Luke Chapter 3-6
Books of the Bible Index of Homilies
Matthew Mark Luke John The Acts Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians 1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 Timothy Titus Philemon Hebrews James 1 Peter 2 Peter 1 John 2 John 3 John Jude Revelation Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy Joshua Judges Ruth 1 Samuel 2 Samuel 1 Kings 2 Kings 1 Chronicles 2 Chronicles Ezra Nehemiah Tobit Judith Esther 1 Maccabees 2 Maccabees Job Psalms Proverbs Ecclesiastes The Song of Songs The Book of Wisdom Sirach Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations Baruch Ezekiel Daniel Hosea Joel Amos Obadiah Jonah Micah Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah Haggai Zechariah Malachi
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.
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?
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.
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.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
This Sunday’s Gospel passage (cf. Lk 6:27-38) concerns a central point that characterizes Christian life: love for enemies. Jesus’ words are clear: “I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (vv. 27-38). And this is not optional, it is a command. It is not for everyone, but for the disciples, whom Jesus calls “you that hear”. He is well aware that loving enemies exceeds our possibilities, but this is why he became man: not to leave us as we are, but to transform us into men and women capable of a greater love, that of his Father and ours. This is the love that Jesus gives to those who ‘hear him’. Thus it becomes possible! With him, thanks to his love, to his Spirit, we are able to love even those who do not love us, even those who do us harm.
In this way, Jesus wants God’s love to triumph over hatred and rancour in every heart. The logic of love, which culminates in Christ’s Cross, is a Christian’s badge and induces us to meet everyone with the heart of brothers and sisters. But how is it possible to overcome human instinct and the worldly law of retaliation? Jesus provides the answer in the same Gospel passage: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (v. 36). Those who hear Jesus, who make an effort to follow him even at a cost, become children of God, and begin to truly resemble the Father who is in heaven. We become capable of things we never thought we could say or do, and of which we would have been rather ashamed, but which now give us joy and peace instead. We no longer need to be violent, with words and gestures: we discover that we are capable of tenderness and goodness; and we sense that all of this comes not from ourselves but from him! And thus we do not brag about it but are grateful for it.
There is nothing greater and more fruitful than love: it bestows all dignity to the person, while, on the contrary, hatred and vengeance decrease it, marring the beauty of the creature made in God’s image.
This command, to respond to insult and wrongdoing with love, has created a new culture in the world: “a culture of mercy” — we need to learn this well! And properly practice this culture of mercy — which “can set in motion a real cultural revolution” (Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera, 20). It is the revolution of love, in which the protagonists are the martyrs of all times. And Jesus assures us that our behaviour, inspired by love for those who do us harm, will not be in vain. He tells us: “forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you” (vv. 37-38). This is beautiful. God will give us something beautiful if we are generous, merciful. We must forgive because God has forgiven us and always forgives us. If we do not forgive completely, we cannot expect to be forgiven completely. However, if our hearts are open to mercy, if we seal forgiveness with a brotherly embrace and secure the bonds of communion, we proclaim to the world that it is possible to overcome evil with good. At times it is easier for us to remember the harm they have done to us and not the good things; to the point that there are people who have this habit and it becomes a sickness. They are “collectors of injustice”: they only remember the bad things done. And this is not a path. We must do the opposite, Jesus says. Remember the good things, and when someone comes with some gossip, and speaks ill of another, say: “Yes, perhaps ... but he has this good quality...”. Turn the discussion around. This is the revolution of mercy.
May the Virgin Mary help us to let our heart be touched by this holy word of Jesus, burning like fire, that it may transform us and make us able to do good without reciprocation, doing good without reciprocation, witnessing everywhere to the victory of love.
The mercy of God is such a great thing, very great. We must not forget this. How many people say: “I have done such terrible things. I have purchased my place in hell, I can’t turn back”. But do they think about the mercy of God? Let us remember that story about the poor widow lady who went to confess to the Curé of Ars. Her husband had committed suicide; he jumped from the bridge into the river. And she wept. She said, “But I am a sinner, a poor woman. But my poor husband! He is in hell. He committed suicide, and suicide is a mortal sin. He is in hell”. And the Curé of Ars said, “But wait a moment, ma’am, because between the bridge and the river, there is the mercy of God”. But to the very end, to the very end, there is the mercy of God.
Jesus gives three practical suggestions to help us get in the habit of being merciful. First: to not judge. We should refrain from judging, especially in this time of Lent.
Also, it is a habit that gets mixed up in our life even without us realizing it. Always! Even by beginning a conversation: “Did you see what he did?” Judgement of others. Let us think about how many times each day we judge. All of us. But always through beginning a conversation, a comment about someone else: “But look, that person had plastic surgery! They’re uglier than before”.
Learn the wisdom of generosity, the main way to overcome gossiping. When we gossip about others we are continually judging, continually condemning, and hardly forgiving.
