Books of the Bible Index of Homilies
Matthew Mark Luke John The Acts Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians 1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 Timothy Titus Philemon Hebrews James 1 Peter 2 Peter 1 John 2 John 3 John Jude Revelation Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy Joshua Judges Ruth 1 Samuel 2 Samuel 1 Kings 2 Kings 1 Chronicles 2 Chronicles Ezra Nehemiah Tobit Judith Esther 1 Maccabees 2 Maccabees Job Psalms Proverbs Ecclesiastes The Song of Songs The Book of Wisdom Sirach Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations Baruch Ezekiel Daniel Hosea Joel Amos Obadiah Jonah Micah Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah Haggai Zechariah Malachi
Jesus reprimands them. ‘Do not prevent him, let him do good’. The disciples, without thinking, were fixed on an idea: we alone can do good, because we alone possess the truth. And none of those who do not possess the truth can do good.
However this an erroneous attitude and Jesus corrected them. Is it licit “for us to ask ourselves who can do good and why? What do Jesus’ words ‘do not prevent him’ mean? What lies behind them?”. In this case “the disciples were somewhat intolerant”, but “Jesus broadened their horizons and we may imagine that he said: ‘if this person can do good, we can all do good. So can anyone who is not one of us’”.
“The Lord created us in his image”, and if “he does good, let all of us keep this commandment in our heart: do good and do not do evil. Everyone”.
The idea that we cannot all do good is a form of closedness, a barrier that leads us to war, and “to killing in God’s name”. We cannot kill in God’s name. Indeed, even “saying that one can kill in God’s name is blasphemy”. The Lord redeemed everyone with Christ’s blood, “everyone, not only Catholics. Everyone”. And atheists? “They too. It is this blood that makes us children of God”.
Yesterday Paul was proclaiming salvation in Jesus Christ through faith. But today he is telling his brothers in Rome about the battle he is waging within. I know that nothing good dwells within me, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells in me.
When I want to do the good, evil is right beside me. In fact, I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of the mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. We do not always have the courage to speaks about this battle as Paul speaks. We always seek to justify ourselves: 'But yes, we are all sinners' we say.
It is against this disposition that we must battle. Indeed, if we do not recognize this we cannot obtain God's forgiveness, because if being a sinner is only a word or a way of speaking, then we do not need God's forgiveness. But if it is a reality that enslaves us, then we truly need the interior freedom and strength of the Lord. Paul shows us the way out of this attitude: Confess your sin and your tendency to sin to the community, do not hide it. This is the disposition which the Church asks of all of us, which Jesus asks of all of us: humbly to confess our sins.
The Church in her wisdom points to the sacrament of confession. “Let us go to our brother, to our brother the priest, and let us make this interior confession: the same confession that Paul himself makes: 'I want the good, I would like to be better, but as you know, I sometimes experience this battle within, sometimes, there is this, that and the other …
Those who refuse to speak with a priest under the pretence that they confess directly to God. “It's easy. It's like confessing by email … God is there, far away; I say things and there is no face to face, there is not face to face encounter. But Paul confessed his weakness to his brothers face to face.
In the alleluia we said: “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden the mysteries of the kingdom from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes. Little ones have a certain wisdom. When a child comes to make his confession, he never speaks in generalities. He says: 'Father, I did this, and I did this to my aunt, I did this to someone else, and to someone else I said this word', and they say the word. They are real, they possess the simplicity of truth. And we always tend to hide the reality of our weakness and poverty.
But if there is one thing that is beautiful, it is when we confess our sins in the presence of God just as they are. We always feel the grace of being ashamed. To feel ashamed before God is a grace. It is a grace to say: 'I am ashamed'. Let us think about St Peter after Jesus' miracle on the lake: “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinner”. He was ashamed of his sin in the presence of Jesus Christ.
Going to confession, is “going to an encounter with the Lord who forgives us, who loves us. And our shame is what we offer him: 'Lord, I am a sinner, but I am not so bad, I am capable of feeling ashamed'.
Let us ask for the grace to live in the truth without hiding anything from the Lord and without hiding anything from ourselves.
Jesus gave us the law of love: to love God and to love one another as brothers. And the Lord did not fail to explain it a bit further, with the Beatitudes which nicely summarize the Christian approach.
In the day’s Gospel passage, however, Jesus goes a step further, explaining in greater detail to those who surrounded Him to hear Him. Let us look first of all at the verbs Jesus uses: love; do good; bless; pray; offer; do not refuse; give. With these words, Jesus shows us the path that we must take, a path of generosity. He asks us first and foremost to love. And we ask, “whom must I love?”. He answers us, “your enemies”. And, with surprise, we ask for confirmation: “our actual enemies?”. “Yes”, the Lord tells us, "actually your enemies!"
But the Lord also asks us to do good. And if we do not ask him, to whom? He tells us straight away, “to those who hate us”. And this time too, we ask the Lord for confirmation: “But must I do good to those who hate me?”. And the Lord’s reply is again, “yes”.
Then he even asks us to bless those who curse us. And to pray not only for my mama, for my dad, my children, my family, but for those who abuse us. And not to refuse anyone who begs from you. The newness of the Gospel lies in the giving of oneself, giving the heart, to those who actually dislike us, who harm us, to our enemies. The passage from Luke reads: “And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?”. It would merely be an exchange: you love me, I love you. But Jesus reminds us that even sinners — and by sinners he means pagans — love those who love them. This is why, there is no credit.
The passage continues: “And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same”. Again, it is simply an exchange: I do good to you, you do good to me!. And yet the Gospel adds: “And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you?”. No credit, because it’s a bargain. St Luke then indicates, “even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again”.
