Luke Chapter 7-10
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What gave Jesus authority, was that “he spent most of his time on the road”, touching, embracing, listening and looking at the people in the eye. “He was near them”. This is what gave him authority.
Jesus taught the same thing that many others taught. It was how he taught that was different. Jesus was meek, and did not cry out. He did not punish the people. He never trumpeted the fact that he was the Messiah or a Prophet. In the Gospel, when Jesus was not with people, he was with the Father praying. His meekness toward the Father was expressed when he visited the house of his Father which had become a shopping mall…. He was angry and threw everyone out. He did this because he loved the Father, because he was humble before the Father.
Jesus was overcome with compassion for the widow. Jesus “thought with his heart”, which was not separated from his head. Then Jesus tenderly touches her and speaks to her, “Do not weep”. “This is the icon of the pastor”. The pastor “needs to have the power and authority that Jesus had, that humility, that meekness, that nearness, the capacity to be compassionate and tender.
it was also the people who yelled “crucify him”. Jesus then compassionately remained silent because “the people were deceived by the powerful”. His response was silence and prayer. Here the shepherd chooses silence when the “Great Accuser” accuses him through so many people. Jesus suffers, offers his life, and prays.
That prayer carried him even to the Cross, with strength; even there he had the capacity of drawing near to and healing the soul of the repentant thief.
Compassion is like "the lens of the heart" that makes us understand the dimensions of reality, it is also the language of God, whereas so often human language is indifference.
Open your hearts to compassion and do not to close yourselves in indifference. Compassion, in fact, takes us on the path of true justice, thus saving us from closure in ourselves.
Luke's Gospel of today's liturgy (Luke 7: 11-17) tells of Jesus’ encounter with a widow in the city of Nain who is mourning the death of her only son as he taken to the grave. The evangelist does not say that Jesus had compassion but that "the Lord was moved with compassion," as if he had been overwhelmed with the sentiment.
There was the crowd that followed him, there were the people accompanying that woman but Jesus sees his reality: she is alone, she is a widow, she has lost her only child. It is compassion, in fact, that makes us understand reality deeply.
Compassion allows you to see reality; compassion is like the lens of the heart: it really makes us to take in and understand the true dimensions. In the Gospels, Jesus is often moved by compassion. And compassion is also God's language.
Compassion makes its appearance in the Bible long before the arrival of Christ: it was God who said to Moses, "I have witnessed the pain of my people," and it is thanks to the compassion of God that He sends Moses to save the people.
Our God is a God of compassion, and compassion - we can say – is the weakness of God, but also His strength. It was compassion that moved Him to send His son to us. Compassion is the language of God.
Compassion is not a feeling of pity, a sentiment one would feel for example when seeing a dog die on the road. But it is getting involved in the problems of others.
In the parable of the multiplication of the loaves Jesus told the disciples to feed the crowd that followed him, whereas they wanted to dismiss those present and send them off to buy something to eat themselves. The disciples were prudent. I believe that at that moment Jesus was angry, in his heart, considering the answer "Give them food!" His invitation is to take charge of the people, without thinking that after a day or so they could go to the villages to buy bread.
The Lord had compassion because he saw these people as sheep without a shepherd. The Gospel speaks, on the one hand, of Jesus’ gesture of compassion, and on the other of the selfish attitude of the disciples who seek a solution without compromise, who do not get their hands dirty, as if to leave these people to get on with it:
If compassion is the language of God, so often human language is that of indifference.
One of our photographers, from the Roman Observer, took a picture that is now in the Hemosineria, which is called "Indifference". I've talked about this before. One winter night, in front of a luxury restaurant, a lady who lives on the street reaches out to another well dressed lady who comes out from the restaurant, and this other lady looks the other way. That is indifference. Go and look at that photograph: this is indifference. Our indifference.
We must ask ourselves "How many times do we look away...?" By doing so we close the door to compassion. Can we examine our conscience and ask ourselves "Do I habitually look somewhere else? Or do I let the Holy Spirit lead me on the path of compassion? That it is a virtue of God.
I am touched by the words from todays Gospel when Jesus says to this mother "Do not weep". A caress of compassion. Jesus touches the coffin, telling the young man to stand up. Then, the young man sits down and starts talking. "And Jesus returned him to his mother."
He returned him: an act of justice. This word is used in justice: to give back.
Compassion takes us along the path to true justice. We must always return what rightfully belongs to someone else, and this always saves us from selfishness, from indifference, from self-closure. Let us continue with this word: "The Lord was taken with great compassion". May He also have compassion for each of us: We need it.
First of all Ezra's shame and embarrassment before God which was so acute that he could not raise his eyes to him. Shame and consternation are common to all of us, because of the sins we have committed that have brought us into bondage for serving idols that are not God.
Prayer is the second concept. Following the example of Ezra who falling upon his knees spread out his arms to God, beseeching him for mercy, we must do likewise in reparation for our innumerable sins. It is a prayer, which we should also raise to God for peace in Lebanon, in Syria and throughout the Middle East. Prayer, always and everywhere, is the road we must take in order to face difficult moments as well as the most dramatic trials and the darkness which at times engulf us in unforeseeable situations. To find our way out of all this, it is necessary to pray ceaselessly.
Lastly, boundless trust in God who never abandons us. We may be certain, that the Lord is with us, and therefore we must be persevering on our journey, thanks to hope which instils fortitude. The pastors' word will become reassuring to the faithful: the Lord will never abandon us.
Today the word of God presents us with three words that challenge us as Christians and Bishops in Europe: reflect, rebuild and see.
Reflect. So the Lord tells us, through the prophet Haggai. Twice he says to the people: “Reflect on your ways!” (Hag 1:5.7). Which “ways” should God’s people reflect on? Let us hear what the Lord has to say: “Is it time for you yourselves to live in your panelled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” (v. 4). The people, upon returning from exile, had been concerned about rebuilding their homes; now, they are comfortably ensconced at home, while the house of God lies in ruins, with no one to rebuild it. Those words – “Reflect on your ways!” – are challenging because today, in Europe, we Christians can be tempted to remain comfortably ensconced in our structures, our homes and our churches, in the security provided by our traditions, content with a certain degree of consensus, while all around us churches are emptying and Jesus is increasingly forgotten.
Consider how many people no longer hunger and thirst for God! Not because they are evil, but because there is no one to awaken in them a hunger for faith and to satisfy that thirst in the human heart, that “innate and perpetual thirst” of which Dante speaks (Par., II, 19) and which the dictatorship of consumerism gently but insistently tries to suppress. So many people are induced to feel only material needs, and not a need for God. Certainly, we are “preoccupied” by this, but are we really “occupied” with responding to it? It is easy, but ultimately pointless, to judge those who do not believe or to list the reasons for secularization. The word of God challenges us to look to ourselves. Do we feel concern and compassion for those who have not had the joy of encountering Jesus or who have lost that joy? Are we comfortable because deep down our lives go on as usual, or are we troubled by seeing so many of our brothers and sisters far from the joy of Jesus?
Through the prophet Haggai, the Lord asks his people to reflect on another thing: “You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves but no one is warm” (v. 6). The people, in a word, had everything they wanted, but they were not happy. What did they lack? Jesus suggests the answer in words that seem to echo those of Haggai: “I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, naked and you did not give me clothing” (Mt 25:42-43). Lack of charity causes unhappiness, because love alone satisfies the human heart. Concerned only with their own affairs, the inhabitants of Jerusalem had lost the savour of gratuity. This can also be our own problem: concentrating on various positions in the Church, on discussions, agendas and strategies, and losing sight of the real programme, that of the Gospel: the impulse of charity, the fervour of gratuity. The solution to problems and self-absorption is always that of gratuitous gift. There is no other. This is something to reflect on.
After reflection, there is another step: rebuilding. “Build my house”, God says through the prophet (Hag 1:8), and the people rebuild the Temple. They stop being content with a peaceful present and start working for the future. Yet since some were opposed to this, the Book of Chronicles tells us that the people worked with one hand on stones, in order to build, and the other hand on the sword, in order to defend this rebuilding process. It was no easy thing to rebuild the temple. This is what is required to build the European common house: to leave behind short-term expedience and to return to that farsighted vision of the founding fathers, what I would dare to call a prophetic vision of the whole. They did not seek a fleeting consensus, but dreamt of a future for all. This is how the walls of the European house were erected, and only in this way can they be consolidated. The same is true for the Church, the house of God. To make her beautiful and welcoming, we need, together, to look to the future, not to restore the past. Sadly, a certain “restorationism” of the past is currently in fashion, one that kills us all. Certainly, we must begin from the foundations, yes truly from our roots, because that is where rebuilding starts: from the Church’s living tradition, which is based on what is essential, the Good News, closeness and witness. We need to rebuild from her foundations the Church of every time and place, from worship of God and love of neighbour, and not from our own tastes, not from any alliances or negotiations that we might make for defending the Church or Christianity
Dear brothers, I would like to thank you for this work of rebuilding that you are pursuing by God’s grace; it is not easy. Thank you for these first fifty years in the service of the Church and of Europe. Let us encourage one another, without ever becoming discouraged or yielding to resignation. The Lord is calling us to a splendid work, the work of making his house ever more welcoming, so that everyone can enter and dwell there, so that the Church can have doors open to all and that no one will be tempted to think only of guarding the doors and changing the locks, those simple temptations. No, change takes place elsewhere: it comes from the roots. It is from there that rebuilding comes.
