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
The Collect asked the Lord for “the grace of unity and peace”. God reconciles: he reconciles the world to himself through Christ. Jesus, brought to us by Mary, makes peace, gives peace to two peoples, and of two peoples he makes one: Hebrews and Gentiles. One people. He makes peace. Peace in their hearts. But, how does God reconcile?. In what manner does he do this? Does he perhaps make a great assembly? Does everyone come to an agreement? Do they sign a document?. No. God uses a specific method to make peace: he reconciles and makes peace in the little things and on the journey.
“Littleness” was spoken of in the First Reading (Mic 5:1-4): “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little...”. In other words: you are so little: but you will be great, because your ruler will be born from you and he will be peace. He himself will be peace, because from that littleness comes peace. This is the manner of God, who chooses little things, humble things, to do great works. The Lord, is the Great One and we are the little ones, but the Lord advises us to make ourselves little like children to be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, whereas the great ones, the powerful, the arrogant, the proud cannot enter. God, however, reconciles and makes peace in littleness.
The Lord also reconciles on the journey: walking. The Lord does not want to make peace and reconcile with a magic wand: today — boom! — all done! No. He journeys with his people. An example of this action of God is found in the day’s Gospel (Mt 1:1-16, 18-23). The passage regarding Jesus’ lineage may seem somewhat repetitious: This one begot that one, that one begot this one, this one begot that one.... It’s a list. Yet, it is God’s journey: God’s journey among men, good and bad, because on this list there are saints and there are sinful criminals.
Thus, it is a list which even contains much sin. However, God is not afraid: he journeys. He walks with his people. And on this journey he makes hope grow in his people, hope in the Messiah. This is the closeness of God. Moses said it to his own: “Think about it: what nation has a God as close as ours?”. Thus, this journeying in littleness, with his people, this walking with the good and bad gives us our way of life. In order to walk as Christians, in order to make peace and reconcile as Jesus did, we have the path: With the Beatitudes and with the protocol by which we will all be judged. Matthew, 25: ‘Do likewise: little things’. This means in littleness and by journeying.
The people of Israel dream of being set free, they have this dream because it was promised to them. Even Joseph dreams and his dream is somewhat like a summary of the entire history of God’s journey with his people. However, not only does Joseph have dreams: God dreams. God our Father has dreams, and he dreams beautiful things for his people, for each of us, because he is Father and as Father he thinks and dreams of the best for his children.
In conclusion, this great and almighty God teaches us to do great works of peacemaking and of reconciliation in littleness, by walking, and by not losing hope, with the capacity to dream great dreams, to have vast horizons.
Let us in this commemoration of the beginning of a crucial phase of salvation history, the birth of Our Lady seek the grace that we asked for in prayer, that of unity, of reconciliation, and of peace. To be always on the path, close to others and with great dreams. With the manner of ‘littleness’, the littleness, which is found in the Eucharistic celebration: a little piece of bread, a little bit of wine. In this ‘littleness’ there is everything. God’s dream is there, his love is there, his peace is there, his reconciliation is there, Jesus is there.
The day’s liturgy speaks about little things; we could say that today is the day of littleness. The first Reading, taken from the book of the Prophet Isaiah begins with the announcement, "On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him…" The Word of God sings the praises of what is small and makes a promise: the promise of a shoot that will sprout. And what is smaller than a sprout? And yet "the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him".
Redemption, revelation, the presence of God in the world begins like this, and is always like this. The revelation of God is made in smallness. Smallness, both humility and so many other things, but in smallness. The great seem powerful — let us think of Jesus in the desert, and how Satan presents himself as powerful, the master of the whole world: "I will give you everything, if you…" The things of God, on the other hand, begin by sprouting, from a seed, little things. And Jesus speaks about this smallness in the Gospel.
Jesus rejoices and thanks the Father because He has made known His revelation to the little ones, rather than to the powerful. At Christmas, we will all go to the Nativity scene, where the littleness of God is present.
In a Christian community where the faithful, the priests, the bishops do not take this path of smallness, there is no future, it will collapse. We have seen it in the great projects of history: Christians who seek to impose themselves, with force, with greatness, the conquests… But the Kingdom of God sprouts in the small thing, always in what is small, the small seed, the seed of life. But the seed by itself can do nothing. And there is another reality that helps and that gives strength: "On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him."
The Spirit chooses the small always, because He cannot enter into the great, the proud, the self-sufficient. The Lord reveals Himself to hearts that are small.
Those who study religion, theologians, are not those who know so much about theology, they could be called "encyclopaedists" of theology. They know everything, but they are incapable of doing theology because theology is done ‘on one’s knees’, making ourselves small.