All of Jesus’ reasoning leads to a firm conclusion: “Love your enemies instead. Do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Without interest. And your reward will be great”. And thus you will be sons of the Most High.
It is therefore evident that the Gospel is a new message that is difficult to carry forward. In a word, it means “go behind Jesus”. Follow him. Imitate him. Jesus does not answer his Father by saying, “I shall go and say a few words, I shall make a nice speech, I shall point the way and then come back”. No, Jesus’ response to the Father is: “I shall do your will”. And indeed, in the Garden of Olives he says to the Father: “Thy will be done”. And thus he gives his life, not for his friends but for his enemies!
The Christian way is not easy, but this is it. Therefore, to those who say, “I don’t feel like doing this”, the response is “if you don’t feel like it, that’s your problem, but this is the Christian way. This is the path that Jesus teaches us. This is the reason to take the path of Jesus, which is mercy: be merciful as your Father is merciful. Because only with a merciful heart can we do all that the Lord advises us, until the end. And thus it is obvious that the Christian life is not a self-reflexive life but it comes outside of itself to give to others: it is a gift, it is love, and love does not turn back on itself, it is not selfish: it gives itself!
The passage of St Luke concludes with the invitation not to judge and to be merciful. However, it often seems that we have been appointed judges of others: gossiping, criticizing, we judge everyone. But Jesus tells us: “Judge not and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven”. And so, we say it every day in the Our Father: forgive us as we forgive. In fact if I do not first forgive, how can I ask the Father to forgive me?
There is also another really beautiful image in the Gospel reading: “Give and it will be given to you”. And here “Jesus’ heart can be seen to grow and he makes this promise which is perhaps an image of heaven. The Christian life as Jesus presents it truly seems to be “folly”. St Paul himself speaks of the folly the cross of Christ, which is not part of the wisdom of the world. For this reason to be a Christian is to become a bit foolish, in a certain sense. And to renounce that worldly shrewdness in order to do all that Jesus tells us to do. And, if we make an accounting, if we balance things out, it seems to weigh against us. But the path of Jesus is magnanimity, generosity, the giving of oneself without measure. He came into the world to save and he gave himself, he forgave, he spoke ill of no one, he did not judge.
Of course, being Christian isn’t easy and we cannot become Christian with our own strength; we need “the grace of God”. Therefore, there is a prayer which should be said every day: “Lord, grant me the grace to become a good Christian, because I cannot do it alone."
A first reading of Chapter Six of Luke’s Gospel is unnerving. But, if we take the Gospel and we give it a second, a third, a fourth reading, we can then ask the Lord for the grace to understand what it is to be Christian. And also for the grace that He make Christians of us. Because we cannot do it alone.
15.02.15 Angelus, St Peter's Square
6th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,
In these Sundays, Mark the Evangelist speaks to us about Jesus’ actions against every type of evil, for the benefit of those suffering in body and spirit: the possessed, the sick, sinners.... Jesus presents Himself as the One who fights and conquers evil wherever He encounters it. In today’s Gospel (cf. Mk 1:40-45) this struggle of His confronts an emblematic case, because the sick man is a leper. Leprosy is a contagious and pitiless disease, which disfigures the person, and it was a symbol of impurity: a leper had to stay outside of inhabited centres and make his presence known to passersby. He was marginalized by the civil and religious community. He was like a deadman walking.
The episode of the healing of the leper takes place in three brief phases: the sick man’s supplication, Jesus’ response, the result of the miraculous healing. The leper beseeches Jesus, “kneeling”, and says to Him: “If you will, you can make me clean” (v. 40). Jesus responds to this humble and trusting prayer because his soul is moved to deep pity: compassion. “Compassion” is a most profound word: compassion means “to suffer-with-another”. Jesus’ heart manifests God’s paternal compassion for that man, moving close to him and touching him. And this detail is very important. Jesus “stretched out his hand and touched him.... And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean” (vv. 41-42). God’s mercy overcomes every barrier and Jesus’ hand touches the leper. He does not stand at a safe distance and does not act by delegating, but places Himself in direct contact with our contagion and in precisely this way our ills become the motive for contact: He, Jesus, takes from us our diseased humanity and we take from Him his sound and healing humanity. This happens each time we receive a Sacrament with faith: the Lord Jesus “touches” us and grants us his grace. In this case we think especially of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which heals us from the leprosy of sin.
Once again the Gospel shows us what God does in the face of our ills: God does not come to “give a lesson” on pain; neither does He come to eliminate suffering and death from the world; but rather, He comes to take upon Himself the burden of our human condition and carries it to the end, to free us in a radical and definitive way. This is how Christ fights the world’s maladies and suffering: by taking them upon Himself and conquering them with the power of God’s mercy.
The Gospel of the healing of the leper tells us today that, if we want to be true disciples of Jesus, we are called to become, united to Him, instruments of his merciful love, overcoming every kind of marginalization. In order to be “imitators of Christ” (cf. 1 Cor 11:1) in the face of a poor or sick person, we must not be afraid to look him in the eye and to draw near with tenderness and compassion, and to touch him and embrace him. I have often asked this of people who help others, to do so looking them in the eye, not to be afraid to touch them; that this gesture of help may also be a gesture of communication: we too need to be welcomed by them. A gesture of tenderness, a gesture of compassion.... Let us ask you: when you help others, do you look them in the eye? Do you embrace them without being afraid to touch them? Do you embrace them with tenderness? Think about this: how do you help? From a distance or with tenderness, with closeness? If evil is contagious, so is goodness. Therefore, there needs to be ever more abundant goodness in us. Let us be infected by goodness and let us spread goodness!
