Luke Chapter 3-6
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Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
On this second Sunday of Advent, the Liturgy places us in the school of John the Baptist, who preached “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. Perhaps we ask ourselves, “Why do we have to convert? Conversion is about an atheist who becomes a believer or a sinner who becomes just. But we don’t need it. We are already Christians. So we are okay”. But this isn’t true. In thinking like this, we don’t realize that it is precisely because of this presumption — that we are Christians, that everyone is good, that we’re okay — that we must convert: from the supposition that, all things considered, things are fine as they are and we don’t need any kind of conversion. But let us ask ourselves: is it true that in the various situations and circumstances of life, we have within us the same feelings that Jesus has? Is it true that we feel as Christ feels? For example, when we suffer some wrongdoing or some insult, do we manage to react without animosity and to forgive from the heart those who apologize to us? How difficult it is to forgive! How difficult! “You’re going to pay for this” — that phrase comes from inside! When we are called to share joys or sorrows, do we know how to sincerely weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice? When we should express our faith, do we know how to do it with courage and simplicity, without being ashamed of the Gospel? Thus we can ask ourselves so many questions. We’re not all right. We must always convert and have the sentiments that Jesus had.
The voice of the Baptist still cries in the deserts of humanity today, which are — what are today’s deserts? — closed minds and hardened hearts. And [his voice] causes us to ask ourselves if we are actually following the right path, living a life according to the Gospel. Today, as then, he admonishes us with the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “Prepare the way of the Lord!” (v. 4). It is a pressing invitation to open one’s heart and receive the salvation that God offers ceaselessly, almost obstinately, because he wants us all to be free from the slavery of sin. But the text of the prophet amplifies this voice, portending that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (v. 6). And salvation is offered to every man, and every people, without exclusion, to each one of us. None of us can say, “I’m a saint; I’m perfect; I’m already saved”. No. We must always accept this offer of salvation. This is the reason for the Year of Mercy: to go farther on this journey of salvation, this path that Jesus taught us. God wants all of mankind to be saved through Jesus, the one mediator (cf. 1 Tim 2:4-6).
Therefore, each one of us is called to make Jesus known to those who do not yet know him. But this is not to proselytize. No, it is to open a door. “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16), St Paul declared. If Our Lord Jesus has changed our lives, and he changes it every time we go to him, how can we not feel the passion to make him known to those we encounter at work, at school, in our apartment building, in the hospital, in meeting places? If we look around us, we find people who would be willing to begin — or begin again — a journey of faith were they to encounter Christians in love with Jesus. Shouldn’t we and couldn’t we be these Christians? I leave you this question: “Am I truly in love with Jesus? Am I convinced that Jesus offers me and gives me salvation?” And, if I am in love, I have to make him known! But we must be courageous: lay low the mountains of pride and rivalry; fill in the ravines dug by indifference and apathy; make straight the paths of our laziness and our compromises.
May the Virgin Mary, who is Mother and knows how to do so, help us to tear down the walls and the obstacles that impede our conversion, that is, our journey toward the encounter with the Lord. He alone, Jesus alone can fulfil all the hopes of man!
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Last Sunday, the liturgy invited us to experience the Season of Advent and of anticipation of the Lord with an attitude of vigilance and also of prayer: “be mindful” and “pray”. Today, the Second Sunday of Advent, we are shown how to give substance to this anticipation: by undertaking a journey of conversion, how to make this anticipation concrete. As a guide on this journey, the Gospel presents the figure of John the Baptist who “went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Lk 3:3). To describe the Baptist’s mission, the Evangelist Luke refers to the ancient prophecy of Isaiah which says: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be brought low” (vv. 4-5).
To prepare the way of the Lord’s coming, it is necessary to take note of the requirements of conversion to which the Baptist invites us. What are these requirements for conversion? First of all we are called to fill the ‘valleys’ caused by coldness and indifference, opening ourselves to others with the same sentiments as Jesus, that is, with affection and fraternal attention which takes on the needs of our neighbours. To fill the valleys caused by coldness. One cannot have a relationship of love, charity and fraternity with one’s neighbours if there are ‘gaps’ just as one cannot travel a road with many potholes. This requires a change of attitude. And all this should also be done with special attention to the neediest. Then there is the need to curtail the indifference caused by pride and arrogance. How many people, perhaps without realizing it, are proud, are indifferent, lack that kindly relationship. It is necessary to overcome this by making concrete gestures of reconciliation with our brothers and sisters, asking for forgiveness for our faults. It is not easy to reconcile with another. One always thinks: “who will take the first step?”. The Lord helps us in this if we are of good will. Indeed, conversion is complete if it leads us to humbly recognize our errors, our infidelity and failings.
The believer is someone who, by being close to his brothers and sisters, like John the Baptist, opens pathways in the desert, that is, he indicates perspectives of hope, even in those existential contexts that are arduous, marked by failure and defeat. We cannot give up in the face of negative situations of closure and rejection: we must not allow ourselves to succumb to the mentality of the world, because the centre of our life is Jesus and his word of light, love and solace. It is He! The Baptist invited the people of his time to conversion, with force, with vigour and with firmness. Nevertheless, he knew how to listen, he knew how to perform gestures of tenderness, gestures of forgiveness toward the multitude of men and women who went to him to confess their sins and to be baptized with the baptism of repentance.
The witness of John the Baptist helps us to go forward in our witness of life. The purity of his proclamation, his courage in proclaiming the truth were able to reawaken the expectation and hope in the Messiah that had long been dormant. Today too, Jesus’ disciples are called to be his humble but courageous witnesses in order to rekindle hope, to make it understood that, despite everything, the Kingdom of God continues to be built day by day with the power of the Holy Spirit. Let each of us ask ourselves: how can I change something in my attitude, in order to prepare the way of the Lord?
May the Virgin Mary help us prepare the way of the Lord day by day, beginning with ourselves; and to scatter around us with steadfast patience, seeds of peace, justice and fraternity.
On this second Sunday of Advent, the word of God sets before us the figure of Saint John the Baptist. The Gospel highlights two important things: the place where John appears, which is the desert, and the content of his message, which is conversion. Desert and conversion. Today’s Gospel emphasizes these two words in such a way as to make us realize that they both concern us directly. Let us consider each of them closely.
The desert. The evangelist Luke introduces the scene in a particular way. He speaks of the solemn circumstances and the great men of that time, mentioning the fifteenth year of the Emperor Tiberius, the governor Pontius Pilate, King Herod and other contemporary political leaders. He then refers to the religious leaders, Annas and Caiaphas, who were serving in the Temple of Jerusalem (cf. Lk 3:1-2). At this point, Luke tells us: “The word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness” (3:2). But how did that word come? We might have expected God’s word to be spoken to one of the distinguished personages just mentioned. Instead, a subtle irony emerges between the lines of the Gospel: from the upper echelons of the powerful, suddenly we shift to the desert, to an unknown, solitary man. God surprises us. His ways surprise us, for they differ from our human expectations; they do not reflect the power and grandeur that we associate with him. Indeed, the Lord likes best what is small and lowly. Redemption did not begin in Jerusalem, Athens or Rome, but in the desert. This paradoxical approach tells us something beautiful: that being powerful, well-educated or famous is no guarantee of pleasing God, for those things could actually lead to pride and to rejecting him. Instead, we need to be interiorly poor, even as the desert is poor.
Let us think more deeply about the paradox of the desert. John the Baptist – the Precursor – prepares the coming of Christ in this inaccessible, inhospitable and dangerous place. Usually, those who wish to make an important announcement go to impressive places, where they can be readily seen and address great crowds. John, on the other hand, preaches in the desert. Precisely there, in an arid, empty waste, stretching as far as the eye can see, the glory of the Lord was revealed. As the Scriptures prophesied (cf. Is 40:3-4), God changes the desert into a sea, parched ground into springs of water (cf. Is 41:18). Here is yet another heartening message: then as now, God turns his gaze to wherever sadness and loneliness abound. We can experience this in our own lives: as long as we bask in success or think only of ourselves, the Lord is often unable to reach us; but especially in times of trial, he does. He comes to us in difficult situations; he fills our inner emptiness that makes room for him; he visits our existential deserts. The Lord visits us there.
Dear brothers and sisters, in our lives as individuals or nations, there will always be times when we feel that we are in the midst of a desert. Yet it is precisely there that the Lord makes his presence felt. Indeed, he is often welcomed not by the self-satisfied, but by those who feel helpless or inadequate. And he comes with words of closeness, compassion and tenderness: “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you” (Is 41:10). By preaching in the desert, John assures us that the Lord comes to set us free and to revive us in situations that seem irredeemable, hopeless, with no way out; he comes there. There is no place that God will not visit. Today we rejoice to see him choose the desert, to see him reach out with love to our littleness and to refresh our arid spirits. So, dear friends, do not fear littleness, since it is not about being small and few in number, but about being open to God and to others. And do not fear situations of dryness, because God is never afraid to visit us there!
Let us move on to the second word, which is conversion. The Baptist preached this insistently and forcefully (cf. Lk 3:7). This word too can be “uncomfortable”, for just as the desert is not the first place we would consider going to, so the summons to conversion is certainly not the first word we would like to hear. Talk of conversion can depress us; it can seem hard to reconcile with the Gospel of joy. Yet that is only the case if we think of conversion simply in terms of our own striving for moral perfection, as if that were something we could achieve as the result of our own effort. Therein lies the problem: we think everything is up to us. This is not good, for it leads to spiritual sadness and frustration. For we want to be converted, to become better, to overcome our faults and to change, but we realize that we are not fully capable of this, and, for all our good intentions, we constantly stumble and fall. We have the same experience as Saint Paul, who in these very lands wrote: “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Rom 7:18-19). If by ourselves, then, we are unable to do the good we would like, what does it mean for us to be converted?
Here your beautiful Greek language can help us by reminding us of the etymology of the verb “to convert”, metanoeίn, used in the Gospel. Composed of the preposition metá, which here means “beyond”, and the verb noéin, “to think”, it tells us that to convert is to “think beyond”, to go beyond our usual ways of thinking, beyond our habitual worldview. All those ways of thinking that reduce everything to ourselves, to our belief in our own self-sufficiency. Or those self-centred ways of thinking marked by rigidity and paralyzing fear, by the temptation to say “we have always done it this way, why change?”, by the idea that the deserts of life are places of death rather than places of God’s presence.
By calling us to conversion, John urges us to go “beyond” where we presently are; to go beyond what our instincts tell us and our thoughts register, for reality is much greater than that. It is much greater than our instincts or thoughts. The reality is that God is greater. To be converted, then, means not listening to the things that stifle hope, to those who keep telling us that nothing ever changes in life, the pessimists of all time. It means refusing to believe that we are destined to sink into the mire of mediocrity. It means not surrendering to our inner fears, which surface especially at times of trial in order to discourage us and tell us that we will not make it, that everything has gone wrong and that becoming saints is not for us. That is not the case, because God is always present. We have to trust him, for he is our beyond, our strength. Everything changes when we give first place to the Lord. That is what conversion is! As far as Christ is concerned, we need only open the door and let him enter in and work his wonders. Just as the desert and the preaching of John were all it took for Christ to come into the world. The Lord asks for nothing more.
Let us ask for the grace to believe that with God things really do change, that he will banish our fears, heal our wounds, turn our arid places into springs of water. Let us ask for the grace of hope, since hope revives our faith and rekindles our charity. It is for this hope that the deserts of today’s world are thirsting.
As our being together here renews us in the hope and joy of Jesus, and I rejoice in being in your midst, let us now ask Holy Mary our Mother to help us become, like her, witnesses of hope and sowers of joy all around us, for hope, dear brothers and sisters, never disappoints. Not only now, when we are all happy to be together, but every day, in whatever deserts we may dwell, for it is there, by God’s grace, that our life is called to be converted. There, in the multiplicity of existential or environmental deserts, there life is called to flourish. May the Lord give us the grace and courage to accept this truth.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In today’s Gospel, there is a question posed three times: “What shall we do?” (Lk 3:10, 12, 14). It is raised to John the Baptist by three categories of people: First, the crowd in general; second, the publicans or tax collectors; and, third, some soldiers. Each of these groups questions the prophet on what must be done to implement the conversion that he is preaching. John’s reply to the question of the crowd is sharing essential goods. He told the first group, the crowd, to share basic necessities, and therefore says: “He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise” (v. 11). Then, he tells the second group, the tax collectors, to collect no more than the amount owed. What does this mean? No taking ‘bribes’, John the Baptist is clear. And he tells the third group, the soldiers, not to extort anything from anyone and to be content with their wages (cf. v. 14). There are three answers to the three questions of these groups. Three answers for an identical path of repentance, which is manifested in concrete commitments to justice and solidarity. It is the path that Jesus points to in all his preaching: the path of diligent love for neighbour.
From John the Baptist’s admonitions, we understand the general tendencies of those who at that time held power, in various forms. Things have not changed very much. However, no category of people is excluded from following the path of repentance to obtain salvation, not even the tax collectors, considered sinners by definition: not even they are excluded from salvation. God does not preclude anyone from the opportunity to be saved. He is — so to speak — anxious to show mercy, to show it towards everyone, and to welcome each one into the tender embrace of reconciliation and forgiveness.
We feel that this question — “What shall we do?” — is ours also. Today’s liturgy tells us, in the words of John, that it is necessary to repent, to change direction and take the path of justice, solidarity, sobriety: these are the essential values of a fully human and genuinely Christian life. Repent! It sums up the message of the Baptist. And the Liturgy of this Third Sunday of Advent helps us to rediscover a special dimension of repentance: joy. Whoever repents and approaches the Lord, feels joy. The prophet Zephaniah says to us today: “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion!”, addressing Jerusalem (Zeph 3:14); and the apostle Paul exhorts the Christians of Philippi: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4). Today, it takes courage to speak of joy, which, above all, requires faith! The world is beset by many problems, the future is burdened by uncertainties and fears. Yet, Christians are a joyful people, and their joy is not something superficial and ephemeral, but deep and stable, because it is a gift from the Lord that fills life. Our joy comes from the certainty that “the Lord is at hand” (Phil 4:5): he is close with his tenderness, his mercy, his forgiveness and his love.
May the Virgin Mary help us to strengthen our faith, so that we are able to welcome the God of joy, the God of mercy, who always wants to live in the midst of his children. May our Mother teach us to share tears with those who weep, in order to be able to also share a smile.
Forty days after his birth, Jesus was taken to the Temple. Mary and Joseph brought him in order to present him to God. Today, on the Feast of Our Lord’s Baptism, you parents have brought your children to receive Baptism, to receive what your asked for at the beginning, when I asked you the first question: “Faith. I want faith for my child”. In this way faith is passed on from one generation to the next, as a sequence, over the course of time.
These little boys, these little girls, years from now, will take your place with another child — your grandchildren — and will ask the same: faith. The faith that Baptism gives us. The faith that the Holy Spirit brings today to the heart, to the soul, to the life of these, your children.
You have asked for faith. When the Church hands you the lit candle, she will tell you to safeguard the faith of these children. Lastly, do not forget that the greatest legacy that you can give to your children is faith. Take care that it is not lost, make it grow and leave it as a legacy.
I wish you this today, on this day that is joyful for you. I wish that you may be able to raise these children in the faith and that the greatest legacy they receive from you is truly faith.
I have only one piece of advice. A baby cries because he or she is hungry, I say to the mothers: if your child is hungry, feed him or her here, you are completely free to do so.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
On this Sunday after the Epiphany, we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus, and we gratefully recall our Baptism. In this context, this morning I baptized 26 infants: let us pray for them!
The Gospel presents Jesus, in the waters of the River Jordan, at the centre of a wondrous divine revelation. St Luke writes: “when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, ‘Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased’” (Lk 3:21-22). In this way Jesus is consecrated and manifested by the Father as the Saviour Messiah and liberator.
In this event — attested by all four Gospels — is the passing from the baptism of John the Baptist, symbolized by water, to the Baptism of Jesus “with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Lk 3:16). Indeed, the Holy Spirit is the principal artisan in Christian Baptism: it is he who burns and destroys original sin, restoring to the baptized the beauty of divine grace; it is he who frees us from the dominion of darkness, namely sin, and transfers us to the kingdom of light, namely love, truth and peace: this is the kingdom of light. Let us think about the dignity to which Baptism elevates us! “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are” (1 Jn 3:1), the Apostle John exclaims. This splendid reality of being Children of God entails the responsibility of following Jesus, the obedient Servant, and reproduces his lineaments in our very selves: namely docility, humility, tenderness. This is not easy, especially when there is so much intolerance, arrogance, harshness around us. But with the strength we receive from the Holy Spirit it is possible!
The Holy Spirit, received for the first time on the day of our Baptism, opens our heart to the Truth, to all Truth. The Spirit impels our life on the challenging but joyful path of charity and solidarity toward our brothers and sisters. The Spirit gives us the tenderness of divine forgiveness and permeates us with the invincible power of the Father’s mercy. Let us not forget that the Holy Spirit is a living and vivifying presence in those who welcome him, he prays in us and fills us with spiritual joy.
Today, the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus, let us ponder the day of our Baptism. All of us were baptized, let us give thanks for this gift. I ask you a question: which of you knows the date of your Baptism? Surely not everyone. Therefore, I encourage you to find out the date, by asking, for example, your parents, your grandparents, your godparents, or going to the parish. It is very important to know it, because it is a date to be celebrated: it is the date of our rebirth as Children of God. For this reason, homework for this week: go and find out the date of your Baptism. Celebrating that day means and reaffirms our adherence to Jesus, with the commitment to live as Christians, members of the Church and of a new humanity, in which all are brothers and sisters.