The people of Israel rebuilt the Temple with their own hands. So did the great rebuilders of the faith on this continent. Let us look to its patrons. They did their small part, trusting in God. I think of saints like Martin, Francis, Dominic, Pio of Pietrelcina, whose feast we celebrate today; patrons like Benedict, Cyril and Methodius, Bridget, Catherine of Siena and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. They began with themselves, with changing their own lives by accepting God’s grace. They were not concerned about dark times, hardships and those divisions that are always present. They did not waste time criticizing or laying blame. They lived the Gospel, without worrying about relevance or politics. Thus, with the gentle strength of God’s love, they embodied his style of closeness, compassion and tenderness – for that is God’s style. They built monasteries, reclaimed land, enlivened the spirit of individuals and countries. They did not have a “social” programme, but the Gospel alone. And they carried on with the Gospel.
Rebuild my house. Here the verb “rebuild” is in the plural. All rebuilding takes place together, in unity, with others. Visions may differ, but unity must always be preserved. For if we keep the grace of the whole, the Lord keeps building, even when we ourselves fall short. The grace of the whole. This is our call: to be Church, together, as one Body. This is our vocation as pastors: to gather the flock; not to scatter it or to keep it enclosed by fine fences, which would in fact kill it. Rebuilding means becoming artisans of communion, weavers of unity at every level: not by stratagems but by the Gospel.
If we rebuild in this way, we will enable our brothers and sisters to see. This is the third word, which comes at the end of today’s Gospel. Herod tried to “see” Jesus (cf. Lk 9:9). Now as then, many people talk about Jesus. In those days, they said: “John is risen from the dead… Elijah has appeared… one of the ancient prophets has arisen” (Lk 9:7-8). All those people respected Jesus, but they didn’t grasp his newness; they fit him into preconceived notions: John, Elijah, the prophets. Jesus, however, cannot be squeezed into the boxes of hearsay or déja vu. Jesus is always new, always. The encounter with him always astonishes, and if you do not feel that astonishment in the encounter, you have not encountered Jesus.
So many people in Europe see the faith as déja vu, a relic of the past. Why? Because they have not seen Jesus at work in their own lives. Often this is because we, by our lives, have not sufficiently shown him to them. God makes himself seen in the faces and actions of men and women transformed by his presence. If Christians, instead of radiating the contagious joy of the Gospel, keep speaking in an outworn intellectualistic and moralistic religious language, people will not be able to see the Good Shepherd. They will not recognize the One who loves each of his sheep, calls them by name, and bears them on his shoulders. They will not see the One whose incredible passion we preach: for it is a consuming passion, a passion for mankind. This divine, merciful and overpowering love is itself the perennial newness of the Gospel. It demands of us, dear brothers, wise and bold decisions, made in the name of the mad love with which Christ has saved us. Jesus does not ask us to make arguments for God, he asks us to show him, in the same way the saints did, not by words but by our lives. He calls us to prayer and poverty, creativity and gratuity. Let us help today’s Europe – faint with a weariness that is Europe’s current malady – to rediscover the ever youthful face of Jesus and the Church. How can we fail to devote ourselves completely to making all people see this unfading beauty?
"Do this in remembrance of me" (1 Cor 11 :24-25).
Twice the Apostle Paul, writing to the community in Corinth, recalls this command of Jesus in his account of the institution of the Eucharist. It is the oldest testimony we have to the words of Christ at the Last Supper.
“Do this”. That is, take bread, give thanks and break it; take the chalice, give thanks, and share it. Jesus gives the command to repeat this action by which he instituted the memorial of his own Pasch, and in so doing gives us his Body and his Blood. This action reaches us today: it is the “doing” of the Eucharist which always has Jesus as its subject, but which is made real through our poor hands anointed by the Holy Spirit.
“Do this”. Jesus on a previous occasion asked his disciples to “do” what was so clear to him, in obedience to the will of the Father. In the Gospel passage that we have just heard, Jesus says to the disciples in front of the tired and hungry crowds: “Give them something to eat yourselves” (Lk 9:13). Indeed, it is Jesus who blesses and breaks the loaves and provides sufficient food to satisfy the whole crowd, but it is the disciples who offer the five loaves and two fish. Jesus wanted it this way: that, instead of sending the crowd away, the disciples would put at his disposal what little they had. And there is another gesture: the pieces of bread, broken by the holy and venerable hands of Our Lord, pass into the poor hands of the disciples, who distribute these to the people. This too is the disciples “doing” with Jesus; with him they are able to “give them something to eat”. Clearly this miracle was not intended merely to satisfy hunger for a day, but rather it signals what Christ wants to accomplish for the salvation of all mankind, giving his own flesh and blood (cf. Jn 6:48-58). And yet this needs always to happen through those two small actions: offering the few loaves and fish which we have; receiving the bread broken by the hands of Jesus and giving it to all.
Breaking: this is the other word explaining the meaning of those words: “Do this in remembrance of me”. Jesus was broken; he is broken for us. And he asks us to give ourselves, to break ourselves, as it were, for others. This “breaking bread” became the icon, the sign for recognizing Christ and Christians. We think of Emmaus: they knew him “in the breaking of the bread” (Lk 24:35). We recall the first community of Jerusalem: “They held steadfastly… to the breaking of the bread” (Acts 2:42). From the outset it is the Eucharist which becomes the centre and pattern of the life of the Church. But we think also of all the saints – famous or anonymous – who have “broken” themselves, their own life, in order to “give something to eat” to their brothers and sisters. How many mothers, how many fathers, together with the slices of bread they provide each day on the tables of their homes, have broken their hearts to let their children grow, and grow well! How many Christians, as responsible citizens, have broken their own lives to defend the dignity of all, especially the poorest, the marginalized and those discriminated! Where do they find the strength to do this? It is in the Eucharist: in the power of the Risen Lord’s love, who today too breaks bread for us and repeats: “Do this in remembrance of me”.
May this action of the Eucharistic procession, which we will carry out shortly, respond to Jesus’ command. An action to commemorate him; an action to give food to the crowds of today; an act to break open our faith and our lives as a sign of Christ’s love for this city and for the whole world.
Church of Santa Maria Consolatrice, Roman Quarter of Casal Bertone
Corpus Christi Year C
Today, God’s word helps us to appreciate more deeply two verbs that are simple, yet essential for daily life: to speak and to give.
To speak. In the first reading, Melchizedek says: “Blessed be Abram by God Most High… and blessed be God Most High” (Gen 14:19-20). For Melchizedek, to speak is to bless. He blesses Abraham, in whom all the families of the earth will be blessed (cf. Gen 12:3; Gal 3:8). Everything begins with blessing: words of goodness create a history of goodness. The same thing happens in the Gospel: before multiplying the loaves, Jesus blesses them: “Taking the five loaves, he looked up to heaven and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples” (Lk 9:16). A blessing turns five loaves into food enough for a great crowd: the blessing releases a cascade of goodness.
Why is it good to bless? Because it turns a word into a gift. When we bless, we are not doing something for ourselves, but for others. Blessing is not about saying nice words or trite phrases. No, it is about speaking goodness, speaking with love. That is what Melchizedek did, when he spontaneously blessed Abram, who had not said or done anything for him. Jesus did the same thing, and he showed what the blessing meant by freely distributing the loaves. How many times too, have we been blessed, in church or in our homes? How many times have we received words of encouragement, or a sign of the cross on our forehead? We were blessed on the day of our baptism, and we are blessed at the end of every Mass. The Eucharist is itself a school of blessing. God blesses us, his beloved children, and thus encourages us to keep going. And we, in turn, bless God in our assemblies (cf. Ps 68:26), rediscovering the joy of praise that liberates and heals the heart. We come to Mass, certain that we will be blessed by the Lord, and we leave in order to bless others in turn, to be channels of goodness in the world.
This is also true for us: it is important for us pastors to keep blessing God’s people. Dear priests, do not be afraid to give a blessing, to bless the People of God. Dear priests, continue to bless: the Lord wants to bless his people; he is happy to make us feel his affection for us. Only as those who are themselves blessed, can we in turn bless others with that same anointing of love. It is sad to think of how easily people today do the opposite: they curse, despise and insult others. In the general frenzy, we lose control and vent our rage on everything and everyone. Sadly, those who shout most and loudest, those angriest, often appeal to others and persuade them. Let us avoid being infected by that arrogance; let us not let ourselves be overcome by bitterness, for we eat the Bread that contains all sweetness within it. God’s people love to praise, not complain; we were created to bless, not grumble. In the presence of the Eucharist, Jesus who becomes bread, this simple bread that contains the entire reality of the Church, let us learn to bless all that we have, to praise God, to bless and not curse all that has led us to this moment, and to speak words of encouragement to others.
The second verb is to give. “Speaking” is thus followed by “giving”. This was the case with Abraham who, after being blessed by Melchizedek, “gave him a tenth of everything” (Gen 14:20). It was the case, too, with Jesus who after reciting the blessing, gave the loaves to be distributed among the crowd. This tells us something very beautiful. Bread is not only something to be consumed; it is a means of sharing. Surprisingly, the account of the multiplication of the loaves does not mention the multiplication itself. On the contrary, the words that stand out are: “break”, “give” and “distribute” (cf. Lk 9:16). In effect, the emphasis is not on the multiplication but the act of sharing. This is important. Jesus does not perform a magic trick; he does not change five loaves into five thousand and then to announce: “There! Distribute them!” No. Jesus first prays, then blesses the five loaves and begins to break them, trusting in the Father. And those five loaves never run out. This is no magic trick; it is an act of trust in God and his providence.
In the world, we are always trying to increase our profits, to raise our income. But why? Is it to give, or to have? To share or to accumulate? The “economy” of the Gospel multiplies through sharing, nourishes through distributing. It does not sate the greed of a few, but gives life to the world (cf. Jn 6:33). The verb Jesus uses is not to have but to give.