At the beginning of the Lenten journey, the Church makes us reflect on the words of Moses and of Jesus: “You have to choose”. It is thus a reflection on the need we all have, to make choices in life. And Moses is clear: ‘See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil’: choose. Indeed the Lord gave us freedom, the freedom to love, to walk on his streets. We are free and we can choose. However, “it’s not easy to choose”. It’s more comfortable “to live by letting ourselves be carried by the inertia of life, of situations, of habits”. This is why today the Church tells us: ‘You are responsible; you have to choose’”.
Have you chosen? How do you live? What is your lifestyle, your way of living, like? Is it on the side of life or on the side of death?
Naturally the response should be to choose the way of the Lord. ‘I command you to love the Lord’. This is how Moses shows us the path of the Lord: ‘If your heart turns back and if you do not listen and you let yourself be drawn to prostrate yourself before other gods and serve them, you will perish’. Choose between God and the other gods, those who do not have the power to give us anything, only little things that pass.
We always have this habit of going where the people go, somewhat like everyone. But, today the Church is telling us: ‘stop and choose’. It’s good advice. And today it will do us good to stop during the day and think: what is my lifestyle like? Which road am I taking?
After all, in everyday life we tend to take the opposite approach. Many times, we live in a rush, we are on the run, without noticing what the path is like; and we let ourselves be carried along by the needs, by the necessities of the days, but without thinking. And thus came the invitation to stop: “Begin Lent with small questions that will help one to consider: ‘What is my life like?’”. The first thing to ask ourselves is: “who is God for me? Do I choose the Lord? How is my relationship with Jesus?”. And the second: “How is your relationship with your family: with your parents; with your siblings; with your wife; with your husband; with your children?”. In fact, these two series of questions are enough, and we will surely find things that we need to correct.
Why do we hurry so much in life, without knowing which path we are on. Because we want to win, we want to earn, we want to be successful. But Jesus makes us think: “What advantage does a man have who wins the whole world, but loses or destroys himself?”. Indeed, “the wrong road" is that of always seeking success, one’s own riches, without thinking about the Lord, without thinking about family. Returning to the two series of questions on one’s relationship with God and with those who are dear to us, one can win everything, yet become a failure in the end. He has failed. That life is a failure. So are those who seem to have had success, those women and men for whom “they’ve made a monument” or “they’ve dedicated a portrait”, but didn’t “know how to make the right choice between life and death”.
It will do us good to stop for a bit — five, 10 minutes — and ask ourselves the question: what is the speed of my life? Do I reflect on my actions? How is my relationship with God and with my family?”. The Pope indicated that we can find help in “that really beautiful advice of the Psalm: ‘Blessed are they who trust in the Lord’”. And “when the Lord gives us this advice — ‘Stop! Choose today, choose’ — He doesn’t leave us on our own; He is with us and wants to help us. And we, for our part, need “only to trust, to have faith in Him”.
“Blessed are they who trust in the Lord”, be aware that God does not abandon us. Today, at the moment in which we stop to think about these things and to take decisions, to choose something, we know that the Lord is with us, is beside us, to help us. He never lets us go alone. He is always with us. Even in the moment of choosing.
Let us have faith in this Lord, who is with us, and when He tells us: ‘choose between good and evil’ helps us to choose good”. And above all “let us ask Him for the grace to be courageous”, because it takes a bit of courage to stop and ask myself: how do I stand before God, how are my relationships in the family, what do I need to change, what should I choose?
07.08.16 Angelus, St Peter's Square, Rome
19th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In the text of today’s Gospel (Lk 12:32-48), Jesus speaks to his disciples about the attitude to assume in view of the final encounter with him, and explains that the expectation of this encounter should impel us to live a life full of good works. Among other things he says: “Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys” (v. 33). It is a call to give importance to almsgiving as a work of mercy, not to place trust in ephemeral goods, to use things without attachment and selfishness, but according to God’s logic, the logic of attention to others, the logic of love. We can be so attached to money, and have many things, but in the end we cannot take them with us. Remember that “the shroud has no pockets”.
Jesus’ lesson continues with three short parables on the theme of vigilance. This is important: vigilance, being alert, being vigilant in life. The first is the parable of the servants waiting for their master to return at night. “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes” (v. 37): it is the beatitude of faithfully awaiting the Lord, of being ready, with an attitude of service. He presents himself each day, knocks at the door of our heart. Those who open it will be blessed, because they will have a great reward: indeed, the Lord will make himself a servant to his servants — it is a beautiful reward — in the great banquet of his Kingdom He himself will serve them. With this parable, set at night, Jesus proposes life as a vigil of diligent expectation, which heralds the bright day of eternity. To be able to enter one must be ready, awake and committed to serving others, from the comforting perspective that, “beyond”, it will no longer be we who serve God, but He himself who will welcome us to his table. If you think about it, this already happens today each time we meet the Lord in prayer, or in serving the poor, and above all in the Eucharist, where he prepares a banquet to nourish us of his Word and of his Body.
The second parable describes the unexpected arrival of the thief. This fact requires vigilance; indeed, Jesus exhorts: “You also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (v. 40).
The disciple is one who awaits the Lord and his Kingdom. The Gospel clarifies this perspective with the third parable: the steward of a house after the master’s departure. In the first scene, the steward faithfully carries out his tasks and receives compensation. In the second scene, the steward abuses his authority, and beats the servants, for which, upon the master’s unexpected return, he will be punished. This scene describes a situation that is also frequent in our time: so much daily injustice, violence and cruelty are born from the idea of behaving as masters of the lives of others. We have only one master who likes to be called not “master” but “Father”. We are all servants, sinners and children: He is the one Father.
Jesus reminds us today that the expectation of the eternal beatitude does not relieve us of the duty to render the world more just and more liveable. On the contrary, this very hope of ours of possessing the eternal Kingdom impels us to work to improve the conditions of earthly life, especially of our weakest brothers and sisters. May the Virgin Mary help us not to be people and communities dulled by the present, or worse, nostalgic for the past, but striving toward the future of God, toward the encounter with him, our life and our hope.
