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
Before ascending into heaven Jesus sent the Apostles out to evangelize, to preach the kingdom. He sent them to the ends of the earth. ‘Go into all the world’”, he urged them. Jesus did not tell the Apostles to go to Jerusalem or Galilee but sent them out into the entire world. This explains the missionary outreach of the Church which continues to preach to the whole world. But she does not go by herself. She goes with Jesus.
The Christian preaches the Gospel with his witness rather than with his words. Pray to the Lord that they “become missionaries in the Church with this spirit: great magnanimity and also great humility”.
Jesus assures all those who follow him a place among “the family of Christians” and recalls that “we are all brothers and sisters”, but warns that “there will be persecutions, difficulties”. "Whoever follows me, must take the same route that I took”. It is a way, which leads to humbling oneself and which “ends on the Cross. There will always be difficulties and persecutions that come from the world, for he took this path first. When a Christian does not have difficulties in life and all goes well, something is not right”. One might think that he succumbed to the temptation to follow the spirit of the world instead of Jesus. Let us ask for this grace: to follow Jesus on the path which he has shown to us and taught us. This is beautiful: He never leaves us alone, never. He is always with us.
Christians are like clay vases because they are weak, since they are sinners. Nevertheless between us poor, earthen vessels and the power of Jesus Christ is a dialogue; it is the dialogue of salvation. When this dialogue assumes the tone of self- justification, it means that something is not working and that there is no salvation. The humility of a Christian is that of one who follows the path pointed out by the Apostle. “We must really recognize our sins, and not present ourselves with a false image”.
Brothers, we have a treasure: the Saviour Jesus Christ, the Cross of Jesus Christ is the treasure in which we rejoice, but let us not forget to also confess our sins for it is only in this way the dialogue is Christian, Catholic, and concrete. Jesus Christ did not save us with an idea, or an intellectual programme. He saved us with his flesh, with the concreteness of the flesh. He lowered himself, became man, and was made flesh until the end. You can only understand a treasure like this if you are transformed into clay vases.
"With joy, let us go to the house of the Lord". And we did so, because the first Reading reminds us of a moment of joy for the people of God, a very beautiful moment when “a pagan king helped God's people return to their land and rebuild the temple”. The reference is to a passage from the Book of Ezra (6:7-8, 12, 14-20).
In the history of God's people, there are beautiful moments like this one, which bring great joy, and there are also ugly moments of suffering, martyrdom and sin. In good and bad moments alike, one thing always remains the same: the Lord is there. He never abandons his people, for the Lord, on that day of sin, of the first sin, made a decision; he made a choice, to make history with his people.
God, who has no history since he is eternal, wanted to make history, to walk close to his people. But there is more: he wanted to make himself one of us and as one of us to walk with us in Jesus. And this speaks to us. It tells us about the humility of God” who is “so very great” and powerful precisely in his humility. He “wanted to walk with his people, and when his people wandered far from him through sin, idolatry and the many things we see in the Bible, he was there”.
We also see this attitude of humility in Jesus, “Walking with God's people, walking with sinners, even walking with the proud: how much the Lord did in order to help the proud hearts of the Pharisees. He wanted to walk. Humility. God always waits, God is beside us. God walks with us. He is humble. He waits for us always. Jesus always waits for us. This is the humility of God”.
Thus, “the Church joyfully sings of the humility of God who accompanies us as we did in the psalm: “With joy, let us go to the house of the Lord”. Let us go with joy; then he accompanies us, he along with us”.
The Lord Jesus, also accompanies us in our personal lives with the sacraments. A sacrament is not a magical rite, it is an encounter with Jesus Christ. In it, “we encounter the Lord. And he is by our side and accompanies us: a travelling companion”. And “the Holy Spirit also accompanies us and teaches us all that we do not know in our hearts. He reminds us of all that Jesus taught us and he makes us feel the beauty of the good way. Thus God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are our travelling companions. They make history with us”.
The Church, celebrates this with great joy at each Eucharist. That beautiful Eucharistic prayer that we will pray today, in which we sing of God's great love, which desired to be humble, to be a travelling companion with us, and that also wanted to make history with us. And if God, entered into our history, let us also enter a little into his history or at least ask of him the grace to let him write history. May he write our history. It is a reliable one.
Jesus reprimands these two Apostles, James and John, because in a Samaritan village “they wanted fire to come down from heaven upon those who did not want to receive him”. The two apostles, felt that to close the door on Jesus was a great offense, and that these people needed to be punished. But “the Lord turned and rebuked them: this is not our spirit. In fact, The Lord always goes ahead, making the way of a Christian known to us. It is not... a path of revenge. The Christian spirit is something else, the Lord says. It is the spirit that he showed us in the strongest moment of his life, in his passion: a spirit of humility, a spirit of meekness.
And today, on the anniversary of St Therese of the Child Jesus, it is good for us to think of this spirit of humility, tenderness and goodness. We all want this meek spirit of the Lord. Where is the strength that brings us to this spirit? It is truly in love, in charity, in the awareness that we are in the hands of the Father. As we read at the beginning of Mass: the Lord carries us, he carries us on, he keeps us going. He is with us and he guides us.
Pope Francis recalled the strength of St Therese of the Child Jesus and her importance to the present day: “The Church has made this Saint — who was humble, small, confident in God, and meek — the Patroness of the missions. You don't understand this. The power of the Gospel is right there, because the Gospel reaches its highest point in the humiliation of Jesus... the strength of the Gospel is humility. The humility of a child who is guided by the love and tenderness of the Father”.
“The Church, as Benedict XVI has told us, grows by attraction, by witness. And when people, when peoples see this witness of humility, of meekness and docility, they feel the need” which the prophet Zechariah spoke of, saying: 'Let us go with you'. Faced with the witness of charity, people feel this need.... Charity is simple: worshiping God and serving others. This is the witness that makes the Church grow. “Precisely for this reason”, Pope Francis concluded, St Therese of the Child Jesus, who was “so humble and so trusting in God, has been named Patroness of the missions, because her example makes people say: we want to come with you.
The readings this Sunday invite us to reflect on some basic features of the Christian family.
1. First: the family prays. The Gospel passage speaks about two ways of praying, one is false – that of the Pharisee – and the other is authentic – that of the tax collector. The Pharisee embodies an attitude which does not express thanksgiving to God for his blessings and his mercy, but rather self-satisfaction. The Pharisee feels himself justified, he feels his life is in order, he boasts of this, and he judges others from his pedestal. The tax collector, on the other hand, does not multiply words. His prayer is humble, sober, pervaded by a consciousness of his own unworthiness, of his own needs. Here is a man who truly realizes that he needs God’s forgiveness and his mercy.
The prayer of the tax collector is the prayer of the poor man, a prayer pleasing to God. It is a prayer which, as the first reading says, “will reach to the clouds” (Sir 35:20), unlike the prayer of the Pharisee, which is weighed down by vanity.
In the light of God’s word, I would like to ask you, dear families: Do you pray together from time to time as a family? Some of you do, I know. But so many people say to me: But how can we? As the tax collector does, it is clear: humbly, before God. Each one, with humility, allowing themselves to be gazed upon by the Lord and imploring his goodness, that he may visit us. But in the family how is this done? After all, prayer seems to be something personal, and besides there is never a good time, a moment of peace… Yes, all that is true enough, but it is also a matter of humility, of realizing that we need God, like the tax collector! And all families, we need God: all of us! We need his help, his strength, his blessing, his mercy, his forgiveness. And we need simplicity to pray as a family: simplicity is necessary! Praying the Our Father together, around the table, is not something extraordinary: it’s easy. And praying the Rosary together, as a family, is very beautiful and a source of great strength! And also praying for one another! The husband for his wife, the wife for her husband, both together for their children, the children for their grandparents….praying for each other. This is what it means to pray in the family and it is what makes the family strong: prayer.
2. The second reading suggests another thought: the family keeps the faith. The Apostle Paul, at the end of his life, makes a final reckoning and says: “I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7). But how did he keep the faith? Not in a strong box! Nor did he hide it underground, like the somewhat lazy servant. Saint Paul compares his life to a fight and to a race. He kept the faith because he didn’t just defend it, but proclaimed it, spread it, brought it to distant lands. He stood up to all those who wanted to preserve, to “embalm” the message of Christ within the limits of Palestine. That is why he made courageous decisions, he went into hostile territory, he let himself be challenged by distant peoples and different cultures, he spoke frankly and fearlessly. Saint Paul kept the faith because, in the same way that he received it, he gave it away, he went out to the fringes, and didn’t dig himself into defensive positions.