May the Virgin Mary, first Disciple of her Son Jesus, help us to live our Baptism with joy and apostolic zeal, welcoming each day the gift of the Holy Spirit, which makes us Children of God.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
On this third Sunday of Advent, the liturgy invites us to joy. Listen carefully: to joy. The prophet Zephaniah addresses these words to a small group of the people of Israel: “Sing aloud, O Daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!” (3:14) Shout with joy, rejoice, exult: this is this Sunday’s invitation. The inhabitants of the Holy City are called to rejoice because the Lord has taken away his judgments against them (cf v. 15). God has forgiven, he did not wish to punish! As a result the people no longer have any reason for sadness. There is no longer reason for desolation, but rather, everything leads to joyful gratitude toward God who always wishes to deliver and save those he loves. And the Lord’s love for his people is endless, tantamount to the tenderness of a father for his children, of a groom for his bride, as Zephaniah again says: “he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (v. 17). This is — so it is called — the Sunday of joy: the third Sunday of Advent, before Christmas.
This appeal by the prophet is particularly appropriate during the Season in which we are preparing ourselves for Christmas, because it can be applied to Jesus, the Emmanuel, the God-with-us: his presence is the wellspring of joy. Indeed, Zephaniah proclaims: “The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst”, and a little later he repeats: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory” (vv. 15, 17). This message finds its full meaning in the moment of the Annunciation to Mary, narrated by the evangelist Luke. The words addressed to the Virgin by the Angel Gabriel are like an echo of those of the prophet. What does the Archangel Gabriel say? “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you! (Lk 1:28). He tells Our Lady to “Rejoice”. In an isolated hamlet of Galilee, in the heart of a young woman unknown to the world, God kindles the spark of happiness for the entire world. And today, the same announcement is addressed to the Church, called to receive the Gospel so that it may become flesh, concrete life. He says to the Church, to all of us: “Rejoice, little Christian community, poor and humble but beautiful in my eyes because you ardently desire my Kingdom, you hunger and thirst for justice, you patiently weave the fabric of peace, you do not pursue the powerful of the moment but remain faithfully beside the poor. And thus you fear nothing but your heart is in joy”. If we live like this, in the presence of the Lord, our heart will always be in joy — when there is ‘high-level’, full joy, and the humble everyday joy, which is peace. Peace is the smallest joy, but it is joy.
Saint Paul, too, exhorts us today to have no anxiety, to have no despair about anything, but rather, in every circumstance, to make our requests, our needs, our worries known to God “by prayer and supplication” (Phil 4:6). The awareness that we can always turn to the Lord in our difficulties, and that he never rejects our invocations, is a great reason for joy. No worry, no fear will ever be able to take away this serenity which comes not from human things, from human comforts, no: the serenity that comes from God, from knowing that God lovingly guides our lives, and he always does so. Even in the midst of problems and suffering, this certainty fosters hope and courage.
However, in order to receive the Lord’s invitation to joy, it is necessary to be people willing to call ourselves into question. What does this mean? Just like those who, after listening to the preaching of John the Baptist, ask him: You preach this, but we, “What then shall we do” (Lk 3:10). What should I do? This question is the first step for the conversion that we are called to carry out during this Season of Advent. Let each of us ask ourself: what should I do? A very small thing, but “what should I do?”. And may the Virgin Mary, who is our mother, help us to open our heart to the God-who-comes, so that he may shower our whole life with joy.
You have asked the Church for faith for your children, and today they will receive the Holy Spirit and the gift of faith in each one’s heart and soul.
But this faith must be developed; it must grow.
Before children study the faith in catechism classes, parents must transmit it at home, because the faith is always transmitted ‘in dialect’, that is, the native language spoken in the environs of the home.
Parents transmit the faith through their example and words, and by teaching their children to make the Sign of the Cross.
Faith must be transmitted with your faith-filled lives, so children see married love and peace within the family home. May they see Jesus there.
Never fight in front of your children. It’s normal that parents should argue; the opposite would be strange. Do it, but without letting them hear or see.
You have no idea the anguish it causes a child to see his or her parents fight.
Allow me this advice that will help you to transmit the faith.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today, in this audience, as we have done in the previous audiences, I will stay here. I like to come down and greet each one of you, but we must keep our distance, because if I come down, then a crowd forms to greet me, and this is contrary to the measures and the precautions we must take in order to face “Madame Covid”, and it is harmful to us. Therefore, please excuse me if I do not come down to greet you: I will greet you from here but I hold you in my heart, all of you. And you, please hold me in your heart, and pray for me. From a distance, we can pray for each other … and thank you for your understanding.
In our itinerary of catechesis on prayer, after travelling through the Old Testament, we now arrive at Jesus. And Jesus prayed. The beginning of His public ministry takes place with His baptism in the river Jordan. The Evangelists are in agreement in attributing fundamental importance to this episode. They narrate how all the people came together in prayer, and specify that this gathering had a clearly penitential nature (see Mk 1:5; Mt 3:8). The people went to John to be baptised, for the forgiveness of sins: it is of a penitential character, of conversion.
Jesus’ first public act is therefore participation in a choral prayer of the people, a prayer of the people who went to be baptised, a penitential prayer, in which everyone recognises him- or herself as a sinner. This is why the Baptist wishes to oppose it, and says: “I need to be baptised by you, and you come to me?” (Mt 3:14). The Baptist understands who Jesus was. But Jesus insists: His act is an act of obedience to the will of the Father (v. 5), an act of solidarity with our human condition. He prays with the sinners of the people of God. Let us keep this clearly in mind: Jesus is the Righteous One, He is not a sinner. But He wished to come down to us, sinners, and He prays with us, and when we pray He is with us, praying; He is with us because He is in heaven, praying for us. Jesus always prays with His people, He always prays with us: always. We never pray alone, we always pray with Jesus. He does not stay on the opposite side of the river - “I am righteous, you are sinners” - to mark His difference and distance from the disobedient people, but rather He immerses His feet in the same purifying waters. He acts as if He were a sinner. And this is the greatness of God, Who sent His Son and annihilated Himself, and appears as a sinner.
Jesus is not a distant God, and He cannot be. Incarnation revealed Him in a complete and humanly unthinkable way. Thus, inaugurating His mission, Jesus places Himself at the forefront of a people of penitents, as if He were responsible for opening a breach through which all of us, after Him, must have the courage to pass. But the road, the journey, is difficult; but He goes ahead, opening the way. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that this is the newness of the fullness of time. It says: “His filial prayer, which the Father awaits from His children, is finally going to be lived out by the only Son in His humanity, with and for men” (no. 2599). Jesus prays with us. Let us keep this clear in our mind and in our heart: Jesus prays with us.
On that day, on the bank of the river Jordan, there is therefore all of humanity, with its unexpressed yearning for prayer. There is, above all, the population of sinners: those who thought they were not beloved by God, those who did not dare cross the threshold of the temple, those who did not pray because they did not consider themselves worthy. Jesus came for everyone, even for them, and He begins precisely by joining them. At the forefront.
The Gospel of Luke, in particular, highlights the climate of prayer in which the baptism of Jesus took place: “Now when all the people were baptised, and when Jesus also had been baptised and was praying, the heaven was opened” (3:21). By praying, Jesus opens the door to the heavens, and the Holy Spirit descends from that breach. And from on high a voice proclaims the wonderful truth: “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased” (v. 22). This simple phrase encloses an immense treasure; it enables us to understand something of Jesus’ ministry and of His heart, always turned to the Father. In the whirlwind of life and the world that will come to condemn him, even in the hardest and most sorrowful experiences He will have to endure, even when He experiences that he has no place to lay His head (see Mt 8: 20), even when hatred and persecution are unleashed around Him, Jesus is never without the refuge of a dwelling place: He dwells eternally in the Father.
This is the unique greatness of Jesus' prayer: the Holy Spirit takes possession of His person and the voice of the Father attests that He is the beloved, the Son in whom He fully reflects Himself.
This prayer of Jesus, which on the banks of the river Jordan is totally personal - and will be thus for all His earthly life - in Pentecost becomes the grace of prayer for all those baptised in Christ. He Himself obtained for us this gift, and He invites us to pray as He prayed.
Therefore, if during an evening of prayer we feel sluggish and empty, if it seems to us that life has been completely useless, we must at that moment beg that Jesus' prayer also become our own. “I cannot pray today, I don’t know what to do: I don’t feel like it, I am unworthy… In that moment, may your prayer to Jesus be mine”. And entrust yourself to Him, that He may pray for us. He in this moment is before the Father, praying for us, He is the intercessor; He shows the wounds to the Father, for us. Let us trust in this, it is great. We will then hear, if we are trustful, we will then hear a voice from heaven, louder than the voice rising from the depths of ourselves, and we will hear this voice whispering words of tenderness: “You are God's beloved, you are a son, you are the joy of the Father in heaven”. Just for us, for each one of us, echoes the word of the Father: even if we were rejected by all, sinners of the worst kind. Jesus did not descend into the waters of the Jordan for Himself, but for all of us. It was the entire people of God who went to the Jordan to pray, to ask for forgiveness, to receive that baptism of penance. And as that theologian said, they approached the Jordan with a “bare soul and bare feet”. This is humility. It takes humility to pray. He opened the heavens, as Moses opened the waters of the Red Sea, so that we could all pass behind Him. Jesus gave us His own prayer, which is His loving dialogue with the Father. He gave it to us like a seed of the Trinity, which He wants to take root in our hearts. Let us welcome him! Let us welcome this gift, the gift of prayer. Always with Him. And we will not go wrong. Thank you.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
The Gospel in today’s Liturgy, the Third Sunday of Advent, presents us with various groups of people – the crowd, the publicans and soldiers – who, touched by John the Baptist’s preaching, ask him: “What then should we do?” (Lk 3:10). What should we do? This is the question they asked. Let’s reflect a little on this question.
It does not stem from a sense of duty. Rather, the heart is touched by the Lord. It is the enthusiasm for His coming that leads them to ask: what should we do? Then John says: “The Lord is near." - " What should we do?” Let’s give an example: let’s think of a dear one who is coming to visit us. We joyfully and even impatiently await the person. To welcome the person, we will do what needs to be done: we will clean the house, we will prepare the best dinner possible, perhaps a gift… In short, there are things we will do. It is the same with the Lord. The joy of His coming makes us ask: what should we do? But God elevates this question to a higher level: what should I do with my life? What am I called to? What will I become?
By suggesting this question, the Gospel reminds us of something important: life has a task for us. Life is not meaningless; it is not left up to chance. No! It is a gift the Lord grants us, saying to us: discover who you are, and work hard to make the dream that is your life come true! Each of us – let’s not forget this – has a mission to accomplish. So, let’s not be afraid to ask the Lord: what should I do? Let us ask him this question repeatedly. It also recurs in the Bible: in the Acts of the Apostles, several people, hearing Peter who proclaimed Jesus’ resurrection, “were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’ ” (2:37). Let us ask ourselves as well: what would be good for me to do for myself and for my brothers and sisters? How can I contribute to this? How can I contribute to the good of the Church, to the good of society? The Advent Season is meant for this: to stop and ask ourselves how to prepare for Christmas. We are so busy with all the preparations, with gifts and things that pass. But let us ask ourselves what we should do for Jesus and for others! What should we do?
After the question, “what should we do?”, the Gospel lists John the Baptist’s responses that are different for each group. In fact, John recommends that those who have two tunics should share with those who have none; to the publicans who collect taxes, he says: “Collect no more than the amount prescribed” (Lk 3:13); to the soldiers: “Do not mistreat or extort money from anyone (cf. v. 14). He directs a specific word to each person that responds to their actual situation in life. This offers us a precious teaching: faith is incarnated in concrete life. It is not an abstract theory. Faith is not an abstract theory, a generalized theory – no! Faith touches us personally and transforms each of our lives. Let us think about the concreteness of our faith. Is my faith abstract, something abstract or concrete? Does it lead me toward serving others, helping out?
And so, in conclusion, let us ask ourselves: what should we do concretely in these days as we draw near to Christmas? How can I do my part? Let’s choose something concrete, even if it is small, that is adapted to our situation in life, and let’s continue doing it to prepare us for this Christmas. For example: I can call a person who is alone, visit that elderly person or that person who is ill, do something to serve a poor person, someone in need. Even still: maybe I need to ask forgiveness, grant forgiveness, clarify a situation, pay a debt. Perhaps I have neglected prayer and after so much time has elapsed, it’s time to ask the Lord for forgiveness. Brothers and sisters, let’s find something concrete and do it! May the Madonna help us, in whose womb God took on flesh.
Today we commemorate the Baptism of the Lord. There is a very beautiful liturgical hymn, for today's feast, which says that the people of Israel went to the Jordan "with bare feet and a bare soul", that is, a soul that wanted to be washed by God, that they had nothing, and they needed God. These children also come here today with "bare souls" to receive god's justification, the power of Jesus, the power to go forward in life. They come to receive their Christian identity. It is this, simply. Your children will receive their Christian identity today. And you, parents and godparents, must preserve this identity. This is your task during your life: to preserve the Christian identity of your children. It is an everyday commitment: to make them grow with the light they will receive today. This is what I just wanted to tell you, this is today's message: to preserve the Christian identity that you have brought your children today to receive.
This ceremony is a bit long, the children then feel strange here in an environment they do not know. Please, they are today's protagonists: make sure that they are not too hot, that they feel comfortable ... And if they are hungry, nurse them quietly here, before the Lord, there is no problem. And if they cry, let them cry, because they have a spirit of community, let's say a "spirit of a band", a spirit of the whole, and it is enough for one to begin – because everyone is musical – and immediately the orchestra starts! Let them cry quietly, that they feel free. And that they do not feel too hot and, if they are hungry, that they do not remain hungry.
And so, with this peace, we go ahead with the ceremony. And do not forget: they will receive the Christian identity and your work will be to preserve this Christian identity. Thank you.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
The Gospel of today’s Liturgy shows us the scene with which Jesus’ public life begins: he, who is the Son of God and the Messiah, goes to the banks of the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist. After about thirty years of hidden life, Jesus does not present himself with a miracle, or by rising to the podium to teach. He lines up with the people who were going to receive baptism from John. Today’s liturgical hymn says that the people went to be baptized with a bare soul and bare feet, humbly. This is a beautiful attitude, with a bare soul and bare feet. And Jesus shares the plight of us sinners, he comes down towards us; he descends into the river, and at the same time into the wounded history of humanity, he immerses himself in our waters to heal them, and he immerses himself with us, in our midst. He does not rise up above us, but rather comes down towards us with a bare soul, with bare feet, like the people. He does not come by himself, nor does he come with a select, privileged group. No: he comes with the people. He belongs to the people and he comes with them to be baptized, with these humble people.
Let us reflect on an important point: at the moment in which Jesus receives Baptism, the text says that he “was praying” (Lk 3:21). It is good for us to contemplate this: Jesus prays. But why? He, the Lord, the Son of God, prays like us? Yes, Jesus – the Gospels repeat this many times – spends a lot of time in prayer: at the beginning of every day, often at night, before making important decisions… His prayer is a dialogue, a relationship with the Father. Thus, in today’s Gospel, we can see the “two moments” in the life of Jesus: on the one hand, he descends towards us into the waters of the Jordan; on the other, he raises his eyes and his heart, praying to the Father.
It is a tremendous lesson for us: we are all immersed in the problems of life and in many complicated situations, called upon to face difficult moments and choices that get us down. But, if we do not want to be crushed, we need to raise everything upwards. And this is exactly what prayer does. It is not an escape route; prayer is not a magic ritual or a repetition of memorized jingles. No. Prayer is the way we allow God to act in us, to understand what he wants to communicate to us even in the most difficult situations, prayer is having the strength to go forward. Many people feel they can’t go on, and pray: “Lord, give me the strength to continue”. We too, very often, have done this. Prayer helps us because it unites us to God, it opens us up to encountering him. Yes, prayer is the key that opens our heart to the Lord. It is dialoguing with God, it is listening to his Word, it is worshipping: remaining in silence, entrusting to him what we are experiencing. And at times it is also crying out with him like Job, other times it is venting with Him. Crying out like Job; He is the father, He understands well. He never gets angry with us. And Jesus prays.
Prayer – to use a beautiful image from today’s Gospel – “opens the heavens” (cf. v. 21). Prayer opens the heavens: it gives life oxygen, a breath of fresh air amidst life’s troubles and allows us to see things from a broader perspective. Above all, it enables us to have the same experience of Jesus by the Jordan River: it makes us feel like beloved children of the Father. When we pray, the Father says to us too, as he does to Jesus in the Gospel: “You are my beloved child” (cf. v. 22). Being God’s children began on the day of our Baptism, which immersed us in Christ and, as members of the people of God, we became beloved children of the Father. Let us not forget the date of our Baptism! If I were to ask each one of you now: what is the date of your Baptism? Perhaps some of you don’t remember. This is a beautiful thing: remembering the date of your baptism, because it is our rebirth, the moment in which we became children of God with Jesus! And when you return home – if you don’t know – ask your mother, your aunt, your grandmother or your grandfather: “When was I baptized?”, and remember that date so as to celebrate it, to thank the Lord. And today, at this moment, let us ask ourselves: how is my prayer going? Do I pray out of habit, do I pray unwillingly, just reciting formulas, or is my prayer an encounter with God? I, a sinner, always with the people of God, never isolated? Do I cultivate intimacy with God, dialogue with Him, listen to his Word? Among the many things we do each day, let us not neglect prayer: let us dedicate time to it, let us use short invocations to be repeated often, let us read the Gospel every day. The prayer that opens the heavens.
And now, let us turn to Our Lady, the prayerful Virgin, who made her life into a hymn in praise of God.
