own faults, yet they are very concerned about those of others. They go to Jesus: not with open hearts to hear his words, but “to test him and to have some charge to bring against him” (v. 6). This reveals the inner thoughts of these cultivated and religious people, who know the Scriptures and visit the temple, yet subordinate this to their personal interests and do not resist the evil thoughts brewing in their hearts. In the eyes of the people, they appear to be experts in things of God, yet they fail to recognize Jesus; indeed, they view him as an enemy to be eliminated. To achieve this, they set before him someone they scornfully refer to as “this woman”, treating her as a thing, and publicly denouncing her adultery. They call for the woman to be stoned, and pour out on her all their hostility to the compassion shown by Jesus. And they do so under the cloak of their reputation as devout and religious men.
Brothers and sisters, these Gospel personages remind us that at any time our individual and communal religiosity can conceal the worm of hypocrisy and the urge to point the finger at others. We can always run the risk of failing to understand Jesus, of having his name on our lips but denying him by the way that we live. Even as we raise banners displaying the cross. How, then, can we prove whether not we are true disciples of the Master? We do so by the way we regard our neighbour and the way we regard ourselves. This is an important point in the definition of who we are.
By the way we regard our neighbour: whether we do this with a look of mercy, as Jesus shows us today, or with a look of judgement, even contempt, like the accusers of the Gospel, who present themselves as God’s defenders but who fail to realize that they are trampling on their sisters and brothers. Those who believe they are upholding the faith by pointing their finger at others may have a certain “religiosity”, but they have not embraced the spirit of the Gospel, for they disregard mercy, which is the heart of God.
To understand whether we are true disciples of the Master or not, we need to think about how we view ourselves. The accusers of the woman were convinced that they had nothing to learn. Their outward appearance was impeccable, yet they lacked the truth of the heart. They represent those believers who in every age make faith part of their façade; they present an impressive and solemn exterior, yet they lack interior poverty, the greatest treasure of the human heart. For Jesus, what really counts is openness and docility on the part of those who do not consider themselves secure, but recognize their need for salvation. It is good for us then, whenever we pray, but also whenever we participate in lovely religious services, to ask ourselves if we are truly attuned to the Lord. We can ask him straightaway, “Jesus, here I am with you, but what is it that you want from me? What is in my heart, in my life, that you want me to change? How do you want me to regard others?” Praying like that will do us good, because the Master is not content with appearances; he seeks the truth of the heart. Once we open our hearts to him in truth, he can work wonders in us.
We see this in the woman caught in adultery. Her situation seemed hopeless, but then a new and unexpected horizon opened up before her. She was insulted and awaiting merciless judgment and severe punishment. Yet to her amazement, she finds herself acquitted by God, who points her to a future she did not at all anticipate: “Has no one condemned you?” – Jesus says to her – “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again” (vv. 10.11). What a difference there is between the Master and the woman’s accusers! They cited the Scriptures to condemn her; Jesus, the very Word of God, completely rehabilitates the woman, restoring her hope. From this story, we learn that any judgment that is not inspired and moved by charity only serves to make things worse for those who receive it. God, on the other hand, always leaves room for second chance; he can always find paths that lead to liberation and salvation.
Forgiveness changed that woman’s life. Mercy and misery embraced. Mercy and misery met there, and the woman’s life changed. We can even speculate whether, after being forgiven by Jesus, she was able in turn to forgive others. Perhaps she even came to see her accusers no longer as harsh and wicked men, but as the means that led to her encounter with Jesus. The Lord also wants us, his disciples, his Church, likewise forgiven by him, to become tireless witnesses of reconciliation. Witnesses of a God for whom the word “irredeemable” does not exist, a God who always forgives. God always forgives. We are the ones who get tired of asking for forgiveness. Our God is a God who never stops believing in us and always gives us a chance to start anew. There is no sin or failure that we can bring before him that cannot become the opportunity for starting to live a new and different life under the banner of mercy. There is no sin that cannot be treated in this manner. God forgives everything. He forgives every sin.