The “compass of a Christian is to follow Christ Crucified”: not a false, “disembodied and abstract” God, but the God who became flesh and brings unto himself “the wounds of our brothers”.
The word, the exhortation of the Church from the very beginning of Lent is ‘repent’, Matthew (4:17): “repent, says the Lord”.
So today the Liturgy of the Word makes us reflect on three realities that lie before us as conditions for this conversion: the reality of man — the reality of life; the reality of God; and the reality of the journey. These are realities of the human experience, all three, but which the Church, and we too, have before us for this conversion.
The first reality, therefore, is “the reality of man: you are faced with a choice”, Deuteronomy (30:15-20) : “See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil”. We men are faced with this reality: either it is good, or it is evil.... But if your heart turns away and if you do not listen and allow yourself to be drawn in to worshipping other gods”, you will walk the path of evil. And this, we perceive in our lives: we can always choose either good or evil; this is the reality of human freedom. God made us free; the choice is ours. But the Lord does not leave us on our own; he teaches us, admonishes us: ‘be careful, there is good and evil’. Worshipping God, fulfilling the commandments is the way of goodness; going the other way, the way of idols, false gods — so many false gods — they make a mess of life. And this is a reality: the reality of man is that we are all faced with good and evil.
Then, there is another reality, the second powerful reality: the reality of God. Yes, God is there, but how is God there? God made himself Christ: this is the reality and it was difficult for the disciples to understand this. Luke (9:22-25): Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised’. Thus God took up all of human reality, minus the sin: there is no God without Christ. A God ‘disembodied’, without Christ, is not a real God”. In fact, the reality of God is God-made-Christ for us, for our salvation, and when we distance ourselves from this, from this reality, and we distance ourselves from the Cross of Christ, from the truth of the Lord’s wounds, we also distance ourselves from God’s love, from his mercy, from salvation and we follow a distant ideological path of God: it is not God who came to us and who came close to save us and who died for us.
This, is the reality of God. God revealed in Christ: there is no God without Christ. I can think of a dialogue by a French writer of the last century, a conversation between an agnostic and a believer. The well-meaning agnostic asked the believer: ‘But how can I ... for me, the question is: how is it that Christ is God? I cannot understand this, how is it that Christ is God?’. And the believer said: ‘For me this is not a problem, the problem would be if God had not made himself Christ’.
Therefore, this is the reality of God: God-made-Christ; God-made-flesh; and this is the foundation of the works of mercy, because the wounds of our brothers are the wounds of Christ; they are the wounds of God, because God made himself Christ. We cannot experience Lent without this second reality: we must convert ourselves not to an abstract God, but to a concrete God who became Christ.
Here, then, is the reality of man: we are faced with good and evil — the reality of God — God-made-Christ — and the third human reality, the reality of the journey. The question to ask then is, “‘how do we go, which road do we take?’”. “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”. Because, the reality of the journey is that of Christ: following Christ, doing the will of the Father, as he did, by taking up the daily crosses and denying ourself in order to follow Christ. This means “not doing what I want, but what Jesus wants: following Jesus”. And Jesus says “that on this path we lose our life so as to regain it afterwards; it is a continuous loss of life, the loss of ‘doing what I want’, the loss of material comforts, of always being on the path of Jesus, who was in service to others, to the adoration of God: that is the just path.
These, are the three realities: the human reality — of man, of life, of man faced with good and evil; the reality of God — God who made himself Christ, and we cannot worship a God who is not Christ, because this is the reality. There is also the reality of the journey — the only sure way is to follow Christ Crucified, the scandal of the Cross. And these three human realities are a Christian’s compass, with these three road signs, which are realities, we will not take the wrong path.
‘Repent,’ says the Lord; that is, take seriously these realities of the human experience: the reality of life, the reality of God and the reality of the journey.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today’s Gospel reading offers three parables through which Jesus speaks to the crowds about the Kingdom of God. I will focus on the first: that of the good wheat and the weeds, which illustrates the problem of evil in the world and highlights God’s patience (cf. Mt 13:24-30, 36-43). How much patience God has! Each one of us too can say this: “How much patience God has!”. The narrative takes place in a field with two antagonists. On one side is the master of the field, who represents God and who sows good seed; on the other is the enemy, who represents Satan and scatters weeds.
As time passes, the weeds grow among the wheat, and the master and his servants express different opinions regarding this fact. The servants would like to intervene and uproot the weeds; but the master, who is concerned above all with saving the wheat, is against this, saying: “No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them” (v. 29). With this image, Jesus tells us that in this world good and evil are so intertwined that it is impossible to separate them and eradicate all evil. God alone can do this, and he will do so at the Last Judgment. With its ambiguities and its composite character, the present situation is the field of freedom, the field of Christian freedom, in which the difficult exercise of discernment is made between good and evil.
This field then, involves reconciling, with great trust in God and in his providence, two seemingly contradictory approaches: decision and patience. Decision is that of wanting to be good wheat — we all want this — with all our might, and thus keeping away from the evil one and his seduction. Patience means preferring a Church that acts as leaven in the dough, that is unafraid to sully her hands washing her children’s clothes, rather than a Church of “purists” who presume to judge ahead of time who will be in the Kingdom of God and who will not.
Today the Lord, who is Wisdom incarnate, helps us to understand that good and evil cannot be identified with neatly defined areas or specific human groups: “These are the good, those are the bad”. He tells us that the boundary line between good and evil passes through the heart of each person; it passes through the heart of each of us, that is: We are all sinners. I would like to ask you: “Whoever is not a sinner raise your hand”. No one! Because we are all sinners, all of us are. Jesus Christ, with his death on the Cross and his Resurrection, has freed us from the slavery of sin and given us the grace to journey in a new life; but along with Baptism he also gave us Confession, because we all need to be forgiven for our sins. Looking always and only at the evil that is outside of us means not wanting to recognize the sin that is also inside us.