The true pastor, whether he be a priest, bishop, pope, cardinal, whoever he might be, if he is not small, he is not a pastor. Rather he is an office manager. And that applies to everyone from those who have a function that seems more important in the Church, to the poor old woman who does works of charity in secret.
Smallness might lead to faintheartedness – that is, being closed in oneself – or to fear. On the contrary, littleness is great, it is the ability to take risks, because there is nothing to lose. It is smallness that leads to magnanimity, because it allows us to go beyond ourselves, knowing that God is the reason for greatness.
St Thomas Aquinas in the Summa says, "Don’t be afraid of great things". The Saint of today, St Francis Xavier, shows us the same thing; "Don’t be afraid, go forward; but at the same time, take into account the smallest things, this is divine". A Christian always starts from smallness. If in my prayer I feel that I am small, with my limits, my sins, like that publican who prayed at the back of the Church, ashamed, saying "Have mercy on me, a sinner", you will go forward. But if you believe that you are a good Christian, you will pray like that Pharisee who did not go forth justified: "I give you thanks, O God, because I am great". No, we thank God because we are small.
I like to hear confessions, especially those of children. Their confessions, are very beautiful, because they talk about concrete facts: "I said this word", for example and he repeats it to you. The concreteness of what is small. "Lord I am a sinner because I have done this, this, this, this… This is my misery, my smallness. But send your Spirit so that I might not be afraid of great things, not be afraid that you will do great things in my life."
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Afternoon!
The two parables, which the Liturgy presents us today, – the two parables – are inspired precisely by ordinary life and reveal the attentive and deep gaze of Jesus, who observes reality and, through small everyday images, opens the windows on the mystery of God and on human history. Jesus spoke in a way that was easy to understand; he spoke with images of reality, of everyday life. In this way, he teaches us that even everyday things, which at times all seem the same and which we carry on with distraction or tiredness, are inhabited by God’s hidden presence; that is, they have meaning. So, we too need attentive eyes, to be able “to seek and find God in all things."
Today Jesus compares the Kingdom of God, that is, his presence that dwells in the heart of things and of the world, to the mustard seed, that is, to the smallest seed there is: it is really tiny. Yet, cast upon the ground, it grows until becoming the tallest tree (cf. Mk 4:31-32). This is what God does. At times, the din of the world, along with the many activities that fill our days, prevent us from stopping and seeing how the Lord is conducting history. Yet – the Gospel assures us – God is at work, like a good little seed that silently and slowly germinates. And, little by little, it becomes a lush tree, which gives life and rest to everyone. The seed of our good works too can seem like a small thing, yet all that is good pertains to God, and thus it humbly, slowly bears fruit. Good, let us remember, always grows in a humble way, in a hidden, often invisible way.
Dear brothers and sisters, with this parable Jesus wants to instil us with confidence. In so many of life’s situations, indeed, it may happen that we get discouraged, because we see the weakness of good as compared to the apparent power of evil. And we may allow ourselves to be paralyzed by doubt when we find we are working hard but the results are not achieved, and things seem never to change. The Gospel asks us to take a fresh look at ourselves and at reality; it asks us to have bigger eyes, that are able to see further, especially beyond appearances, in order to discover the presence of God who as humble love is always at work in the soil of our life and that of history. This is our confidence, this is what gives us the strength to go forward every day, patiently, sowing the good that will bear fruit.
How important this attitude also is for coming out of the pandemic well! To cultivate the confidence of being in God’s hands and at the same time for all of us to commit ourselves to rebuilding and starting up again, with patience and perseverance.
In the Church too, weeds of doubt can take root, especially when we witness the crisis of faith and the failure of different projects and initiatives. But let us never forget that the results of sowing do not depend our abilities: they depend on the action of God. It is up to us to sow, and sow with love, with dedication and with patience. But the force of the seed is divine. Jesus explains it in today’s other parable: the farmer sows the seed and then does not realize how it bears fruit, because it is the seed itself that grows spontaneously, day and night, when he least expects it (cf. vv. 26-29). With God in the most infertile soil there is always the hope of new sprouts.
May Mary Most Holy, the Lord’s humble handmaid, teach us to see the greatness of God who works in the little things and to overcome the temptation of discouragement. Let us trust in Him every day!
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
In the Gospel of today’s Liturgy we see Jesus react somewhat unusually: He is indignant. And what is most surprising is that his indignation is not caused by the Pharisees who put him to the test with questions about the legality of divorce, but by his disciples who, to protect him from the crowd of people, rebuke some children who had been brought to Jesus. In other words, the Lord is not angry with those who argue with him, but with those who, in order to relieve him of his burden, make the children go away from him. Why? It is a good question: why does the Lord do this?