He tells his disciples straight out: “You give them something to eat” (Lk 9:13). We can imagine the thoughts that went through their minds: “We don’t have enough bread for ourselves, and now we are supposed to think about others? Why do we have to give them something to eat, if they came to hear our Teacher? If they didn’t bring their own food, let them go back home, it’s their problem; or else give us some money to buy food”. This way of thinking is not wrong, but it isn’t the way Jesus thinks. He will have none of it: “You give them something to eat”. Whatever we have can bear fruit if we give it away – that is what Jesus wants to tell us – and it does not matter whether it is great or small. The Lord does great things with our littleness, as he did with the five loaves. He does not work spectacular miracles or wave a magic wand; he works with simple things. God’s omnipotence is lowly, made up of love alone. And love can accomplish great things with little. The Eucharist teaches us this: for there we find God himself contained in a piece of bread. Simple, essential, bread broken and shared, the Eucharist we receive allows us to see things as God does. It inspires us to give ourselves to others. It is the antidote to the mindset that says: “Sorry, that is not my problem”, or: “I have no time, I can’t help you, it’s none of my business”. Or that looks the other way…
In our city that hungers for love and care, that suffers from decay and neglect, that contains so many elderly people living alone, families in difficulty, young people struggling to earn their bread and to realize their dreams, the Lord says to each one of you: “You yourself give them something to eat”. You may answer: “But I have so little; I am not up to such things”. That is not true; your “little” has great value in the eyes of Jesus, provided that you don’t keep it to yourself, but put it in play. Put yourself in play! You are not alone, for you have the Eucharist, bread for the journey, the bread of Jesus. Tonight too, we will be nourished by his body given up for us. If we receive it into our hearts, this bread will release in us the power of love. We will feel blessed and loved, and we will want to bless and love in turn, beginning here, in our city, in the streets where we will process this evening. The Lord comes to our streets in order to speak a blessing for us and to give us courage. And he asks that we too be blessing and gift for others.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today, in Italy and other countries, we celebrate the solemnity of the most holy body and blood of Christ; or Corpus Christi. The Gospel presents the episode of the miracle of the loaves (cf. Lk 9. 11-17) which takes place on the shore of the lake of Galilee. Jesus is intent on talking to thousands of people, and on carrying out healings. At dusk, the disciples come closer to the Lord and tell him: "dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodgings and food" (v. 12). The disciples were weary. They were indeed in an isolated place, and to buy food people had to walk and go to the villages. Jesus sees all that is happening and replied: "Give them something to eat yourselves" (v. 13). These words cause the disciples to be amazed, and they replied, ' What we have is five loaves and two fish, unless we go ourselves and buy food for all these people ". It almost seems as if they were cross.
Instead, Jesus invites his disciples to be truly converted from the line of reasoning of "everyone for themselves" to that of the sharing, starting with the little that Providence provides for with. And He immediately shows that He has a clear idea of what he wants them to do. He says to them: "have them sit down in groups of about fifty" (v. 14). Then He takes in His hands the five loaves and the two fish, turns to the heavenly Father and says the prayer of blessing. Then, He begins to break the loaves, divide the fish, and gave them to the disciples, who distribute them to the crowd. And that food doesn't run out until everyone has received their fill.
This miracle – a very important one, so much so that it is told by all of the Gospel writers – shows the power of Messiah and at the same time, his compassion, the compassion that Jesus has for people. That prodigious gesture not only remains as one of the great signs of the public life of Jesus, but anticipates what will then, in the end, the memorial of his sacrifice, the Eucharist, the sacrament of his body and blood given for the salvation of the world.
The Eucharist is the synthesis of Jesus entire existence, which was a single act of love for the Father and for His brothers and sisters. There too in the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus took the bread in His hands, offered the prayer of blessing to the Father, broke the bread and gave it to the disciples; and likewise with the cup of wine. But at that moment, on the eve of his passion, he sought to leave in that gesture of the new and eternal covenant, a perpetual memorial of His paschal death and resurrection. The feast of Corpus Christi each year invites us to renew the amazement and joy for this wonderful gift of the Lord, who is the Eucharist. Let us welcome Him with gratitude, not in a passive habitual way. We must not get used to the Eucharist and go to communion by habit. No! Whenever we approach the altar to receive the Eucharist, we must truly renew our "amen" to the body of Christ. When the priest says "the body of Christ", we say "amen": but it's an "amen" from the heart, convinced. It is Jesus who comes to me, it is Jesus who saves me, it is Jesus who comes to give me the strength to live. It is Jesus, Jesus alive. But we must not get used to it: let it be for us like our fist holy communion every time we receive.
One expression of the Eucharistic faith of God's holy people, are the processions with the Blessed Sacrament, which on this solemnity are held everywhere in the Catholic Church. I too this evening in Rome's Casal Bertone, will celebrate the mass, which will be followed by the procession. I invite everyone to participate, even spiritually, via radio and television. May Our Lady help us to follow with faith and love Jesus who we adore in the Eucharist.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon and blessed Sunday!
Today in Italy and in other countries, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is celebrated. Instituted during the Last Supper, the Eucharist was like the destination of a journey along which Jesus had prefigured it through several signs, above all the multiplication of the loaves narrated in the Gospel of today’s Liturgy (cf. Lk. 9:11b-17). Jesus takes care of the huge crowd that had followed him to listen to his word and to be freed from various evils. He blesses five loaves and two fish, breaks them, the disciples distribute them, and “they all ate and were satisfied” (Lk. 9:17), the Gospel says. In the Eucharist, everyone can experience this loving and concrete attention of the Lord. Those who receive the Body and Blood of Christ with faith not only eat, but are satisfied. To eat and to be satisfied: these are two basic necessities that are satisfied in the Eucharist.
To eat. “They all ate”, writes Saint Luke. As evening fell, the disciples council Jesus to dismiss the crowd so they can go in search of food. But the Teacher wants to provide for that too – he also wants to feed those who had listened to him. The miracle of the loaves and fish does not happen in a spectacular way, but almost secretly, like the wedding at Cana – the bread increases as it passes from hand to hand. And as the crowd eats, they realize that Jesus is taking care of everything. This is the Lord present in the Eucharist. He calls us to be citizens of Heaven, but at the same time he takes into account the journey we have to face here on earth. If I have hardly any bread in my sack, He knows and takes care of it himself.
Sometimes there is the risk of confining the Eucharist to a vague, distant dimension, perhaps bright and perfumed with incense, but rather distant from the straits of everyday life. In reality, the Lord takes all our needs to heart, beginning with the most basic. And he wants to give an example to his disciples, saying, “You give them something to eat” (v. 13), to those people whom he had listened to during the day. We can evaluate our Eucharistic adoration when we take care of our neighbour like Jesus does. There is hunger for food around us, but also of companionship; there is hunger for consolation, friendship, good humour; there is hunger for attention, there is hunger to be evangelized. We find this in the Eucharistic Bread – the attention of Christ to our needs and the invitation to do the same toward those who are beside us. We need to eat and feed others.
In addition to eating, however, we cannot forget being satisfied. The crowd is satisfied because of the abundance of food and also because of the joy and amazement of having received it from Jesus! We certainly need to nourish ourselves, but we also need to be satisfied, to know that the nourishment is given to us out of love. In the Body and Blood of Christ, we find his presence, his life given for each of us. He not only gives us help to go forward, but he gives us himself – he makes himself our traveling companion, he enters into our affairs, he visits us when we are lonely, giving us back a sense of enthusiasm. This satisfies us, when the Lord gives meaning to our life, our obscurities, our doubts; he sees the meaning, and this meaning that the Lord gives satisfies us. This gives us that “more” that everyone is looking for – namely, the presence of the Lord! For in the warmth of his presence, our lives change. Without him, everything would truly be grey. Adoring the Body and Blood of Christ, let us ask him with our heart: “Lord, give me that daily bread to go forward, Lord, satisfy me with your presence!”
May the Virgin Mary teach us how to adore Jesus, living in the Eucharist and to share him with our brothers and sisters.
At the beginning of the Lenten journey, the Church makes us reflect on the words of Moses and of Jesus: “You have to choose”. It is thus a reflection on the need we all have, to make choices in life. And Moses is clear: ‘See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil’: choose. Indeed the Lord gave us freedom, the freedom to love, to walk on his streets. We are free and we can choose. However, “it’s not easy to choose”. It’s more comfortable “to live by letting ourselves be carried by the inertia of life, of situations, of habits”. This is why today the Church tells us: ‘You are responsible; you have to choose’”.
Have you chosen? How do you live? What is your lifestyle, your way of living, like? Is it on the side of life or on the side of death?
Naturally the response should be to choose the way of the Lord. ‘I command you to love the Lord’. This is how Moses shows us the path of the Lord: ‘If your heart turns back and if you do not listen and you let yourself be drawn to prostrate yourself before other gods and serve them, you will perish’. Choose between God and the other gods, those who do not have the power to give us anything, only little things that pass.
We always have this habit of going where the people go, somewhat like everyone. But, today the Church is telling us: ‘stop and choose’. It’s good advice. And today it will do us good to stop during the day and think: what is my lifestyle like? Which road am I taking?
After all, in everyday life we tend to take the opposite approach. Many times, we live in a rush, we are on the run, without noticing what the path is like; and we let ourselves be carried along by the needs, by the necessities of the days, but without thinking. And thus came the invitation to stop: “Begin Lent with small questions that will help one to consider: ‘What is my life like?’”. The first thing to ask ourselves is: “who is God for me? Do I choose the Lord? How is my relationship with Jesus?”. And the second: “How is your relationship with your family: with your parents; with your siblings; with your wife; with your husband; with your children?”. In fact, these two series of questions are enough, and we will surely find things that we need to correct.