Here too, we can ask: How do we keep our faith as a family? Do we keep it for ourselves, in our families, as a personal treasure like a bank account, or are we able to share it by our witness, by our acceptance of others, by our openness? We all know that families, especially young families, are often “racing” from one place to another, with lots to do. But did you ever think that this “racing” could also be the race of faith? Christian families are missionary families. Yesterday in this square we heard the testimonies of missionary families. They are missionary also in everyday life, in their doing everyday things, as they bring to everything the salt and the leaven of faith! Keeping the faith in families and bringing to everyday things the salt and the leaven of faith.
3. And one more thought we can take from God’s word: the family experiences joy. In the responsorial psalm we find these words: “let the humble hear and be glad” (33/34:2). The entire psalm is a hymn to the Lord who is the source of joy and peace. What is the reason for this gladness? It is that the Lord is near, he hears the cry of the lowly and he frees them from evil. As Saint Paul himself writes: “Rejoice always … The Lord is near” (Phil 4:4-5). I would like to ask you all a question today. But each of you keep it in your heart and take it home. You can regard it as a kind of “homework”. Only you must answer. How are things when it comes to joy at home? Is there joy in your family? You can answer this question.
Dear families, you know very well that the true joy which we experience in the family is not superficial; it does not come from material objects, from the fact that everything seems to be going well... True joy comes from a profound harmony between persons, something which we all feel in our hearts and which makes us experience the beauty of togetherness, of mutual support along life’s journey. But the basis of this feeling of deep joy is the presence of God, the presence of God in the family and his love, which is welcoming, merciful, and respectful towards all. And above all, a love which is patient: patience is a virtue of God and he teaches us how to cultivate it in family life, how to be patient, and lovingly so, with each other. To be patient among ourselves. A patient love. God alone knows how to create harmony from differences. But if God’s love is lacking, the family loses its harmony, self-centredness prevails and joy fades. But the family which experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally. That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world, it is the leaven of society as a whole.
Dear families, always live in faith and simplicity, like the Holy Family of Nazareth! The joy and peace of the Lord be always with you!
Abide in the Lord, the Christian, man or woman, is one who abides in the Lord. But what does this mean? Many things.
The Christian who abides in the Lord knows what is happening in his heart. That is why the Apostle says: ‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits’; know how to discern the spirits, to discern what you are feeling, what you are thinking, what you want, and whether it is truly to abide in the Lord or something else which distances you from the Lord. Our hearts always have desires, wants, thoughts: but are all of these from the Lord? That is why the Apostle says: test what you are thinking, what you are feeling, what you want... If it is in line with the Lord alright; but if not....
It is then necessary to test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. Not only can the prophets be false, but also their prophecies and suggestions. That is why we always need to be watchful. Indeed a Christian is precisely a man or woman who knows how to watch his or her heart.
A heart in which many things come and go is like a local market where you find everything. This is precisely the reason why the constant work of discernment is so needed, in order to understand what is truly of the Lord. But how do I know that something is of Christ? The Apostle John indicates the criteria we should follow. 'Every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already'.
It is so simple: if what you desire, or what you think travels down the road of the Incarnation of the Word, of the Lord who comes in the flesh, it means that it is of God. However, if it does not travel by that road, then it does not come from God. Essentially, it is a matter of recognizing the road travelled by God, who emptied himself, who humbled himself unto death on the Cross. Self abasement, humility and also humiliation: this is the way of road of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, if a thought or a desire leads you on the road of humility, of self-abasement and of service to others, it is of Jesus; but if it leads you on the road of self-importance, of vanity and of pride, or on the road of abstract thought, it is not of Jesus. The temptations Jesus underwent in the desert attest to this. All three of the devil's temptations to Jesus were suggestions aimed at distancing Jesus from this path, from the path of service, from humility, from humiliation, from the act of love he made by his life.
Let us think about this today. It will do us good. First: what is going on in my heart? What am I thinking? What am I feeling? Do I pay attention to what comes and goes or do I let it go? Do I know what I want? Do I test what I desire? Or do I simply take everything? Beloved, do not believe every spirit; but test the spirits. Often our hearts are like a road that everyone takes. This is precisely why we need to test and ask ourselves if we always choose the things that come from God, if we know what comes from God, if we know the right criteria by which we should discern our desires and our thoughts. And, we must never forget that the true criteria is the Incarnation of God.
In recent days the liturgy has led us to meditate on many Christian attitudes: to give, to be generous, to serve others, to forgive, to be merciful. These are approaches which help the Church to grow. But today especially, the Lord makes us consider one of these approaches, which he has already spoken of, and that is brotherly correction. The bottom line is: When a brother, a sister from the community makes a mistake, how does one correct them?
Always through the liturgy the Lord has given us advice on how to correct others. But today he resumes and says: one must correct him or her, but as a person who sees and not as one who is blind. Luke (6:39-42): “Can a blind man lead a blind man?”.
Thus to correct it is necessary to see clearly. And to follow several rules of behaviour that the Lord himself proposed. First of all, the advice he gives to correct a brother, we heard the other day. It is to take aside your brother who made the error and speak to him, telling him, brother, in this regard, I believe you did not do right!
And to take him aside, indeed, means to correct him with charity. It would otherwise be like performing surgery without anaesthesia, resulting in a patient’s painful death. And charity is like anaesthesia which helps him to receive the care and to accept the correction. Here then is the first step toward a brother: take him aside, gently, lovingly, and speak to him.
Let us always speak with charity, without wounding, in our communities, parishes, institutions, religious communities, when one must say something to a sister, to a brother.
Along with charity, it is necessary to tell the truth and never say something that isn’t true. In fact many times in our communities things are said to another person that aren’t true: they are libellous. Or, if they are true however, they harm the reputation of that person.
In this respect the following may be a way to approach a brother: I am telling you this, to you, what you have done. It is true. It isn’t a rumour that I heard. Because rumours wound, they are insults to a person’s reputation, they are strikes at a person’s heart. And so the truth is always needed, even if at times it isn’t good to hear it. In every case if the truth is told with charity and with love, it is easier to accept. This is why it is necessary to speak the truth with charity: this is how one must speak to others about faults.
Jesus speaks of the third rule, humility, in the passage of Luke’s Gospel: correct others without hypocrisy, that is, with humility. It is good to point out to oneself if you must correct a tiny flaw there, consider that you have so many that are greater. The Lord says this effectively: first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck from the eye of another. Only in this way will you not be blind and will you see clearly to truly help your brother. Thus humility is important in order to recognize that I am a greater sinner than him, a greater sinner than her. Afterwards I must help him and her to correct this flaw.
If I do not perform brotherly correction with charity, do not perform it in truth and do not perform it with humility, I become blind. And if I do not see, it is asked, how do I heal another blind person.
In substance, fraternal correction is an act to heal the body of the Church. It is like mending a hole in the fabric of the Church. However, one must proceed with much sensitivity, like mothers and grandmothers when they mend, and this is the very manner with which one must perform brotherly correction.
On the other hand if you are not capable of performing fraternal reproof with love, with charity, in truth and with humility, you will offend, damage that person’s heart: you will create an extra tale that wounds and you will become a blind hypocrite, as Jesus says. Indeed, the day’s reading from the Gospel of Luke reads: “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your eye”. And while it is necessary to recognize oneself as being a greater sinner than the other, as brothers, however, we are called to help to correct him.
There is a sign which perhaps can help us: when one sees something wrong and feels that he should correct it but perceives a certain pleasure in doing so, then it is time to pay attention, because that is not the Lord’s way. Indeed, in the Lord there is always the cross, the difficulty of doing something good. And love and gentleness always come from the Lord.
This whole line of reasoning on fraternal correction, demands that we not judge. Even if we Christians are tempted to act as scholars, almost as if to move outside the game of sin and of grace, as if were angels.
This is a temptation that St Paul also speaks of in his First Letter to the Corinthians (9:16-19, 22-27): “lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified”. The Apostle therefore reminds us, “a Christian who, in community, doesn’t do things, even brotherly correction, in charity, in truth and with humility, is disqualified”. Because he has not managed to become a mature Christian.
Let us pray that the Lord help us in this brotherly service, so beautiful and so agonizing, of helping brothers and sisters to be better, pushing ourselves to always do so with charity, in truth and with humility.
At the heart of this celebration, which seems so festive, are the words we heard in the hymn of the Letter to the Philippians: “He humbled himself” (2:8). Jesus’ humiliation.
These words show us God’s way and, consequently, that which must be the way of Christians: it is humility. A way which constantly amazes and disturbs us: we will never get used to a humble God!