Then Jesus teaches us a different way of looking at the field of the world, of observing reality. We are called to learn God’s time — which is not our time — and also God’s “gaze”: thanks to the beneficial influence of uneasy anticipation, what were weeds or seemed to be weeds can become a good product. It is the reality of conversion. It is the prospect of hope!
May the Virgin Mary help us to accept, in the reality that surrounds us, not only filth and evil, but also good and beauty; to unmask the work of Satan, but above all to trust in the action of God who fertilizes history.
19.11.17 Holy Mass, Vatican Basilica, Rome
World Day of the Poor 33rd Sunday - Year A
Proverbs 31: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31,
We have the joy of breaking the bread of God’s word, and shortly, we will have the joy of breaking and receiving the Bread of the Eucharist, food for life’s journey. All of us, none excluded, need this, for all of us are beggars when it comes to what is essential: God’s love, which gives meaning to our lives and a life without end. So today too, we lift up our hands to him, asking to receive his gifts.
The Gospel parable speaks of gifts. It tells us that we have received talents from God, “according to ability of each” (Mt 25:15). Before all else, let us realize this: we do have talents; in God’s eyes, we are “talented”. Consequently, no one can think that he or she is useless, so poor as to be incapable of giving something to others. We are chosen and blessed by God, who wants to fill us with his gifts, more than any father or mother does with their own children. And God, in whose eyes no child can be neglected, entrusts to each of us a mission.
Indeed, as the loving and demanding Father that he is, he gives us responsibility. In the parable, we see that each servant is given talents to use wisely. But whereas the first two servants do what they are charged, the third does not make his talents bear fruit; he gives back only what he had received. “I was afraid – he says – and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours” (v. 25). As a result, he is harshly rebuked as “wicked and lazy” (v. 26). What made the Master displeased with him? To use a word that may sound a little old-fashioned but is still timely, I would say it was his omission. His evil was that of failing to do good. All too often, we have the idea that we haven’t done anything wrong, and so we rest content, presuming that we are good and just. But in this way we risk acting like the unworthy servant: he did no wrong, he didn’t waste the talent, in fact he kept it carefully hidden in the ground. But to do no wrong is not enough. God is not an inspector looking for unstamped tickets; he is a Father looking for children to whom he can entrust his property and his plans (cf. v. 14). It is sad when the Father of love does not receive a generous response of love from his children, who do no more than keep the rules and follow the commandments, like hired hands in the house of the Father (cf. Lk 15:17).
The unworthy servant, despite receiving a talent from the Master who loves to share and multiply his gifts, guarded it jealously; he was content to keep it safe. But someone concerned only to preserve and maintain the treasures of the past is not being faithful to God. Instead, the parable tells us, the one who adds new talents is truly “faithful” (vv. 21 and 23), because he sees things as God does; he does not stand still, but instead, out of love, takes risks. He puts his life on the line for others; he is not content to keep things as they are. One thing alone does he overlook: his own interest. That is the only right “omission”.
Omission is also the great sin where the poor are concerned. Here it has a specific name: indifference. It is when we say, “That doesn’t regard me; it’s not my business; it’s society’s problem”. It is when we turn away from a brother or sister in need, when we change channels as soon as a disturbing question comes up, when we grow indignant at evil but do nothing about it. God will not ask us if we felt righteous indignation, but whether we did some good.
How, in practice can we please God? When we want to please someone dear to us, for example by giving a gift, we need first to know that person’s tastes, lest the gift prove more pleasing to the giver than to the recipient. When we want to offer something to the Lord, we can find his tastes in the Gospel. Immediately following the passage that we heard today, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you that, just as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). These least of our brethren, whom he loves dearly, are the hungry and the sick, the stranger and the prisoner, the poor and the abandoned, the suffering who receive no help, the needy who are cast aside. On their faces we can imagine seeing Jesus’ own face; on their lips, even if pursed in pain, we can hear his words: “This is my body” (Mt 26:26).
In the poor, Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love. When we overcome our indifference and, in the name of Jesus, we give of ourselves for the least of his brethren, we are his good and faithful friends, with whom he loves to dwell. God greatly appreciates the attitude described in today’s first reading that of the “good wife”, who “opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy” (Prov 31:10.20). Here we see true goodness and strength: not in closed fists and crossed arms, but in ready hands outstretched to the poor, to the wounded flesh of the Lord.
There, in the poor, we find the presence of Jesus, who, though rich, became poor (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). For this reason, in them, in their weakness, a “saving power” is present. And if in the eyes of the world they have little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven; they are our “passport to paradise”. For us it is an evangelical duty to care for them, as our real riches, and to do so not only by giving them bread, but also by breaking with them the bread of God’s word, which is addressed first to them. To love the poor means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material.
And it will also do us good. Drawing near to the poor in our midst will touch our lives. It will remind us of what really counts: to love God and our neighbour. Only this lasts forever, everything else passes away. What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes. Today we might ask ourselves: “What counts for me in life? Where am I making my investments?” In fleeting riches, with which the world is never satisfied, or in the wealth bestowed by God, who gives eternal life? This is the choice before us: to live in order to gain things on earth, or to give things away in order to gain heaven. Where heaven is concerned, what matters is not what we have, but what we give, for “those who store up treasures for themselves, do not grow rich in the sight of God” (Lk 12:21).