Why do we hurry so much in life, without knowing which path we are on. Because we want to win, we want to earn, we want to be successful. But Jesus makes us think: “What advantage does a man have who wins the whole world, but loses or destroys himself?”. Indeed, “the wrong road" is that of always seeking success, one’s own riches, without thinking about the Lord, without thinking about family. Returning to the two series of questions on one’s relationship with God and with those who are dear to us, one can win everything, yet become a failure in the end. He has failed. That life is a failure. So are those who seem to have had success, those women and men for whom “they’ve made a monument” or “they’ve dedicated a portrait”, but didn’t “know how to make the right choice between life and death”.
It will do us good to stop for a bit — five, 10 minutes — and ask ourselves the question: what is the speed of my life? Do I reflect on my actions? How is my relationship with God and with my family?”. The Pope indicated that we can find help in “that really beautiful advice of the Psalm: ‘Blessed are they who trust in the Lord’”. And “when the Lord gives us this advice — ‘Stop! Choose today, choose’ — He doesn’t leave us on our own; He is with us and wants to help us. And we, for our part, need “only to trust, to have faith in Him”.
“Blessed are they who trust in the Lord”, be aware that God does not abandon us. Today, at the moment in which we stop to think about these things and to take decisions, to choose something, we know that the Lord is with us, is beside us, to help us. He never lets us go alone. He is always with us. Even in the moment of choosing.
Let us have faith in this Lord, who is with us, and when He tells us: ‘choose between good and evil’ helps us to choose good”. And above all “let us ask Him for the grace to be courageous”, because it takes a bit of courage to stop and ask myself: how do I stand before God, how are my relationships in the family, what do I need to change, what should I choose?
The “compass of a Christian is to follow Christ Crucified”: not a false, “disembodied and abstract” God, but the God who became flesh and brings unto himself “the wounds of our brothers”.
The word, the exhortation of the Church from the very beginning of Lent is ‘repent’, Matthew (4:17): “repent, says the Lord”.
So today the Liturgy of the Word makes us reflect on three realities that lie before us as conditions for this conversion: the reality of man — the reality of life; the reality of God; and the reality of the journey. These are realities of the human experience, all three, but which the Church, and we too, have before us for this conversion.
The first reality, therefore, is “the reality of man: you are faced with a choice”, Deuteronomy (30:15-20) : “See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil”. We men are faced with this reality: either it is good, or it is evil.... But if your heart turns away and if you do not listen and allow yourself to be drawn in to worshipping other gods”, you will walk the path of evil. And this, we perceive in our lives: we can always choose either good or evil; this is the reality of human freedom. God made us free; the choice is ours. But the Lord does not leave us on our own; he teaches us, admonishes us: ‘be careful, there is good and evil’. Worshipping God, fulfilling the commandments is the way of goodness; going the other way, the way of idols, false gods — so many false gods — they make a mess of life. And this is a reality: the reality of man is that we are all faced with good and evil.
Then, there is another reality, the second powerful reality: the reality of God. Yes, God is there, but how is God there? God made himself Christ: this is the reality and it was difficult for the disciples to understand this. Luke (9:22-25): Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised’. Thus God took up all of human reality, minus the sin: there is no God without Christ. A God ‘disembodied’, without Christ, is not a real God”. In fact, the reality of God is God-made-Christ for us, for our salvation, and when we distance ourselves from this, from this reality, and we distance ourselves from the Cross of Christ, from the truth of the Lord’s wounds, we also distance ourselves from God’s love, from his mercy, from salvation and we follow a distant ideological path of God: it is not God who came to us and who came close to save us and who died for us.
This, is the reality of God. God revealed in Christ: there is no God without Christ. I can think of a dialogue by a French writer of the last century, a conversation between an agnostic and a believer. The well-meaning agnostic asked the believer: ‘But how can I ... for me, the question is: how is it that Christ is God? I cannot understand this, how is it that Christ is God?’. And the believer said: ‘For me this is not a problem, the problem would be if God had not made himself Christ’.
Therefore, this is the reality of God: God-made-Christ; God-made-flesh; and this is the foundation of the works of mercy, because the wounds of our brothers are the wounds of Christ; they are the wounds of God, because God made himself Christ. We cannot experience Lent without this second reality: we must convert ourselves not to an abstract God, but to a concrete God who became Christ.
Here, then, is the reality of man: we are faced with good and evil — the reality of God — God-made-Christ — and the third human reality, the reality of the journey. The question to ask then is, “‘how do we go, which road do we take?’”. “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”. Because, the reality of the journey is that of Christ: following Christ, doing the will of the Father, as he did, by taking up the daily crosses and denying ourself in order to follow Christ. This means “not doing what I want, but what Jesus wants: following Jesus”. And Jesus says “that on this path we lose our life so as to regain it afterwards; it is a continuous loss of life, the loss of ‘doing what I want’, the loss of material comforts, of always being on the path of Jesus, who was in service to others, to the adoration of God: that is the just path.
These, are the three realities: the human reality — of man, of life, of man faced with good and evil; the reality of God — God who made himself Christ, and we cannot worship a God who is not Christ, because this is the reality. There is also the reality of the journey — the only sure way is to follow Christ Crucified, the scandal of the Cross. And these three human realities are a Christian’s compass, with these three road signs, which are realities, we will not take the wrong path.
‘Repent,’ says the Lord; that is, take seriously these realities of the human experience: the reality of life, the reality of God and the reality of the journey.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
On this Second Sunday of Lent, the liturgy leads us to contemplate the event of the Transfiguration in which Jesus allows the disciples Peter, James and John a foretaste of the glory of the Resurrection: a glimpse of heaven on earth. Luke the Evangelist (cf. 9:28-36) reveals to us Jesus transfigured on the mountain, which is the place of light, a fascinating symbol of the unique experience reserved to the three disciples. They go up the mountain with the Master, they see him immersed in prayer and, at a certain point, “the appearance of his countenance was altered” (v. 29). Accustomed to seeing him daily in the simple appearance of his humanity, they are astonished as they face that new splendour that also envelops his entire body. And Moses and Elijah appear beside Jesus and speak with Him about his forthcoming “exodus”, that is, of his Paschal death and Resurrection. It is a preview of Easter. Then Peter exclaims: “Master, it is well that we are here” (v. 33). He wished that that moment of grace would never end!
The Transfiguration occurs at a precise moment in Christ’s mission, that is, after he has confided to his disciples that he would have to “suffer many things, [...] be killed, and on the third day be raised” (v. 21). Jesus knows that they do not accept this reality — the reality of the Cross, the reality of Jesus’ death —, and so he wants to prepare them to withstand the scandal of the passion and death on the Cross, so that they may know that this is the way through which the heavenly Father will lead his Son to glory; by raising him from the dead. And this will also be the way for the disciples: no one can reach eternal life if not by following Jesus, carrying their own cross in their earthly life. Each of us has his or her own cross. The Lord reveals to us the end of this journey which is the Resurrection, beauty: by carrying one’s own cross.
Therefore, the Transfiguration of Christ shows us the Christian perspective of suffering. Suffering is not sadomasochism: it is a necessary but transitory passage. The point of arrival to which we are called is luminous like the face of Christ Transfigured: in him is salvation, beatitude, light and the boundless love of God. By revealing his glory in this way, Jesus ensures that the cross, the trials, the difficulties with which we struggle, are resolved and overcome in Easter. Thus this Lent, let us also go up the mountain with Jesus! But in what way? With prayer. Let us climb the mountain with prayer: silent prayer, heartfelt prayer, prayer that always seeks the Lord. Let us pause for some time in reflection, a little each day, let us fix our inner gaze on his countenance and let us allow his light to permeate us and shine in our life.
Indeed, Luke the Evangelist emphasizes the fact that Jesus was transfigured, “as he was praying” (v. 29). He was immersed in an intimate dialogue with the Father in which the Law and the Prophets — Moses and Elijah — also echoed; and as he adhered with his entire being to the Father’s will of salvation, including the Cross, the glory of God flooded him, even shining on the outside. This is how it is, brothers and sisters: prayer in Christ and in the Holy Spirit transforms the person from the inside and can illuminate others and the surrounding world. How often have we found people who illuminate, who exude light from their eyes, who have that luminous gaze! They pray, and prayer does this: it makes us luminous with the light of the Holy Spirit.
Let us joyfully continue our Lenten journey. Let us make room for prayer and for the Word of God which the liturgy abundantly offers us these days. May the Virgin Mary teach us to abide with Christ even when we do not understand or comprehend him because only by abiding with him will we see his glory.
Today’s Gospel of the Transfiguration presents us with four actions of Jesus. We would do well to dwell on them, in order to discover in these gestures clear directions for our own journey as his disciples.
The first verb, the first of these actions of Jesus, is to take with him. Luke tells us that Jesus “took with him Peter, James and John” (9:28). Jesus “takes” the disciples, and he ourselves as well, to be “with him”. Christ loved us, chose us and called us. Everything begins with the mystery of a grace, a choice, an “election”. The first decision was not ours; rather, Jesus called us, apart from any merit on our part. Before becoming men who make their lives a gift, we are persons who received a gift freely given: the free gift of God’s love. Our journey, brothers and sisters, needs to start anew each day from this initial grace. As he did with Peter, James and John, Jesus has called us by name and taken us with him. He took us by the hand. Where? To his holy mountain, where even now he sees us with himself forever, transfigured by his love. Grace, this first grace, leads us there. So, when we feel bitterness or disappointment, when we feel belittled or misunderstood, let us not wander off into complaints or nostalgia for bygone times. These are temptations that block our progress, that lead us nowhere. Instead, let us take our lives into our hands, starting anew with grace, in fidelity to our calling. Let us accept the gift of seeing each day as a step along the way towards our ultimate goal.