Last Wednesday we began the liturgical season of Lent, during which the Church invites us to prepare ourselves to celebrate the great feast of Easter. This is a special time for recalling the gift of our baptism, when we became children of God. The Church invites us to renew the gift she has given us, not to let this gift lie dormant as if it were something from the past or locked away in a “memory chest”. Lent is a good time to recover the joy and hope that make us feel like beloved sons and daughters of the Father. The Father who waits for us in order to cast off our garments of exhaustion, of apathy, of mistrust, and so clothe us with the dignity which only a true father or mother knows how to give their children, with the garments born of tenderness and love.
Our Father, He is the Father of a great family; he is our Father. He knows that he has a unique love, but he does not know how to bear or raise an “only child”. He is the God of the home, of brotherhood, of bread broken and shared. He is the God who is “Our Father”, not “my father” or “your stepfather”.
God’s dream makes its home and lives in each one of us so that at every Easter, in every Eucharist we celebrate, we may be the children of God. It is a dream which so many of our brothers and sisters have had through history. A dream witnessed to by the blood of so many martyrs, both from long ago and from now.
Lent is a time of conversion, of daily experiencing in our lives how this dream is continually threatened by the father of lies — and we hear in the Gospel how he acted towards Jesus — by the one who tries to separate us, making a divided and confrontational family; a society which is divided and at loggerheads, a society of the few, and for the few. How often we experience in our own lives, or in our own families, among our friends or neighbours, the pain which arises when the dignity we carry within is not recognized. How many times have we had to cry and regret on realizing that we have not acknowledged this dignity in others. How often — and it pains me to say it — have we been blind and impervious in failing to recognize our own and others’ dignity.
Lent is a time for reconsidering our feelings, for letting our eyes be opened to the frequent injustices which stand in direct opposition to the dream and the plan of God. It is a time to unmask three great temptations that wear down and fracture the image which God wanted to form in us: There are three temptations of Christ... three temptations for the Christian, which seek to destroy what we have been called to be; three temptations which try to corrode us and tear us down.
First, wealth: seizing hold of goods destined for all, and using them only for “my own people”. That is, taking “bread” based on the toil of others, or even at the expense of their very lives. That wealth which tastes of pain, bitterness and suffering. That is the bread that a corrupt family or society gives its own children.
The second temptation, vanity: the pursuit of prestige based on continuous, relentless exclusion of those who “are not like me”. The futile chasing of those five minutes of fame which do not forgive the “reputation” of others. “Making firewood from a felled tree” gradually gives way to the third temptation, the worst. It is that of pride, or rather, putting oneself on a higher level than one truly is on, feeling that one does not share the life of “mere mortals”, and yet being one who prays every day: “I thank you Lord that you have not made me like those others...”.
The three temptations of Christ.... Three temptations which the Christian is faced with daily. Three temptations which seek to corrode, destroy and extinguish the joy and freshness of the Gospel. Three temptations which lock us into a cycle of destruction and sin.
It is worth asking ourselves:
To what degree are we aware of these temptations in our lives, in our very selves?
How much have we become accustomed to a lifestyle where we think that our source and life force lies only in wealth?
To what point do we feel that caring about others, our concern and work for bread, for the good name and dignity of others, are wellsprings of happiness and hope?
We have chosen Jesus, not the evil one. If we remember what we heard in the Gospel, Jesus does not reply to the devil with any of his own words, but rather he the words of God, the words of scripture. Because brothers and sisters, and let us be clear about this, we cannot dialogue with the devil, we cannot do this because he will always win. Only the power of God’s word can overcome him. We have opted for Jesus and not for the devil; we want to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, even though we know that this is not easy. We know what it means to be seduced by money, fame and power. For this reason, the Church gives us the gift of this Lenten season, invites us to conversion, offering but one certainty: he is waiting for us and wants to heal our hearts of all that tears us down. He is the God who has a name: Mercy. His name is our wealth, his name is what makes us famous, his name is our power and in his name we say once more with the Psalm: “You are my God and in you I trust”. Will you repeat it together? Three times: “You are my God and in you I trust”. “Your are my God and in you I trust”.
In this Eucharist, may the Holy Spirit renew in us the certainty that his name is Mercy, and may he let us experience each day that “the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus...”, knowing that “with Christ and in Christ joy is constantly born anew” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 1).
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
The Gospel passage for this first Sunday of Lent (cf. Lk 4:1-13) recounts the experience of the temptation of Jesus in the desert. After fasting for 40 days, Jesus is tempted three times by the devil. First he invites Him to change stone into bread (v. 3); then, from above, he shows Him all the kingdoms of the world and the prospect of becoming a powerful and glorious messiah (vv. 5-6); lastly he takes Him to the pinnacle of the temple of Jerusalem and invites Him to throw himself down, so as to manifest His divine power in a spectacular way (vv. 9-11). The three temptations point to three paths that the world always offers, promising great success, three paths to mislead us: greed for possession — to have, have, have —, human vainglory and the exploitation of God. These are three paths that will lead us to ruin.
The first, the path of greed for possession. This is always the devil’s insidious logic He begins from the natural and legitimate need for nourishment, life, fulfilment, happiness, in order to encourage us to believe that all this is possible without God, or rather, even despite Him. But Jesus countervails, stating: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone’’’ (v. 4). Recalling the long journey of the chosen people through the desert, Jesus affirms his desire to fully entrust himself to the providence of the Father, who always takes care of his children.
The second temptation: the path of human vainglory. The devil says: “If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours” (v. 7). One can lose all personal dignity if one allows oneself to be corrupted by the idols of money, success and power, in order to achieve one’s own self-affirmation. And one tastes the euphoria of a fleeting joy. And this also leads us to be ‘peacocks’, to vanity, but this vanishes. For this reason Jesus responds: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve” (v. 8).
And then the third temptation: exploiting God to one’s own advantage. In response to the devil — who, citing Scripture, invites Him to seek a conspicuous miracle from God — Jesus again opposes with the firm decision to remain humble, to remain confident before the Father: “It is said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (v. 12). Thus, he rejects perhaps the most subtle temptation: that of wanting to ‘pull God to our side’, asking him for graces which in reality serve and will serve to satisfy our pride.
These are the paths that are set before us, with the illusion that in this way one can obtain success and happiness. But in reality, they are completely extraneous to God’s mode of action; rather, in fact they distance us from God, because they are the works of Satan. Jesus, personally facing these trials, overcomes temptation three times in order to fully adhere to the Father’s plan. And he reveals the remedies to us: interior life, faith in God, the certainty of his love — the certainty that God loves us, that he is Father, and with this certainty we will overcome every temptation.
But there is one thing to which I would like to draw your attention, something interesting. In responding to the tempter, Jesus does not enter a discussion, but responds to the three challenges with only the Word of God. This teaches us that one does not dialogue with the devil; one must not discuss, one only responds to him with the Word of God.
Therefore, let us benefit from Lent as a privileged time to purify ourselves, to feel God’s comforting presence in our life.
May the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, icon of faithfulness to God, sustain us in our journey, helping us to always reject evil and welcome good.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon
The Gospel of the Liturgy today, first Sunday of Lent, takes us into the desert, where Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit, for forty days, to be tempted by the devil (cf. Lk 4:1-13). Jesus too was tempted by the devil, and He accompanies us, every one of us, in our temptations. The desert symbolizes the fight against the seductions of evil, to learn to choose true freedom. Indeed, Jesus lives the experience of the desert just before beginning his public mission. It is precisely through this spiritual combat that he decisively affirms what type of Messiah he intends to be. Not this type of Messiah, but that one: I would say that this is indeed the declaration of Jesus’ messianic identity, the messianic way of Jesus. “I am the Messiah, but on this path”. Let us then look closely at the temptations he is battling.
Twice the devil addresses him, saying: “If you are the Son of God…” (vv. 3, 9). He is thus proposing to him to exploit his position: first to satisfy the material needs he feels, hunger (cf. v. 3), then to increase his power (cf. vv. 6-7); and, finally, to have a prodigious sign from God (cf. vv. 9-11). Three temptations. It is as if he were saying, “If you are Son of God, take advantage of it!”. How often this happens to us: “But if you are in that position, take advantage of it! Don’t lose the opportunity, the chance”, that is, “think of your benefit”. It is a seductive proposal, but it leads you to the enslavement of the heart: it makes us obsessed with the desire to have, it reduces everything to the possession of things, power, fame. This is the core of the temptations. It is the “poison of the passions” in which evil is rooted. Look within ourselves, and we will find that our temptations always have this mindset, this way of acting.
But Jesus opposes the attractions of evil in a winning way. How does he do this? By responding to temptations with the Word of God, which says not to take advantage, not to use God, others and things for oneself, not to take advantage of one’s own position to obtain privileges. Because true happiness and true freedom are not found in possessing, but in sharing; not in taking advantage of others, but in loving them; not in the obsession of power, but in the joy of service.
Brothers and sisters, these temptations also accompany us on the journey of life. We must be vigilant – do not be afraid, it happens to everyone – and be vigilant, because they often present themselves under an apparent form of good. In fact, the devil, who is cunning, always uses deception. He wanted Jesus to believe that his proposals were useful to prove that he was really the Son of God. And he does so with us too: he often arrives “with sweet eyes”, “with an angelic face”; he even knows how to disguise himself with sacred, apparently religious motives!
And I would like to emphasize something. Jesus does not converse with the devil: he never conversed with the devil. Either he banished him, when he healed the possessed, or in this case, when he has to respond, he does so with the Word of God, never with his own word. Brothers and sisters, never enter into dialogue with the devil: he is more cunning than we are. Never! Cling to the Word of God like Jesus, and at most answer always with the Word of God. And on this path, we will never go wrong.
The devil does this with us: he often comes “with gentle eyes”, “with an angelic face”; he even knows how to disguise himself with sacred, apparently religious motives! If we give in to his flattery, we end up justifying our falsehood by disguising it with good intentions. For instance, how often have we heard “I have done strange things, but I have helped the poor”; “I have taken advantage of my role – as a politician, a governor, a priest, a bishop – but also for good”; “I have given in to my instincts, but in the end, I did no harm to anyone”, these justifications, and so on, one after the other. Please: no compromises with evil! No dialogue with the devil! We must not enter into dialogue with temptation, we must not fall into that slumber of the conscience that makes us say: “But after all, it's not serious, everyone does it”! Let us look at Jesus, who does not seek accommodation, does not make agreements with evil. He opposes the devil with the Word of God, who is stronger than the devil, and thus overcomes temptation.
May this time of Lent also be a time of the desert for us. Let us take time for silence and prayer – just a little, it will do us good – in these spaces let us stop and look at what is stirring in our hearts, our inner truth, that which we know cannot be justified. Let us find inner clarity, placing ourselves before the Word of God in prayer, so that a positive fight against the evil that enslaves us, a fight for freedom, may take place within us.
Let us ask the Blessed Virgin to accompany us in the Lenten desert and to help us on our way of conversion.
In the first reading, St Paul reminds the Corinthians what his message was like, how he had proclaimed the Gospel: “I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom”. Paul continues by saying that he did not present himself in order to convince his interlocutors with arguments, with words, even with images. The Apostle chose instead another mode, another style, and that is a demonstration of the Spirit and power, that — these are Paul’s words — “your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God”.
In effect the Apostle recalled that the Word of God is something different, something which is unequalled by a human word, a wise word, a scientific word, a philosophical word. The Word of God, indeed, is something else, it comes in another way: it is different because it is how God speaks.
Luke confirms this in the Gospel passage which tells of Jesus in the Synagogue of Nazareth, where he grew up and where everyone knew him as a child. In that context, he began to speak and the people listened to him, commenting: “Oh, how interesting!”. Then they bore witness: they were amazed with the words he spoke. And among them they observed: “Look at him, this one! How good, this boy whom we know, how good he has become! But where must he have studied?”.
However, Jesus stopped them and said to them: “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country”. Thus, to those who listened to him in the Synagogue at first it seemed a good thing and they accepted that manner of conversation and reception. But when Jesus began to give the Word of God they became furious and they wanted to kill him. Thus they passed from one side to the other, because the Word of God is different from the word of man, even from the loftiest word of man, the most philosophical word of man.
And so, what is the Word of God like? The Letter to the Hebrews, began by saying that, since ancient times, God had spoken, and he spoke to our fathers through the prophets. But in these times, at the end of that world, he spoke through the Son. In other words, the Word of God is Jesus, Jesus himself. That is what Paul was preaching, when he said: “When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Christ crucified”.
This is the Word of God, the only Word of God. And Jesus Christ is a reason for scandal: the Cross of Christ scandalizes. That is the strength of the Word of God: Jesus Christ, the Lord.
It becomes so important, to ask ourselves: “How do we receive the Word of God?”. The response is clear: “As one receives Jesus Christ. The Church tells us that Jesus is present in the Scripture, in His Word”. This is why, I have advised you many times to always carry a small Gospel with you — moreover, it costs little to buy it, to keep it in your purse, in your pocket, and read a passage from the Gospel during the day. Some practical advice, not so much to learn something, but mostly to find Jesus, because Jesus actually is in His Word, in His Gospel. Every time I read the Gospel, I find Jesus.
And what is the right attitude to receive this Word? It must be received as one receives Jesus, that is, with an open heart, with a humble heart, with the spirit of the Beatitudes. Because this is how Jesus came, in humility: he came in poverty, he came anointed by the Holy Spirit. Such that he himself began his discourse in the Synagogue of Nazareth with these words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord”.
Thus, he is strength, he is the Word of God, because he was anointed by the Holy Spirit. In this way, , we too, if we want to hear and receive the Word of God, we must pray to the Holy Spirit and ask for this anointing of the heart, which is the unction of the Beatitudes. Thus, to have a heart like the heart of the Beatitudes.
As Jesus is present in the Word of God, and He speaks to us in the Word of God, it will do us good during the day today to ask ourselves: How do I receive the Word of God?
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In today’s Gospel, before presenting Jesus’ programmatic speech in Nazareth, Luke the Evangelist briefly recounts the work of evangelization. It is an activity that Jesus carries out with the power of the Holy Spirit: his Word is original because it reveals the meaning of the Scriptures; it is an authoritative Word because he commands even impure spirits with authority, and they obey him (cf. Mk 1:27). Jesus is different from the teachers of his time. For example, he doesn’t open a law school but rather goes around preaching and teaching everywhere: in the synagogues, on the streets, in houses, always moving about! Jesus is also different from John the Baptist, who proclaims God’s imminent judgment. Instead Jesus announces God’s fatherly forgiveness.
Now let us imagine that we too enter the synagogue of Nazareth, the village where Jesus has grown up, until he is about 30 years old. What happens is an important event, which delineates Jesus’ mission. He stands up to read the Sacred Scripture. He opens the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah and takes up the passage where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor” (Lk 4:18). Then, after a moment of silence filled with expectation on the part of everyone, he says, in the midst of their general amazement: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 21).
Evangelizing the poor: this is Jesus’ mission. According to what he says, this is also the mission of the Church, and of every person baptized in the Church. Being a Christian is the same thing as being a missionary. Proclaiming the Gospel with one’s word, and even before, with one’s life, is the primary aim of the Christian community and of each of its members. It is noted here that Jesus addresses the Good News to all, excluding no one, indeed favouring those who are distant, suffering sick, cast out by society.
Let us ask ourselves: what does it mean to evangelize the poor? It means first of all drawing close to them, it means having the joy of serving them, of freeing them from their oppression, and all of this in the name of and with the Spirit of Christ, because he is the Gospel of God, he is the Mercy of God, he is the liberation of God, he is the One who became poor so as to enrich us with his poverty. The text of Isaiah, reinforced with little adaptations introduced by Jesus, indicates that the messianic announcement of the Kingdom of God come among us is addressed in a preferential way to the marginalized, to captives, to the oppressed.
In Jesus’ time these people probably were not at the centre of the community of faith. Let us ask ourselves: today, in our parish communities, in our associations, in our movements, are we faithful to Christ’s plan? Is the priority evangelizing the poor, bringing them the joyful Good News? Pay heed: it does not only involve doing social assistance, much less political activity. It involves offering the strength of the Gospel of God, who converts hearts, heals wounds, transforms human and social relationships according to the logic of love. The poor are indeed at the centre of the Gospel.
May the Virgin Mary, Mother of evangelizers, help us to strongly perceive the hunger and thirst for the Gospel that there is in the world, especially in the hearts and the flesh of the poor. May she enable each of us and every Christian community to tangibly bear witness to the mercy, the great mercy that Christ has given us.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today’s Gospel account once again, like last Sunday, brings us to the synagogue of Nazareth, the village in Galilee where Jesus was brought up in a family and was known by everyone. He, who left not long before to begin his public life, now returns and for the first time presents himself to the community, gathered in the synagogue on the Sabbath. He reads the passage of the Prophet Isaiah, who speaks of the future Messiah, and he declares at the end: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21). Jesus’ compatriots, who were at first astonished and admired him, now begin to look sideways, to murmur among themselves and ask: why does he, who claims to be the Lord’s Consecrated, not repeat here in his homeland the wonders they say he worked in Capernaum and in nearby villages? Thus Jesus affirms: “no prophet is acceptable in his own country”, and he refers to the great prophets of the past, Elijah and Elisha, who had worked miracles in favour of the pagans in order to denounce the incredulity of their people. At this point those present are offended, rise up, indignant, and cast Jesus out and want to throw him down from the precipice. But he, with the strength of his peace, “passed through the midst of them and went away” (cf. v. 30). His time has not yet come.
This passage of Luke the Evangelist is not simply the account of an argument between compatriots, as sometimes happens even in our neighbourhoods, arising from envy and jealousy, but it highlights a temptation to which a religious man is always exposed — all of us are exposed — and from which it is important to keep his distance. What is this temptation? It is the temptation to consider religion as a human investment and, consequently, “negotiate” with God, seeking one’s own interest. Instead, true religion entails accepting the revelation of a God who is Father and who cares for each of his creatures, even the smallest and most insignificant in the eyes of man. Jesus’ prophetic ministry consists precisely in this: in declaring that no human condition can constitute a reason for exclusion — no human condition can constitute a reason for exclusion! — from the Father’s heart, and that the only privilege in the eyes of God is that of not having privileges, of not having godparents, of being abandoned in his hands.