Humility is above all God’s way: God humbles himself to walk with his people, to put up with their infidelity. This is clear when we read the the story of the Exodus. How humiliating for the Lord to hear all that grumbling, all those complaints against Moses, but ultimately against him, their Father, who brought them out of slavery and was leading them on the journey through the desert to the land of freedom.
This week, Holy Week, which leads us to Easter, we will take this path of Jesus’ own humiliation. Only in this way will this week be “holy” for us too!
We will feel the contempt of the leaders of his people and their attempts to trip him up. We will be there at the betrayal of Judas, one of the Twelve, who will sell him for thirty pieces of silver. We will see the Lord arrested and carried off like a criminal; abandoned by his disciples, dragged before the Sanhedrin, condemned to death, beaten and insulted. We will hear Peter, the “rock” among the disciples, deny him three times. We will hear the shouts of the crowd, egged on by their leaders, who demand that Barabbas be freed and Jesus crucified. We will see him mocked by the soldiers, robed in purple and crowned with thorns. And then, as he makes his sorrowful way beneath the cross, we will hear the jeering of the people and their leaders, who scoff at his being King and Son of God.
This is God’s way, the way of humility. It is the way of Jesus; there is no other. And there can be no humility without humiliation.
Following this path to the full, the Son of God took on the “form of a slave” (cf. Phil 2:7). In the end, humility also means service. It means making room for God by stripping oneself, “emptying oneself”, as Scripture says (v. 7). This – the pouring out of oneself - is the greatest humiliation of all.
There is another way, however, opposed to the way of Christ. It is worldliness, the way of the world. The world proposes the way of vanity, pride, success… the other way. The Evil One proposed this way to Jesus too, during his forty days in the desert. But Jesus immediately rejected it. With him, and only by his grace, with his help, we too can overcome this temptation to vanity, to worldliness, not only at significant moments, but in daily life as well.
In this, we are helped and comforted by the example of so many men and women who, in silence and hiddenness, sacrifice themselves daily to serve others: a sick relative, an elderly person living alone, a disabled person, the homeless…
We think too of the humiliation endured by all those who, for their lives of fidelity to the Gospel, encounter discrimination and pay a personal price. We think too of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted because they are Christians, the martyrs of our own time – and there are many. They refuse to deny Jesus and they endure insult and injury with dignity. They follow him on his way. In truth, we can speak of a “cloud of witnesses” – the martyrs of our own time (cf. Heb 12:1).
During this week, let us set about with determination along this same path of humility, with immense love for him, our Lord and Saviour. Love will guide us and give us strength. For where he is, we too shall be (cf. Jn 12:26).
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In the scene from today’s Gospel passage, Jesus, in the home of one of the chief Pharisees, observes that the guests at lunch rush to choose the first place. It is a scene that we have seen so often: seeking the best place even “with our elbows”. Observing this scene, Jesus shares two short parables, and with them two instructions: one concerning the place, and the other concerning the reward.
The first analogy is set at a wedding banquet. Jesus says: “When you are invited by any one to a marriage feast, do not sit down in a place of honour, lest a more eminent man than you be invited by him; and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man’, and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place” (Lk 14:8-9). With this recommendation, Jesus does not intend to give rules of social behaviour, but rather a lesson on the value of humility. History teaches that pride, careerism, vanity and ostentation are the causes of many evils. And Jesus helps us to understand the necessity of choosing the last place, that is, of seeking to be small and hidden: humility. When we place ourselves before God in this dimension of humility, God exalts us, he stoops down to us so as to lift us up to himself; “For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (v. 11).
Jesus’ words emphasize completely different and opposing attitudes: the attitude of those who choose their own place and the attitude of those who allow God to assign it and await a reward from Him. Let us not forget this: God pays much more than men do! He gives us a much greater place than that which men give us! The place that God gives us is close to his heart and his reward is eternal life. “You will be blessed”, Jesus says, “you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (v. 14).
This is what is described in the second parable, in which Jesus points out the attitude of selflessness that ought to characterize hospitality, and he says: “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you” (vv. 13-14). This means choosing gratuitousness rather than self-seeking and calculating to obtain a reward, seeking interest and trying to increase your wealth. Indeed, the poor, the simple, those who ‘don’t count’, can never reciprocate an invitation to a meal. In this way Jesus shows his preference for the poor and the excluded, who are the privileged in the Kingdom of God, and he launches the fundamental message of the Gospel which is to serve others out of love for God. Today, Jesus gives voice to those who are voiceless, and to each one of us he addresses an urgent appeal to open our hearts and to make our own the sufferings and anxieties of the poor, the hungry, the marginalized, the refugees, those who are defeated by life, those who are rejected by society and by the arrogance of the strong. And those who are discarded make up the vast majority of the population.
At this time, I think with gratitude of the soup kitchens where many volunteers offer their services, giving food to people who are alone, in need, unemployed or homeless. These soup kitchens and other works of mercy — such as visiting the sick and the imprisoned — are a training ground for charity that spreads the culture of gratuity, as those who work in these places are motivated by God’s love and enlightened by the wisdom of the Gospel. In this way serving others becomes a testimony of love, which makes the love of Christ visible and credible.
Let us ask the Virgin Mary, who was humble throughout her whole life, to lead us every day along the way of humility, and to render us capable of free gestures of welcome and solidarity with those who are marginalized, so as to become worthy of the divine reward.
This Sunday’s Gospel (cf. Lk 17:11-19) invites us to acknowledge God’s gifts with wonder and gratitude. On the way to his death and resurrection, Jesus meets ten lepers, who approach him, keep their distance and tell their troubles to the one whom their faith perceived as a possible saviour: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (v. 13). They are sick and they are looking someone to heal them. Jesus responds by telling them to go and present themselves to the priests, who according to the Law were charged with certifying presumed healings. In this way, Jesus does not simply make them a promise; he tests their faith. At that moment, in fact, the ten were not yet healed. They were restored to health after they set out in obedience to Jesus’ command. Then, rejoicing, they showed themselves to the priests and continued on their way. They forgot the Giver, the Father, who cured them through Jesus, his Son made man.
All but one: a Samaritan, a foreigner living on the fringes of the chosen people, practically a pagan! This man was not content with being healed by his faith, but brought that healing to completion by returning to express his gratitude for the gift received. He recognized in Jesus the true Priest, who raised him up and saved him, who can now set him on his way and accept him as one of his disciples.
To be able to offer thanks, to be able to praise the Lord for what he has done for us: this is important! So we can ask ourselves: Are we capable of saying “Thank you”? How many times do we say “Thank you” in our family, our community, and in the Church? How many times do we say “Thank you” to those who help us, to those close to us, to those who accompany us through life? Often we take everything for granted! This also happens with God. It is easy to approach the Lord to ask for something, but to return and give thanks... That is why Jesus so emphasizes the failure of the nine ungrateful lepers: “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Lk 17:17-18).
On this Jubilee day, we are given a model, indeed the model, to whom we can look: Mary, our Mother. After hearing the message of the Angel, she lifted up her heart in a song of praise and thanksgiving to God: “My soul magnifies the Lord…” Let us ask our Lady to help us recognize that everything is God’s gift, and to be able to say “Thank you”. Then, I assure you, our joy will be complete. Only those who know how to say “Thank you”, will experience the fullness of joy.
It also takes humility to be able to give thanks. In the first reading we heard the singular story of Naaman, the commander of the army of the King of Aram (cf. 2 Kg 5:14-17). In order to be cured of his leprosy, he accepts the suggestion of a poor slave and entrusts himself to the prophet Elisha, whom he considered an enemy. Naaman was nonetheless ready to humble himself. Elisha asks nothing of him, but simply orders him to bathe in the waters of the River Jordan. This request leaves Naaman perplexed, even annoyed. Can a God who demands such banal things truly be God? He would like to turn back, but then he agrees to be immersed in the Jordan and immediately he is cured.
The heart of Mary, more than any other, is a humble heart, capable of accepting God’s gifts. In order to become man, God chose precisely her, a simple young woman of Nazareth, who did not dwell in the palaces of power and wealth, who did not do extraordinary things. Let us ask ourselves – it will do us good – if we are prepared to accept God’s gifts, or prefer instead to shut ourselves up within our forms of material security, intellectual security, the security of our plans.