So let us not seek for ourselves more than we need, but rather what is good for others, and nothing of value will be lacking to us. May the Lord, who has compassion for our poverty and needs, and bestows his talents upon us, grant us the wisdom to seek what really matters, and the courage to love, not in words but in deeds.
Man left to his own strength does not understand the things of the Spirit. There are two spirits, two ways of thinking, of feeling, of acting: that which leads me to the Spirit of God, and that which leads me to the spirit of the world. And this happens in our life: We all have these two ‘spirits,’ we might say. The Spirit of God, which leads us to good works, to charity, to fraternity, to adore God, to know Jesus, to do many good works of charity, to pray: this one. And [there is] the other spirit, of the world, which leads us to vanity, pride, sufficiency, gossip – a completely different path. Our heart, a saint once said, is like a battlefield, a field of war where these two spirits struggle.
In the life of the Christian, then, we must fight in order to make room for the Spirit of God, and “drive away the spirit of the world. And, a daily examination of conscience can help to identify temptations, to clarify how these opposing forces work.
It is very simple: We have this great gift, which is the Spirit of God, but we are weak, we are sinners, and we still have the temptation of the spirit of the world. In this spiritual combat, in this war of the spirit, we need to be victors like Jesus.
Every night, a Christian should think over the events of the past day, to determine whether “vanity” and “pride” prevailed, or whether he or she has succeeded in imitating the Son of God
To recognize the things that occur in the heart. If we do not do this, if we do not know what happens in our heart – and I don’t say this, the Bible does – we are like ‘animals that understand nothing,’ that move along through instinct. But we are not animals, we are children of God, baptized with the gift of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, it is important to understand what has happened each day in my heart. May the Lord teach us always, every day, to make an examination of conscience.
25.10.19 Holy Mass, Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)
In the First Reading (Romans 7: 18-25A) St. Paul speaks to the Romans about the continuous inner struggle inside him between the desire to do good and not being able to do it.
Some might think that by carrying out the "evil he does not want" St. Paul might be in hell or defeated. Yet, he is a saint because even saints experience this war within themselves. It is "a law for all", "an everyday war".
It is a struggle between good and evil; but not an abstract good and an abstract evil but between the good that the Holy Spirit inspires and the bad of the evil spirit. It's a fight for all of us. If any of us says " But I do not feel this, I am blessed, I live peacefully, I do not feel ..." I would say: "You're not blessed: you are anesthetized. You’re someone who doesn't understand what’s happening".
In this daily struggle, we win today; tomorrow there will be another and the next day, until the end. The martyrs had to fight to the end to maintain their faith. It’s the same for the saints, like Therese of the Child Jesus, for whom "the hardest struggle was the final moment", on her deathbed, because she felt that "the bad spirit" wanted to snatch her from the Lord.
In daily life there are "extraordinary moments of struggle" as well as "ordinary moments". That is why in today’s Gospel (Luke 12: 54-59), Jesus tells the crowd: "You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?"
We Christians are often busy with many things, including good things, but what is going on inside you? Who leads you to them ? What is your spiritual inclination to do them? Who brings you to do them? Our life is like life in the street. We go down the road of life... when we go out on the street, we only look at the things that interest us; we don't look at other things.
There is always the struggle between grace and sin, between the Lord who wants to save and pull us out of this temptation and the bad spirit that always throws us down in order to win us. Let us ask ourselves whether each of us is a street person who comes and goes without realizing what is happening and whether our decisions come from the Lord or are dictated by our selfishness, by the devil.
It's important to know what's going on inside of us. It's important to live a little inside and to not let our souls be a street where everyone goes. "And how do you do that Father?" Before the end of the day take two to three minutes: what happened today important inside of me? Oh, yes, I had a little hate there and I talked there; I did that charity work... Who helped you do these things, both the bad and good? And ask ourselves these questions to know what is going on inside of us. Sometimes with that chatty soul that we all have, we know what's going on in the neighbourhood, what's going on in the neighbour's house, but we don't know what's going on inside us.
03.05.20 Regina Caeli, Apostolic Palace Library
Fourth Sunday of Easter - Year A
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
The fourth Sunday of Easter, which we celebrate today, is dedicated to Jesus the Good Shepherd. The Gospel says, "The sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep, by name" (John 10: 3). The Lord calls us by name, calls us because he loves us. But, the Gospel then tells us, there are other voices not to be followed: those of strangers, thieves and robbers who want evil for the sheep.
These different voices resonate within us. There is the voice of God, who speaks kindly to the conscience, and there is the tempting voice that leads to evil. How can we recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd from that of the thief, how can we distinguish God's inspiration from the suggestion of the evil one?
We can learn to discern these two voices: in fact they speak two different languages, that is, they have opposite ways of knocking on our hearts. They speak different languages. As we know how to distinguish one language from another, we can also distinguish the voice of God and the voice of the evil one. The voice of God never forces us: God proposes himself, he does not impose himself. Instead, the evil voice seduces, assails, forces: it arouses dazzling illusions, tempting emotions that are fleeting. At first it flatters us, it makes us believe that we are all-powerful, but then leaves us with emptiness inside and accuses us: "You are worth nothing". God's voice, on the other hand, corrects us, with so much patience, but always encourages us, consoles us: it always nourishes hope. The voice of God is a voice that has a horizon, instead the voice of the evil one leads you to a wall, it takes you to a corner.
Another difference. The voice of the enemy distracts us from the present and wants us to focus on the fears of the future or the sadness of the past – the enemy does not want the present –: it brings back the bitterness, the memories of the wrongs suffered, of those who hurt us, so many bad memories. Instead, God's voice speaks to the present: "Now you can do good, now you can exercise the creativity of love, now you can renounce the regrets and remorse that hold your heart captive." It enlivens us, it brings us forward, but it speaks of the present: now.