Jesus took with him Peter, James and John. The Lord takes the disciples together; he takes them as a community. Our vocation is grounded in communion. To start anew each day, we need to experience once more the mystery of our election and the grace of living in the Church, our hierarchical Mother, and for the Church, our spouse. We belong to Jesus, and we belong to him as a Society. Let us never tire of asking for the strength to form and foster communion, to be a leaven of fraternity for the Church and for the world. We are not soloists in search of an audience, but brothers and sistersbarranged as a choir. Let us think with the Church and reject the temptation to be concerned about our own personal success or attainments. Let us not allow ourselves to be sucked into a clericalism that leads to rigidity or an ideology that leads to divisiveness. The saints we commemorate today were pillars of communion. They remind us that, for all our differences of character and viewpoint, we have been called to be together. If we will be forever united in heaven, why not begin here? Let us cherish the beauty of having been “taken”, brought together, called together, by Jesus. This is the first verb: take.
A second verb is go up. Jesus “went up the mountain” (v. 28). Jesus’ path is one of ascent, not descent. The light of the transfiguration is not seen on the plain, but only after a strenuous ascent. In following Jesus, we too need to leave the plains of mediocrity and the foothills of convenience; we need to abandon our reassuring routines and set out on an exodus. Jesus, after going up the mountain, speaks to Moses and Elijah precisely about the “exodus, which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem” (v. 31). Moses and Elijah had gone up to Sinai or Horeb after two “exodus” experiences in the desert (cf. Ex 19; 1 Kings 19); now they speak with Jesus about the definitive exodus, that of his Pasch. Brothers and sisters, only the ascent of the cross leads to the goal of glory. This is the way: from the cross to glory. The worldly temptation is to seek glory in bypassing the cross. We would prefer paths that are familiar, direct and smooth, but to encounter the light of Jesus we must continually leave ourselves behind and follow him upwards. The Lord who, as we heard, first “brought Abraham outside” (Gen 15:5), also invites us to move outwards and upwards.
For us Jesuits, this journey of moving outwards and upwards follows a specific path, nicely symbolized by the mountain. In Scripture, mountain peaks represent the extremity, the heights, the border between heaven and earth. We are called to go precisely there, to the border between heaven and earth where men and women “confront” God with their difficulties, so that we in turn can accompany them in their restless seeking and their religious doubt. That is where we need to be, and to do so, we have to go outwards and upwards. The enemy of human nature would persuade us to keep to the path of empty but comfortable routines and familiar landscapes, whereas the Spirit impels us to openness and to a peace that never leaves us in peace. He sends disciples to the utmost limits. We need think only of Francis Xavier.
In this journey, in following this path, I think of the need to struggle. Think of poor old Abraham, there with his sacrifice, fighting off the birds of prey that would devour it (cf. Gen 15:7-11). With his staff, he chases them away. Poor old man. Let us think about this: struggling to defend this path, this journey, this, our consecration to the Lord.
In every age, Christ’s disciples find themselves before this crossroads. We can act like Peter, who responds to Jesus’ prediction of his exodus by saying, “It is good to be here” (v. 33). This is the risk of a static faith, a “neatly parked” faith. I dread this kind of “parked” faith. We risk considering ourselves “respectable” disciples, but are not in fact following Jesus; instead, we passively stay put, and, without realizing it, doze off like the disciples in the Gospel. In Gethsemane too, the same disciples would fall asleep. Let us think, brothers and sisters, that for the followers of Jesus, now is not a time for sleeping, for letting our souls be sedated, anesthetized by today’s consumerist and individualistic culture, by the attitude of “life is good as long as it’s good for me”. In that way, we can continue to speak and theorize, while losing sight of the flesh of our brothers and sisters, and the concreteness of the Gospel. One of the great tragedies of our time is the refusal to open our eyes to reality and instead to look the other way. Saint Teresa helps us to move beyond ourselves, to go up the mountain with the Lord, to realize that Jesus also reveals himself through the wounds of our brothers and sisters, the struggles of humanity, and the signs of the times. Do not be afraid to touch those wounds: they are the wounds of the Lord.
The Gospel tells us that Jesus went up the mountain “to pray” (v. 28). This is the third verb: to pray. “And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white” (v. 29). The Transfiguration was born of prayer. Let us ask ourselves, even after many years of ministry, what does it mean today for us, for me, to pray? Perhaps force of habit or a certain daily ritual has led us to think that prayer does not change individuals or history. Yet to pray is to change reality. Prayer is an active mission, a constant intercession. It is not distant from the world, but changes the world. To pray is to bring the beating heart of current affairs into God’s presence, so that his gaze will shine out upon history. What does it mean for us to pray?
We would do well today to ask ourselves if prayer immerses us in this change. Does it shed new light upon others and transfigure their situations? For if prayer is living, it “unhinges” us from within, reignites the fire of mission, rekindles our joy, and continually prompts us to allow ourselves to be troubled by the plea of all those who suffer in our world. Let us also ask: how we are bringing the present war to our prayers? We can look to the prayer of Saint Philip Neri, which expanded his heart and made him open his doors to the street children of the Rome of his time. Or to that of Saint Isidore, who prayed in the fields and brought his farm work to his prayer.
Taking up each day anew our individual calling and our community history; then going up towards the heights that God points out to us; and praying in order to change this world in which we are immersed.
Yet there is also a fourth verb, which appears in the last verse of today’s Gospel: “Jesus remained alone” (v. 36). He remained, while everything else passed away except for the echo of the Father’s “testimony”: “Listen to him” (v. 35). The Gospel concludes by leading us back to what is essential. We are often tempted, in the Church and in the world, in our spirituality and in our society, to give primary importance to many secondary needs. It is a daily temptation to make any number of secondary needs primary. In a word, we risk focusing on customs, habits and traditions that set our hearts on passing things and make us forget what remains. How important it is for us to work on our hearts, so that they can distinguish between the things of God that remain, and worldly things that pass away!
Dear brothers and sisters, may our holy father Ignatius help us to preserve discernment, our precious legacy, as an ever timely treasure to be poured out on the Church and on the world. For discernment enables us to “see anew all things in Christ”. Indeed, discernment is essential, so that, as Saint Peter Faber wrote, “the good that can be achieved, thought or organized, may be done with a good, not a malign, spirit” (cf. Memorial, Paris, 1959, n. 51). Amen.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon
The Gospel of the Liturgy of this second Sunday of Lent narrates the Transfiguration of Jesus (cf. Lk 9: 28-36). While praying on a high mountain, he changes in appearance, his robe becomes bright and radiant, and in the light of his glory Moses and Elijah appear, who speak with him about the Passover that awaits him in Jerusalem, namely, his passion, death and resurrection.
The witnesses to this extraordinary event are the apostles Peter, John and James, who went up the mountain with Jesus. We imagine them with their eyes wide open before that unique spectacle. And, certainly, it must have been so. But the evangelist Luke notes that “Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep”, and that they “kept awake” and say the glory of Jesus (cf. v. 32). The drowsiness of the three disciples appears to be a discordant note. The same apostles then fall asleep in Gethsemane too, during the anguished prayer of Jesus, who had asked them to keep watch (cf. Mk 14:37-41). This somnolence in such important moments is surprising.
However, if we read carefully, we see that Peter, John and James fall asleep before the Transfiguration begins, that is, while Jesus is in prayer. The same will happen in Gethsemane. This is evidently a prayer that continued for some time, in silence and concentration. We may think that at the beginning they too were praying, until tiredness prevailed.
Brothers, sisters, does this this ill-timed slumber perhaps resemble many of our own that come in moments we know to be important? Perhaps in the evening, when we would like to pray, to spend some time with Jesus after a day of rushing around and being busy. Or when it is time to exchange a few words with the family and we no longer have the strength. We would like to be more awake, attentive, participatory, not to miss precious opportunities, but we can’t, or we manage it somehow but poorly.
The strong time of Lent is an opportunity in this regard. It is a period in which God wants to awaken us from our inner lethargy, from this sleepiness that does not let the Spirit express itself. Because – let us bear this in mind – keeping the heart awake does not depend on us alone: it is a grace and must be requested. The three disciples of the Gospel show this: they were good, they had followed Jesus onto the mountain, but by their own strength they could not stay awake. This happens to us too. However, they woke up precisely during the Transfiguration. We might think that it was the light of Jesus that reawakened them. Like them, we too are in need of God’s light, that makes us see things in a different way: it attracts us, it reawakens us, it reignites our desire and strength to pray, to look within ourselves, and to dedicate time to others. We can overcome the tiredness of the body with the strength of the Spirit of God. And when we are unable to overcome this, we must say to the Holy Spirit: “Help us, come, come, Holy Spirit. Help me: I want to encounter Jesus, I want to be attentive, awake”. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring us out of this slumber that prevents us from praying.
In this Lenten time, after the labours of each day, it will do us good not to switch off the light in the room without placing ourselves in the light of God. To pray a little before sleeping. Let’s give the Lord the chance to surprise us and to reawaken our hearts. We can do this, for instance, by opening the Gospel and letting ourselves marvel at the Word of God, because the Scripture enlightens our steps and enflames the heart. Or we can look at the crucified Jesus and wonder at the boundless love of God, who never tires of us and has the power to transfigure our days, to give them a new meaning, a new, unexpected light.
May the Virgin May help us to keep our heart awaken to welcome this time of grace that God offers to us.