“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21). The ‘today’, proclaimed by Christ that day, applies to every age; it echoes for us too in this Square, reminding us of the relevance and necessity of the salvation Jesus brought to humanity. God comes to meet the men and women of all times and places, in their real life situations. He also comes to meet us. It is always he who takes the first step: he comes to visit us with his mercy, to lift us up from the dust of our sins; he comes to extend a hand to us in order to enable us to return from the abyss into which our pride made us fall, and he invites us to receive the comforting truth of the Gospel and to walk on the paths of good. He always comes to find us, to look for us.
Let us return to the synagogue. Surely that day, in the synagogue of Nazareth, Mary, his Mother, was also there. We can imagine her heart beating, a small foreboding of what she will suffer under the Cross, seeing Jesus, there in the synagogue, first admired, then challenged, then insulted, threatened with death. In her heart, filled with faith, she kept every thing. May she help us to convert from a god of miracles to the miracle of God, who is Jesus Christ.
And now the young people in the Square will let loose the balloons, a sign of peace.
The Church prepares us for Easter and today makes us reflect on salvation: what do we think salvation is like, the salvation that we all want?. The story of “Naaman’s disease”, narrated in the Second Book of Kings (5:1-15), presents the fact of death: and afterwards?. Indeed, when there is sickness, it always leads us back to that thought: salvation. But, how does salvation come about? What is the path to salvation? What is God’s revelation to us Christians with regard to salvation?
The key word to understanding the Church’s message today is disdain. After “Naaman arrived at Elisha’s house and asked to be cured, Elisha sent a boy to tell him to wash in the Jordan seven times. A simple thing. Perhaps for this reason “Naaman disdained”, exclaiming: “I have made such a journey, with so many gifts...”. Instead everything was resolved by simply bathing in the river. Moreover, Naaman continued, “our rivers are more beautiful than this one”.
In Luke (4:24-30), the inhabitants of Nazareth similarly disdained after hearing Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah that Sabbath in the synagogue, when he said “‘today this has happened’, speaking of the liberation, of how the people would be freed”. The people commented: “What do you think about this man? He is one of us, we saw him grow up from boyhood, he never studied”. And the people “disdained” and even “wanted to kill him”.
Again, later on Jesus felt this disdain on the part of the leaders, the doctors of the law who sought salvation in moral casuistry — ‘this can be done to this point, to that point...’ — and thus I don’t know how many commandments they had, and the poor people.... This is why the people did not trust them. The same thing happened with the Sadducees, who sought salvation in compromises with the powerful men of the world, with the emperor: some with clerical networks, others with political networks sought salvation in this way. But the people had an instinct and didn’t believe in them. Instead, they believed in Jesus because he spoke with authority.
And so, “why this disdain?”. It is because, in our imagination salvation must come from something great, from something majestic: only the powerful can save us, those who have strength, who have money, who have power, these people can save us. Instead, “God’s plan is different”. Thus, they feel disdain because they cannot understand that salvation comes only from little things, from the simplicity of the things of God. And when Jesus proposes the way of salvation, he never speaks of great things, but only “little things”.
Re-read the Gospel Beatitudes Mathew 5: 1-12 — “you will be saved if you do this” — and of Matthew, Chapter 25. They are the two pillars of the Gospel: ‘Come, come with me because you have done this’. It involves simple things: you did not seek salvation or hope in power, in networks, in negotiations, no; you simply did this. Yet actually, this gives rise to much disdain.
Prepare for Easter, by reading the Beatitudes and reading Matthew 25, and thinking and seeing if something about this causes me disdain, takes peace away from me. Because disdain is a luxury that only the vain, the proud allow themselves.
Here at the end of the Beatitudes Jesus says something powerful: “Blessed is he who is not shocked by me”, who “does not disdain this, who does not feel disdain”. It will do us good to take a little time — today, tomorrow — and read the Beatitudes, read Matthew and pay attention to what is happening in our heart: whether there is something that causes disdain. And “ask the Lord for the grace to understand that the only way to salvation is the folly of the Cross, that is, the annihilation of the Son of God, of his becoming small. In today’s liturgy, “the little thing” is “represented by bathing in the Jordan and by the little village of Nazareth.
After hearing Jesus read from the Prophet Isaiah and say: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21), the congregation in the synagogue of Nazareth might well have burst into applause. They might have then wept for joy, as did the people when Nehemiah and Ezra the priest read from the book of the Law found while they were rebuilding the walls. But the Gospels tell us that Jesus’ townspeople did the opposite; they closed their hearts to him and sent him off. At first, “all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words that came from his mouth” (4:22). But then an insidious question began to make the rounds: “Is this not the son of Joseph, the carpenter?” (4:22). And then, “they were filled with rage” (4:28). They wanted to throw him off the cliff. This was in fulfilment of the elderly Simeon’s prophecy to the Virgin Mary that he would be “a sign of contradiction” (2:34). By his words and actions, Jesus lays bare the secrets of the heart of every man and woman.
Where the Lord proclaims the Gospel of the Father’s unconditional mercy to the poor, the outcast and the oppressed, is the very place we are called to take a stand, to “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Tim 6:12). His battle is not against men and women, but against the devil (cf. Eph 6:12), the enemy of humanity. But the Lord “passes through the midst” of all those who would stop him and “continues on his way” (Lk 4:30). Jesus does not fight to build power. If he breaks down walls and challenges our sense of security, he does this to open the flood gates of that mercy which, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, he wants to pour out upon our world. A mercy which expands; it proclaims and brings newness; it heals, liberates and proclaims the year of the Lord’s favour.
The mercy of our God is infinite and indescribable. We express the power of this mystery as an “ever greater” mercy, a mercy in motion, a mercy that each day seeks to make progress, taking small steps forward and advancing in that wasteland where indifference and violence have predominated.
This was the way of the Good Samaritan, who “showed mercy” (cf. Lk 10:37): he was moved, he drew near to the wounded man, he bandaged his wounds, took him to the inn, stayed there that evening and promised to return and cover any further cost. This is the way of mercy, which gathers together small gestures. Without demeaning, it grows with each helpful sign and act of love. Every one of us, looking at our own lives as God does, can try to remember the ways in which the Lord has been merciful towards us, how he has been much more merciful than we imagined. In this we can find the courage to ask him to take a step further and to reveal yet more of his mercy in the future: “Show us, Lord, your mercy” (Ps 85:8). This paradoxical way of praying to an ever more merciful God, helps us to tear down those walls with which we try to contain the abundant greatness of his heart. It is good for us to break out of our set ways, because it is proper to the Heart of God to overflow with tenderness, with ever more to give. For the Lord prefers something to be wasted rather than one drop of mercy be held back. He would rather have many seeds be carried off by the birds of the air than have one seed be missing, since each of those seeds has the capacity to bear abundant fruit, thirtyfold, sixtyfold, even a hundredfold.
As priests, we are witnesses to and ministers of the ever-increasing abundance of the Father’s mercy; we have the rewarding and consoling task of incarnating mercy, as Jesus did, who “went about doing good and healing” (Acts 10:38) in a thousand ways so that it could touch everyone. We can help to inculturate mercy, so that each person can embrace it and experience it personally. This will help all people truly understand and practise mercy with creativity, in ways that respect their local cultures and families.
Today, during this Holy Thursday of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, I would like to speak of two areas in which the Lord shows excess in mercy. Based on his example, we also should not hesitate in showing excess. The first area I am referring to is encounter; the second is God’s forgiveness, which shames us while also giving us dignity.
The first area where we see God showing excess in his ever-increasing mercy is that of encounter. He gives himself completely and in such a way that every encounter leads to rejoicing. In the parable of the Merciful Father we are astounded by the man who runs, deeply moved, to his son, and throws his arms around him; we see how he embraces his son, kisses him, puts a ring on his finger, and then gives him his sandals, thus showing that he is a son and not a servant. Finally, he gives orders to everyone and organizes a party. In contemplating with awe this superabundance of the Father’s joy that is freely and boundlessly expressed when his son returns, we should not be fearful of exaggerating our gratitude. Our attitude should be that of the poor leper who, seeing himself healed, leaves his nine friends who go off to do what Jesus ordered, and goes back to kneel at the feet of the Lord, glorifying and thanking God aloud.
Mercy restores everything; it restores dignity to each person. This is why effusive gratitude is the proper response: we have to go the party, to put on our best clothes, to cast off the rancour of the elder brother, to rejoice and give thanks… Only in this way, participating fully in such rejoicing, is it possible to think straight, to ask for forgiveness, and see more clearly how to make up for the evil we have committed. It would be good for us to ask ourselves: after going to confession, do I rejoice? Or do I move on immediately to the next thing, as we would after going to the doctor, when we hear that the test results are not so bad and put them back in their envelope? And when I give alms, do I give time to the person who receives them to express their gratitude, do I celebrate the smile and the blessings that the poor offer, or do I continue on in haste with my own affairs after tossing in a coin?
The second area in which we see how God exceeds in his ever greater mercy is forgiveness itself. God does not only forgive incalculable debts, as he does to that servant who begs for mercy but is then miserly to his own debtor; he also enables us to move directly from the most shameful disgrace to the highest dignity without any intermediary stages. The Lords allows the forgiven woman to wash his feet with her tears. As soon as Simon confesses his sin and begs Jesus to send him away, the Lord raises him to be a fisher of men. We, however, tend to separate these two attitudes: when we are ashamed of our sins, we hide ourselves and walk around with our heads down, like Adam and Eve; and when we are raised up to some dignity, we try to cover up our sins and take pleasure in being seen, almost showing off.
Our response to God’s superabundant forgiveness should be always to preserve that healthy tension between a dignified shame and a shamed dignity. It is the attitude of one who seeks a humble and lowly place, but who can also allow the Lord to raise him up for the good of the mission, without complacency. The model that the Gospel consecrates, and which can help us when we confess our sins, is Peter, who allowed himself to be questioned about his love for the Lord, but who also renewed his acceptance of the ministry of shepherding the flock which the Lord had entrusted to him.
To grow in this “dignity which is capable of humbling itself”, and which delivers us from thinking that we are more or are less than what we are by grace, can help us understand the words of the prophet Isaiah that immediately follow the passage our Lord read in the synagogue at Nazareth: “You will be called priests of the Lord, ministers of our God” (Is 61:6). It is people who are poor, hungry, prisoners of war, without a future, cast to one side and rejected, that the Lord transforms into a priestly people.
As priests, we identify with people who are excluded, people the Lord saves. We remind ourselves that there are countless masses of people who are poor, uneducated, prisoners, who find themselves in such situations because others oppress them. But we too remember that each of us knows the extent to which we too are often blind, lacking the radiant light of faith, not because we do not have the Gospel close at hand, but because of an excess of complicated theology. We feel that our soul thirsts for spirituality, not for a lack of Living Water which we only sip from, but because of an excessive “bubbly” spirituality, a “light” spirituality. We feel ourselves also trapped, not so much by insurmountable stone walls or steel enclosures that affect many peoples, but rather by a digital, virtual worldliness that is opened and closed by a simple click. We are oppressed, not by threats and pressures, like so many poor people, but by the allure of a thousand commercial advertisements which we cannot shrug off to walk ahead, freely, along paths that lead us to love of our brothers and sisters, to the Lord’s flock, to the sheep who wait for the voice of their shepherds.
Jesus comes to redeem us, to send us out, to transform us from being poor and blind, imprisoned and oppressed, to become ministers of mercy and consolation. He says to us, using the words the prophet Ezekiel spoke to the people who sold themselves and betrayed the Lord: “I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth… Then you will remember your ways, and be ashamed when I take your sisters, both your elder and your younger, and give them to you as daughters, but not on account of the covenant with you. I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I forgive you all that you have done, says the Lord God” (Ezek 16:60-63).
In this Jubilee Year we celebrate our Father with hearts full of gratitude, and we pray to him that “he remember his mercy forever”; let us receive, with a dignity that is able to humble itself, the mercy revealed in the wounded flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us ask him to cleanse us of all sin and free us from every evil. And with the grace of the Holy Spirit let us commit ourselves anew to bringing God’s mercy to all men and women, and performing those works which the Spirit inspires in each of us for the common good of the entire People of God.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Last Sunday the liturgy proposed to us the episode of the Synagogue of Nazareth, where Jesus reads a passage from the prophet Isaiah and in the end reveals that those words are fulfilled “today”, in Him. Jesus presents himself as the one on whom the Spirit of the Lord has rested, the Holy Spirit who consecrated him and sent him to carry out the mission of salvation for the benefit of humanity. Today’s Gospel (cf. Lk 4:21-30) is the continuation of that narrative and shows us the astonishment of his fellow citizens in seeing that someone from their country, “Joseph’s son” (v. 22), claims to be the Christ, the Father’s envoy.
Jesus, with his ability to penetrate minds and hearts, immediately understands what his fellow countrymen think. They believe that, since he is one of them, he must demonstrate his strange “claim” by working miracles there, in Nazareth, as he did in neighbouring countries (cf. v. 23). But Jesus does not want and cannot accept this logic, because it does not correspond to God’s plan: God wants faith, they want miracles, signs; God wants to save everyone, and they want a Messiah for their own benefit. And to explain the logic of God, Jesus gives the example of two great ancient prophets: Elijah and Elisha, whom God had sent to heal and save non-Hebrew people, and other peoples, but who had trusted in his word.
Faced with this invitation to open their hearts to the gratuitousness and universality of salvation, the citizens of Nazareth rebelled, and even assumed an aggressive attitude, which degenerated to the point that “they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill [...], that they might throw him down” (v. 29). The initial admiration turned into aggression, a rebellion against him.
And this Gospel passage shows us that Jesus’ public ministry begins with a rejection and with a death threat, paradoxically precisely on the part of his fellow citizens. Jesus, in living the mission entrusted to him by the Father, knows well that he must face fatigue, rejection, persecution and defeat. A price that, yesterday as today, authentic prophecy is called to pay. The harsh rejection, however, does not discourage Jesus, nor does it stop the journey and the fruitfulness of his prophetic action. He goes ahead on his way (cf. v. 30), trusting in the Father’s love.
Today too, the world needs to see prophets in the Lord’s disciples, that is, people who are courageous and persevere in responding to the Christian vocation. People who follow the “drive” of the Holy Spirit, who sends them to proclaim hope and salvation to the poor and the excluded; people who follow the logic of faith and not of miracalism; people dedicated to the service of all, without privileges and exclusion. In short: people who are ready to welcome the Father’s will within them and undertake to witness to it faithfully to others.
Let us pray to Mary Most Holy, that we may grow and walk with the same apostolic zeal for the Kingdom of God that inspired Jesus’ mission.
The Gospel of Luke, which we just heard, makes us relive the excitement of that moment when the Lord made his own the prophecy of Isaiah, as he read it solemnly in the midst of his people. The synagogue in Nazareth was filled with his relatives, neighbours, acquaintances, friends… and not only. All had their eyes fixed on him. The Church always has her eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, the Anointed One, whom the Spirit sends to anoint God’s people.
The Gospels frequently present us with this image of the Lord in the midst of a crowd, surrounded and pressed by people who approach him with their sick ones, who ask him to cast out evil spirits, who hear his teachings and accompany him on the way. “My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me” (Jn 10:27-28).
The Lord never lost that direct contact with people. Amid those crowds, he always kept the grace of closeness with the people as a whole, and with each individual. We see this throughout his public life, and so it was from the beginning: the radiance of the Child gently attracted shepherds, kings and elderly dreamers like Simeon and Anna. So it was on the cross: his Heart draws all people to himself (Jn 12:32): Veronicas, Cyreneans, thieves, centurions…
The term “crowd” is not disparaging. Perhaps to some people’s ears, it can evoke a faceless, nameless throng… But in the Gospel we see that when the crowd interacts with the Lord – who stands in their midst like a shepherd among his flock – something happens. Deep within, people feel the desire to follow Jesus, amazement wells up, discernment grows apace.
I would like to reflect with you on these three graces that characterize the relationship between Jesus and the crowd.
The grace of following
Saint Luke says that the crowds “looked for Jesus” (4:42) and “travelled with him” (14:25). They “pressed in on him” and “surrounded him” (8:42-45); they “gathered to hear him” (5:15). Their “following” is something completely unexpected, unconditional and full of affection. It contrasts with the small-mindedness of the disciples, whose attitude towards people verges on cruelty when they suggest to the Lord that he send them away, so that they can get something to eat. Here, I believe, was the beginning of clericalism: in this desire to be assured of a meal and personal comfort without any concern for the people. The Lord cut short that temptation: “You, give them something to eat!” was Jesus’ response. “Take care of the people!”
The grace of amazement
The second grace that the crowd receives when it follows Jesus is that of joy-filled amazement. People were amazed by Jesus (Lk 11:14), by his miracles, but above all by his very person. People loved to meet him along the way, to receive his blessing and to bless him, like the woman in the midst of the crowd who blessed his Mother. The Lord himself was amazed by people’s faith; he rejoiced and he lost no opportunity to speak about it.
The grace of discernment
The third grace that people receive is that of discernment. “The crowds found out [where Jesus had gone], and followed him” (Lk 9:11). They “were astounded by his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority” (Mt 7:28-29; cf. Lk 5:26). Christ, the Word of God come in the flesh, awakens in people this charism of discernment, which is certainly not the discernment of those who specialize in disputed questions. When the Pharisees and the teachers of the law debated with him, what people discerned was Jesus’ authority, the power of his teaching to touch their hearts, and the fact that evil spirits obeyed him (leaving momentarily speechless those who tried to trap him by their questions; the people liked that; they were able to distinguish this and they liked it).