Significantly, Naaman and the Samaritans were two foreigners. How many foreigners, including persons of other religions, give us an example of values that we sometimes forget or set aside! Those living beside us, who may be scorned and sidelined because they are foreigners, can instead teach us how to walk on the path that the Lord wishes. The Mother of God, together with Joseph her spouse, knew what it was to live far from home. She too was long a foreigner in Egypt, far from her relatives and friends. Yet her faith was able to overcome the difficulties. Let us cling to this simple faith of the Holy Mother of God; let us ask her that we may always come back to Jesus and express our thanks for the many benefits we have received from his mercy.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Gospel introduces us to the young woman of Nazareth who, having received the Angel’s Annunciation, leaves in haste to be closer to Elizabeth, in the final months of her prodigious pregnancy. Arriving at Elizabeth’s home, Mary hears her utter the words that have come to form the “Hail Mary” prayer: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Lk 1:42). In fact, the greatest gift Mary brings to Elizabeth — and to the whole world — is Jesus, who already lives within her; and he lives not only through faith and through expectation, as in many women of the Old Testament: from the Virgin, Jesus took on human flesh for his mission of salvation.
In the home of Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah, where sadness once reigned for lack of children, there is now the joy of a child on the way: a child who will become the great John the Baptist, the precursor of the Messiah. And when Mary arrives, joy overflows and gushes from their hearts, because the invisible but real presence of Jesus fills everything with meaning: life, family, the salvation of the people. Everything! This joy is expressed in Mary’s voice in the marvellous prayer that the Gospel of Luke has conveyed to us and which, from the first Latin word, is called Magnificat. It is a song of praise to God who works great things through humble people, unknown to the world, as is Mary herself, as is her spouse Joseph, and as is the place where they live, Nazareth. The great things God has done with humble people, the great things the Lord does in the world with the humble, because humility is like a vacuum that leaves room for God. The humble are powerful because they are humble: not because they are strong. And this is the greatness of the humble and of humility. I would like to ask you — and also myself — but do not answer out loud — each of you respond in your heart: “How is my humility?”.
The Magnificat praises the merciful and faithful God who accomplishes his plan of salvation through the little ones and the poor, through those who have faith in him, who trust in his Word as did Mary. Here is the exclamation of Elizabeth: “Blessed is she who believed” (Lk 1:45). In that house, the coming of Jesus through Mary created not only a climate of joy and fraternal communion, but also a climate of faith that leads to hope, prayer, and praise.
We would like to have all of this happen today in our homes too. Celebrating Mary Most Holy Assumed into Heaven, we would once again wish her to bring to us, to our families, to our communities, this immense gift, that unique Grace that we must always seek first and above all the other graces that we also have at heart: the grace that is Jesus Christ!
By bearing Jesus, Our Lady also brings to us a new joy full of meaning; she brings us a new ability to traverse with faith the most painful and difficult moments; she brings us the capacity of mercy, in order to forgive each other, to understand each other and to support each other.
Mary is the model of virtue and of faith. Today, in contemplating her Assumption into Heaven, the final fulfilment of her earthly journey, we thank her because she always precedes us in the pilgrimage of life and faith. She is the first Disciple. And we ask her to keep us and support us; that we may have a strong, joyful and merciful faith; that she may help us to be saints, to meet with her, one day, in Heaven.
Christian witness is meant to edify others and not to serve as path to self-promotion.
Christians are called to provide simple, habitual witness to Jesus; “everyday holiness.”
Christian witness, can mean giving one’s life in martyrdom, after Jesus’ example. But another path is to point to Christ in our everyday actions, when we wake, work, and go to bed.
It seems like such a small thing but miracles are done through small things.
Salt for others; light for others: Because salt does not give flavour to itself but serves others. Light does not illuminate itself but serves others… Supermarkets sell salt in small quantities, not by the ton. And salt does not promote itself because it doesn’t serve itself. It exists to serve others, by conserving things and giving flavour. This is simple witness.
Daily Christian witness means being light for others, “to help them in their darkest hour.”
The Lord says: ‘You are salt; you are light.’… But do so in order that others see and glorify God. You will not even receive any merit. When we eat, we don’t compliment the salt. No, we say the pasta or meat is good… When we go to sleep at night, we don’t say the light is good. We ignore the light, but we live illuminated by light. This impels Christians to be anonymous witnesses.
Do not act like the Pharisee who thanks the Lord for his holiness. We are not the authors of our own merits.
Everyday holiness means being salt and light for others.
What gave Jesus authority, was that “he spent most of his time on the road”, touching, embracing, listening and looking at the people in the eye. “He was near them”. This is what gave him authority.
Jesus taught the same thing that many others taught. It was how he taught that was different. Jesus was meek, and did not cry out. He did not punish the people. He never trumpeted the fact that he was the Messiah or a Prophet. In the Gospel, when Jesus was not with people, he was with the Father praying. His meekness toward the Father was expressed when he visited the house of his Father which had become a shopping mall…. He was angry and threw everyone out. He did this because he loved the Father, because he was humble before the Father.
Jesus was overcome with compassion for the widow. Jesus “thought with his heart”, which was not separated from his head. Then Jesus tenderly touches her and speaks to her, “Do not weep”. “This is the icon of the pastor”. The pastor “needs to have the power and authority that Jesus had, that humility, that meekness, that nearness, the capacity to be compassionate and tender.
it was also the people who yelled “crucify him”. Jesus then compassionately remained silent because “the people were deceived by the powerful”. His response was silence and prayer. Here the shepherd chooses silence when the “Great Accuser” accuses him through so many people. Jesus suffers, offers his life, and prays.
That prayer carried him even to the Cross, with strength; even there he had the capacity of drawing near to and healing the soul of the repentant thief.
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
The Gospel tells of how Jesus sends his disciples into the world to bring healing, just as He Himself came into the world to heal. To heal the root of sin in us, the original sin.
Healing is a bit like creating from anew. Jesus recreated us from the root and then allowed us to move forward with his teaching, with his doctrine, a doctrine that heals.
But, the first requisite is that there be conversion. Conversion is the first step of healing in the sense that it opens the heart so that the Word of God may enter.
If someone is sick and refuses to go to the doctor he will not be healed.
As Christians, we may do many good things, but if our hearts our closed, it’s only a façade.
In order to proclaim so that people may convert, one requires authority that comes from being like Jesus.
In the Gospel Jesus instructs the Apostles to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick - no food, no sack, no money in their belts. In essence, poverty.
The apostle must be a pastor who does not seek sheep's milk, who does not seek sheep's wool. As expressed by Saint Augustine the shepherd who seeks milk seeks money, and the shepherd who seeks wool likes to dress with vanity.
I invite Christians to follow a path of poverty, humility, meekness. Jesus told the Apostles “Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet”, but do so with meekness and humility.
If an apostle, an envoy, one of us goes, with his nose in the air, believing himself superior to the others or because of self-interest looking for some human interest he will never heal anyone, he will never succeed in opening anyone's heart, because his word will have no authority.
After having exhorted to conversion, the Twelve drove out many demons and they could do so because they had the authority to say “This is a demon! This is a sin.”
This authority is not the authority of someone who speaks down to people, but of someone who is interested in people. Demons flee before humility, before the power of Christ’s name with which the apostle carries out his mission, because demons cannot bear that sins be healed.
The Apostles also anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. The anointing is the caress of God, so all apostles must learn this wisdom of God’s caresses.
All Christians can bring healing, not only priests and bishops: “each of us has the power to heal his brother or sister.”
We all need to be healed, and we can all heal others if we are humble and meek: with a good word, with patience, with a glance.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
First of all, I have to apologize for the delay, but there was an accident: I was locked in the elevator for 25 minutes! There was a drop in voltage and the elevator stopped. Thank God for the Fire Brigade who came – thank you so much! – and after 25 minutes of work they managed to get it to go. A round of applause for the Fire Department!
The Gospel of this Sunday (cf. Lc 14:1,7-14) shows us Jesus attending a banquet in the house of a Pharisee leader. Jesus watches and observes as the guests run, and hurry to get the top places. It is a rather widespread attitude, even in today, and not only when you are invited to a meal: usually, you look for the top place to assert a supposed superiority over others. In fact, this race to the top is bad for the community, both civil and ecclesiastical, because it ruins fraternity. We all know these people: climbers, who always climb to go higher, and higher... They hurt fraternity, they wound fraternity. Faced with that scene, Jesus recounts two short parables.
The first parable is addressed to the one who is invited to a banquet, and urges him not to put himself first, because, he says, "a more distinguished guest than you, may have been invited by him and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say: "Give your place to that person!" An embarrassment! "and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place" (see Vv. 8-9). Jesus, on the other hand, teaches us to have the opposite attitude: "When you are invited, go and take the lowest place, so that when the host comes to you he may say : "My friend, move up to a higher position!" (see 10). Therefore, we should not seek on our own initiative the attention and consideration of others, but rather let others give it to us. Jesus always shows us the way of humility - we must learn the way of humility! – because it is the most authentic one, which also allows us to have authentic relationships. True humility, not fake humility, that in the Piedmont is called quaciamiller, no, not that. But true humility.