Jesus was involved in many activities and everyone marvelled at everything he did. He was the leader at the time. All Judea, Galilee and Samaria were talking about him. And Jesus, perhaps in a moment when the disciples were rejoicing in this, said to them: 'Let these words sink into your minds: the Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men'”.
In a moment of triumph, Jesus announces his Passion. The disciples, however, were so taken by the festive atmosphere that “they did not understand this saying; and it was concealed from them, that they should not perceive it”. They did not ask for explanations. The Gospel says: 'they were afraid to ask him about this saying'”. Better not to talk about it. Better “not to understand the truth”. They were afraid of the Cross.
The truth is that even Jesus was afraid of it. However, he could not deceive himself. He knew. And so great was his fear that on the night of Holy Thursday he sweat blood. He even asked God: 'Father, remove this cup from me'. However, he added: 'Thy will be done'. And this is the difference. The Cross scares us”.
This is what also happens when we commit ourselves to being witnesses of the Gospel and to following Jesus. “We are all content,” but we do not ask any further questions, we do not speak about the Cross. And yet, just as there is a rule which states that “a disciple is not greater than his master” (a rule we respect), so too there is also a rule that states that “there is no redemption without the shedding of blood”. And “there is no fruitful apostolic work without the Cross”. Each one of us, might think: what will happen to me? What will my cross be like? We do not know, but there will be a cross and we need to ask for the grace not to flee when it comes. Of course it scares us, but this is precisely where following Jesus takes us. Jesus' words to Peter at his papal coronation come to mind: “Do you love me? Feed … Do you love me? Tend … Do you love me? Feed … (cf. Jn 21:15-19), and these were among his last words to him: 'They will carry you where you do not wish to go'. He was announcing the Cross”.
This is precisely why the disciples where afraid to ask him. It was his mother who was closest to him at the Cross. Perhaps today, on the day when we pray to her, it would be good to ask her for the grace, not to take away our fear since this must be. Let us ask her for the grace not to run away from the cross. She was there and she knows how to remain close to the Cross.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
This Sunday’s Gospel Reading (Lk 9:51-62) shows a very important step in Christ’s life: the moment when, as St Luke writes: “He [Jesus] set his face to go to Jerusalem” (9:51). Jerusalem is the final destination where Jesus, at his last Passover, must die and rise again and thus bring his mission of salvation to fulfilment.
From that moment, after that “firm decision” Jesus aimed straight for his goal and in addition said clearly to the people he met and who asked to follow him what the conditions were: to have no permanent dwelling place; to know how to be detached from human affections and not to give in to nostalgia for the past.
Jesus, however, also told his disciples to precede him on the way to Jerusalem and to announce his arrival, but not to impose anything: if the disciples did not find a readiness to welcome him, they should go ahead, they should move on. Jesus never imposes, Jesus is humble, Jesus invites. If you want to, come. The humility of Jesus is like this: he is always inviting but never imposing.
All of this gives us food for thought. It tells us, for example, of the importance which the conscience had for Jesus too: listening in his heart to the Father’s voice and following it. Jesus, in his earthly existence, was not, as it were “remote-controlled”: he was the incarnate Word, the Son of God made man, and at a certain point he made the firm decision to go up to Jerusalem for the last time; it was a decision taken in his conscience, but not alone: together with the Father, in full union with him! He decided out of obedience to the Father and in profound and intimate listening to his will. For this reason, moreover, his decision was firm, because it was made together with the Father. In the Father Jesus found the strength and light for his journey. And Jesus was free, he took that decision freely. Jesus wants us to be Christians, freely as he was, with the freedom which comes from this dialogue with the Father, from this dialogue with God. Jesus does not want selfish Christians who follow their own ego, who do not talk to God. Nor does he want weak Christians, Christians who have no will of their own, “remote-controlled” Christians incapable of creativity, who always seek to connect with the will of someone else and are not free. Jesus wants us free. And where is this freedom created? It is created in dialogue with God in the person’s own conscience. If a Christian is unable to speak with God, if he cannot hear God in his own conscience, he is not free, he is not free.
This is why we must learn to listen to our conscience more. But be careful! This does not mean following my own ego, doing what interests me, what suits me, what I like.... It is not this! The conscience is the interior place for listening to the truth, to goodness, for listening to God; it is the inner place of my relationship with him, the One who speaks to my heart and helps me to discern, to understand the way I must take and, once the decision is made, to go forward, to stay faithful.
We have had a marvellous example of what this relationship with God is like, a recent and marvellous example. Pope Benedict XVI gave us this great example when the Lord made him understand, in prayer, what the step was that he had to take. With a great sense of discernment and courage, he followed his conscience, that is, the will of God speaking in his heart. And this example of our Father does such great good to us all, as an example to follow.
Our Lady, in her inmost depths with great simplicity was listening to and meditating on the Word of God and on what was happening to Jesus. She followed her Son with deep conviction and with steadfast hope. May Mary help us to become increasingly men and women of conscience, free in our conscience, because it is in the conscience that dialogue with God takes place; men and women, who can hear God’s voice and follow it with determination, who can listen to God’s voice, and follow it with decision.
Jesus reprimands these two Apostles, James and John, because in a Samaritan village “they wanted fire to come down from heaven upon those who did not want to receive him”. The two apostles, felt that to close the door on Jesus was a great offense, and that these people needed to be punished. But “the Lord turned and rebuked them: this is not our spirit. In fact, The Lord always goes ahead, making the way of a Christian known to us. It is not... a path of revenge. The Christian spirit is something else, the Lord says. It is the spirit that he showed us in the strongest moment of his life, in his passion: a spirit of humility, a spirit of meekness.
And today, on the anniversary of St Therese of the Child Jesus, it is good for us to think of this spirit of humility, tenderness and goodness. We all want this meek spirit of the Lord. Where is the strength that brings us to this spirit? It is truly in love, in charity, in the awareness that we are in the hands of the Father. As we read at the beginning of Mass: the Lord carries us, he carries us on, he keeps us going. He is with us and he guides us.
Pope Francis recalled the strength of St Therese of the Child Jesus and her importance to the present day: “The Church has made this Saint — who was humble, small, confident in God, and meek — the Patroness of the missions. You don't understand this. The power of the Gospel is right there, because the Gospel reaches its highest point in the humiliation of Jesus... the strength of the Gospel is humility. The humility of a child who is guided by the love and tenderness of the Father”.
“The Church, as Benedict XVI has told us, grows by attraction, by witness. And when people, when peoples see this witness of humility, of meekness and docility, they feel the need” which the prophet Zechariah spoke of, saying: 'Let us go with you'. Faced with the witness of charity, people feel this need.... Charity is simple: worshiping God and serving others. This is the witness that makes the Church grow. “Precisely for this reason”, Pope Francis concluded, St Therese of the Child Jesus, who was “so humble and so trusting in God, has been named Patroness of the missions, because her example makes people say: we want to come with you.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
In today's Gospel (cf. Lk 9: -51 - 62), Saint Luke begins the story of Jesus ' last journey to Jerusalem, which will end at chapter 19. It's a long march not only spiritually, theologically and in geographical space, towards the fulfilment of the mission of the Messiah. The decision of Jesus is radical and total, and those who follow him are called to grapple with it. Today the evangelist presents us with the three people – three cases of vocation, we might say – which highlights what is required of those who want to follow Jesus all the way to the end.
The first character promises: "I will follow you wherever you go" (v. 57). Generous! But Jesus replies that the son of man, unlike the foxes that have dens and birds have nests, "has nowhere to lay his head "(v. 58). The absolute poverty of Jesus. Jesus, in fact, left the family home and has renounced all security to proclaim the Kingdom of God to the lost sheep, His people. So Jesus showed us his disciples that our mission in the world cannot be static, but that of travelling form place to place to preach the good news. The Christian is a travelling exhibition. The Church by its nature is in motion, it is not sedentary and quiet in it's own enclosure. Is open to the widest horizons. Sent-the Church is sent! -to bring the Gospel to the streets and reach the human existential suburbs. This is the first person.
The second character that Jesus meets receives the call directly from Him, however replies: "Lord, let me first go and bury my father" (see para. 59). It is a legitimate request, based on the commandment to honour your father and mother (cf. Es 20.12). However, Jesus replies, "let the dead bury their dead" (see para. 60). With these words, deliberately provocative, he intends to assert the primacy of discipleship and the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, even on the most important, such as the family. The urgency to announce the Gospel, that breaks the chain of death and inaugurates eternal life, does not admit delays, but it requires readiness and availability. Therefore, the Church is itinerant, and the Church is decided, it acts quickly, on time, without waiting.
The third character wants to follow Jesus but on one condition: he will do so after going to take leave from his relatives. And the master says : "no one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God" (see para. 62). The following of Jesus excludes regrets and backward looks, it requires the virtue of decision.
The Church, following Jesus, is itinerant, acts immediately, quickly, and is determined. The value of these conditions imposed by Jesus – itinerancy, promptitude and decision – don't come from a number of "no's" to good things and important things in life. Rather, emphasis should be placed on the main goal: to become a disciple of Christ! A free and informed choice, made for love, to respond to the priceless grace of God, and not done as a way to promote oneself. It's sad that! Woe to those who think to follow Jesus is a way to help to promote themselves, i.e. to get ahead, to feel important or acquire a place of prestige. Jesus wants us to be passionate about Him and the Gospel. A passion of the heart which translates into concrete acts of proximity, closeness to the neediest brothers , and gestures of care. Just as He himself lived.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, icon of the Church on the move, help us to follow the Lord Jesus with joy and to announce the good news of salvation to others with renewed love.