Let us take a closer look at the way the Gospel views the crowd. Luke points out four large groups who are the preferred beneficiaries of the Lord’s anointing: the poor, the blind, the oppressed and captives. He speaks of them in general terms, but then we are glad to see that, in the course of the Lord’s life, these anointed ones gradually take on real names and faces. When oil is applied to one part of the body, its beneficial effect is felt throughout the entire body. So too, the Lord, taking up the prophecy of Isaiah, names various “crowds” to whom the Spirit sends him, according to what we may call an “inclusive preferentiality”: the grace and the charism given to one individual person or a particular group then redounds, like every action of the Spirit, to the good of all.
The poor (in Greek, ptochoi) are those who are bent over, like beggars who bow down and ask for alms. But poor too (ptochè) was that widow who anointed with her fingers the two small coins which were all she had to live on that day. The anointing by the widow to give alms went unnoticed by the eyes of all except Jesus, who looks kindly on her lowliness. Through her, the Lord can accomplish fully his mission of proclaiming the Gospel to the poor. Paradoxically, the disciples heard the good news that people like her exist. She – the generous woman – could not imagine that she would “make it to the Gospel”, that her simple gesture would be recorded in the Gospel. Like all those men and women who are the “saints next door”, she lives interiorly the joyful fact that her actions “carry weight” in the Kingdom, and are worth more than all the riches of the world.
The blind are represented by one of the most likable figures in the Gospel: Bartimaeus (cf. Mt 10:46-52), the blind beggar who regained his sight and, from that moment on, only had eyes to follow Jesus on his journey. The anointing of the gaze! Our gaze, to which the eyes of Jesus can restore the brightness which only gratuitous love can give, the brightness daily stolen from us by the manipulative and banal images with which the world overwhelms us.
To refer to the oppressed (in Greek, tethrausmenoi), Luke uses a word that contains the idea of “trauma”. It is enough to evoke the parable – perhaps Luke’s favourite – of the Good Samaritan, who anoints with oil and binds the wounds (traumata: Lk 10:34) of the man who had been beaten by robbers and left lying at the side of the road. The anointing of the wounded flesh of Christ! In that anointing we find the remedy for all those traumas that leave individuals, families and entire peoples ignored, excluded and unwanted, on the sidelines of history.
The captives are prisoners of war (in Greek, aichmalotoi), those who had been led at the point of a spear (aichmé). Jesus would use the same word in speaking of the taking of Jerusalem, his beloved city, and the deportation of its people (Lk 21:24). Our cities today are taken prisoner not so much at spear point, but by more subtle means of ideological colonization.
Only the anointing of culture, built up by the labour and the art of our forebears, can free our cities from these new forms of slavery.
As for us, dear brother priests, we must not forget that our evangelical models are those “people”, the “crowd” with its real faces, which the anointing of the Lord raises up and revives. They are the ones who complete and make real the anointing of the Spirit in ourselves; they are the ones whom we have been anointed to anoint. We have been taken from their midst, and we can fearlessly identify with these ordinary people. Each of us has our own story. A little bit of memory will do us much good. They are an image of our soul and an image of the Church. Each of them incarnates the one heart of our people.
We priests are the poor man and we would like to have the heart of the poor widow whenever we give alms, touching the hand of the beggar and looking him or her in the eye. We priests are Bartimaeus, and each morning we get up and pray: “Lord, that I may see”. We priests are, in some point of our sinfulness, the man beaten by the robbers. And we want first to be in the compassionate hands of the good Samaritan, in order then to be able to show compassion to others with our own hands.
I confess to you that whenever I confirm and ordain, I like to smear with chrism the foreheads and the hands of those I anoint. In that generous anointing, we can sense that our own anointing is being renewed. I would say this: We are not distributors of bottled oil. We have been anointed to anoint. We anoint by distributing ourselves, distributing our vocation and our heart. When we anoint others, we ourselves are anointed anew by the faith and the affection of our people. We anoint by dirtying our hands in touching the wounds, the sins and the worries of the people. We anoint by perfuming our hands in touching their faith, their hopes, their fidelity and the unconditional generosity of their self-giving, which many significant figures describe as superstition.
The one who learns how to anoint and to bless is thus healed of meanness, abuse and cruelty.
Let us pray, dear brothers; being with Jesus in the midst of our people is the most beautiful place to be. May the Father renew deep within us the Spirit of holiness; may he grant that we be one in imploring his mercy for the people entrusted to our care and for all the world. In this way, the multitude of the peoples, gathered in Christ, may become the one faithful people of God, which will attain its fullness in the Kingdom (cf. Prayer of Priestly Ordination).
In both texts that the Liturgy proposes for our meditation today there is an attitude that attracts attention, a human behaviour, but not good spirit: indignation. The people of Nazareth began to listen to Jesus, and they liked how He spoke, but then someone said: "But in which university did you study? This is the son of Mary and Joseph, this was the carpenter! What can He come to tell us?" And the people became disdained. They become indignant (cf. Luke 4:28). And this outrage leads them to violence. And so Jesus who they admired at the beginning of His preaching is driven out, to throw Him down the cliff (cf. v. 29).
Even Naamàn, a good man, and Naamàn was also open to faith, but when the prophet sends someone to him to say that he bathes seven times in the Jordan he becomes indignant. But why? "Here, I thought, of course he will come out and stand there, and he will invoke the name of the Lord his God, he will wave his hand over the sick part and he will take away my leprosy. Surely the Abanà and Parpar, rivers of Damascus, are better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn't I bathe there and cleanse myself? He turned and left angry." With disdain.
Even in Nazareth there were good people; but what is behind these good people that leads them to this indignant behaviour? And in Nazareth it was worse: because of the violence. Both the people of the synagogue of Nazareth and Naamàn thought that God manifested himself only in the extraordinary, in things out of the ordinary; that God could not act in the common things of life, in simplicity. They disdained the simple. They were indignant, they despised simple things. And our God makes us understand that He always acts in simplicity: in simplicity, in the house of Nazareth, in the simplicity of everyday work, in the simplicity of prayer... The simple things. Instead, the worldly spirit leads us towards vanity, towards appearances...
And both end in violence: Naamàn was very educated, but he slams the door in the prophet's face and leaves. Violence, an act of violence. The people of the synagogue begin to get angry, to get heated, and they make the decision to kill Jesus, but unconsciously, and they kick Him out to throw him down. Indignation is an ugly temptation that leads to violence.
They showed me, a few days ago, on a mobile phone, a video of the door of a building that was quarantined. There was one person, a young gentleman, who wanted to go out. And the policeman told him he couldn't. And he punched him, with disdain, with contempt. "But who are you, 'negro', to prevent me from leaving?" It is the indignation of the proud, of the proud ... but with a poverty of spirit that is really awful, of the proud who live only with the illusion of being more than they are. It is a spiritual "illness", people who are indignant: indeed, many times these people need to be indignant, to be indignant to feel like they are someone.
This too can happen to us: "the Pharisaical scandal", the theologians call it, or the scandal of the Pharasees , that is, to scandalize those things such as the simplicity of God, the simplicity of the poor, the simplicity of Christians, as if to say: "But this is not God. No, no. Our God is more cultured, he is wiser, he is more important. God cannot act in this simplicity." And always indignation leads you to violence; both physical violence and verbal violence, which always kills like physical violence.
Let us think of these two passages: the indignation of the people in the synagogue of Nazareth and the indignation of Naamàn, because they did not understand the simplicity of our God.
The Gospel shows us a change of heart among the people who were listening to the Lord. The change was dramatic, and it reveals the extent to which persecution and the cross are linked to the proclamation of the Gospel. The admiration aroused by the grace-filled words spoken by Jesus did not last long in the minds of the people of Nazareth. A comment that someone murmured went insidiously viral: “Is not this Joseph’s son?” (Lk 4:22).
It was one of those ambiguous expressions that are blurted out in passing. One person can use it approvingly to say: “How wonderful that someone of such humble origin speaks with this authority!” Someone else can use it to say in scorn: “And this one, where did he come from? Who does he think he is?” If we think about it, we can hear the same words spoken on the day of Pentecost, when the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, began to preach the Gospel. Some said: “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?” (Acts 2:7). While some received the word, others merely thought that the apostles were drunk.
Strictly speaking, those words spoken in Nazareth might go either way, but if we look at what followed, it is clear that they contained a seed of violence that would then be unleashed against Jesus.
They were “words of justification”, as, for example, when someone says: “That is altogether too much!” and then either attacks the other person or walks away.
This time, the Lord, who at times said nothing or simply walked away, did not let the comment pass. Instead, he laid bare the malevolence concealed in the guise of simple village gossip. “You will quote me the proverb: ‘Physician, heal yourself’. What we have heard that you did in Capernaum, do here also in your own country!” (Lk 4:23). “Heal yourself…”
“Let him save himself”. There is the poison! Those same words will follow the Lord to the cross: “He saved others, let him save himself” (Lk 23:35). “And save us”, one of the thieves will add (cf. v. 39).
As always, the Lord refuses to dialogue with the evil spirit; he only replies in the words of Scripture. The prophets Elijah and Elisha, for their part, were accepted not by their own countrymen but by a Phoenician widow and a Syrian who had contracted leprosy: two foreigners, two people of another religion. This is itself striking and it shows how true was the inspired prophecy of the aged Simeon that Jesus would be a “sign of contradiction (semeion antilegomenon)” (Lk 2:34).
Jesus’ words have the power to bring to light whatever each of us holds in the depths of our heart, often mixed like the wheat and the tares. And this gives rise to spiritual conflict. Seeing the signs of the Lord’s superabundant mercy and hearing the “beatitudes” but also the “woes” found in the Gospel, we find ourselves forced to discern and decide. In this case, Jesus’ words were not accepted and this made the enraged crowd attempt to kill him. But it was not yet his “hour”, and the Lord, so the Gospel tells us, “passing through the midst of them, went away”.
It was not his hour, yet the swiftness with which the crowd’s fury was unleashed, and the ferocity of a rage prepared to kill the Lord on the spot, shows us that it is always his hour. That is what I would like to share with you today, dear priests: that the hour of joyful proclamation, the hour of persecution and the hour of the cross go together.
The preaching of the Gospel is always linked to the embrace of some particular cross. The gentle light of God’s word shines brightly in well-disposed hearts, but awakens confusion and rejection in those that are not. We see this over and over again in the Gospels.
The good seed sown in the field bears fruit – a hundred, sixty and thirty-fold – but it also arouses the envy of the enemy, who is driven to sow weeds during the night (cf. Mt 13:24-30.36-43).
The tender love of the merciful father irresistibly draws the prodigal son home, but also leads to anger and resentment on the part of the elder son (cf. Lk 15:11-32).
The generosity of the owner of the vineyard is a reason for gratitude among the workers called at the last hour, but it also provokes a bitter reaction by one of those called first, who is offended by the generosity of his employer (cf. Mt 20:1-16).
The closeness of Jesus, who dines with sinners, wins hearts like those of Zacchaeus, Matthew and the Samaritan woman, but it also awakens scorn in the self-righteous.
The magnanimity of the king who sends his son, thinking that he will be respected by the tenant farmers, unleashes in them a ferocity beyond all measure. Here we find ourselves before the mystery of iniquity, which leads to the killing of the Just One (cf. Mt 21:33-46).
All this, dear brother priests, enables us to see that the preaching of the Good News is mysteriously linked to persecution and the cross.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola – excuse the “family advertising” – expresses this evangelical truth in his contemplation on the Nativity of the Lord. There he invites us “to see and consider what Saint Joseph and Our Lady did in setting out on their journey so that the Lord could be born in extreme poverty and after many labours – experiencing hunger, thirst, heat and cold, injuries and indignities – die on the Cross, and all this for me”. He then invites us, “in reflecting on this, to draw some spiritual profit” (Spiritual Exercises, 116). The joy of the Lord’s birth; the pain of the Cross; persecution.
What reflection can we make to “draw some profit” for our priestly life by contemplating this early appearance of the cross – of misunderstanding, rejection and persecution – at the beginning and at the very heart of the preaching of the Gospel?
Two thoughts occur to me.
First: we are taken aback to see the cross present in the Lord’s life at the very beginning of his ministry, even before his birth. It is already there in Mary’s initial bewilderment at the message of the angel; it is there in Joseph's sleeplessness, when he felt obliged to send Mary away quietly. It is there in the persecution of Herod and in the hardships endured by the Holy Family, like those of so many other families obliged to live in exile from their homeland.
All this makes us realize that the mystery of the cross is present “from the beginning”. It makes us understand that the cross is not an afterthought, something that happened by chance in the Lord’s life. It is true that all who crucify others throughout history would have the cross appear as collateral damage, but that is not the case: the cross does not appear by chance. The great and small crosses of humanity, the crosses of each of us, do not appear by chance.
Why did the Lord embrace the cross fully and to the end? Why did Jesus embrace his entire Passion: his betrayal and abandonment by his friends after the Last Supper, his illegal arrest, his summary trial and disproportionate sentence, the gratuitous and unjustifiable violence with which he was beaten and spat upon...? If mere circumstances conditioned the saving power of the cross, the Lord would not have embraced everything. But when his hour came, he embraced the cross fully. For on the cross there can be no ambiguity! The cross is non-negotiable.
A second thought: true, there is an aspect of the cross that is an integral part of our human condition, our limits and our frailty. Yet it is also true that something happens on the Cross that does not have to do with our human weakness but is the bite of the serpent, who, seeing the crucified Lord defenceless, bites him in an attempt to poison and undo all his work. A bite that tries to scandalize – and this is an era of scandals – a bite that seeks to disable and render futile and meaningless all service and loving sacrifice for others. It is the venom of the evil one who keeps insisting: save yourself.
It is in this harsh and painful “bite” that seeks to bring death, that God’s triumph is ultimately seen. Saint Maximus the Confessor tells us that in the crucified Jesus a reversal took place. In biting the flesh of the Lord, the devil did not poison him, for in him he encountered only infinite meekness and obedience to the will of the Father. Instead, caught by the hook of the cross, he devoured the flesh of the Lord, which proved poisonous to him, whereas for us it was to be the antidote that neutralizes the power of the evil one.
These are my reflections. Let us ask the Lord for the grace to profit from this teaching. It is true that the cross is present in our preaching of the Gospel, but it is the cross of our salvation. Thanks to the reconciling blood of Jesus, it is a cross that contains the power of Christ’s victory, which conquers evil and delivers us from the evil one. To embrace it with Jesus and, as he did before us, to go out and preach it, will allow us to discern and reject the venom of scandal, with which the devil wants to poison us whenever a cross unexpectedly appears in our lives.
“But we are not among those who shrink back (hypostoles)” (Heb 10:39), says the author of the Letter to the Hebrews. “We are not among those who shrink back”. This is the advice that the author gives us. We are not scandalized, because Jesus himself was not scandalized by seeing that his joyful preaching of salvation to the poor was not received wholeheartedly, but amid the shouts and threats of those who refused to hear his word or wanted to reduce it to legalisms such as moralism or clericalism.
We are not scandalized because Jesus was not scandalized by having to heal the sick and to set prisoners free amid the moralistic, legalistic and clerical squabbles that arose every time he did some good.
We are not scandalized because Jesus was not scandalized by having to give sight to the blind amid people who closed their eyes in order not to see, or looked the other way.
We are not scandalized because Jesus was not scandalised that his proclamation of a year of grace of the Lord – a year that embraces all of history - provoked a public scandal in matters that today would barely make the third page of a local newspaper.
We are not scandalized because the preaching of the Gospel is effective not because of our eloquent words but because of the power of the cross (cf. 1 Cor 1:17).
The way we embrace the cross in our preaching of the Gospel – with deeds and, when necessary, with words – makes two things clear. That the sufferings that come from the Gospel are not ours, but rather “the sufferings of Christ in us” (2 Cor 1:5), and that “we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as servants of all for the love of Jesus” (2 Cor 4:5).
I would like to end by sharing one of my memories. “Once, at a dark moment in my life, I asked the Lord for the grace to free me from a difficult and complex situation. A dark moment. I had to preach the Spiritual Exercises to some women religious, and on the last day, as was customary in those days, they all went to confession. One elderly Sister came; she had a clear gaze, eyes full of light. A woman of God. At the end of the confession, I felt the urge to ask her a favour, so I said to her, ‘Sister, as your penance pray for me, because I need a particular grace. Ask the Lord for it. If you ask the Lord, surely he will give it to me’. She paused in silence for a moment and seemed to be praying, then she looked at me and said, ‘The Lord will certainly give you that grace, but make no mistake about it: he will give it to you in his own divine way’. This did me much good, hearing that the Lord always gives us what we ask for, but that he does so in his divine way. That way involves the cross. Not for masochism. But for love, love to the very end”.
 A master of the spiritual life, Father Claude Judde speaks of expressions that accompany our decisions and contain “the
final word”, the word that prompts a decision and moves a person or a group to act. Cf. C. JUDDE, Oeuvres spirituelles, II, 1883 (Instruction sur la connaissance de soi-même), pp. 313-319), in M. Á. FIORITO, Buscar y hallar la voluntad de Dios, Buenos Aires, Paulinas, 2000, 248 s.
 “Antilegomenon” means they would speak in different ways about him: some would speak well of him and others ill.
 Cf. Cent. I, 8-13.
 Homily at Mass in Santa Marta, 29 May 2013.
In the first reading and in the Gospel, we find two parallel acts. Ezra the priest lifts up the book of the law of God, opens it and reads it aloud before the people. Jesus, in the synagogue of Nazareth, opens the scroll of the Sacred Scripture and reads a passage of the prophet Isaiah in the presence of all. Both scenes speak to us of a fundamental reality: at the heart of the life of God’s holy people and our journey of faith are not ourselves and our own words. At its heart is God and his word.