In the second parable, Jesus addresses the one who invites and, referring to the way of selecting the guests, tells him: "When you offer a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because they of their inability to repay you" (v. 13-14). Here, too, Jesus goes completely against the tide, manifesting as always the logic of God the Father. And he also adds the key to interpreting His speech. And what's the key? A promise: if you do so, "you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous" (v. 14). This means that whoever behaves in this way will have the divine reward, much higher than any human exchange expected: I do you this favour and wait for you to give me one in return. No, this is not Christian. Humble generosity is Christian. Human exchange, in fact, usually distorts relationships, makes them "commercial", introducing self-interest into a relationship that should be generous and free. Instead, Jesus invites selfless generosity, to open the way to a much greater joy, the joy of being part of God's own love that awaits us, all of us, in the heavenly banquet.
May the Virgin Mary, "the humblest and highest of creatures" (Dante, Paradise, XXXIII, 2), help us to recognize ourselves as we are, that is, small; and to rejoice in giving without something in return.
"The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you”. All of us come to terms with our lives, we do it in the present and above all, we will do it at the end of our existence, and this phrase of Jesus "tells us just what that moment will be like", that is, what judgment will be like. Because if the passage of the Beatitudes and the similar chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew show us "the things we have to do" - how to do them, the "style with which we will have to live" - the "measure", is what the Lord says here.
By what extent do I measure others? By what measure do I measure myself? Is it a generous measure, full of God's love? Or is it a low level measure? And by this measure I will be judged, it will not be another: that, just the one I do. What is the level at which I put my bar? At a high level? We have to think about this. And we see this not only, not so much in the good things we do or in the bad things we do but in our daily lifestyle.
Each of us has a style, "a way of measuring ourselves, things and others" and it will be the same that the Lord will use with us. So those who judge with selfishness, will be judged in the same way; those who have no mercy and, in order to climb in life, "are capable of trampling on everyone's heads", will be judged in the same way, that is, "without mercy".
And as a Christian I wonder what is the reference stone, the touchstone to know if I am on a Christian level, a level that Jesus wants? It is the ability to be humble, it is the ability to suffer humiliation. A Christian who is not able to carry with him the humiliations of life, lacks something. He is a Christian of "make-up" or out of interest. "But why father this?" Because Jesus did it, He humbled himself, says Paul: "He humbled himself until the death on the cross." He was God but He did not cling to that: He humbled Himself. This is the model.
And as an example of a lifestyle defined as "worldly" and unable to follow the model of Jesus; bishops report complaints to me when they have difficulty transferring priests to parishes because they are considered "lower category" and not as they would like and therefore see the transfer as a punishment. This is how to recognize "my style", "my way of judging" by the behaviour I take in the face of humiliation: "A way of judging the worldly, a way of judging the sinner, an entrepreneurial way of judging, a way of judging Christian Christians."
"By the measure by which you measure it will be measured to you," the same measure. If it is a Christian measure, which follows Jesus, in His way, I will be judged the same way, with much, much, much pity, with much compassion, with much mercy. But if my measure is worldly and I only use the Christian faith - yes, I do, I go to mass, but I live as a worldly person - I will be measured by that measure.
Let us ask the Lord for the grace to live Christianly and above all not to be afraid of the cross, of humiliation, because this is the path he has chosen to save us and this is what guarantees that my measure is Christian: the ability to carry the cross , the ability to suffer some humiliation.
Dear brothers and sisters, good day!
This Sunday’s Gospel reading (see Mt 11:25-30) is divided into three parts: first of all, Jesus raises a prayer of blessing and thanksgiving to the Father, because He revealed to the poor and to the simple the mystery of the Kingdom of heaven; then He reveals the intimate and unique relationship between Himself and the Father; and finally He invites us to go to Him and to follow Him to find solace.
In the first place, Jesus praises the Father, because He has kept the secrets of His Kingdom, of His truth, hidden from “from the wise and the learned” (v. 25). He calls them so with a veil of irony, because they presume to be wise, learned, and therefore have a closed heart, very often. True wisdom comes also from the heart, it is not only a matter of understanding ideas: true wisdom also enters into the heart. And if you know many things but have a closed heart, you are not wise. Jesus says that the mysteries of His Father are revealed to the “little ones”, to those who confidently open themselves to His Word of salvation, who open their heart to the Word of salvation, who feel the need for Him and expect everything from Him. The heart that is open and trustful towards the Lord.
Then, Jesus explains that He has received everything from the Father, and He calls Him “my Father”, to affirm the unique nature of His relationship with Him. Indeed, there is total reciprocity only between the Son and the Father: each one knows the other, each one lives in the other. But this unique communion is like a flower that unfurls, to reveal freely its beauty and its goodness. And here, then, is Jesus’s invitation: “Come to me…” (v. 28). He wishes to give what He receives from the Father. He wants to give us the Truth, and Jesus’ Truth is always free: it is a gift, it is the Holy Spirit, the Truth.
Just as the Father has a preference for the “little ones”, Jesus also addresses those “who labour and are burdened”. Indeed, He places Himself among them, because He is “meek and humble of heart” (v. 29): this is how He describes Himself. It is the same in the first and third Beatitudes, that of the humble and poor in spirit, and that of the meek (see Mt 5:35): the meekness of Jesus. In this way Jesus, “meek and humble”, is not a model for the resigned, nor is He simply a victim, but rather He is the man who lives this condition "from the heart" in full transparency to the love of the Father, that is, to the Holy Spirit. He is the model of the “poor in spirit" and of all the other “blesseds" of the Gospel, who do the will of God and bear witness to His Kingdom.
And then, Jesus says that if we go to Him, we will find refreshment. The “refreshment" that Christ offers to the weary and oppressed is not merely psychological solace or a lavish handout, but the joy of the poor who are evangelised and are builders of the new humanity: this is solace. Joy. The joy that Jesus gives us. It is unique. It is the joy that He Himself has. It is a message for all of us, for all people of good will, which Jesus still conveys today in the world that exalts those who become rich and powerful … But how many times do we say, “Ah, I would like to be like him, like her, who are rich, have a lot of power, lack nothing…”. The world exalts those who are rich and powerful, no matter by what means, and at times tramples upon the human being and his or her dignity. And we see this every day, the poor who are trampled underfoot… And it is a message for the Church, called to live works of mercy and to evangelise the poor, to be meek and humble. This is how the Lord wants His Church, that is, us, to be.
May Mary, the humblest and highest of creatures, implore from God wisdom of the heart for us - the wisdom of the heart - that we may discern its signs in our lives and be sharers in those mysteries which, hidden from the proud, are revealed to the humble.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon and happy feast day!
In today’s Gospel, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Mary into Heaven, the Magnificat resounds in the liturgy. This hymn of praise is like a “photograph” of the Mother of God. Mary “rejoices in God”, why? “Because he has looked on the humility of his handmaid”, as it says (cf Lk 1:47-48).
Mary’s secret is humility. It is her humility that attracted God’s gaze to her. The human eye always looks for grandeur and allows itself to be dazzled by what is flashy. Instead, God does not look at the appearance, God looks at the heart (cf 1 Sam 16:7) and is enchanted by humility. Humility of heart enchants God. Today, looking at Mary assumed into heaven, we can say that humility is the way that leads to Heaven. The word “humility”, as we know, comes from the Latin word humus, which means “earth”. It is paradoxical: to arrive on high, into Heaven, what is needed is to stay low, like the earth! Jesus teaches this: “the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 14:11). God does not exalt us because of our gifts, because of our wealth or how well we do things, but because of humility. God loves humility. God lifts up the one who humbles him or herself; he lifts up the one who serves. Mary, in fact, attributes no other “title” except servant to herself, to serve: she is, “the servant of the Lord” (Lk 1:38). She says nothing else about herself, she seeks nothing else for herself. Only to be the servant of the Lord.
Today, then, let us ask ourselves, each one of us in our heart: how am I doing with humility? Do I want to be recognised by others, to affirm myself and to be praised, or do I think rather about serving? Do I know how to listen, like Mary, or do I want only to speak and receive attention? Do I know how to keep silence, like Mary, or am I always chattering? Do I know how to take a step back, defuse quarrels and arguments, or do I always want to excel? Let us think about these questions, each one of us: how am I doing with humility?