In this Tenth World Meeting of Families, it is now the time for thanksgiving. Today we bring before God with gratitude – as if in a great offertory procession – all the fruits that the Holy Spirit has sown in you, dear families. Some of you have taken part in the moments of reflection and sharing here in the Vatican; others have led them and participated in them in the various dioceses, creating a kind of vast “constellation”. I think of the rich variety of experiences, plans and dreams, as well as concerns and uncertainties, which you have shared with one another. Let us now present all of these to the Lord and ask him to sustain you with his strength and love. You are fathers, mothers and children, grandparents, uncles and aunts. You are adults and children, young and old. Each of you brings a different experience of family, but all of you have one hope and prayer: that God will bless and keep your families and all the families of the world.
Saint Paul, in today’s second reading, spoke to us about freedom. Freedom is one of the most cherished ideals and goals of the people of our time. Everyone wants to be free, free of conditioning and limitations, free of every kind of “prison”, cultural, social or economic. Yet, how many people lack the greatest freedom of all, which is interior freedom! The greatest freedom is interior freedom. The Apostle reminds us Christians that interior freedom is above all a gift, when he says: “For freedom Christ has set us free!” (Gal 5:1). Freedom is something we receive. All of us are born with many forms of interior and exterior conditioning, and especially with a tendency to selfishness, to making ourselves the centre of everything and being concerned only with our own interests. This is the slavery from which Christ has set us free. Lest there be any mistake, Saint Paul tells us that the freedom given to us by God is not the false and empty freedom of the world, which in reality is “an opportunity for self-indulgence” (Gal 5:13). No, the freedom that Christ gained at the price of his own blood is completely directed to love, so that – as the Apostle tells us again today – “through love you may become slaves of one another” (ibid.).
All of you married couples, in building your family, made, with the help of Christ’s grace, a courageous decision: not to use freedom for yourselves, but to love the persons that God has put at your side. Instead of living like little islands, you became “slaves of one another”. That is how freedom is exercised in the family. There are no “planets” or “satellites”, each travelling on its own orbit. The family is the place of encounter, of sharing, of going forth from ourselves in order to welcome others and stand beside them. The family is the first place where we learn to love. We must never forget that the family is the first place where we learn to love.
Brothers and sisters, even as we reaffirm this with profound conviction, we also know full well that it is not always the case, for any number of reasons and a variety of situations. And so, in praising the beauty of the family, we also feel compelled, today more than ever, to defend the family. Let us not allow the family to be poisoned by the toxins of selfishness, individualism, today’s culture of indifference and culture of waste, and as a result lose its very DNA, which is the spirit of acceptance and service. The mark of the family is acceptance and the spirit of service within the family.
The relationship between the prophets Elijah and Elisha, as presented in the first reading, reminds us of the relationship between generations, the “passing on of witness” from parents to children. In today’s world, that relationship is not an easy one, and frequently it is a cause for concern. Parents fear that children will not be able to find their way amid the complexity and confusion of our societies, where everything seems chaotic and precarious, and in the end lose their way. This fear makes some parents anxious and others overprotective. At times, it even ends up thwarting the desire to bring new lives into the world.
We do well to reflect on the relationship between Elijah and Elisha. Elijah, at a moment of crisis and fear for the future, receives from God the command to anoint Elisha as his successor. God makes Elijah realize that the world does not end with him, and commands him to pass on his mission to another. That is the meaning of the gesture described in the text: Elijah throws his mantle over the shoulders of Elisha, and from that moment the disciple takes the place of the master, in order to carry on his prophetic ministry in Israel. God thus shows that he has confidence in the young Elisha. The elderly Elijah passes the position, the prophetic vocation to Elisha. He trusts the young person, he trusts in the future. In this gesture, there is hope, and with hope, he passes the baton.
How important it is for parents to reflect on God’s way of acting! God loves young people, but that does not mean that he preserves them from all risk, from every challenge and from all suffering. God is not anxious and overprotective. Think about it: God is not anxious and overprotective; on the contrary, he trusts young people and he calls each of them to scale the heights of life and of mission. We think of the child Samuel, the adolescent David or the young Jeremiah; above all, we think of that young sixteen or seventeen year old girl who conceived Jesus, the Virgin Mary. He trusts a young girl. Dear parents, the word of God shows us the way: not to shield our children from the slightest hardship and suffering, but to try to communicate to them a passion for life, to arouse in them the desire to discover their vocation and embrace the great mission that God has in mind for them. It was precisely that discovery which made Elisha courageous and determined; it made him become an adult. The decision to leave his parents behind and to sacrifice the oxen is a sign that Elisha realized that it was now “up to him”, that it was time to accept God’s call and to carry on the work of his master. This he would do courageously until the very end of his life. Dear parents, if you help your children to discover and to accept their vocation, you will see that they too will be “gripped” by this mission; and they will find the strength they need to confront and overcome the difficulties of life.
I would like to add that, for educators, the best way to help others to follow their vocation is to embrace our own vocation with faithful love. That is what the disciples saw Jesus do. Today’s Gospel shows us an emblematic moment when Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51), knowing well that there he would be condemned and put to death. On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus met with rejection from the inhabitants of Samaria, which aroused the indignant reaction of James and John, but he accepted that rejection, because it was part of his vocation. He met rejection from the very start, first in Nazareth – here we think of that day in the synagogue of Nazareth (cf. Mt 13: 53-58) – now in Samaria, and he was about to be rejected in Jerusalem. Jesus accepted it all, for he came to take upon himself our sins. In a similar way, nothing can be more encouraging for children than to see their parents experiencing marriage and family life as a mission, demonstrating fidelity and patience despite difficulties, moments of sadness and times of trial. What Jesus encountered in Samaria takes place in every Christian vocation, including that of the family. We all know that there are moments when we have to take upon ourselves the resistance, opposition, rejection and misunderstanding born of human hearts and, with the grace of Christ, transform these into acceptance of others and gratuitous love.
Immediately after that episode, which in some way shows us Jesus’ own “vocation”, the Gospel presents three other callings on the way to Jerusalem, represented by three aspiring disciples of Jesus. The first is told not to seek a fixed home, a secure situation, in following Jesus, for the master “has nowhere to place his head” (Lk 9:58). To follow Jesus means to set out on a never-ending “trip” with him through the events of life. How true this is for you married couples! By accepting the call to marriage and family, you too have left the “nest” and set out on a trip, without knowing beforehand where exactly it would lead, and what new situations, unexpected events and surprises, some painful, would eventually lie in store for you. That is what it means to journey with the Lord. It is a lively, unpredictable and marvellous voyage of discovery. Let us remember that every disciple of Jesus finds his or her repose in doing God’s will each day, wherever it may lead.
A second disciple is told not to “go back to bury his dead” (vv. 59-60). This has nothing to do with disobeying the fourth commandment, which remains ever valid and is a commandment that makes us holy. Rather, it is a summons to obey, above all, the first commandment: to love God above all things. The same thing happens with the third disciple, who is called to follow Christ resolutely and with an undivided heart, without “looking back”, not even to say farewell to the members of his family (cf. vv. 61-62).
Dear families, you too have been asked not to have other priorities, not to “look back”, to miss your former life, your former freedom, with its deceptive illusions. Life becomes “fossilized” when it is not open to the newness of God's call and pines for the past. Missing the past and not being open to the newness that God sends always “fossilizes” us; it hardens us and does not make us more human. When Jesus calls, also in the case of marriage and family life, he asks us to keep looking ahead, and he always precedes us on the way. He always precedes us in love and service. And those who follow him will not be disappointed!
Dear brothers and sisters, providentially, the readings of today’s liturgy speak of vocation, which is the theme of this Tenth World Meeting of Families: “Family Love: a Vocation and a Path to Holiness”. Strengthened by those words of life, I encourage you to take up with renewed conviction the journey of family love, sharing with all the members of your families the joy of this calling. It is not an easy journey: there will be dark moments, moments of difficulty in which we will think that it is all over. May the love you share with one another be always open, directed outwards, capable of “touching” the weak and wounded, the frail in body and the frail in spirit, and all whom you meet along the way. For love, including family love, is purified and strengthened whenever it is shared with others.
Betting on family love is courageous: it takes courage to marry. We see many young people who do not have the courage to marry and many times mothers say to me: “Do something, speak to my son, he will not marry, he is thirty-seven years old!” – “But, madam, stop ironing his shirts, start to send him away little by little so that he will leave the nest”. Family love pushes the children to fly; it teaches them to fly and pushes them to do so. It is not possessive: it always about freedom. In the moments of difficulty and crisis – every family has them – please do not take the easy way: “I am going home to mommy”. No, move forward with this courageous bet. There will be difficult moments, there will be tough moments, but always move forward. Your husband, your wife, has that spark of love that you felt in the beginning: release it from within and rediscover love. This will help in moments of crisis.
The Church is with you; indeed, the Church is in you! For the Church was born of a family, the Holy Family of Nazareth, and is made up mostly of families. May the Lord help you each day to persevere in unity, peace, joy, and in moments of difficulty, that faithful perseverance, which makes us live better and shows everyone that God is love and communion of life.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
The Gospel for this Sunday’s Liturgy tells us about a turning point. This is what it says: “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he made a resolute decision to set his face to go to Jerusalem” (cf. Lk 9:51). Thus he begins his “great journey” toward the Holy City which required a special decision because it was his last one. The disciples, filled with enthusiasm because they were still too worldly, dream that the Master is going to meet with triumph. Instead, Jesus knows that rejection and death await him in Jerusalem (cf. Lk 9:22, 43b-45); he knows he will have to suffer a great deal. This is what demands a resolute decision. And so, Jesus goes forward taking decisive steps toward Jerusalem. This is the same decision we must take if we want to be disciples of Jesus. What does this decision consist of? For we must be serious disciples of Jesus, truly decisively, not “rosewater Christians” as an old woman I knew used to say. No, no, no! Decisive Christians. And the episode the Evangelist Luke narrates right after this helps us understand.