Everything started with the word that God spoke to us. In Christ, his eternal Word, the Father “chose us before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4). By that Word, he created the universe: “he spoke, and it came to be” (Ps 33:9). From of old, he spoke to us through the prophets (cf. Heb 1:1), and finally, in the fullness of time (cf. Gal 4:4), he sent us that same Word, his only-begotten Son. That is why, in the Gospel, after reading from Isaiah, Jesus says something completely unexpected: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled” (Lk 4:21). Fulfilled: the word of God is no longer a promise, but is now fulfilled. In Jesus, it has taken flesh. By the power of the Holy Spirit, it has come to dwell among us and it desires to continue to dwell in our midst, in order to fulfil our expectations and to heal our wounds.
Sisters and brothers, let us keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, like those in the synagogue of Nazareth (cf. v. 20). They kept looking at him, for he was one of them, and asking, “What is this novelty? What will he do, this one, about whom everyone is speaking?” And let us embrace his word. Today let us reflect on two interconnected aspects of this: the word reveals God and the word leads us to man. The word is at the centre: it reveals God and leads us to man.
First, the word reveals God. Jesus, at the beginning of his mission, commenting on the words of the prophet Isaiah, announces a clear decision: he has come to liberate the poor and the oppressed (cf. v. 18). In this way, precisely through the scriptures, he reveals the face of God as one who cares for our poverty and takes to heart our destiny. God is not an overlord (padrone), aloof and on high – an ugly but untrue image of God – but a Father (Padre) who follows our every step. He is no cold bystander, detached and impassible, a “God of mathematics”. He is God-with-us, passionately concerned about our lives and engaged in them, even sharing our tears. He is no neutral and indifferent god, but the Spirit, the lover of mankind, who defends us, counsels us, defends us, sustains us and partakes of our pain. He is always present. This is the “good news” (v. 18) that Jesus proclaims to the amazement of all: God is close at hand, and he wants to care for me and for you, for everyone. That is how God is: close. He even defines himself as closeness. In Deuteronomy, he says to the people: “What other people has gods as close to them as I am to you?” (cf. Deut 4:7). A God of closeness, of compassionate and tender closeness. He wants to relieve the burdens that crush you, to warm your wintry coldness, to brighten your daily dreariness and to support your faltering steps. This he does by his word, by the word he speaks to rekindle hope amid the ashes of your fears, to help you rediscover joy in the labyrinths of your sorrows, to fill with hope your feelings of solitude. He makes you move forward, not in a labyrinth, but on a daily journey to find him.
Brothers and sisters: let us ask ourselves: do we bear within our hearts this liberating image of God, the God of closeness, compassion and tenderness, or do we think of him as a merciless judge, an accountant who keeps a record of every moment of our lives? Is ours a faith that generates hope and joy, or, among us, a faith still weighed down by fear, a fearful faith? What is the face of God that we proclaim in the Church? The Saviour who liberates and heals, or the Terrifying God who burdens us with feelings of guilt? In order to convert us to the true God, Jesus shows us where to start: from his word. That word, by telling us the story of God’s love for us, liberates us from the fears and preconceptions about him that stifle the joy of faith. That word overthrows false idols, unmasks our projections, destroys our all too human images of God and brings us back to see his true face, his mercy. The word of God nurtures and renews faith: let us put it back at the centre of our prayer and our spiritual life! Let us put at the centre the word that reveals to us what God is like. The word that draws us close to God.
Now the second aspect: the word leads us to man. To God and to man. Precisely when we discover that God is compassionate love, we overcome the temptation to shut ourselves up in a religiosity reduced to external worship, one that fails to touch and transform our lives. This is idolatry, hidden and refined, but idolatry all the same. God’s word drives us to go forth from ourselves and to encounter our brothers and sisters solely with the quiet power of God’s liberating love. That is exactly what Jesus shows us in the synagogue of Nazareth: he has been sent forth to the poor – all of us – to set them free. He has not come to deliver a set of rules or to officiate at some religious ceremony; rather, he has descended to the streets of our world in order to encounter our wounded humanity, to caress faces furrowed by suffering, to bind up broken hearts and to set us free from chains that imprison the soul. In this way, he shows us the worship most pleasing to God: caring for our neighbour. We need to come back to this. Whenever in the Church there are temptations to rigidity, which is a perversion, whenever we think that finding God means becoming more rigid, with more rules, right things, clear things… it is not the way. When we see proposals of rigidity, let us think immediately: this is an idol, it is not God. Our God is not that way.
Sisters and brothers, the word of God changes us. Rigidity does not change us, it hides us; the word of God changes us. It penetrates our soul like a sword (cf. Heb 4:12). If, on the one hand it consoles us by showing us the face of God, on the other, it challenges and disturbs us, reminding us of our inconsistencies. It shakes us up. It does not bring us peace at the price of accepting a world rent by injustice and hunger, where the price is always paid by the weakest. They always end up paying. God’s word challenges the self-justification that makes us blame everything that goes wrong on other persons and situations. How much pain do we feel in seeing our brothers and sisters dying at sea because no one will let them come ashore! And some people do this in God’s name. The word of God invites us to come out into the open, not to hide behind the complexity of problems, behind the excuse that “nothing can be done about it” or “it’s somebody else’s problem”, or “what can I do?”, “leave them there”. The word of God urges us to act, to combine worship of God and care for man. For sacred scripture has not been given to us for our entertainment, to coddle us with an angelic spirituality, but to make us go forth and encounter others, drawing near to their wounds. I spoke of rigidity, that modern pelagianism that is one of the temptations of the Church. And this other temptation, that of seeking an angelic spirituality, is to some extent the other temptation today: gnostic movements, a gnosticism, that proposes a word of God that puts you “in orbit” and does not make you touch reality. The Word that became flesh (cf. Jn 1:14) wishes to become flesh in us. His word does not remove us from life, but plunges us into life, into everyday life, into listening to the sufferings of others and the cry of the poor, into the violence and injustice that wound society and our world. It challenges us, as Christians, not to be indifferent, but active, creative Christians, prophetic Christians.
“Today” – says Jesus – “this scripture has been fulfilled” (Lk 4:21). The Word wishes to take flesh today, in the times in which we are living, not in some ideal future. A French mystic of the last century, who chose to experience the Gospel in the peripheries, wrote that the word of God is not “a ‘dead letter’; it is spirit and life… The listening that the word of the Lord demands of us is our ‘today’: the circumstances of our daily life and the needs of our neighbour” (Madeleine Delbrêl, La joie de croire, Paris, 1968). Let us ask, then: do we want to imitate Jesus, to become ministers of liberation and consolation for others, putting the word into action? Are we a Church that is docile to the word? A Church inclined to listen to others, engaged in reaching out to raise up our brothers and sisters from all that oppresses them, to undo the knots of fear, to liberate those most vulnerable from the prisons of poverty, from interior ennui and the sadness that stifles life? Isn’t that what we want?
In this celebration, some of our brothers and sisters will be instituted as readers and catechists. They are called to the important work of serving the Gospel of Jesus, of proclaiming him, so that his consolation, his joy and his liberation can reach everyone. That is also the mission of each one of us: to be credible messengers, prophets of God’s word in the world. Consequently, let us grow passionate about sacred scripture, let us be willing to dig deep within the word that reveals God’s newness and leads us tirelessly to love others. Let us put the word of God at the centre of the Church’s life and pastoral activity! In this way, we will be liberated from all rigid pelagianism, from all rigidity, set free from the illusion of a spirituality that puts you “in orbit”, unconcerned about caring for our brothers and sisters. Let us put the word of God at the centre of the Church’s life and pastoral activity. Let us listen to that word, pray with it, and put it into practice.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
In the Gospel of today's liturgy, we see Jesus beginning his preaching (cf. Lk 4:14-21): it is Jesus’ first sermon. He goes to Nazareth, where he grew up, and participates in prayer in the synagogue. He gets up to read and, in the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, he finds the passage regarding the Messiah, who proclaims a message of consolation and liberation for the poor and oppressed (cf. Is 61:1-2). At the end of the reading, “the eyes of all… were fixed on him” (v. 20). And Jesus begins by saying: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled” (v. 21). Let us dwell on this today. It is the first word of Jesus’ preaching recorded in the Gospel of Luke. Pronounced by the Lord, it indicates a “today” that runs through all ages and always remains valid. The Word of God is always “today”. It begins with a “today”: when you read the Word of God, a “today” begins in your soul, if you understand it well. Today. Isaiah’s prophecy dates back centuries, but Jesus, “in the power of the Spirit” (v. 14), makes it relevant and, above all, brings it to fulfilment, and shows how to receive the Word of God: today. It is not like ancient history, no: today. Today, it speaks to your heart.
Jesus' fellow countrymen are struck by his word. Although, clouded by prejudice, they do not believe him, they realize that his teaching is different from that of the other teachers (cf. v. 22): they sense that there is more to Jesus. What is there? There is the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it happens that our sermons and our teachings remain generic, abstract; they do not touch the soul and the life of the people. And why? Because they lack the power of this today; what Jesus “fills with meaning” by the power of the Spirit, is today. Today is speaking to you. Yes, at times one hears impeccable conferences, well-constructed speeches, but they do not move the heart and so everything remains as before. Even many homilies – I say it with respect but with pain – are abstract, and instead of awakening the soul, they put it to sleep. When the faithful start looking at their watches – “when is this going to end?” – they put the soul to sleep. Preaching runs this risk: without the anointing of the Spirit, it impoverishes the Word of God, and descends to moralism and abstract concepts; it presents the Gospel with detachment, as if it were outside time, far from reality. And this is not the way. But a word in which the power of today does not pulsate is not worthy of Jesus and does not help people’s lives. That is why those who preach, please, are the first to experience the today of Jesus, so as to be able to communicate it in the today of others. And if they want to give lectures, conferences, let them do so, but elsewhere, not at the time of the homily, where they must give the Word in a way that rouses hearts.
Dear brothers and sisters, on this Sunday of the Word of God I would like to thank the preachers and proclaimers of the Gospel who remain faithful to the Word that rouses the heart, who remain faithful to “today”. Let us pray for them, that they may live the today of Jesus, the sweet power of his Spirit that makes the Scriptures come alive. The Word of God, is indeed alive and effective (cf. Heb 4:12); it changes us, it enters into our affairs, it illuminates our daily lives, it comforts and brings order. Remember: the Word of God transforms an ordinary day into the today in which God speaks to us. So, let us pick up the Gospel and choose each day a small passage to read and re-read. Keep the Gospel in your pocket or your bag, to read it on your travels, at any moment, and read it calmly. In time we will discover that these words are made especially for us, for our life. They will help us to welcome each day with a better, more serene outlook, because when the Gospel enters into today’s world, it fills it with God. I would like to make a suggestion. On the Sundays of this liturgical year the Gospel of Luke, the Gospel of mercy, is proclaimed. Why not also read it personally, all of it, one small passage each day? A short passage. Let us familiarize ourselves with the Gospel, it will bring us the newness and joy of God!
The Word of God is also the beacon that guides the synodal journey that has begun throughout the Church. As we strive to listen to each other, with attention and discernment – because it is not a question of opinion, no, but of discerning the Word, there – let us listen together to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. And may Our Lady obtain for us the constancy to nourish ourselves with the Gospel every day.
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.
In the reading from the Prophet Isaiah that we have heard, the Lord makes a promise full of hope, one that concerns us at first hand: “You shall be called priests of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God… I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them” (61:6.8). Being priests, dear brothers, is a grace, a very great grace, yet it is not primarily a grace for us, but for our people.  The fact that the Lord chooses, from among his flock, some who devote themselves exclusively to the care of his flock as fathers and shepherds is a great gift for our people. The Lord himself pays the priest’s salary: “I will faithfully give them their recompense” ( Is 61:8). And, as we all know, he is a good paymaster, even if he has his own particular way of doing things, like paying the last ones before first ones: this is his way.
The reading from the Book of Revelation tells us what the Lord’s recompense is. It is his love and the unconditional forgiveness of our sins at the price of his blood shed on the Cross: “He loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father” (1:5-6). There is no recompense greater than friendship with Jesus, do not forget this. There is no peace greater than his forgiveness, and we all know that. There is no greater price than his precious Blood, and we must not allow it to be devalued by unworthy conduct.
If we think about it, dear brother priests, the Lord is inviting us to be faithful to him, to be faithful to his covenant, and to let ourselves be loved and forgiven by him. They are invitations addressed to us, so that in this way we can serve, with a clear conscience, the holy and faithful people of God. Our people deserve this and they need it. The Gospel of Luke tells us that, after Jesus read the passage from the prophet Isaiah in the presence of his townspeople and sat down, “the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him” (4:20). The Book of Revelation also speaks to us today of eyes fixed on Jesus. It speaks of the irresistible attraction of the crucified and risen Lord that leads us to acknowledge and worship him: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, everyone who pierced him; and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen!” (1:7). The ultimate grace, at the return of the risen Lord, will be that of immediate recognition. We will see him and his wounds. We will recognize who he is, and who we are, as poor sinners.
“Fixing our eyes on Jesus” is a grace that we, as priests, need to cultivate. At the end of the day, we do well to gaze upon the Lord, and to let him gaze upon our hearts and the hearts of all those whom we have encountered. Not as an accounting of our sins, but as a loving act of contemplation, in which we review our day with the eyes of Jesus, seeing its graces and gifts, and giving thanks for all that he has done for us. But also to set before him our temptations, so as to acknowledge them and reject them. As we can see, this requires knowing what is pleasing to the Lord and what it is that he is asking of us here and now, at this point in our lives.
And perhaps, if we meet his gracious gaze, he will also help us to show him our idols. The idols that, like Rachel, we have hidden under the folds of our cloak (cf. Gen 31: 34-35). Allowing the Lord to see those hidden idols - we all have them; all of us! - and to strengthens us against them and takes away their power.
The Lord’s gaze makes us see that, through them we are really glorifying ourselves , for there, in those spaces we mark out as exclusively ours, the devil insinuates himself with his poison. He not only makes us self-complacent, giving free rein to one passion or nurturing another, but he also leads us to replace with those idols the presence of the divine Persons, the Father, the Son and the Spirit who dwell within us. This happens. Even though we might tell ourselves that we know perfectly well the difference between God and an idol, in practice we take space away from the Trinity in order to give it to the devil, in a kind of oblique worship. The worship of one who quietly yet constantly listens to his talk and consumes his products, so that in the end not even a little corner remains for God. He is like that, he works quietly and slowly. In another context I spoke about “educated” demons, those that Jesus said are worse than the one who was cast out. They are “polite”, they ring the bell, they enter and gradually take over the house. We must be careful, these are our idols.
There is something about idols that is personal. When we fail to unmask them, when we do not let Jesus show us that in them we are wrongly and unnecessarily seeking ourselves, we make room for the Evil One. We need to remember that the devil demands that we do his will and that we serve him, but he does not always ask us to serve him and worship him constantly; but beware, he is a great diplomat. Receiving our worship from time to time is enough for him to prove that he is our real master and that he can feel like a god in our life and in our heart.
Having said that, in this Chrism Mass, I want to share with you three spaces of hidden idolatry in which the Evil One uses our idols to weaken us in our vocation as shepherds and, little by little, separate us from the benevolent and loving presence of Jesus, the Spirit and the Father.
One space of hidden idolatry opens up wherever there is spiritual worldliness, which is “a proposal of life, a culture, a culture of the ephemeral, of appearances, of the cosmetic”.  Its criterion is triumphalism, a triumphalism without the cross. Jesus prayed that the Father would defend us against this culture of worldliness. This temptation of glory without the cross runs contrary to the very person of the Lord, it runs contrary to Jesus, who humbled himself in the incarnation and, as a sign of contradiction, is our sole remedy against every idol. Being poor with Christ who was poor and “chose to be poor”: this is the mindset of Love; nothing else. In today’s Gospel, we see how the Lord chose a simple synagogue in the small village where he spent most of his life, to proclaim the same message he will proclaim at the end of time, when he will come in his glory, surrounded by angels. Our eyes must be fixed on Christ, on the concrete reality of his history with me, now, even as they will be then. The worldly attitude of seeking our own glory robs us of the presence of Jesus, humble and humiliated, the Lord who draws near to everyone, the Christ who suffers with all who suffer, who is worshiped by our people, who know who his true friends are. A worldly priest is nothing more than a clericalized pagan.
A second space of hidden idolatry opens up with the kind of pragmatism where numbers become the most important thing. Those who cherish this hidden idol can be recognized by their love for statistics, numbers that can depersonalize every discussion and appeal to the majority as the definitive criterion for discernment; this is not good. This cannot be the sole method or criterion for the Church of Christ. Persons cannot be “numbered”, and God does not “measure out” his gift of the Spirit (cf. Jn 3:34). In this fascination with and love of numbers, we are really seeking ourselves, pleased with the control offered us by this way of thinking, unconcerned with individual faces and far from love. One feature of the great saints is that they know how to step back in order to leave room completely for God. This stepping back, this forgetting of ourselves and wanting to be forgotten by everyone else, is the mark of the Spirit, who is in some sense “faceless”, - the Spirit is “faceless” - simply because he is completely Love, illuminating the image of the Son and, in him, that of the Father. The idolatry of numbers tries to replace the person of the Holy Spirit, who loves to keep hidden - because he is “faceless” - it tries to make everything “apparent”, albeit in a way abstract and reduced to numbers, without a real incarnation.