In addition: the two voices raise different questions in us. What comes from God will be, "What is good for me?" Instead, the tempter will insist on another question: "What do I want to do?" What would I like: the evil voice always revolves around the self, its impulses, its needs, everything and immediately. It's like the whims of children: everything right now. The voice of God, on the other hand, never promises cheap joy. It invites us to go beyond our self to find the true good, peace. Let us remember: evil never gives us peace, it puts frenzy first and leaves bitterness after. That's the style of evil.
Finally, the voice of God and that of the tempter, speak in different "environments": the enemy prefers darkness, falsehood, gossip; the Lord loves sunlight, truth, sincere transparency. The enemy will say to us: "Close yourself in on yourself, for no one understands you and listens to you, do not trust others!". Good, on the other hand, invites us to open up, to be transparent and trusting in God and in others.
Dear brothers and sisters, in this time many thoughts and concerns lead us to turn inwards. Let us pay attention to the voices that reach our hearts. Let's ask ourselves where they come from. Let us ask for the grace to recognize and follow the voice of the Good Shepherd, who brings us out of the enclosures of selfishness and leads us to the pastures of true freedom. May Our Lady, Mother of good Counsel, guide and accompany our discernment.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good day!
In today’s Gospel (cf Mt 13:24-43) we once again encounter Jesus who is intent on speaking to the crowd in parables about the Kingdom of Heaven. I will reflect only on the first one, that of the weeds, through which Jesus helps us understand God’s patience, opening our hearts to hope.
Jesus narrates that, in the field in which good seed was sown, weeds sprout up as well. This term sums up all the toxic vegetation that infests the soil. Among us, we can say that even today the soil has been devastated by so many herbicides and pesticides that, in the end, cause harm both to the weeds, to the earth, and to our health. This is in parentheses. The servants then go to the master to know where the weeds come from. He responds: “An enemy has done this!” (v. 28). Because we sowed good seed! An enemy, someone who is in competition, came to do this. They [the servants] want to go right away to pull them up, the weeds that are growing. Instead, the master says no, because that would risk pulling the vegetation – the weeds – up together with the wheat. It is necessary to wait for harvest time: only then, will the weeds be separated and burned. This is also a common-sense story.
A way of looking at history can be read in this parable. Alongside God – the master of the field – who only and always sows good seed, there is an adversary, who sows weeds to impede the wheat’s growth. The master acts in the open, in broad daylight, and his goal is a good harvest. Instead, the other, the adversary, takes advantage of the darkness of night and works out of envy and hostility to ruin everything. The adversary has a name – the adversary that Jesus refers to has a name: it is the devil, God’s quintessential opponent. The devil’s intention is to hinder the work of salvation, to stonewall the Kingdom of God through wicked workers, sowers of scandal. In fact, the good seed and the weeds do not represent good and bad in the abstract, no; but we human beings, who can follow God or the devil. Many times we have heard that a peaceful family begins to be at war, or envious... a neighbourhood that was peaceful, then nasty things begin to happen... And we are used to saying: “Eh, someone went and sowed weeds there”, or “that person in the family sowed weeds by gossiping”. Destruction always happens by sowing evil. It is always the devil who does this or our own temptations: when we fall into the temptation to gossip to destroy others.
The servants’ intention is to eliminate evil immediately, that is, evil people. But the master is wiser, he sees farther. They must learn to wait because enduring persecution and hostility is part of the Christian vocation. Certainly, evil must be rejected, but those who do evil are people with whom it is necessary to be patient. This does not mean that type of hypocritical tolerance that hides ambiguity; but rather, justice tempered by mercy. If Jesus came to seek sinners more than the righteous, to cure the sick first before the healthy (cf Mt 9:12-13), so must the actions of His disciples be focused not on suppressing the wicked, but on saving them. Patience lies here.
Today’s Gospel presents two ways of acting and of living history: on the one hand, the master’s vision who sees far; on the other, the vision of the servants who just see the problem. What the servants care about is a field without weeds; the master cares about good wheat. The Lord invites us to adopt His own vision, one that is focused on good wheat, that knows how to protect it even amidst the weeds. Those who are always hunting for the limitations and defects of others do not collaborate well with God, but, rather, those who know how to recognise the good that silently grows in the field of the Church and history, cultivating it until it becomes mature. And then, it will be God, and He alone, who will reward the good and punish the wicked.
May the Virgin Mary help us to understand and imitate God’s patience, who wants none of His children to be lost, whom He loves with the love of a Father.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
In the Gospel of today’s Liturgy, Jesus gives some basic life guidance to the disciples. The Lord refers to the most difficult situations, those that constitute the litmus test for us, those that confront us with those who are enemies and hostile to us, those who are always trying to do us harm. In such cases, the disciple of Jesus is called not to give in to instinct and hatred, but to go further, much further. Go beyond instinct, go beyond hatred. Jesus says: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Lk 6:27). And even more concretely: “To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also” (v. 29). When we hear this, it seems that the Lord is asking the impossible. And then, why love your enemies? If you do not react to the bullies, every abuse of power is given free rein, and this is not right. But is it really so? Does the Lord really ask impossible and indeed even unjust things of us? Is it so?