The Lord teaches us: “Give and it will be given to you”: be generous in giving. Don’t be “closed pockets”; be generous in giving to the poor, to those who are in need, and also in giving many things: in giving counsel, in giving a smile to people, in smiling. “Give and it will be given to you. And it will be given to you in good measure, flowing over, pressed down, running over”, because the Lord will be generous: We give one, and He gives us one hundred of all that we have given. And this is the attitude that provides armour for not judging, not condemning; for forgiving. The importance of giving alms, but not only material alms, but spiritual alms too: spending time with someone in need, visiting someone who is sick, offering a smile.
Dear brothers and sisters!
We have heard a passage of the Sermon on the Plain, taken from the Gospel of Luke. After choosing his disciples and proclaiming the Beatitudes, Jesus adds: “But I say to you that listen, love your enemies” (Lk 6:27). Today, his words are also addressed to us, who hear them in this Stadium.
Jesus speaks with clarity, simplicity and firmness as he traces a path, a narrow path that demands certain virtues. For Jesus is no idealist, someone who ignores reality. He is talking about specific enemies, real enemies, the kind he described in the previous Beatitude (v. 22): those who hate us, exclude us, revile us and defame us.
Many of you can still tell your own stories of violence, hatred and conflict; some concerning things that happened to you personally, others concerning people you knew who are no longer alive, and others still, out of fear that the past wounds will reopen and reverse the progress already made towards peace, as in Cabo Delgado.
Jesus is not calling us to an abstract, ethereal or theoretical love, like that celebrated in fine speeches. The path he proposes is one that he himself already took, the path that led him to love those who betrayed him, who judged him unjustly, who would kill him.
It is not easy to speak of reconciliation while wounds are still open from the years of conflict, or to take a step towards forgiveness, which is not the same as ignoring pain or giving up our memories or ideals (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 100). Even so, Jesus is calling us to love and to do good. This means much more than simply ignoring the persons who harmed us, or trying to avoid encountering them. Jesus commands us to show an active, impartial and extraordinary benevolence towards those who have hurt us. Nor does Jesus stop there. He also asks us to bless them and to pray for them. In other words, to speak of them with words of blessing, with words of life not death, to speak their names not in insult or revenge, but to establish a new bond which brings peace. It is a high standard that the Master sets before us!
In inviting us to do this, Jesus wants to end forever that common practice of being Christians yet living under the law of retaliation. We cannot look to the future, or build a nation, an equitable society, on the basis of violence. I cannot follow Jesus if I live my life by the rule of “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for tooth”.
No family, no group of neighbours, no ethnic group, much less a nation, has a future if the force that unites them, brings them together and resolves their differences is vengeance and hatred. We cannot come to terms and unite for the sake of revenge, or treating others with the same violence with which they treated us, or plotting opportunities for retaliation under apparently legal auspices. “Weapons of violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts” (Evangelii Gaudium, 60). An “equity” born of violence is always a spiral with no escape, and its cost is extremely high. Yet another path is possible, for it is crucial not to forget that our peoples have a right to peace. You have a right to peace.
To make his commandment more concrete and applicable in daily life, Jesus proposes a first golden rule, one within the reach of all. “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Lk 6:31). And he helps us realize what is most important in this way of acting towards others: to love each other, to help each other and to lend without expecting anything in return.
“Love one another”, Jesus tells us. Paul translates this as “clothe yourselves with compassion and kindness” (Col 3:12). The world disregards and continues to ignore the virtue of mercy, of compassion. It kills or abandons the handicapped and the elderly, eliminates the wounded and infirm, or shows itself more concerned with the suffering of animals. It has not practiced the goodness and kindness that lead us to consider the needs of our beloved neighbour as our own.
Overcoming times of division and violence calls not only for an act of reconciliation or peace, in the sense of an absence of conflict. It also calls for daily commitment on the part of everyone to an attentive and active concern that makes us treat others with the same mercy and goodness with which we ourselves want to be treated. An attitude of mercy and goodness above all towards those who, by their place in society, quickly encounter rejection and exclusion. An attitude not of the weak but of the strong, an attitude of men and women who realize that it is not necessary to mistreat, denigrate or crush others in order to feel ourselves important, but rather the contrary… And this attitude is the prophetic strength that Jesus Christ himself showed us by his desire to be identified with them (cf. Mt 25:35-45) and by teaching us the path of service.
Mozambique is a land of abundant natural and cultural riches, yet paradoxically, great numbers of its people live below the poverty level. And at times it seems that those who approach with the alleged desire to help have other interests. Sadly, this happens with brothers and sisters of the same land, who let themselves be corrupted. It is very dangerous to think that corruption is the price to be paid for foreign aid.
“It cannot be like that with you” (Mt 20:26; cf. vv. 26-28). Jesus’ words urge us to take the lead in a different way of acting: that of his kingdom. To be seeds, here and now, of joy and hope, peace and reconciliation. What the Spirit has come to bring about is not a feverish activism but above all a concern for others, acknowledging and appreciating them as our brothers and sisters, even to the point of identifying with their lives and their pain. This is the best barometer for gauging any kind of ideology that would manipulate the poor and situations of injustice for the sake of political or personal interest (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 199). In this way, in all those places where we encounter one another, we can be seeds and instruments of peace and reconciliation.