This is the Lord Jesus. We truly know him when we experience his forgiveness, and when, like the woman in the Gospel, we discover that God comes to us through our inner woundedness. That is indeed where the Lord loves to make himself known, for he came not for the healthy but for the sick (cf. Mt 9:12). Today, that woman, who found mercy amid her misery and who went away healed by Jesus’ forgiveness, invites us, as Church, to return to the school of the Gospel, to learn from the God of hope who never ceases to surprise us. If we imitate him, we will not be inclined to focus on condemning sins, but on setting out with love in search of sinners. We will be content with those already present, but will go out in search of those absent. We will not go back to pointing fingers, but will start listening. We will not discard the despised, but view as first those whom others consider least. Brothers and sisters, this is what Jesus teaches us today by his example. Let us allow him to amaze us. Let us joyfully welcome the good news he brings.
On Calvary, two ways of thinking collided. In the Gospel, the words of the crucified Jesus are in sharp contrast with the words of those who crucified him. The latter keep saying: “Save yourself”. The leaders of the people said: “Let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One” (Lk 23:35). The soldiers said the same thing: “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself” (v. 37). Finally, one of the criminals, echoing their words, said to him: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself” (v. 39). Save yourself. Take care of yourself. Think of yourself. Not of others, but only of your own well-being, your own success, your own interests: your possessions, your power, your image. Save yourself. This is the constant refrain of the world that crucified the Lord. Let us think about it.
Against this self-centred mindset is God’s way of thinking. The mantra “save yourself” collides with the words of the Saviour who offers his self. Like his adversaries, Jesus speaks three times in today’s Gospel (cf. vv. 34.43.46). Yet he did not claim anything for himself; indeed, he did not even defend or justify himself. He prayed to the Father and offered mercy to the good thief. One of his words, in particular, marked the difference with regard to the mantra “save yourself”. He said: “Father, forgive them” (v. 34).
Let us reflect on the Lord’s words. When did he say them? At a very specific moment: while he was being crucified, as he felt the nails piercing his wrists and feet. Let us try to imagine the excruciating pain he suffered. At that moment, amid the most searing physical pain of his Passion, Christ asked forgiveness for those who were piercing him. At times like that, we would scream out and give vent to all our anger and suffering. But Jesus said: Father, forgive them.
Unlike the other martyrs about whom the Bible speaks (cf. 2 Mac 7:18-19), Jesus did not rebuke his executioners or threaten punishments in the name of God; rather, he prayed for the evildoers. Fastened to the gibbet of humiliation, his attitude of giving became that of forgiving.
Brothers and sisters, God does the same thing with us. When we cause suffering by our actions, God suffers yet has only one desire: to forgive us. In order to appreciate this, let us gaze upon the crucified Lord. It is from his painful wounds, from the streams of blood caused by the nails of our sinfulness that forgiveness gushes forth. Let us look to Jesus on the cross and realize that greater words were never spoken: Father, forgive. Let us look to Jesus on the cross and realize that we have never been looked upon with a more gentle and compassionate gaze. Let us look to Jesus on the cross and understand that we have never received a more loving embrace. Let us look to the crucified Lord and say: “Thank you, Jesus: you love me and always forgive me, even at those times when I find it hard to love and forgive myself”.
There, as he was being crucified, at the height of his pain, Jesus himself obeyed the most demanding of his commandments: that we love our enemies. Let us think about someone who, in our own lives, injured, offended or disappointed us; someone who made us angry, who did not understand us or who set a bad example. How often we spend time looking back on those who have wronged us! How often we think back and lick the wounds that other people, life itself and history have inflicted on us. Today, Jesus teaches us not to remain there, but to react, to break the vicious circle of evil and sorrow. To react to the nails in our lives with love, to the buffets of hatred with the embrace of forgiveness. As disciples of Jesus, do we follow the Master or do we follow our own desire to strike back? This is a question we have to ask ourselves. Do we follow the Master or not?
If we want to test whether we truly belong to Christ, let us look at how we behave toward those who have hurt us. The Lord asks us to respond not as we feel, or as everyone else does, but in the way he acts toward us. He asks us to break out of the mindset that says: “I will love you if you love me; I will be your friend if you are my friend; I will help you if you help me”. Rather, we are to show compassion and mercy to everyone, for God sees a son or a daughter in each person. He does not separate us into good and bad, friends and enemies. We are the ones who do this, and we make God suffer. For him, all of us are his beloved children, children whom he desires to embrace and forgive. Just as in the parable of the wedding feast, where the father of the groom sends his servants into the streets and says: “Invite everybody: white, black, good and bad, everybody, the healthy, the sick, everybody…” (cf. Mt 22:9-10). The love of Jesus is for everyone; everyone has the same privilege: that of being loved and forgiven.
Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. According to the Gospel, Jesus “kept saying” this (cf. v. 34). He did not say it once for all as he was being nailed to the cross; instead, he spent all his time on the cross with these words on his lips and in his heart. God never tires of forgiving. We need to understand this, not just in our minds, but also in our hearts. God never tires of forgiving. We are the ones who get tired of asking forgiveness. But he never tires of forgiving. He does not put up with us for a while and then change his mind, as we are tempted to do. Jesus – so the Gospel of Luke teaches us – came into the world to bring us forgiveness for our sins (cf. Lk 1:77). In the end, he gave us a clear command: to proclaim forgiveness of sins to everyone in his name (cf. Lk 24:47). Let us never grow tired of proclaiming God’s forgiveness: we priests, of administering it; all Christians, of receiving it and bearing witness to it. Let us never grow tired when it comes to God’s forgiveness.
Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. Let us observe one more thing. Jesus not only asked that they be forgiven, but also mentioned the reason why: for they know not what they do. How could that be? Those who crucified him had premeditated his killing, organized his arrest and trials, and now they were standing on Calvary to witness his death. Yet Christ justifies those violent men by saying: they know not. That is how Jesus acts in our regard: he makes himself our advocate. He does not set himself against us, but for us and against our sins. His words make us think: for they know not. It is the ignorance of the heart, which all of us have as sinners.
When we resort to violence, we show that we no longer know anything about God, who is our Father, or even about others, who are our brothers and sisters. We lose sight of why we are in the world and even end up committing senseless acts of cruelty. We see this in the folly of war, where Christ is crucified yet another time. Christ is once more nailed to the Cross in mothers who mourn the unjust death of husbands and sons. He is crucified in refugees who flee from bombs with children in their arms. He is crucified in the elderly left alone to die; in young people deprived of a future; in soldiers sent to kill their brothers and sisters. Christ is being crucified there, today.
Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. Many people heard these extraordinary words, but only one person responded to them. He was a criminal, crucified next to Jesus. We can imagine that the mercy of Christ stirred up in him one last hope and led him to speak these words: “Jesus, remember me” (Lk 23:42). As if to say: “Everyone else has forgotten me, yet you keep thinking of those who crucify you. With you, then, there is also a place for me”. The good thief accepted God as his life was ending, and in this way, his life began anew. In the hell of this world, he saw heaven opening up: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (v. 43). This is the marvel of God’s forgiveness, which turned the last request of a man condemned to death into the first canonization of history.
Brothers and sisters, in the course of this week, let us cling to the certainty that God can forgive every sin. He forgives everyone. He can bridge every distance, and turn all mourning into dancing (cf. Ps 30:12). The certainty that with Jesus there is always a place for everyone. That with Christ things are never over. That with him, it is never too late. With God, we can always come back to life. Take courage! Let us journey toward Easter with his forgiveness. For Christ constantly intercedes for us before the Father (cf. Heb 7:25). Gazing upon our violent and tormented world, he never tires of repeating: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. Let us now do the same, in silence, in our hearts, and repeat: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.
Today the risen Lord appears to the disciples. To those who had abandoned him he offers his mercy and shows his wounds. The words he speaks to them are punctuated with a greeting that we hear three times in the Gospel: “Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19.21.26). Peace be with you! These are the words of the risen Jesus as he encounters every human weakness and error. Let us reflect on the three times Jesus says those words. In them, we will discover three aspects of God’s mercy towards us. Those words first give joy, then grant forgiveness and finally offer comfort in every difficulty.
First, God’s mercy gives joy, a special joy, the joy of knowing that we have been freely forgiven. When, on the evening of Easter, the disciples see Jesus and hear him say for the first time, “Peace be with you”, they rejoice (v. 20). They were locked behind closed doors out of fear; but they were also closed in on themselves, burdened by a sense of failure. They were disciples who had abandoned their Master; at the moment of his arrest, they had run away. Peter even denied him three times, and one of their number – one from among them! – had betrayed him. They had good reason to feel not only afraid, but useless; they had failed. In the past, certainly, they had made courageous choices. They had followed the Master with enthusiasm, commitment and generosity. Yet in the end, everything had happened so fast. Fear prevailed and they committed the great sin: they left Jesus alone at his most tragic hour. Before Easter, they had thought that they were destined for greatness; they argued about who would be the greatest among them… Now they have hit rock bottom.