Let us remember – it was the Gospel reading two Sundays ago – that Jesus, performing the gesture of embracing a child, identified himself with the little ones: he taught that it is indeed the little ones, namely, those are dependent on others, who are in need and cannot reciprocate, who must be served first (see Mk 9:35-37). Those who seek God find him there, in the little ones, in those in need: in need not only of material goods, but of care and comfort, such as the sick, the humiliated, prisoners, immigrants, the incarcerated. He is there: in the little ones. This is why Jesus gets angry: any affront to a little one, a poor person, a child, a defenceless person, is done to Him.
Today the Lord picks up this teaching again and completes it. In fact, he adds: “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mk 10:15). Here is what is new: the disciple must not only serve the little ones, but also acknowledge himself as a little one. And every one of us, do we recognise ourselves as small before God? Let’s think about it, it will help us. Awareness of being little, awareness of the need of salvation is indispensable for receiving the Lord. It is the first step in opening ourselves up to Him. Often, however, we forget about this. In prosperity, in wellbeing, we have the illusion of being self-sufficient, that we are enough, that we do not need God. Brothers and sisters, this is a deception, because each one of us is a person in need, a little one. We must seek out our smallness and recognise it. And there, we will find Jesus.
In life, recognising one’s littleness is a starting point for becoming great. If we think about it, we grow not so much on the basis of our successes and the things we have, but above all in difficult and fragile moments. There, in our need, we mature; there we open our hearts to God, to others, to the meaning of life. Let us open our eyes to others. Let us open our eyes, when we are little, to the true meaning of life. When we feel small in the face of a problem, small in front of a cross, an illness, when we experience fatigue and loneliness, let us not get discouraged. The mask of superficiality is falling and our radical weakness is re-emerging: it is our common ground, our treasure, because with God weakness is not an obstacle but an opportunity. A beautiful prayer would be this: “Lord, look at my frailties…” and to list them before Him. This is a good attitude before God.
Indeed, it is precisely in weakness that we discover how much God takes care of us. The Gospel today says that Jesus is very tender with the little ones: “He took them in His arms and blessed them, laying His hands upon them” (v. 16). The difficulties and situations that reveal our weakness are privileged opportunities to experience His love. Those who pray with perseverance know this well: in dark or lonely moments, God’s tenderness towards us makes itself, so to speak, even more present. When we are little, we feel God’s tenderness more. This tenderness gives us peace; this tenderness makes us grow, because God draws close to us in His way, which is nearness, compassion and tenderness. And, when we feel we are little, small, for whatever reason, the Lord comes closer, we feel he is closer. He gives us peace; he makes us grow. In prayer the Lord draws us close to him, like a father with his child. This is how we become great: not in the illusory pretence of our self-sufficiency – this makes no-one great - but in the strength of placing all our hope in the Father, just like the little ones do, they do this.
Today let us ask the Virgin Mary for a huge grace, that of littleness: to be children who trust the Father, certain that He will not fail to take care of us.
In the darkness, a light shines. An angel appears, the glory of the Lord shines around the shepherds and finally the message awaited for centuries is heard: “To you is born this day a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:11). The angel goes on to say something surprising. He tells the shepherds how to find the God who has come down to earth: “This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in swaddling cloths, and lying in a manger” (v. 12). That is the sign: a child, a baby lying in the dire poverty of a manger. No more bright lights or choirs of angels. Only a child. Nothing else, even as Isaiah had foretold: “unto us a child is born” (Is 9:6).
The Gospel emphasizes this contrast. It relates the birth of Jesus beginning with Caesar Augustus, who orders the census of the whole world: it presents the first Emperor in all his grandeur. Yet immediately thereafter it brings us to Bethlehem, where there is no grandeur at all: just a poor child wrapped in swaddling cloths, with shepherds standing by. That is where God is, in littleness. This is the message: God does not rise up in grandeur, but lowers himself into littleness. Littleness is the path that he chose to draw near to us, to touch our hearts, to save us and to bring us back to what really matters.
Brothers and sisters, standing before the crib, we contemplate what is central, beyond all the pretty lights and decorations. We contemplate the child. In his littleness, God is completely present. Let us acknowledge this: “Baby Jesus, you are God, the God who becomes a child”. Let us be amazed by this scandalous truth. The One who embraces the universe needs to be held in another’s arms. The One who created the sun needs to be warmed. Tenderness incarnate needs to be coddled. Infinite love has a miniscule heart that beats softly. The eternal Word is an “infant”, a speechless child. The Bread of life needs to be nourished. The Creator of the world has no home. Today, all is turned upside down: God comes into the world in littleness. His grandeur appears in littleness.