Let us consider first and foremost that sense of injustice that we feel in “turning the other cheek”. And let us think of Jesus. During the passion, in his unjust trial before the high priest, at one point he receives a slap from one of the guards. And how does He react? He does not insult him, no: he says to the guard, “If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” (Jn 18:23). He asks for an account of the wrong done to him. Turning the other cheek does not mean suffering in silence, giving in to injustice. Jesus, with his question, denounces what is unjust. But he does so without anger, without violence, indeed with kindness. He does not wish to spark off an argument, but rather to defuse resentment, this is important: to extinguish hatred and injustice together, seeking to restore the guilty brother. This is not easy, but Jesus did it and he tells us to do likewise. This is turning the other cheek: Jesus’ mildness is a stronger response to the slap he received. Turning the other cheek is not the withdrawal of the loser, but the action of one who has a greater inner strength. Turning the other cheek means defeating evil with the goodness that opens up a breach in the heart of the enemy, unmasking the absurdity of his hatred. And this attitude, this turning the other cheek, is dictated not by calculation or by hatred, but by love. Dear brothers and sisters, it is the freely given, undeserved love we receive from Jesus that generates in the heart a way of doing things that is similar to his, that rejects all vengeance. We are accustomed to revenge: “You did this to me, I will do that to you”, or to bearing a grudge in our heart, resentment that harms, destroys the person.
Let us come to another objection: is it possible for a person to come to love his or her enemies? If it depended only on us, it would be impossible. But let us recall that, when the Lord asks for something, he wishes to give it. The Lord never asks for something he has not already given us first. When he tells me to love my enemies, he wants to give me the capacity to do so. Without that ability, we would not be capable, but he tells you to “love your enemy” and gives you the capacity to love. Saint Augustine prayed in this way – listen to this beautiful prayer: Lord, “give what you command, and command what you will” (Confessions, X, 29.40), because you have already given it to me. What should we ask of him? What is God happy to give us? The strength to love, which is not a thing, but rather the Holy Spirit. The strength to love is the Holy Spirit, and with the Spirit of Jesus, we can respond to evil with good, we can love those who do us harm. This is what Christians do. How sad it is, when people and populations proud to be Christians see others as enemies and think to wage war against each other! It is very sad.
And us, shall we try to live following Jesus’ invitations? Think of someone who has wronged us. Each one of you, think of a person. It is common for us to be hurt by someone; think of that person. Perhaps we hold a grudge within. So, let us set alongside this resentment the image of Jesus, meek, during the trial, after the slap. And then let us ask the Holy Spirit to act in our heart. Finally, let us pray for that person: let us pray for those who have done us harm (see Lk 6:28). When people harm us, we immediately go and tell others and we feel we are victims. Let us stop, and pray to the Lord for that person, that he might help him or her, and so this feeling of resentment will be dispelled. Praying for those who have wronged us is the first step to transforming evil into good. Prayer. May the Virgin Mary help us be workers of peace towards everyone, especially those who are hostile to us and whom we do not like.
13.11.22 Angelus, Saint Peter's Square
World Day of the Poor
33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon, blessed Sunday!
Today’s Gospel takes us to Jerusalem, in the most sacred place: the temple. There, around Jesus, some people speak about the magnificence of that grandiose building, “adorned with costly stones” (Lk 21:5). But the Lord states, “there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down” (Lk 21:6). He then adds to the story, explaining how in history almost everything collapses: there will be, he says, revolutions and wars, earthquakes and famines, pestilence and persecution (cf. vv. 9-17). As if to say: one should not place too much trust in earthly realities, which pass. These are wise words, which can however make us somewhat bitter. There are already many things going wrong. Why does the Lord even make such negative pronouncements? In reality his intention is not to be negative, it is otherwise – to give us a valuable teaching, that is, the way out of all this precariousness. And what is the way out? How can we come out of this reality that passes and passes, and will be no more?
It lies in a word that will perhaps surprise us. Christ reveals it in the final phrase of the Gospel, when he says: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives” (v. 19). Perseverance. What is perseverance? The word indicates being “very strict”; but strict in what sense? With oneself, considering oneself not up to standard? No. With others, becoming rigid and inflexible? Not this either. Jesus asks us to be “strict”, uncompromising, persistent in what he has at heart, in what counts. Because, what truly counts, very often does not coincide with what attracts our interest. Like those people at the temple, we often prioritize the work of our hands, our achievements, our religious and civil traditions, our sacred and social symbols. This is fine, but we accord too much priority to them. These things are important, but they pass away. Instead, Jesus says to concentrate on what remains, to avoid devoting our life to building something that will then be destroyed, like that temple, and forgetting to build what will not collapse, to build on his word, on love, on goodness. To be persevering, to be strict and resolute in building on what does not pass away.
This, then, is perseverance: building goodness every day. To persevere is to remain constant in goodness, especially when the reality around us urges us to do otherwise. Let us reflect on a few examples: I know that prayer is important, but, like everyone, I too always have a lot to do, and so I put it off: “No, I am busy now, I can’t, I’ll do it later”. Or, I see many crafty people who take advantage of situations, who dodge the rules, and so I too stop observing them and persevering in justice and legality: “But if these scoundrels do it, so will I!”. Beware of this! And again: I carry out service in the Church, for the community, for the poor, but I see that many people in their free time think only of enjoying themselves, and so I feel like giving up and do what they do. Because I do not see results, or I get bored, or it does not make me happy.
Persevering, instead, is remaining in goodness. Let us ask ourselves: what is my perseverance like? Am I constant, or do I live faith, justice and charity according to the moment: I pray if I feel like it; I am fair, willing and helpful if it suits me; whereas if I am dissatisfied, if no-one thanks me, do I stop? In short, do my prayer and service depend on circumstances or on a heart that is steadfast in the Lord? If we persevere – Jesus reminds us – we have nothing to fear, even in the sad and ugly events of life, not even in the evil we see around us, because we remain grounded in the good. Dostoevsky wrote: “Have no fear of men’s sin. Love a man even in his sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth” (The Brothers Karamazov, II, 6, 3g). Perseverance is the reflection in the world of God’s love, because God’s love is faithful, it is persevering, it never changes.
May Our Lady, servant of the Lord, persevering in prayer (cf. Acts 1:12), fortify our perseverance.