A third space of hidden idolatry, related to the second, comes from functionalism. This can be alluring; many people “are more enthusiastic about the roadmap than about the road”. The functionalist mindset has short shrift for mystery; it aims at efficiency. Little by little, this idol replaces the Father’s presence within us. The first idol replaces the Son's presence, the second one the Spirit's, and the third one the Father's. Our Father is the creator, but not simply a creator who makes things “function”. He “creates” us, as our Father, with tender love, caring for his creatures and working to make men and women ever more free. “Functionaries” take no delight in the graces that the Spirit pours out on his people, from which they too can “be nourished” like the worker who earns his wage. The priest with a functionalist mindset has his own nourishment, which is his ego. In functionalism, we set aside the worship of the Father in the small and great matters of our life and take pleasure in the efficiency of our own programmes. As David did when, tempted by Satan, he insisted on carrying out the census (cf. 1 Chron 21:1). These are the lovers of the route plan and the itinerary, and not of the journey itself.
In these last two spaces of hidden idolatry (the pragmatism of numbers and functionalism), we replace hope, which is the space of encounter with God, with empirical results. This shows an attitude of vainglory on the part of the shepherd, an attitude that weakens the union of his people with God and forges a new idol based on numbers and programmes: the idol of “my power, our power”,  our programmes, of our numbers and pastoral plans. Concealing these idols (as Rachel did), and not knowing how to unmask them in our daily lives, detracts from our fidelity to our priestly covenant and makes our personal relationship with the Lord become lukewarm. But what does this Bishop want? Instead of talking about Jesus he is talking about today’s idols. Someone can think like that…
Dear brothers, Jesus is the only “way” to avoid being mistaken in knowing what we feel and where our heart is leading us. He is the only way that leads to proper discernment, as we measure ourselves against him each day. It is as if, even now, he is seated in our parish church and tells us that today all we have heard is now fulfilled. Jesus Christ, as a sign of contradiction – which is not always something harsh and painful, for mercy and, even more, tender love, are themselves signs of contradiction – Jesus Christ, I repeat, forces these idols to show themselves, so that we can see their presence, their roots and the ways they operate, and allow the Lord to destroy them. This is the proposal: allow the Lord to destroy those hidden idols. We should keep these things in mind and be attentive, lest the weeds of these idols that we were able to hide in the folds of our hearts may spring up anew.
I want to end by asking Saint Joseph, as the chaste father, free of hidden idols, to liberate us from every form of possessiveness, for possessiveness is the fertile soil in which these idols grow. May he also obtain for us the grace to persevere in the arduous task of discerning those idols that we all too often conceal or that conceal themselves. Let us ask too, whenever we wonder if we might do things better, that he intercede for us, so that the Spirit may enlighten our judgement, even as he did when Joseph was tempted to set Mary aside “quietly” ( lathra). In this way, with nobility of heart, we may be able to subordinate to charity what we have learned by law. 
 For the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood. The Lord has chosen certain men “in order that they might exercise the priestly office publicly on behalf of men and women in the name of Christ” (SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on the Life and Ministry of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, 2; cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 10). “Ministers, invested with a sacred power, are at the service of their brothers and sisters” ( Lumen Gentium, 18).
 Cf. General Audience, 1 August 2018.
 Homily, Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, 16 May 2020.
 J. M. BERGOGLIO, Meditaciones para religiosos, Bilbao, Mensajero, 2014, 145.
 Cf. Apostolic Letter Patris Corde, 4, note 18.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning,
Last Wednesday we reflected on Jesus model of proclamation, on his pastoral heart always reaching out to others. Today we look to Him as a teacher of proclamation. Model of proclamation. Today, the teacher of proclamation Let us be guided by the episode in which He preaches in the synagogue of His village, Nazareth. Jesus reads a passage from the prophet Isaiah (cf. 61:1-2) and then surprises everyone with a very short “sermon” of just one sentence, just one sentence. And He speaks thus, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lk. 4:21). This was Jesus’ sermon: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. This means that for Jesus that prophetic passage contains the essence of what He wants to say about Himself. So, whenever we talk about Jesus, we should go back to that first announcement of His. Let us see, then, what it consists of. Five essential elements can be identified.
The first element is joy. Jesus proclaims, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; [...] He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor” (v. 18), that is, a proclamation of gladness, of joy. Good news: one cannot speak of Jesus without joy, because faith is a wonderful love story to be shared. Bearing witness to Jesus, doing something for others in His name, to have received “between the lines” of one’s life, so beautiful a gift that no words suffice to express it. Instead, when joy is lacking, the Gospel does not come through, because – it’s the very meaning of the word – is good news, and “Gospel” means “good news,” a proclamation of joy. A sad Christian can talk about beautiful things, but it is all in vain if the news he conveys is not joyful. A thinker once said, “A Christian who is sad is a sad Christian.” Don’t forget this.
We come to the second aspect: deliverance. Jesus says He was sent “release to the captives” (ibid.). This means that one who proclaims God cannot proselytize, no, cannot pressure others, no, but relieve them: not impose burdens, but take them away; bearing peace, not bearing guilt. Of course, following Jesus involves asceticism, involves sacrifices; after all, if every good thing requires these things, how much more the decisive reality of life! However, those who witness to Christ show the beauty of the goal rather than the toil of the journey. We may have happened to tell someone about a beautiful trip we took: for example, we would have spoken about the beauty of the places, what we saw and experienced, not about the time to get there and the queues at the airport, no! So, any announcement worthy of the Redeemer must communicate liberation. Like that of Jesus. Today there is joy, because I have come to liberate.
The third aspect: light. Jesus says He came to bring “sight to the blind” (ibid.). It is striking that throughout the Bible, before Christ, the healing of a blind man never appears, never. It was indeed a promised sign that would come with the Messiah. But here it is not just about physical sight, but a light that makes one see the life of a new world, and also life in a new way. There is a “coming into the light,” a rebirth that happens only with Jesus. If we think about it, that is how Christian life began for us: with Baptism, which in ancient times was called precisely “enlightenment.” And what light does Jesus give us? He brings us the light of sonship: He is the beloved Son of the Father, living forever; with Him we too are children of God loved forever, despite our mistakes and faults. So life is no longer a blind advance toward nothingness, no; it is not a matter of fate or luck, no. It is not something that depends on chance or the stars, no, or even on health or finances, no. Life depends on love, on the love of the Father, Who cares for us, His beloved children. How wonderful to share this light with others! Has it occurred to you that the life of each of us – my life, your life, our life – is an act of love? And an invitation to love? This is wonderful! But so many times we forget this, in the face of difficulties, in the face of bad news, even in the face of – and this is bad – worldliness, the worldly way of life.
The fourth aspect of the proclamation: healing. Jesus says He came “to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (ibid.). The oppressed are those in life who feel crushed by something that happens: sickness, labors, burdens on the heart, guilt, mistakes, vices, sins... Oppressed by this. We think of the sense of guilt, for example. How many of us have suffered this? We think a little bit about the sense of guilt for this or that.... What is oppressing us above all is precisely that evil that no medicine or human remedy can heal: sin. And if someone has a sense of guilt, it is for something they have done, and that feels bad. But the good news is that with Jesus, this ancient evil, sin, which seems invincible, no longer has the last word.
I can sin because I am weak. Each of us can do it, but that is not the last word. The last word is Jesus’ outstretched hand that lifts you up from sin. “And Father, when do you do this? Once?” No. “Twice?” No. “Three time?” No. Always. Whenever you are sick, the Lord always has His hand outstretched. Only He wants us (to) hold on and let Him carry you. The good news is that with Jesus this ancient evil no longer has the last word: the last word is Jesus' outstretched hand that carries you forward.
Jesus heals us from sin, always. And how much do I have to pay for this healing? Nothing. He heals us always and gratuitously. He invites those who “labour and are heavy laden” -- He says it in the Gospel – invites them to come to Him (cf. Mt 11:28). And so to accompany someone to an encounter with Jesus is to bring them to the doctor of the heart, Who lifts up life. That is to say, “Brother, sister, I don't have answers to so many of your problems, but Jesus knows you, Jesus loves you and can heal and soothe your heart. Go and leave them with Jesus.”
Those who carry burdens need a caress for the past. So many times we hear, “But I would need to heal my past...I need a caress for that past that weighs so heavily on me...” He needs forgiveness. And those who believe in Jesus have just that to give to others: the power of forgiveness, which frees the soul from all debt. Brothers, sisters, do not forget: God forgets everything. How so? Yes, He forgets all our sins. That He forgets. That’s why He has no memory. God forgives everything because He forgets our sins. Only He wants us to draw near to the Lord and He forgives us everything. Think of something from the Gospel, from the one who began to speak, “Lord I have sinned!” That son... And the father puts his hand on his mouth. “No, it's okay, it’s nothing...” He doesn't let him finish... And that's good. Jesus is waiting for us to forgive us, to restore us. And how often? Once? Twice? No. Always. “But Father, I do the same things always...” And He will always do His same thing! Forgiving you, embracing you. Please, let us not distrust this. This is the way to love the Lord. Those who carry burdens and need a caress for the past need forgiveness, and Jesus does that. And that's what Jesus gives: to free the soul from all debt. In the Bible it talks about a year when one was freed from the burden of debt: the Jubilee, the year of grace. As if it were the ultimate point of the proclamation.
In fact, Jesus says He came “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:19). It was not a scheduled jubilee, like the ones we have now, where everything is planned and you think about how to do it and how not to do it. No. But with Christ the grace that makes life new always arrives and amazes. Christ is the Jubilee of every day, every hour, drawing you near, to caress you, to forgive you. And the proclamation of Jesus must always bring the amazement of grace. This amazement… “No, I can’t believe it! I have been forgiven.” But this is how great our God is. Because it is not we who do great things, but rather the grace of the Lord who, even through us, accomplishes unexpected things. And these are the surprises of God. God is the master of surprises. He always surprises us, is always waiting, waits for us. We arrive, and He has been expecting us. Always. The Gospel comes with a sense of wonder and newness that has a name: Jesus.
May He help us to proclaim it as He desires, communicating joy, deliverance, light, healing, and wonder. This is how one communicates about Jesus.
The last thing: This good news, which the Gospel says is addressed “to the poor” (v. 18). We often forget about them, yet they are the recipients explicitly mentioned, because they are God’s beloved. Let us remember them, and let us remember that, in order to welcome the Lord, each of us must make him- or herself “poor within.” It’s not sufficient like this, no: [you have to be] “poor within.” With that poverty… “Lord, I am in need, I am in need of forgiveness, I am in need of help, I am in need of strength. This poverty that we all have: making oneself poor interiorly. You have to overcome any pretence of self-sufficiency in order to understand oneself to be in need of grace, and to always be in need of Him. Is someone tells me, “Father, what is the shortest way to encounter Jesus?” Be needy. Be needy for grace, needy for forgiveness, be needy for joy. And he will draw near to you. Thank you.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
This Sunday’s Gospel tells us — in St Luke’s narrative — of the call of Jesus’ first disciples (5:1-11). The event takes place in the context of everyday life: there are several fishermen on the shore of the lake of Galilee, who, after working all night and catching nothing, are washing and arranging their nets. Jesus gets into one of the boats, that of Simon, called Peter, whom he asks to put out a little from the shore, and he starts to preach the Word of God to the crowd of people who had gathered. When he is finished speaking, he tells them to put out into the deep and cast the nets. Simon had previously met Jesus and felt the prodigious power of his word. Therefore, he responds: “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets” (v. 5). And this faith of his did not disappoint: indeed, the nets filled with so many fish that they nearly broke (cf. v. 6). Facing this extraordinary event, the fishermen are greatly astonished. Simon Peter throws himself at Jesus’ feet, saying: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (v. 8). That prodigious sign convinces him that Jesus is not only a formidable master whose word is true and powerful, but he is the Lord, he is the manifestation of God. For Peter this close presence brings about a strong sense of his own pettiness and unworthiness. From a human point of view, he thinks that there should be distance between the sinner and the Holy One. In truth, his very condition as a sinner requires that the Lord not distance Himself from him, in the same way that a doctor cannot distance himself from those who are sick.
Jesus’ response to Simon Peter is reassuring and decisive: “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men” (v. 10). Once again the fisherman of Galilee, placing his trust in this word, leaves everything and follows the one who has become his Lord and Master. Simon’s workmates, James and John, do the same. This is the logic that guides Jesus’ mission and the mission of the Church: go in search, “fish” for men and women, not to proselytize, but to restore full dignity and freedom to all, through the forgiveness of sins. This is the essential point of Christianity: to spread the free and regenerative love of God, with a welcoming and merciful attitude toward everyone, so that each person can encounter God’s tenderness and have the fullness of life. Here, in a particular way, I think of confessors: they are the first who must give the Father’s mercy, following Jesus’ example, as did the two holy Brothers, Fr Leopold and Padre Pio.
Today’s Gospel challenges us: do we know how to truly trust in the Word of the Lord? Or do we let ourselves become discouraged by our failures? In this Holy Year of Mercy we are called to comfort those who feel they are sinners, unworthy before the Lord, defeated by their mistakes, by speaking to them the very words of Jesus: “Do not be afraid. The Father’s mercy is greater than your sins! It is greater, do not be afraid!”. May the Virgin Mary help us to ever better understand that being disciples means placing our feet in the footsteps left by the Master: they are the footprints of divine grace that restore life for all.
St Luke 5: 1-11. It is an episode that reminds us of the other miraculous catch of fish, which took place after the Resurrection, when Jesus asked His disciples if they had anything to eat. In both cases, there is an anointing of Peter: first as a fisher of men, then as a pastor. Jesus then changes his name from Simon to Peter; and, as a good Israelite, Peter knows that a change of name signifies a change of mission. Peter felt proud because he truly loved Jesus, and this miraculous catch represents a step forward in his life.
After seeing that the nets were at the point of breaking on account of the great number of fish, Peter throws himself at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
This is the first decisive step of Peter along the path of discipleship, of the disciple of Jesus, accusing himself: ‘I am a sinner.’ This is Peter’s first step; and also the first step for each one of us, if you want to go forward in the spiritual life, in the life of Jesus, serving Jesus, following Jesus, must be this, accusing oneself: without accusing oneself you cannot walk in the Christian life.
There is a risk, however. We all know that we are sinners in a general way, but it is not easy to accuse ourselves of being sinners concretely. We are so used to saying, ‘I am a sinner,’ but in the same way that we say, “I am human,” or “I am an Italian citizen.” But to truly accuse ourselves, on the other hand, means really feeling our own misery: to feel miserable, misery, before the Lord. It’s related to feeling shame. And this is something that does not come from words, but from the heart. That is, there is a concrete experience, like that of Peter when he said to Jesus, “Depart from me, a sinner.” He really felt himself to be a sinner; and then he felt himself to be saved.
The salvation that Jesus brings us requires this sincere confession precisely because it is not a cosmetic thing, that changes your looks with “two brushstrokes.” Rather, it transforms – but because you enter into it, you have to make room for it with a sincere confession of your own sins; and so one experiences the wonder that Peter felt.
The first step of conversion, then, is to accuse oneself with shame, and to try to experience the wonder of feeling that you are saved. We have to be converted, we must do penance.
There are people who go through life talking about others, accusing others and never thinking of their own sins. And when I go to make my confession, how do I confess? Like a parrot? ‘Bla, bla, bla… I did this, this…’ But are you touched at heart by what you have done? Many times, no. You go there to put on make-up, to make-yourself up a little bit in order to look beautiful. But it hasn’t entered completely into your heart, because you haven’t left room, because you are not capable of accusing yourself.
And so that first step is also a grace: the grace of learning to accuse oneself, and not others.
A sign that a person does not know, that a Christian does not know how to accuse himself is when he is accustomed to accusing others, to talking about others, to being nosy about the lives of others. And that is an ugly sign. Do I do this? It’s a good question to get to the heart of things.
Today let us ask the Lord for the grace, the grace to find ourselves face to face with Him with this wonder that His presence gives; and the grace to feel that we are sinners, but concretely, and to say with Peter: 'Depart from me, for I am a sinner'.
The days Gospel tells how Jesus surprised Simon by climbing in his boat, and going out a little ways from the shore to teach the people. Then Jesus made another surprising move by asking Simon to put out into the deep and lower his nets for a catch.
Simon (to whom Jesus would later give the name Peter) seems at first to offer an objection; but inspired by the presence of Jesus, and illuminated by His word, Simon does as he is asked. It is the response of faith, the response that that we too are called to give; and the attitude of openness that the Lord asks of all His disciples, especially insofar as they have duties of responsibility in the Church.
It is Simon’s trusting obedience that prompts the miraculous catch of fish. When we come with generosity to His service, Jesus accomplishes great things in us.
This is how Jesus deals with each of us: He asks us to welcome Him into the boat of our life, to begin again with Him and set out on a new sea, that turns out to be full of surprises. Jesus’ invitation gives new meaning to our existence. If we, like Peter, are sometimes surprised or hesitant at this call, Jesus encourages us. If we trust in Him God will free us from our sin, and open us up to new horizons, to collaborate in his mission.
The greatest miracle accomplished by Jesus for Simon and the other disappointed and tired fishermen, is not so much the nets filled with fish, but to have helped them to not fall victim to disappointment and discouragement in the face of setbacks. He opened the way for them to become heralds and witnesses of His word and of the Kingdom of God.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
The Gospel of today’s Liturgy takes us to the banks of the Sea of Galilee. The crowd is gathering around Jesus, while some disappointed fishermen, including Simon Peter, are washing their nets after a night of fishing that went badly. And so it is that Jesus climbs into Simon's boat; then he invites him to go out to sea and cast his nets again (cf. Lk 5:1-4). Let us pause on these two actions of Jesus: first he climbs into the boat and then, the second, he invites him to put out into the open water. It was a night that went badly, without fish, but Peter is trustful and sets out into open water.