In this climate, they hear for the first time, “Peace be with you!” The disciples ought to have felt shame, yet they rejoice. Why? Because seeing his face and hearing his greeting turned their attention away from themselves and towards Jesus. As the Gospel tells us, “the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord” (v. 20). They were distracted from themselves and their failures and attracted by his gaze, that brimmed not with severity but with mercy. Christ did not reproach them for what they had done, but showed them his usual kindness. And this revives them, fills their hearts with the peace they had lost and makes them new persons, purified by a forgiveness that is utterly unmerited.
That is the joy Jesus brings. It is the joy that we too feel whenever we experience his forgiveness. We ourselves know what those disciples were feeling on Easter, because of our own lapses, sins and failures. At such times, we may think that nothing can be done. Yet that is precisely when the Lord does everything. He gives us his peace, through a good Confession, through the words of someone who draws near to us, through an interior consolation of the Spirit, or through some unexpected and surprising event… In any number of ways, God shows that he wants to make us feel the embrace of his mercy, the joy born of receiving “pardon and peace”. The joy God gives is indeed born of forgiveness. It bestows peace. It is a joy that raises us up without humiliating us. It is as if the Lord does not understand what is happening. Brothers and sisters, let us think of all those times when we received the pardon and peace of Jesus. Each one of us has received them; each one of us has had that experience. It is good for us to remember those moments. Let us put the memory of God’s warm embrace before the memory of our own mistakes and failings. In this way, we will grow in joy. For nothing will ever be the same for anyone who has experienced God’s joy! It is a joy that transforms us.
Peace be with you! The Lord says these words a second time and adds, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (v. 22). He then gives the disciples the Holy Spirit to make them agents of reconciliation: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them” (v. 23). Not only do the disciples receive mercy; they become dispensers of the mercy that they themselves received. They receive this power not on account of their merits or studies, but as a pure gift of grace, based however on their experience of having been themselves forgiven.
I am now speaking to you, missionaries of mercy: if you do not feel forgiven, do not carry out your service as a missionary of mercy until you feel that forgiveness. The mercy that we have received enables us to dispense a great deal of mercy and forgiveness. Today and every day, in the Church forgiveness must be received in this same way, through the humble goodness of a merciful confessor who sees himself not as the holder of some power but as a channel of mercy, who pours out upon others the forgiveness that he himself first received. From this arises the ability to forgive everything because God always forgives everything. We are the ones who tire of asking forgiveness but he always forgives. You must be channels of that forgiveness through your own experience of being forgiven. There is no need to torment the faithful when they come to Confession. It is necessary to understand their situation, to listen, to forgive and to offer good counsel so that they can move forward. God forgives everything and we must not close that door to people.
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them”. These words stand at the origin of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but not only this as Jesus has made the entire Church a community that dispenses mercy, a sign and instrument of reconciliation for all humanity. Brothers and sisters, each of us, in baptism, received the gift of the Holy Spirit to be a man or woman of reconciliation. Whenever we experience the joy of being set free from the burden of our sins and failings; whenever we know at firsthand what it means to be reborn after a situation that appeared hopeless, we feel the need to share with those around us the bread of mercy. Let us feel called to this. And let us ask ourselves: at home, in my family, at work, in my community, do I foster fellowship, am I a weaver of reconciliation? Do I commit myself to defusing conflict, to bringing forgiveness in place of hatred, and peace in place of resentment? Do I avoid hurting others by not gossiping? Jesus wants us to be his witnesses before the world with those words: Peace be with you!
Peace be with you! The Lord says these words a third time when, eight days later, he appears to the disciples and strengthens the flagging faith of Thomas. Thomas wants to see and touch. The Lord is not offended by Thomas’s disbelief, but comes to his aid: “Put your finger here and see my hands” (v. 27). These are not words of defiance but of mercy. Jesus understands Thomas’s difficulty. He does not treat Thomas with harshness, and the apostle is deeply moved by this kindness. From a disbeliever, he becomes a believer, and makes the simplest and finest confession of faith: “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28). These are beautiful words. We can make them our own and repeat them throughout the day, especially when, like Thomas, we experience doubts and difficulties.