In her littleness, Mary wins Heaven first. The secret of her success is precisely that she recognises her lowliness, that she recognises her need. With God, only those who recognise themselves as nothing can receive the all. Only the one who empties him or herself can be filled by Him. And Mary is the “full of grace” (v. 28) precisely because of her humility. For us as well, humility is the always the point of departure, always, it is the beginning of our having faith. It is fundamental to be poor in spirit, that is in need of God. Those who are filled with themselves have no space for God. And many times, we are full of ourselves, and the one who is filled with him or herself gives no space to God, but those who remain humble allow the Lord to accomplish great things (cf v.49).
The poet, Dante, calls the Virgin Mary, “humbler and loftier than any creature” (Paradise, XXXIII, 2). It is beautiful to think that the humblest and loftiest creature in history, the first to win heaven with her entire being, in soul and body, lived out her life for the most part within the domestic walls, she lived out her life in the ordinary, in humility. The days of the Full of grace were not all that striking. They followed one after the other, often exactly the same, in silence: externally, nothing extraordinary. But God’s gaze was always upon her, admiring her humility, her availability, the beauty of her heart never stained by sin.
It is a huge message of hope for us, for you, for each one of us, for you whose days are always the same, tiring and often difficult. Mary reminds you today that God calls you too to this glorious destiny. These are not beautiful words: it is the truth. It is not a well-crafted, beautiful ending, a pious illusion or a false consolation. No, it is the truth, it is pure reality, it is as real, as live and true as the Madonna assumed into Heaven. Let us celebrate her today with the love of children, let us celebrate her joyful but humble, enlivened by the hope of one day being with her in Heaven!
And let us pray to her now that she accompany us on our journey that leads from Earth to Heaven. May she remind us that the secret to the journey is contained in the word humility. Let us not forget this word which the Madonna always reminds us of. And that lowliness and service are the secrets for obtaining the goal, of reaching heaven.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today, just a few days before Christmas, I would like to recall with you the event history cannot dispense with: the birth of Jesus.
To comply with the Emperor Cesar Augustus’ decree that ordered them to go to their place of origin to be registered, Joseph and Mary went from Nazareth down to Bethlehem. As soon as they arrived, they immediately sought lodging since the moment for Mary to give birth was imminent. Unfortunately, they did not find anything. So, Mary was forced to give birth in a stable (cf. Lk. 2:1-7).
Let’s think about that: the Creator of the universe… He was not given a place to be born! Perhaps this was an anticipation of what the evangelist John would say: “He came to his own home, and his own people received him not” (1:11); and what Jesus Himself would say: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Lk 9:58).
It was an angel who announced the birth of Jesus, and he did so to some lowly shepherds. And it was a star that showed the Magi the way to Bethlehem (cf. Mt 2:1, 9.10). An angel is a messenger from God. The star reminds us that God created the light (Gn 1:3) and that the Baby would be “the light of the world”, as He would define himself (cf. Jn 8:12, 46), the “true light that enlightens every man” (Jn 1:9), that “shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (v. 5).
The shepherds personify the poor of Israel, lowly people who interiorly live with the awareness of their own want. Precisely for this reason, they trust more than others in God. They were the first to see the Son of God made man, and this encounter changed them deeply. The Gospel notes that they returned “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen” (Lk 2:20).
The Magi are also around the newborn Jesus (cf. Mt 2:1-12). The Gospels do not tell us who the kings might have been, nor how many there were, nor what their names were. The only thing we know for certain is that they came from a distant country in the East (perhaps from Babylonia, or Arabia, or Persia of that time), they set out on a journey seeking the King of the Jews, whom they identified with God in their hearts because they said they wanted to adore him. The Magi represent the pagan peoples, in particular all those who have sought God down through the ages, and who set out on a journey to find Him. They also represent the rich and powerful, but only those who are not slaves to possessions, who are not “possessed” by the things they believe they possess.
The message of the Gospels is clear: the birth of Jesus is a universal event that concerns all of humanity.
Dear brothers and sisters, humility is the only way that leads us to God. At the same time, specifically because it leads us to Him, humility leads us also to the essentials of life, to its truest meaning, to the most trustworthy reason for why life is truly worth living.
Humility alone opens us up to the experience of truth, of authentic joy, of knowing what matters. Without humility we are “cut off”, we are cut off from understanding God and from understanding ourselves. Humility is needed to understand ourselves, all the more so to understand God. The Magi may have even been great according to the world’s logic, but they made themselves lowly, humble, and precisely because of this they succeeded in finding Jesus and recognising Him. They accepted the humility of seeking, of setting out on a journey, of asking, of taking a risk, of making a mistake.
Every person, in the depths of his or her heart, is called to seek God: we all have that restlessness. Our work is not to snuff out that restlessness, but to allow it to grow because it is that restlessness that seeks God; and, with His own grace, can find Him. We can make this prayer of Saint Anselm (1033-1109) our own: “Lord, teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me as I seek, because I can neither seek you if you do not teach me how, nor find you unless you reveal yourself. Let me seek you in desiring you; let me desire you in seeking you; let me find you in loving you; let me love you in finding you.” (Proslogion, 1).
Dear brothers and sisters, I would like to invite every man and woman to the stable of Bethlehem to adore the Son of God made man. May each one of us draw near to the creche in our own homes or in the church or in another place, and try to make an act of adoration, inside: “I believe you are God, that this baby is God. Please, grant me the grace of humility to be able to understand”.
In approaching and praying by the crib, I would like to put the poor in the front row, those whom – as Saint Paul VI used to exhort – “we must love because in a certain way they are the sacrament of Christ; in them – in the hungry, the thirsty, the exiles, the naked, the ill, prisoners – He wanted to be mystically identified. We must help them, suffer with them, and also follow them because poverty is the securest path to possess the Kingdom of God in its fullness” (Homily, 1 May 1969). For this reason, we must ask for the grace of humility: “Lord, that I might not be proud, that I might not be self-sufficient, that I might not believe that I am the centre of the universe. Make me humble. Grant me the grace of humility. And with this humility, may I find You”. It is the only way; without humility we will never find God: we will find ourselves. The reason is that the person who is not humble has no horizon in front of him or her. They only have a mirror in which to look at themselves. Let us ask the Lord to break this mirror so we can look beyond, to the horizon, where He is. But He needs to do this: grant us the grace and the joy of humility to take this path.
Then, brothers and sisters, just like the star did with the Magi, I would like to accompany to Bethlehem all those who have no religious restlessness, who do not pose the question of God, or who may even fight against religion, all those who are improperly identified as atheists. I would like to repeat to them the message of the Second Vatican Council: “The Church holds that the recognition of God is in no way hostile to man's dignity, since this dignity is rooted and perfected in God. […] Above all the Church knows that her message is in harmony with the most secret desires of the human heart” (Gaudium et Spes, 21).
Let’s return home with the angel’s song: “Peace on earth to those with whom he is pleased!” Let us always remember: “In this is love, not that we loved God that he loved us […] he first loved us” (1 Jn 4:10, 19), he has sought us. Let’s not forget this.
This is the reason for our joy: we are loved, we are sought for, the Lord seeks us to find us, to love us more. This is the reason for joy: knowing that we are loved without any merit, we are always loved first by God, with a love so concrete that He took on flesh and came to live in our midst, in that Baby that we see in the crib. This love has a name and a face: Jesus is the name and the face of love – this is the foundation of our joy.
Brothers and sisters, I wish you a Merry Christmas, a happy and holy Christmas. And I would like that – yes, there are well wishes, family reunions, this is always very beautiful – but may there also be the awareness that God comes “for me”. Let’s everyone say this: God comes for me. The awareness that to seek God, to find God, to accept God, humility is needed: to seek with humility the grace of breaking the mirror of vanity, of pride, of looking at ourselves. To look at Jesus, to look toward the horizon, to look at God who comes to us and who touches our hearts with that restlessness that brings us hope. Happy and holy Christmas!
Dear brothers and sisters, Good afternoon, Happy Feast!
Today, the Solemnity of the Epiphany, we contemplate the episode of the Magi (cf. Mt 2:1-12). They faced a long and difficult journey to go and adore “the king of the Jews” (v. 2). They were guided by the wondrous sign of a star, and when they finally reached their destination, rather than finding something spectacular, they found a baby with his mamma. They could have protested: “How many roads and how many sacrifices, only to find a poor child?” And they did not protest. Neither were they scandalized or disappointed. They did not complain. What did they do? They prostrated themselves. “Going into the house”, the Gospel says, “they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him” (v. 11).