First of all, Jesus gets into Simon’s boat. To do what? To teach. He asks for that very boat, which is not full of fish but rather has returned to the shore empty, after a night of toil and disillusionment. It is a beautiful image for us too. Every day the boat of our life leaves the shores of our home to sail out into the sea of daily activities; every day we try to “fish from the sea”, to cultivate dreams, to pursue projects, to experience love in our relationships. But often, like Peter, we experience the “night of empty nets” – the night of empty nets – the disappointment of trying so hard and not seeing the desired results: “We toiled all night and took nothing” (v. 5), says Simon. How often we too are left with a sense of defeat, while disappointment and bitterness arise in our hearts. Two very dangerous woodworms.
What does the Lord do then? He chooses to climb into our boat. From there he wants to proclaim the Gospel. It is precisely that empty boat, the symbol of our incapacity, that becomes Jesus’ “cathedra”, the pulpit from which he proclaims the Word. And this is what the Lord loves to do – the Lord is the Lord of surprises, of miracles in surprises: to climb into the boat of our lives when we have nothing to offer him; to enter our voids and fill them with his presence; to make use of our poverty to proclaim his wealth, our miseries to proclaim his mercy. Let us remember this: God does not want a cruise ship: a poor “ramshackle” boat is enough for him, as long as we welcome him. This yes, to welcome him; the boat doesn’t matter, but that we welcome him. But, I wonder, do we let him into the boat of our lives? Do we make available to him the little we have? Sometimes we feel unworthy of Him because we are sinners. But this is an excuse that the Lord does not like, because it distances Him from us! He is the God of closeness, compassion, tenderness, and he does not seek perfectionism: he seeks our welcome. He says to you too: “Let me get into the boat of your life”, “But Lord, look..” – “Like that, let me in, just as it is”. Think about this.
In this way, the Lord reconstructs Peter’s trust. When he climbs into the boat, after preaching, he says: “Put out a little from the land” (v. 4). It was not a good time of the day for fishing, in broad daylight, but Peter trusts in Jesus. He does not base his trust on the strategies of fishermen, which he knows well, but rather he founds it on the newness of Jesus. That wonder that moved him to do what Jesus told him. It is the same for us too: if we welcome the Lord into our boat, we can put out to sea. With Jesus, we navigate the sea of life without fear, without giving in to disappointment when we catch nothing, and without giving up and saying “there is nothing more to be done”. Always, in personal life as well as in the life of the Church and society, there is something beautiful and courageous that can be done, always. We can always start again – the Lord always invites us to get back on our feet because He opens up new possibilities. So let us accept the invitation: let us chase away pessimism and mistrust, and put out to sea with Jesus! Our little empty boat, too, will witness a miraculous catch.
Let us pray to Mary: who like no other welcomed the Lord into the boat of her life. May she encourage us and intercede for us.
It’s not easy to keep the faith, to defend the faith.
Faith gives us courage and shows us the way to touch the heart of the Lord. in the parable, the Lord saw the faith of those who brought the man and set him in His presence. It took courage, to go up on the roof and lower him on the stretcher through the tiles…. Those people had faith: They knew that if the sick man was put in front of Jesus, he would be healed
Jesus expressed admiration for people’s faith in the case of the centurion who asked for the healing of his servant; and in the Syrophoenician woman who interceded for her daughter who was possessed by the devil, and in the woman afflicted with haemorrhages who was healed after having touched the hem of Jesus’ cloak. Jesus, reproaches people of little faith, like Peter who doubts, with faith everything is possible.
In this second week of Advent, we ask for the grace to prepare ourselves with faith to celebrate Christmas.
Christmas is often marked in a worldly or pagan fashion, it's not easy to keep the faith, it's not easy to defend the faith… it's not easy!
It will do us good today, and also tomorrow, during the week, to take chapter 9 of the Gospel of John and read this beautiful story of the boy who was blind from birth.
From the bottom of our hearts utter an act of faith and say: I believe Lord. Help me in my faith. Defend my faith from worldliness, from superstitions, from all that is not faith. Keep it from being reduced to theory, be it theological or moral… Faith in You, Lord.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today’s Gospel presents us Saint Luke’s passage on the Beatitudes (cf. 6:17, 20-26). The text is arranged into four beatitudes and four admonitions denoted by the expression, “woe to you”. With these assertive and sharp words, Jesus opens our eyes and lets us look with his gaze, beyond appearances, beyond the surface and teaches us to discern situations with faith.
Jesus proclaims the poor, the hungry, the suffering and the persecuted blessed, and he admonishes those who are rich, satisfied, who laugh and are praised by the people. The reason behind this paradoxical beatitude lies in the fact that God is close to those who suffer, and intercedes to free them from their bondage. Jesus sees this; he already sees the beatitude beyond its negative reality. And likewise, the “woe to you” addressed to those who are doing well today, has the purpose of “waking” them from the dangerous deceit of egotism, and opening them up to the logic of love, while they still have the time to do so.
The page from today’s Gospel thus invites us to reflect on the profound sense of having faith, which consists in our trusting completely in the Lord. It is about demolishing worldly idols in order to open our hearts to the true and living God. He alone can give our life that fullness so deeply desired and yet difficult to attain. Brothers and sisters, indeed there are many in our day too who purport to be dispensers of happiness: they come and promise us swift success, great profits within our reach, magical solutions to every problem and so on. And here it is easy to slip unwittingly into sinning against the first Commandment: namely idolatry, substituting God with an idol. Idolatry and idols seem to be things from another age, but in reality they are of all ages! Even today. They describe certain contemporary attitudes better than many sociological studies do.
This is why Jesus opens our eyes to reality. We are called to happiness, to be blessed, and we become so as of now, to the measure in which we place ourselves on the side of God, of his Kingdom, on the side of what is not ephemeral but rather endures for eternal life. We are happy if we acknowledge we are needy before God — and this is very important: “Lord, I need you” — and if, like him and with him, we are close to the poor, the suffering and the hungry. We too are like this before God: we are poor, suffering, we are hungry before God. Although we possess worldly goods, we experience joy when we do not idolize or sell our souls out to them, but are able to share them with our brothers and sisters. Today the liturgy invites us once again to question ourselves about this and to be truthful in our heart.
Jesus’ Beatitudes are a decisive message which urges us not to place our trust in material and fleeting things, not to seek happiness by following smoke vendors — who are often vendors of death — experts in illusion. We should not follow them because they are unable to give us hope. May the Lord help us open our eyes to acquire a more penetrating view of reality, to heal the chronic shortsightedness with which the worldly spirit infects us. With his paradoxical Word he stirs us and enables us to recognize what truly enriches us, satisfies us, gives us joy and dignity; in other words, what truly gives meaning and fullness to our lives. May the Virgin Mary help us listen to this Gospel passage with open hearts and minds so that it may bear fruit in our life and that we may become witnesses of the happiness that does not disappoint, that of God who never disappoints.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
At the centre of the Gospel of today’s Liturgy are the Beatitudes (cf. Lk 6:20-23). It is interesting to note that Jesus, despite being surrounded by a great crowd, proclaims them by addressing them to “his disciples” (v. 20). He speaks to the disciples. Indeed, the Beatitudes define the identity of the disciple of Jesus. They may sound strange, almost incomprehensible to those who are not disciples; whereas, if we ask ourselves what a disciple of Jesus is like, the answer is precisely the Beatitudes. “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God” (v. 20). Blessed are you poor. Jesus says two things to his people: that they are blessed and they are poor; indeed, that they are blessed because they are poor.
In what sense? In the sense that disciples Jesus do not find their joy in money, power, or other material goods; but in the gifts they receive every day from God: life, creation, brothers and sisters, and so on. These are gifts of life. They are content to share even the goods they possess, because they live according to the logic of God. And what is the logic of God? Gratuitousness. The disciple has learned to live in gratuitousness. This poverty is also an attitude towards the meaning of life, because Jesus’ disciples do not think about possessing it, about already knowing everything, but rather they know they must learn every day. And this is poverty: the awareness of having to learn every day. The disciple of Jesus, since he or she has this attitude, is a humble, open person, far from prejudice and inflexibility.
There was a good example in last Sunday’s Gospel reading: Simon Peter, an expert fisherman, accepts Jesus’ invitation to cast his nets at an unusual hour, and then, full of wonder at the miraculous catch, leaves the boat and all his goods to follow the Lord. Peter shows himself to be docile by leaving everything, and in this way, he becomes a disciple. Instead, those who are too attached to their own ideas and their own securities, find it difficult to truly follow Jesus. They follow him a little, only in those things in which “I agree with him and he agrees with me”, but then, as far as the rest is concerned, it goes no further. And this is not a disciple. Perhaps they listen to him, but they do not follow him. And so, they fall into sadness. They become sad because the accounts do not add up, because reality escapes their mentality and they find they are dissatisfied. Disciples, on the other hand, know how to question themselves, how to humbly seek God every day, and this allows them to delve into reality, grasping its richness and complexity.
In other words, the disciple accepts the paradox of the Beatitudes: they declare that those who are poor, who lack many goods and recognize this, are blessed, that is, happy. Humanly speaking, we are inclined to think in another way: happy are those who are rich, with many goods, who receive plaudits and are the envy of many, who have all the certainties. But this is a worldly mindset, it is not the way of thinking of the Beatitudes! Jesus, on the contrary, declares worldly success to be a failure, since it is based on a selfishness that inflates and then leaves the heart empty. Faced with the paradox of the Beatitudes, disciples allow themselves to be challenged, aware that it is not God who must enter into our logic, but we into his. This requires a journey, sometimes wearisome, but always accompanied by joy. Because the disciple of Jesus is joyful, with the joy that comes from Jesus. Because, let us remember, the first word Jesus says is: blessed, beati, which gives us the name of the Beatitudes. This is the synonym of being disciples of Jesus. The Lord, by freeing us from the slavery of self-centredness, breaks our locks, dissolves our hardness, and opens up to us true happiness, which is often found where we do not expect it to be. It is he who guides our life, not us, with our preconceptions and our demands. Disciples, in the end, are those who let themselves be led by Jesus, who open their heart to Jesus, who listen to him and follow his path.
We might then ask ourselves: do I – each one of us – have the disciple’s readiness? Or do I behave with the rigidity of one who believes him- or herself to be right, who feels decent, who feels they have already arrived? Do I allow myself to be “inwardly unhinged” by the paradox of the Beatitudes, or do I stay within the confines of my own ideas? And then, with the logic of the Beatitudes, setting aside the hardships and difficulties, do I feel the joy of following Jesus? This is the decisive trait of the disciple: the joy of the heart. Let’s not forget – the joy of the heart. This is the touchstone for knowing if a person is a disciple: does he or she have joy in the heart? Do I have joy in my heart? This is the point.
May Our Lady, first disciple of the Lord, help us live as open and joyful disciples.
Jesus’ invitation to mercy is intended to draw us into a deeper imitation of God our Father: be merciful, as your Father is merciful. However, it is not easy to understand this willingness to show mercy, because we are accustomed to presenting the bill to others: you’ve done this, now you have to do this. In short, we judge, and we fail … to leave space for understanding and mercy.
In order to be merciful, two attitudes are needed. The first is “self-knowledge”. In today’s first reading, Daniel recounts the humble prayer of the people before God and their acknowledgement that they are sinners: “We have sinned and done wrong, but to thee belongs righteousness, and to us shame”. In the presence of a repentant people, God’s justice is transformed into mercy and forgiveness.
This challenges us, by inviting us to make room for this same inner attitude. Therefore, to become merciful, we must first acknowledge that we have done many things wrong: we are sinners! We need to know how to say: Lord, I am ashamed of what I have done in life.
Even though none of us has ever killed anyone, nonetheless we still have committed many daily sins. Therefore, acknowledging that we have sinned against the Lord, and being ashamed in his presence is a grace: the grace of knowing that one is a sinner! It is easy, and yet “so very difficult” to say: “I am a sinner and I am ashamed of it before you and I ask for your forgiveness”.
Our Father Adam gave us an example of what one should not do. For he blamed the woman for having eaten the fruit and he justified himself, saying: “I have not sinned; it is she who made me go down this road!”. Eve then does the same thing, blaming the serpent. Yet one should acknowledge one's sin and one’s need for God’s forgiveness, and not look for excuses and load the blame onto others. Perhaps someone helped me to sin, and opened the road: but I did it!
If we act in this way, how many good things will follow: we will truly be men. Furthermore, with this attitude of repentance we will be more capable of being merciful, because we will feel God’s mercy for us. In the Our Father, in fact, we do not only pray: “forgive us our trespasses”. We also pray “forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us”.
The second attitude we need is “an openness to expanding our hearts”. It is precisely shame and repentance that expands a small, selfish heart, since they give space to God to forgive us. What does it mean to open and expand one’s heart? First, it means acknowledging ourselves to be sinners and not looking to what others have done. And from here, the basic question becomes: “Who am I to judge this? Who am I to gossip about this? Who am I, who have done the same things, or worse?”
The Lord says it in the Gospel: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap”. This is the “generosity of heart” that the Lord presents through the image of those going to collect grain who enlarged their aprons in order to received more. In fact, you can receive far more if you have a big heart! A big heart doesn’t get entangled in other peoples lives, it doesn’t condemn but forgives and forgets as “God has forgiven and forgotten my sins”.
In order to be merciful we need to call upon the Lord's help, since “it is a grace”. And we also need to “recognize our sins and be ashamed of them” and forgive and forget the offences of others. Men and women who are merciful have big, big hearts: they always excuse others and think more of their own sins. Were someone to say to them: ‘but do you see what so and so did?’, they respond in mercy saying: ‘but I have enough to be concerned over with all I have done’. If all of us, all peoples, all families, all quarters had this attitude, how much peace there would be in the world, how much peace there would be in our hearts, for mercy brings us peace! Let us always remember: who am I to judge? To be ashamed of oneself and to open and expand one’s heart, may the Lord give us this grace!
Jesus gave us the law of love: to love God and to love one another as brothers. And the Lord did not fail to explain it a bit further, with the Beatitudes which nicely summarize the Christian approach.
In the day’s Gospel passage, however, Jesus goes a step further, explaining in greater detail to those who surrounded Him to hear Him. Let us look first of all at the verbs Jesus uses: love; do good; bless; pray; offer; do not refuse; give. With these words, Jesus shows us the path that we must take, a path of generosity. He asks us first and foremost to love. And we ask, “whom must I love?”. He answers us, “your enemies”. And, with surprise, we ask for confirmation: “our actual enemies?”. “Yes”, the Lord tells us, "actually your enemies!"
But the Lord also asks us to do good. And if we do not ask him, to whom? He tells us straight away, “to those who hate us”. And this time too, we ask the Lord for confirmation: “But must I do good to those who hate me?”. And the Lord’s reply is again, “yes”.
Then he even asks us to bless those who curse us. And to pray not only for my mama, for my dad, my children, my family, but for those who abuse us. And not to refuse anyone who begs from you. The newness of the Gospel lies in the giving of oneself, giving the heart, to those who actually dislike us, who harm us, to our enemies. The passage from Luke reads: “And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?”. It would merely be an exchange: you love me, I love you. But Jesus reminds us that even sinners — and by sinners he means pagans — love those who love them. This is why, there is no credit.
The passage continues: “And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same”. Again, it is simply an exchange: I do good to you, you do good to me!. And yet the Gospel adds: “And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you?”. No credit, because it’s a bargain. St Luke then indicates, “even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again”.
All of Jesus’ reasoning leads to a firm conclusion: “Love your enemies instead. Do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Without interest. And your reward will be great”. And thus you will be sons of the Most High.
It is therefore evident that the Gospel is a new message that is difficult to carry forward. In a word, it means “go behind Jesus”. Follow him. Imitate him. Jesus does not answer his Father by saying, “I shall go and say a few words, I shall make a nice speech, I shall point the way and then come back”. No, Jesus’ response to the Father is: “I shall do your will”. And indeed, in the Garden of Olives he says to the Father: “Thy will be done”. And thus he gives his life, not for his friends but for his enemies!
The Christian way is not easy, but this is it. Therefore, to those who say, “I don’t feel like doing this”, the response is “if you don’t feel like it, that’s your problem, but this is the Christian way. This is the path that Jesus teaches us. This is the reason to take the path of Jesus, which is mercy: be merciful as your Father is merciful. Because only with a merciful heart can we do all that the Lord advises us, until the end. And thus it is obvious that the Christian life is not a self-reflexive life but it comes outside of itself to give to others: it is a gift, it is love, and love does not turn back on itself, it is not selfish: it gives itself!
The passage of St Luke concludes with the invitation not to judge and to be merciful. However, it often seems that we have been appointed judges of others: gossiping, criticizing, we judge everyone. But Jesus tells us: “Judge not and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven”. And so, we say it every day in the Our Father: forgive us as we forgive. In fact if I do not first forgive, how can I ask the Father to forgive me?
There is also another really beautiful image in the Gospel reading: “Give and it will be given to you”. And here “Jesus’ heart can be seen to grow and he makes this promise which is perhaps an image of heaven. The Christian life as Jesus presents it truly seems to be “folly”. St Paul himself speaks of the folly the cross of Christ, which is not part of the wisdom of the world. For this reason to be a Christian is to become a bit foolish, in a certain sense. And to renounce that worldly shrewdness in order to do all that Jesus tells us to do. And, if we make an accounting, if we balance things out, it seems to weigh against us. But the path of Jesus is magnanimity, generosity, the giving of oneself without measure. He came into the world to save and he gave himself, he forgave, he spoke ill of no one, he did not judge.
Of course, being Christian isn’t easy and we cannot become Christian with our own strength; we need “the grace of God”. Therefore, there is a prayer which should be said every day: “Lord, grant me the grace to become a good Christian, because I cannot do it alone."
A first reading of Chapter Six of Luke’s Gospel is unnerving. But, if we take the Gospel and we give it a second, a third, a fourth reading, we can then ask the Lord for the grace to understand what it is to be Christian. And also for the grace that He make Christians of us. Because we cannot do it alone.