For the story of Thomas is in fact the story of every believer. There are times of difficulty when life seems to belie faith, moments of crisis when we need to touch and see. Like Thomas, it is precisely in those moments that we rediscover the heart of Christ, the Lord’s mercy. In those situations, Jesus does not approach us in triumph and with overwhelming proofs. He does not perform earth-shattering miracles, but instead offers us heart-warming signs of his mercy. He comforts us in the same way he did in today’s Gospel: he offers us his wounds. We must not forget this fact. In response to our sin, the Lord is always present offering us his wounds. In our ministry as confessors, we must let the people see that in the midst of their sin, the Lord offers his wounds to them. The wounds of the Lord are stronger than sin.
Jesus makes us see the wounds of our brothers and sisters. In the midst of our own crises and our difficulties, divine mercy often makes us aware of the sufferings of our neighbour. We think that we are experiencing unbearable pain and situations of suffering, and we suddenly discover that others around us are silently enduring even worse things. If we care for the wounds of our neighbour and pour upon them the balm of mercy, we find being reborn within us a hope that comforts us in our weariness. Let us ask ourselves whether of late we have helped someone suffering in mind or body; whether we have brought peace to someone suffering physically or spiritually; whether we have spent some time simply listening, being present, or bringing comfort to another person. For whenever we do these things, we encounter Jesus. From the eyes of all those who are weighed down by the trials of life, he looks out at us with mercy and says: Peace be with you! In this regard, I think of Our Lady’s presence with the Apostles. I also recall that we commemorate her as Mother of the Church on the day following Pentecost and as Mother of Mercy on the Monday following Divine Mercy Sunday. May she help us move forward in our ministry.
The Saints are a fascinating explanation of the Gospel. Their lives are a privileged vantage point from which we can glimpse the good news that Jesus came to proclaim – namely, that God is our Father and each of us is loved by him. This is the heart of the Gospel, and Jesus is the proof of this Love – his incarnation, his face.
Today we are celebrating the Eucharist on a special day for this city and this Church: the Celestinian Forgiveness. Here, the relics of Pope Celestine V are preserved. This man seems to have completely accomplished what we heard in the First Reading: “The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself; so you will find favour in the sight of the Lord” (Sir 3:18). We erroneously remember Celestine V as “the one who made a great refusal”, according to the expression Dante used in his Divine Comedy. But Celestine V was not a man who said “no”, but a man who said “yes”.
In fact, there exists no other way to accomplish God’s will than to assume the strength of the humble, there is no other way. Precisely because they are such, the humble appear weak and as losers in the eyes of men and women, whereas in reality, they are the true conquerors because they are the ones who confide completely in the Lord and know his will. It is, in fact, “to the humble that God reveals his secrets, and by the humble he is glorified” (cf. Sir 3:19-20). In the spirit of the world that is dominated by pride, the Word of God for today invites us to become humble and meek. Humility does not consist in belittling ourselves, but rather in that healthy realism that makes us recognize our potentials as well as our misery. Beginning with our misery, humility makes us take our gaze off ourselves in order to turn it toward God, to the One who can do everything and who even obtains for us what we would not succeed in obtaining on our own. “All things can be done for the one who believes” (Mk 9:23).
The strength of the humble is the Lord, not strategies, human means, the logic of this world, calculations. No, it is the Lord. In that sense, Celestine V was a courageous witness of the Gospel because there was no logic or power that was able to imprison or control him. In him, we admire a Church free from worldly logic, witnessing completely to that name of God which is Mercy. This is the very heart of the Gospel, for mercy is knowing that we are loved in our misery. They go together. Mercy cannot be understood without understanding one’s own misery. Being believers does not mean drawing near to a dark and frightening God. The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us of this: “For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them” (12:18-19). No. Dear brothers and sisters, we have drawn near to Jesus, the Son of God, who is the Mercy of the Father and the Love that saves. He is mercy, and it is only with his mercy that he can speak to our misery. If one of us thinks they can reach mercy another way than through their own misery, they have taken the wrong way. This is why it is important to understand one’s own reality.