Let us think about these wise, rich, educated men whom everyone knew who had come from afar who prostrate themselves, that is, they bow down on the ground to adore a baby! This seems to be such a contradiction. Such a humble action performed by such illustrious men is surprising. To prostrate oneself before a leader who presented himself with the trappings of power and glory was something normal at that time. And even today this would not be strange. But before the Babe of Bethlehem, it was not that easy. It is not easy to adore this God, whose divinity remains hidden and who does not appear triumphant. It means accepting God’s greatness that manifests itself in littleness. This is the message. The Magi humbled themselves before the unheard-of logic of God. They accepted the Saviour not the way they had imagined him to be – someone grand – but as he was, the Lord is small, poor. Their prostration is the sign of those who place their own ideas aside and make room for God. It takes humility to do this.
The Gospel stresses this: it does not only say that the Magi worshipped, it emphasizes that they fell down and worshipped. Let us understand this detail: their worship and prostration go together. Performing this action, the Magi manifest their humble acceptance of the One who presented himself in humility. And so it is that they are open to worship God. The treasures they open are images of their open hearts: their true wealth does not consist in their fame, it does not consist in their success, but in their humility, their awareness of their need of salvation. This is the example the Magi give us today.
Dear brothers and sisters, if we always remain at the centre of everything with our ideas, and if we presume to have something to boast of before God, we will never fully encounter him, we will never end up worshipping him. If our pretensions, vanity, stubbornness, competitiveness do not fall by the wayside, we may well end up worshipping someone or something in life, but it will not be the Lord! If instead, we abandon our pretence of self-sufficiency, if we make ourselves little inside, we will then rediscover the wonder of worshipping Jesus because adoration comes from humility of heart: those who are obsessed with winning will never be aware of the Lord’s presence. Jesus passes nearby and is ignored, as happened to many at that time, but not to the Magi.
Brothers and sisters, looking at them, let us ask ourselves today: what is my humility like? Am I convinced that pride impedes my spiritual progress? That pride, apparent or hidden, but that pride that always dampers the drive toward God. Am I working on docility to be open to God and others, or am I rather centred on myself and my pretences, that hidden selfishness which is pride? Do I know how to set aside my own perspective to embrace that of God and others? Finally: do I pray and worship only when I need something, or do I consistently do so because I believe that I am always in need of Jesus? The Magi began their journey looking at a star, and they found Jesus. They walked a lot. Today, we can take this piece of advice: look at the star and walk. Never stop walking, but, do not stop looking at the star. This is the strong advice for today: look at the star and walk, look at the star and walk.
May the Virgin Mary, the servant of the Lord, teach us to rediscover our vital need for humility and the vibrant desire to worship. May she teach us to look at the star and walk.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
In today’s liturgy, the Gospel recounts Jesus’ first sermon in his home town, Nazareth. The outcome is bitter: instead of receiving approval, Jesus finds incomprehension and even hostility (cf. Lk 4:21-30). His fellow villagers, rather than a word of truth, wanted miracles and prodigious signs. The Lord does not perform them and they reject him, because they say they already knew him as a child: he is Joseph’s son (cf. v. 22), and so on. Jesus therefore utters a phrase that has become proverbial: “No prophet is acceptable in his own country” (v. 24).
These words reveal that Jesus’ failure was not entirely unexpected. He knew his people, he knew the heart of his people, he knew the risk he was running, he took rejection into account. And, so, we might wonder: but if it was like this, if he foresaw a failure, why did he go to his hometown all the same? Why do good to people who are not willing to accept you? It is a question that we too often ask ourselves. But it is a question that helps us understand God better. Faced with our closures, he does not withdraw: he does not put brakes on his love. Faced with our closures, he goes forward. We see a reflection of this in parents who are aware of the ingratitude of their children, but do not cease to love them and do good to them for this. God is the same, but at a much higher level. And today he invites us too to believe in good, to leave no stone unturned in doing good.
However, in what happens in Nazareth we also find something else. The hostility towards Jesus on the part of his people provokes us: they were not welcoming – but what about us? To verify this, let us look at the models of acceptance that Jesus proposes today, to us and to his fellow countrymen. They are two foreigners: a widow from Sarepta of Sidon and Naaman, the Syrian. Both of them welcomed prophets: the first Elijah, the second Elisha. But it was not an easy reception, it went through trials. The widow welcomed Elijah, despite the famine and although the prophet was persecuted (cf. 1 Kings 17:7-16), he was persecuted for political and religious reasons. Naaman, on the other hand, despite being a person of the highest order, accepted the request of the prophet Elisha, who led him to humble himself, to bathe seven times in a river (cf. 2 Kings 5:1-14), as if he were an ignorant child. The widow and Naaman, in short, accepted through readiness and humility. The way of receiving God is always to be ready, to welcome and him and to be humble. Faith passes through here: readiness and humility. The widow and Naaman did not reject the ways of God and his prophets; they were docile, not rigid and closed.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus also goes the way of the prophets: he presents himself as we would not expect. He is not found by those who seek miracles – if we look for miracles, we will not find Jesus – by those who seek new sensations, intimate experiences, strange things; those who seek a faith made up of power and external signs. No, they will not find him. Instead, he is found only by those who accept his ways and his challenges, without complaint, without suspicion, without criticism and long faces. In other words, Jesus asks you to accept him in the daily reality that you live; in the Church of today, as it is; in those who are close to you every day; in the reality of those in need, in the problems of your family, in your parents, in your children, in grandparents, in welcoming God there. He is there, inviting us to purify ourselves in the river of availability and in many healthy baths of humility. It takes humility to encounter God, to let ourselves be encountered by him.
And us, are we welcoming or do we resemble his fellow countrymen, who believed they knew everything about him? “I studied theology, I took that course in catechesis… I know everything about Jesus!” Yes, like a fool! Don’t be foolish, you don’t know Jesus. Perhaps, after many years as believers, we think we know the Lord well, with our ideas and our judgments, very often. The risk is that we get accustomed, we get used to Jesus. And in this way, how do we grow accustomed? We close ourselves off, we close ourselves off to his newness, to the moment in which he knocks on our door and asks you something new, and wants to enter into you. We must stop being fixed in our positions. And when a person has an open mind, a simple heart, he or she has the capacity to be surprised, to wonder. The Lord always surprises us: this is the beauty of the encounter with Jesus. Instead, the Lord asks us for an open mind and a simple heart. May Our Lady, model of humility and willingness, show us the way to welcome Jesus.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon! Happy Feast Day!
Today, Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Gospel offers us the dialogue between her and her cousin Elizabeth. When Mary enters the house and greets Elizabeth, the latter says: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Lk 1:42). These words, full of faith and joy and wonder, have become part of the “Hail Mary”. Every time we recite this prayer, so beautiful and familiar, we do as Elizabeth did: we greet Mary and we bless her, because she brings Jesus to us.
Mary accepts Elizabeth’s blessing and replies with the canticle, a gift for us, for all history: the Magnificat. It is a song of praise. We can define it as the “canticle of hope”. It is a hymn of praise and exultation for the great things that the Lord has accomplished in her, but Mary goes further: she contemplates the work of God in the entire history of her people. She says, for example, that the Lord “has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (vv. 52-53). As we listen to these words, we might ask ourselves: is the Virgin not exaggerating a little, perhaps, describing a world that does not exist? Indeed, what she says does not seem to correspond to reality; while she speaks, the powerful of the time have not been brought down: the fearsome Herod, for example, is still firmly on his throne. And the poor and hungry remain so, while the rich continue to prosper.
What does that canticle of Mary mean? What is the meaning? She does not intend to chronicle the time – she is not a journalist – but to tell us something much more important: that God, through her, has inaugurated a historical turning point, he has definitively established a new order of things. She, small and humble, has been raised up and – we celebrate this today – brought to the glory of Heaven, while the powerful of the world are destined to remain empty-handed. Think of the parable of that rich man who had a beggar, Lazarus, in front of his door. How did he end up? Empty-handed. Our Lady, in other words, announces a radical change, an overturning of values. While she speaks with Elizabeth, carrying Jesus in her womb, she anticipates what her Son will say, when he will proclaim blessed the poor and humble, and warn the rich and those who base themselves on their own self-sufficiency. The Virgin, then, prophesies with this canticle, with this prayer: she prophesies that it will not be power, success and money that will prevail, but rather service, humility and love will prevail. And as we look at her, in glory, we understand that the true power is service – let us not forget this: the true power is service – and to reign means to love. And that this is the road to Heaven. It is this.