Let us ask ourselves: can we accept God’s way of doing things? This is the challenge of Christmas: God reveals himself, but men and women fail to understand. He makes himself little in the eyes of the world, while we continue to seek grandeur in the eyes of the world, perhaps even in his name. God lowers himself and we try to become great. The Most High goes in search of shepherds, the unseen in our midst, and we look for visibility; we want to be seen. Jesus is born in order to serve, and we spend a lifetime pursuing success. God does not seek power and might; he asks for tender love and interior littleness.
This is what we should ask Jesus for at Christmas: the grace of littleness. “Lord, teach us to love littleness. Help us to understand that littleness is the way to authentic greatness”. What does it mean, concretely, to accept littleness? In the first place, it is to believe that God desires to come into the little things of our life; he wants to inhabit our daily lives, the things we do each day at home, in our families, at school and in the workplace. Amid our ordinary lived experience, he wants to do extraordinary things. His is a message of immense hope. Jesus asks us to rediscover and value the little things in life. If he is present there, what else do we need? Let us stop pining for a grandeur that is not ours to have. Let us put aside our complaints and our gloomy faces, and the greed that never satisfies! Littleness and the amazement of that little child: this is the message.
Yet there is more. Jesus does not want to come merely in the little things of our lives, but also in our own littleness: in our experience of feeling weak, frail, inadequate, perhaps even “messed up”. Dear sister or brother, if, as in Bethlehem, the darkness of night overwhelms you, if you feel surrounded by cold indifference, if the hurt you carry inside cries out, “You are of little account; you are worthless; you will never be loved the way you want”, tonight, if this is what you are feeling, God answers back. He tells you: “I love you just as you are. Your littleness does not frighten me, your failings do not trouble me. I became little for your sake. To be your God, I became your brother. Dear brother, dear sister, don’t be afraid of me. Find in me your measure of greatness. I am close to you, and one thing only do I ask: trust me and open your heart to me”.
To accept littleness means something else too. It means embracing Jesus in the little ones of today. Loving him, that is, in the least of our brothers and sisters. Serving him in the poor, those most like Jesus who was born in poverty. It is in them that he wants to be honoured. On this night of love, may we have only one fear: that of offending God’s love, hurting him by despising the poor with our indifference. Jesus loves them dearly, and one day they will welcome us to heaven. A poet once wrote: “Who has found the heaven – below – Will fail of it above” (E. DICKINSON, Poems, P96-17). Let us not lose sight of heaven; let us care for Jesus now, caressing him in the needy, because in them he makes himself known.
We gaze once again at the crib, and we see that at his birth Jesus is surrounded precisely by those little ones, by the poor. The shepherds. They were the most simple people, and closest to the Lord. They found him because they lived in the fields, “keeping watch over their flocks by night” (Lk 2:8). They were there to work, because they were poor. They had no timetables in life; everything depended on the flock. They could not live where and how they wanted, but on the basis of the needs of the sheep they tended. That is where Jesus is born: close to them, close to the forgotten ones of the peripheries. He comes where human dignity is put to the test. He comes to ennoble the excluded and he first reveals himself to them: not to educated and important people, but to poor working people. God tonight comes to fill with dignity the austerity of labour. He reminds us of the importance of granting dignity to men and women through labour, but also of granting dignity to human labour itself, since man is its master and not its slave. On the day of Life, let us repeat: no more deaths in the workplace! And let us commit ourselves to ensuring this.
As we take one last look at the crib, in the distance, we glimpse the Magi, journeying to worship the Lord. As we look more closely, we see that all around Jesus everything comes together: not only do we see the poor, the shepherds, but also the learned and the rich, the Magi. In Bethlehem, rich and poor come together, those who worship, like the Magi, and those who work, like the shepherds. Everything is unified when Jesus is at the centre: not our ideas about Jesus, but Jesus himself, the living One.
So then, dear brothers and sisters, let us return to Bethlehem, let us return to the origins: to the essentials of faith, to our first love, to adoration and charity. Let us look at the Magi who make their pilgrim way, and as a synodal Church, a journeying Church, let us go to Bethlehem, where God is in man and man in God. There the Lord takes first place and is worshipped; there the poor have the place nearest him; there the shepherds and Magi are joined in a fraternity beyond all labels and classifications. May God enable us to be a worshipping, poor and fraternal Church. That is what is essential. Let us go back to Bethlehem.
It is good for us to go there, obedient to the Gospel of Christmas, which shows us the Holy Family, the shepherds, the Magi: all people on a journey. Brothers and sisters, let us set out, for life itself is a pilgrimage. Let us rouse ourselves, for tonight a light has been lit, a kindly light, reminding us that, in our littleness, we are beloved sons and daughters, children of the light (cf. 1 Thess 5:5). Brothers and sisters, let us rejoice together, for no one will ever extinguish this light, the light of Jesus, who tonight shines brightly in our world.