For centuries, L’Aquila has kept alive the gift that Pope Celestine V himself left it. That gift is the privilege of reminding everyone that with mercy, and with mercy alone, can the life of every man and every woman be lived with joy. Mercy is the experience of feeling welcomed, put back on our feet, strengthened, healed, encouraged. To be forgiven is to experience here and now that which comes closest to being resurrected. Forgiveness is the passage from death to life, from the experience of anguish and guilt to that of freedom and joy. May this church always be a place in which people can be reconciled and experience that Grace that puts us back on our feet and gives us another chance. Our God is the God of second chances – “How many times, Lord? One? Seven?” – “Seventy times seven”. It is God who always you another chance. May it be a church of forgiveness, not once a year, but always, every day. For in this way peace is constructed, through forgiveness that is received and given.
Beginning with one’s own misery and looking at that, trying to find out how to reach forgiveness, because even in one’s own misery we will always find a light that is the way to go to the Lord. He gives us light in our misery. This morning, for example, I thought about this when, as we were arriving in L’Aquila and we could not land – thick fog, everything was dark, you couldn’t land. The helicopter pilot was circling, circling, circling…. In the end, he saw a small hole and he went through there – he succeeded, a master-pilot. And I thought about this misery and how the same things happens with our own misery. How many times we look at who we are – nothing, less than nothing – and we circle, circle…. But at times, the Lord makes a small hole. Put yourself in there, they are the Lord’s wounds! That is where mercy is, but it is in your misery. There is a hole in your misery that the Lord makes in order to enter into it. Mercy that comes into you, into my, into our misery.
Dear brothers and dear sisters, you have suffered much because of the earthquake. And as a population, you are trying to get back up and get back on your feet. But those who have suffered must be able to create a treasure out of their own suffering, they must understand that in the darkness they experienced they also received the gift of understanding the suffering of others. You can treasure the gift of mercy because you know what it means to lose everything, to see everything that had been constructed crumble, to leave everything that was dear to you, to feel the hole left by the absence of those whom you loved. You can treasure mercy because you have experienced mercy.
In their lives, everyone, even without living through an earthquake, can experience an “earthquake of the soul”, so to speak, that puts us in contact with our own frailty, our own limitations, our own misery. In this experience, we can lose everything, but we can also learn true humility. In such a circumstance, we can allow life to make us bitter, or we can learn meekness. So, humility and meekness are the characteristics of those who have the mission of treasuring and witnessing to mercy. Yes, because mercy, when it comes to us and because we treasure it, we can also bear witness to this mercy. Mercy is a gift to me, for my misery, but this mercy must also be transmitted to others as a gift from the Lord.
There is, however, a wake-up call that tells us if we are going the wrong way. Today’s Gospel reminds us of this (cf. Lk 14:1, 7-14). Jesus is invited to dinner, we heard, in the house of a Pharisee, and attentively observes how many are running to get the best seats at table. This gives him the cue to tell a parable that remains valid even for us today: “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Please, give your place to this person and you go back there!’ And then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place” (vv. 8-9). Too many times people base their worth on the place they occupy in the world. A person is not the position he or she holds. A person is the freedom that he or she is capable of that is fully manifested when he or she occupies the last place, or when a place is reserved for that person on the Cross.
The Christian knows that his or her life is not a career after the manner of the world, but a career after the manner of Christ who said of himself that he had come to serve and not to be served (cf. Mk 10:45). Unless we understand that the revolution of the Gospel is contained in this type of freedom, we will continue to witness war, violence and injustice, which are nothing other than the external symptoms of a lack of interior freedom. Where there is no interior freedom, selfishness, individualism, personal interest, and oppression, and all these miseries, find their way in. And misery takes control.
Brothers and sisters, may L’Aquila truly be the capital of forgiveness, the capital of peace and of reconciliation! May L’Aquila know how to offer everyone that transformation that Mary sings about in the Magnificat: “He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate” (Lk 1:52), the transformation that Jesus reminded us of in today’s Gospel, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 14:11). And precisely to Mary, whom you venerate under the title of Salvation of the People of L’Aquila, we wish to entrust the resolution to live according to the Gospel. May her maternal intercession obtain pardon and peace for the entire world. The awareness of one’s own misery and the beauty of mercy.