So, let us look at ourselves, and let us ask ourselves: will this prophetic reversal announced by Mary affect my life? Do I believe that to love is to reign, and to serve is power? Do I believe that the purpose of my life is Heaven, it is paradise? To spend it well here. Or am I concerned only with worldly, material things? Again, as I observe world events, do I let myself be entrapped by pessimism or, like the Virgin, am I able to discern the work of God who, through gentleness and smallness, achieves great things? Brothers and sisters, Mary today sings of hope and rekindles hope in us. Mary today sings of hope and rekindles hope in us: in her, we see the destination of our journey. She is the first creature who, with her whole self, body and soul, victoriously crosses the finish line of Heaven. She shows us that Heaven is within reach. How come? Yes, Heaven is within reach, if we too do not give in to sin, if we praise God in humility and serve others generously. Do not give in to sin. But some might say, “But, Father, I am weak” – “But the Lord is always near you, because he is merciful”. Do not forget God’s style: proximity, compassion and tenderness. Always close to us, with his style. Our Mother takes us by the hand, she accompanies us to glory, she invites us to rejoice as we think of heaven. Let us bless Mary with our prayer, and let us ask her to be capable of glimpsing Heaven on earth.
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.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
The Gospel of today’s Liturgy presents us a parable with two protagonists, a pharisee and a tax collector (Lk 18:9-14), that is, a religious man and an avowed sinner. Both of them go up to the Temple to pray, but only the tax collector truly lifts himself up to God, because he humbly descends into the humility of himself and he presents himself as he is, without masks, with his poverty. We might say, then, that the parable lies between two movements, expressed by two verbs: to rise and to descend.
The first movement is to rise. Indeed, the text begins by saying: “Two people went up to the temple area to pray” (v. 10). This aspect recalls many episodes in the Bible, where in order to encounter the Lord, one goes up to the mountain of his presence: Abraham goes up on the mountain to offer the sacrifice; Moses goes up Mount Sinai to receive the Commandments; Jesus goes up the mountain where he is transfigured. To rise, therefore, expresses the need of the heart to detach itself from a flat life in order to go towards the Lord; to rise up from the plateau of our ego to ascend towards God, freeing oneself of one’s own “I”; to gather what we live in the valley to bring it before the Lord. This is “rising”, and when we pray, we rise.
But to live the encounter with him and to be transformed by prayer, to rise up to God, a second movement is necessary: to descend. How come? What does this mean? In order to rise towards him, we must descend within ourselves: to cultivate the sincerity and humility of the heart that give us an honest outlook on our frailties and our inner poverty. Indeed, in humility we become capable of bringing what we really are to God, without pretence: the wounds, the sins and the miseries that weigh on our hearts, and to invoke his mercy so that he may heal us, restore us and raise us up. It will be he who raises us up, not us. The more we descend with humility, the more God raises us up.
Indeed, the tax collector of the parable humbly stops at a distance (cf. v. 13) – he does not come close, he is ashamed – he asks for forgiveness, and the Lord raises him up. Instead, the pharisee exalts himself, self-assured, convinced that he is fine: standing up, he begins to speak with the Lord only of himself, praising himself, listing all the good religious works he does, and disdaining others: “I am not like that person there…”. Because this is what spiritual arrogance does. “But father, why are you talking to us about spiritual arrogance?” Because we all risk falling into this trap. It leads you to believe yourself righteous and to judge others. This is spiritual arrogance: “I am fine, I am better than the others: this person does this, that one does that…”. And in this way, without realizing, you adore your own ego and obliterate your God. It revolves around oneself. This is prayer without humility.
Brothers, sisters, the pharisee and the tax collector concern us closely. Thinking of them, let us look at ourselves: let us confirm whether, in us, as in the pharisee, there is the conviction of one’s own righteousness (cf. v. 9) that leads us to despise others. It happens, for instance, when we seek compliments and always make a list of our own merits and good works, when we concern ourselves with how we appear rather than how we are, when we let ourselves be trapped by narcissism and exhibitionism. Let us beware of narcissism and exhibitionism, based on vainglory, that lead even us Christians, priests and bishops, always to have one word on our lips. Which word? “I”: “I did this, I wrote that, I said it, I understood it before you”, and so on. Where there is too much “I”, there is too little God. In my country, these people are called “Me, with me, for me, only me”, this is the name of those people. And once upon a time they used to talk about a priest who was like that, self-centred, and the people, jokingly, used to say, “When he incenses, he does it backwards, he incenses himself”. It is like that; it even makes you seem ridiculous.
Let us ask the intercession of Mary Most Holy, the humble servant of the Lord, the living image of what the Lord loves to accomplish, overthrowing the powerful from their thrones and raising the humble (cf. Lk 1:52).
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon, happy Sunday!
Today, the Second Sunday of Advent, the Gospel for the Liturgy presents the figure of John the Baptist. The text says that John “wore a garment of camel’s hair”, that “his food was locusts and wild honey” (Mt 3:4), and that he was inviting everyone to conversion. And he was saying this: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (v. 2) And he was preaching the nearness of the Kingdom. In short, he was an austere and radical man, who at first sight might appear to be harsh and could instil a certain fear. But then again, we can ask ourselves why the Church proposes him each year as our primary traveling companion during this Season of Advent. What is hidden underneath his severity, behind his apparent harshness? What is John’s secret? What is the message the Church gives us today with John?
In reality, the Baptist, more than being a harsh man, is a man who is allergic to duplicity. Listen well to this: allergic to duplicity. For example, when the Pharisees and Sadducees, who were known for their hypocrisy, approach him, his “allergic reaction” is quite strong! In fact, some of them probably went to him out of curiosity or to gain something because John had become quite popular. These Pharisees and Sadducees believed they had it all together and, faced with the Baptist’s blunt appeal, justified themselves, saying: “We have Abraham as our father” (v. 9). Thus, due to duplicity and presumption, they did not welcome the moment of grace, the opportunity to begin a new life. They were closed in the presumption of being right. So, John tells them, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance!” (v. 8) This is a cry of love, like the cry of a father who sees his son ruining himself and says to him, “Don’t throw your life away!” In essence, dear brothers and sisters, hypocrisy is the greatest danger because it can even ruin the most sacred realities. Hypocrisy is a serious danger. This is why the Baptist – as Jesus would be later – is harsh with hypocrites. We can read, for example, the 23rd chapter of Matthew where Jesus speaks really strongly to the hypocrites of that time. And why do the Baptist as well as Jesus do this? To shake them up. Instead, those who sensed they were sinners went “out to him [John], and they were baptized by him, confessing their sins” (v. 5). Therefore, bravura is not important to welcome God, humility is. This is the path to welcome God. Not bravura – “We’re strong, We are great people!” No, no. Humility. I am a sinner. But not in the abstract, no – “because of this and this and this”. Each of us needs to confess our own sins, our own failings, our own hypocrisy. It requires getting off the pedestal and being immersed in the water of repentance.
Dear brothers and sisters, John and his “allergic reactions” make us think. Are we not at times a bit like those Pharisees? Perhaps we look at others from top to bottom, thinking that we are better than them, that we have our lives under control, that we don’t need God, or the Church, or our brothers or sisters on a daily basis. We forget that in one case is it legitimate to look down on someone else: when it is necessary to help them get up. This is the only case; the others are not legitimate. Advent is a moment of grace to take off our masks – every one of us has them – and line up with those who are humble, to be liberated from the presumption of the belief of being self-sufficient, to go to confess our sins, the hidden ones, and to welcome God’s pardon, to ask forgiveness from those whom we have offended. This is how to begin a new life. There is only one way, the way of humility – to be purified from the sense of superiority, from formalism and hypocrisy, to see ourselves, along with our brothers and sisters, as sinners, and to see Jesus as the Saviour who comes for us, not for the others, for us, just as we are, with our poverty, misery and failings, above all with our need to be raised up, forgiven and saved.
And let us remember one thing: with Jesus, there is always the possibility of beginning again. It’s never too late. There is always the possibility to begin again. Be courageous. He is near to us and this is the time of conversion. Everyone might think: “I have this situation inside, this problem that I am ashamed of”. But Jesus is next to you. Begin again. There is always the possibility of taking a step forward. He is waiting for us and never gets tired of us. He never gets tired! And we are annoying, but he never gets tired! Let us listen to John the Baptist’s appeal to return to God. And let us not let this Advent go by like days on the calendar because this is a moment of grace, a grace for us too, here and now! May Mary, the humble servant of the Lord, help us to meet Him, Jesus, and our brothers and sisters on the way of humility, which is the only one that will help us go ahead.