We want peace to reign in our hearts and in the lives of our people. We want a future of peace. We want “the peace of Christ to reign in our hearts” (Col 3.15), as the letter of Saint Paul said so well. Here Paul uses a word taken from the world of sports, which evokes the umpire or referee who settles disputed issues. “May the peace of Christ act as the umpire in your hearts”. If the peace of Christ acts as the umpire in our hearts, whenever our feelings are in conflict or we feel torn between two contrary feelings, “we should play Christ’s game”, and let his decision keep us on the path of love, the path of mercy, in the option for the most poor and the protection of nature. The path of peace. If Jesus were to serve as the umpire for the conflicting emotions in our hearts, in the complex decisions of our country, then Mozambique will be ensured a future of hope. Then your country will “sing with heartfelt gratitude to God in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Col 3:16).
In recent days the liturgy has led us to meditate on many Christian attitudes: to give, to be generous, to serve others, to forgive, to be merciful. These are approaches which help the Church to grow. But today especially, the Lord makes us consider one of these approaches, which he has already spoken of, and that is brotherly correction. The bottom line is: When a brother, a sister from the community makes a mistake, how does one correct them?
Always through the liturgy the Lord has given us advice on how to correct others. But today he resumes and says: one must correct him or her, but as a person who sees and not as one who is blind. Luke (6:39-42): “Can a blind man lead a blind man?”.
Thus to correct it is necessary to see clearly. And to follow several rules of behaviour that the Lord himself proposed. First of all, the advice he gives to correct a brother, we heard the other day. It is to take aside your brother who made the error and speak to him, telling him, brother, in this regard, I believe you did not do right!
And to take him aside, indeed, means to correct him with charity. It would otherwise be like performing surgery without anaesthesia, resulting in a patient’s painful death. And charity is like anaesthesia which helps him to receive the care and to accept the correction. Here then is the first step toward a brother: take him aside, gently, lovingly, and speak to him.
Let us always speak with charity, without wounding, in our communities, parishes, institutions, religious communities, when one must say something to a sister, to a brother.
Along with charity, it is necessary to tell the truth and never say something that isn’t true. In fact many times in our communities things are said to another person that aren’t true: they are libellous. Or, if they are true however, they harm the reputation of that person.
In this respect the following may be a way to approach a brother: I am telling you this, to you, what you have done. It is true. It isn’t a rumour that I heard. Because rumours wound, they are insults to a person’s reputation, they are strikes at a person’s heart. And so the truth is always needed, even if at times it isn’t good to hear it. In every case if the truth is told with charity and with love, it is easier to accept. This is why it is necessary to speak the truth with charity: this is how one must speak to others about faults.
Jesus speaks of the third rule, humility, in the passage of Luke’s Gospel: correct others without hypocrisy, that is, with humility. It is good to point out to oneself if you must correct a tiny flaw there, consider that you have so many that are greater. The Lord says this effectively: first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck from the eye of another. Only in this way will you not be blind and will you see clearly to truly help your brother. Thus humility is important in order to recognize that I am a greater sinner than him, a greater sinner than her. Afterwards I must help him and her to correct this flaw.
If I do not perform brotherly correction with charity, do not perform it in truth and do not perform it with humility, I become blind. And if I do not see, it is asked, how do I heal another blind person.
In substance, fraternal correction is an act to heal the body of the Church. It is like mending a hole in the fabric of the Church. However, one must proceed with much sensitivity, like mothers and grandmothers when they mend, and this is the very manner with which one must perform brotherly correction.
On the other hand if you are not capable of performing fraternal reproof with love, with charity, in truth and with humility, you will offend, damage that person’s heart: you will create an extra tale that wounds and you will become a blind hypocrite, as Jesus says. Indeed, the day’s reading from the Gospel of Luke reads: “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your eye”. And while it is necessary to recognize oneself as being a greater sinner than the other, as brothers, however, we are called to help to correct him.
There is a sign which perhaps can help us: when one sees something wrong and feels that he should correct it but perceives a certain pleasure in doing so, then it is time to pay attention, because that is not the Lord’s way. Indeed, in the Lord there is always the cross, the difficulty of doing something good. And love and gentleness always come from the Lord.
This whole line of reasoning on fraternal correction, demands that we not judge. Even if we Christians are tempted to act as scholars, almost as if to move outside the game of sin and of grace, as if were angels.
This is a temptation that St Paul also speaks of in his First Letter to the Corinthians (9:16-19, 22-27): “lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified”. The Apostle therefore reminds us, “a Christian who, in community, doesn’t do things, even brotherly correction, in charity, in truth and with humility, is disqualified”. Because he has not managed to become a mature Christian.
Let us pray that the Lord help us in this brotherly service, so beautiful and so agonizing, of helping brothers and sisters to be better, pushing ourselves to always do so with charity, in truth and with humility.