They set out on their journey. A village of Samaritans, having learned that Jesus is headed toward Jerusalem – which was the city of their adversaries – does not welcome him. Outraged, the apostles James and John suggest to Jesus that he should punish those people by raining fire from heaven down on them. Not only does Jesus not accept this proposal, he also rebukes the two brothers. They want to involve Jesus in their desire for revenge and he will have none of it (cf. vv. 52-55). The “fire” that Jesus came to bring on the earth is something else (cf. Lk 12:49). It is the merciful Love of the Father. And it takes patience, constancy, and a penitential spirit to make this fire grow.
James and John, instead, allow themselves to be overcome by anger. This happens to us too when, even when we are doing something good, perhaps even with sacrifice, we find a closed door instead of being welcomed. So we get angry. We even try to involve God himself, threatening heavenly punishments. Jesus, instead, takes another route, not the path of anger, but that of a resolute decision to go forward, which, far from translating into harshness, implies calm, patience, longsuffering, not slackening the least bit in doing good. This way of being does not connote weakness, no, but, on the contrary, a tremendous interior strength. It is easy, it is instinctive, to allow ourselves to be overcome by anger when faced with opposition. What is difficult, instead, is to master oneself, doing as Jesus did who, as the Gospel says, “went on to another village” (v. 56). This means that when we meet with opposition, we must turn toward doing good elsewhere, without recrimination. This way, Jesus helps us to be people who are serene, who are happy with the good accomplished, and who do not seek human approval.
Now, we can ask ourselves: what point are we at? What point are we at? In the face of opposition, misunderstanding, do we turn to the Lord? Do we ask him for his steadfastness in doing good? Or do we rather seek confirmation through applause, ending up being bitter and resentful when we do not hear it? Many times, consciously or unconsciously, we seek applause, approval from others, and we do things for applause. No, that does not work. We must do good out of service, not seeking applause. Sometimes we think that our fervour is due to a sense of justice for a good cause. But in reality, most of the time it is nothing other than pride, united with weakness, sensitivity, and impatience. So, let us ask Jesus for the strength of being like him, of following him resolutely down the path of service, not to be vindictive, not to be intolerant when difficulties present themselves, when we spend ourselves in doing good and others do not understand this, or even when they disqualify us. No, silence and go ahead.
May the Virgin Mary help us make the resolute decision Jesus did to remain in love to the end.
The Gospel we have just heard tells us that, as well as the Twelve Apostles, Jesus calls another seventy-two disciples and that he sends them to the villages and cities to announce the Kingdom of God (cf. Lk 10:1-9, 17-20). He comes to bring the love of God to the world and he wishes to share it by means of communion and fraternity. To this end he immediately forms a community of disciples, a missionary community, and he trains them how to “go out” on mission. The method is both clear and simple: the disciples visit homes and their preaching begins with a greeting which is charged with meaning: “Peace be to this house!”. It is not only a greeting, but also a gift: the gift of peace. Being here with you today, dear brothers and sisters of Albania, in this Square dedicated to a humble and great daughter of this land, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, I wish to repeat to you this greeting: May peace be in your homes! May peace reign in your hearts! Peace in your country! Peace!
In the mission of the seventy-two disciples we see a reflection of the Christian community’s missionary experience in every age: the risen and living Lord sends not only the Twelve, but the entire Church; he sends each of the baptized to announce the Gospel to all peoples. Through the ages, the message of peace brought by Jesus’ messengers has not always been accepted; at times, the doors have been closed to them. In the recent past, the doors of your country were also closed, locked by the chains of prohibitions and prescriptions of a system which denied God and impeded religious freedom. Those who were afraid of the truth did everything they could to banish God from the hearts of men and women and to exclude Christ and the Church from the history of your country, even though it was one of the first to receive the light of the Gospel. In the second reading, in fact, we heard a reference being made to Illyria, which in Paul’s time included the territory of modern-day Albania.
Recalling the decades of atrocious suffering and harsh persecutions against Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims, we can say that Albania was a land of martyrs: many bishops, priests, men and women religious, laity, and clerics and ministers of other religions paid for their fidelity with their lives. Demonstrations of great courage and constancy in the profession of the faith are not lacking. How many Christians did not succumb when threatened, but persevered without wavering on the path they had undertaken! I stand spiritually at that wall of the cemetery of Scutari, a symbolic place of the martyrdom of Catholics before the firing squads, and with profound emotion I place the flower of my prayer and of my grateful and undying remembrance. The Lord was close to you, dear brothers and sisters, to sustain you; he led you and consoled you and in the end he has raised you up on eagle’s wings as he did for the ancient people of Israel, as we heard in the First Reading. The eagle, depicted on your nation’s flag, calls to mind hope, and the need to always place your trust in God, who does not lead us astray and who is ever at our side, especially in moments of difficulty.
Today, the doors of Albania have been reopened and a season of new missionary vitality is growing for all of the members of the people of God: each baptized person has his or her role to fulfil in the Church and in society. Each one must experience the call to dedicate themselves generously to the announcing of the Gospel and to the witness of charity; called to strengthen the bonds of solidarity so as to create more just and fraternal living conditions for all. Today, I have come to thank you for your witness and also to encourage you to cultivate hope among yourselves and within your hearts. Never forget the eagle! The eagle does not forget its nest, but flies into the heights. All of you, fly into the heights! Go high! I have also come to involve the young generations; to nourish you assiduously on the Word of God, opening your hearts to Christ, to the Gospel, to an encounter with God, to an encounter with one another, as you are already doing and by which you witness to the whole of Europe.
In the spirit of communion among bishops, priests, consecrated persons and laity, I encourage you to bring vitality to your pastoral activities, which are activities of service, and to continuously seek new ways of making the Church present in society. In particular, I extend an invitation to the young, of whom there were so many along the way from the airport to here. This is a young people, very young! And where there is youth, there is hope. Listen to God, worship him and love one another as a people, as brothers and sisters.
To the Church which is alive in this land of Albania, I say “thank you” for the example of fidelity to the Gospel. Do not forget the nest, your long history, or your trials. Do not forget the wounds, but also do not be vengeful. Go forward to work with hope for a great future. So many of the sons and daughters of Albania have suffered, even to the point of sacrificing their lives. May their witness sustain your steps today and tomorrow as you journey along the way of love, of freedom, of justice and, above all, of peace. Amen
We who are born in a Christian society risk living out our Christianity as “a social habit", in a purely formal manner, with the “hypocrisy of the just,” who are afraid to allow themselves to love. And when Mass is over, we leave Jesus in the Church; He does come with us when we return home, or in our daily lives. Woe to us! When we do this, we cast Jesus from our hearts: “We are Christians, but we live as pagans.
Jesus is saddened at being rejected, Pope Francis explained, while the pagan cities like Tyre and Sidon, seeing His miracles, “surely would have believed.” And He wept, “because these people were not capable of loving,” although “He desired to reach all the hearts He met, with a message that was not a dictatorial message, but a message of love.
We, each of us, can put ourselves in the place of the inhabitants of these three cities, Pope Francis said: “I, who have received so much from the Lord, who was born in a Christian society, who have known Jesus Christ, who have known salvation,” I who was educated in the faith. Yet it is so easy for me to forget Jesus. On the other hand, “we think of the news of other people, who, as soon as they heard the proclamation of Jesus, converted and followed Him.” But we’ve grown used to it.
And this attitude is harmful to us, because it reduces the Gospel to a social or sociological fact, rather than a personal relationship with Jesus. Jesus speaks to me, He speaks to you, He speaks to each one of us. Jesus’ preaching is meant for each one of us. How is it that those pagans, as soon as they heard the preaching of Jesus, went with him; and I who was born here, in a Christian society, have become accustomed to it, and Christianity has become like a social habit, a garment that I put on and then lay aside? And Jesus weeps over each one of us when we live out our Christianity formally, not really.
There is the hypocrisy of sinners, but the hypocrisy of the just is the fear of the love of Jesus, the fear of allowing ourselves to love. And in reality, when we do this, we try to take control of our relationship with Jesus. [We tell Him] “Yes, I go to Mass, but afterwards You stay in the Church while I go home.” And Jesus does not come home with us, does not come into our families, into the education of our children, into our school, into our neighbourhood.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
In the Gospel of this Sunday’s liturgy, we read that “the Lord appointed seventy-two disciples, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come” (Lk 10:1). The disciples were sent two by two, not individually. To go on a mission two by two, from a practical point of view, would seem to bring more disadvantages than advantages. There is the risk that the two do not get along, that they would go at a different pace, that one would get tired or sick along the way, forcing the other to stop. When one is alone, on the other hand, it seems the journey would become swifter and smoother. However, Jesus does not think like this: he does not send people out alone before him, but disciples who go two by two. Let us ask ourselves a question: what is the reason for this choice of the Lord?
It was the task of the disciples to go ahead into the villages to prepare the people to receive Jesus; and the instructions he gives them are not so much about what they should say, but how they should be: that is, not on the “phrasebook” of what they should say, no; on the witness of life, the witness to give rather than the words to say. Indeed, he defines them as workers: they are therefore required to work, to evangelize through their behaviour. And the first practical action with which the disciples carry out their mission is precisely that of going two by two. The disciples are not “free riders”, preachers who do not know how to yield the word to another. It is primarily the very life of the disciples that announces the Gospel: their knowing how to be together, their mutual respect, their not wanting to prove that they are more capable than the other, their concordant reference to the one Master.
Perfect pastoral plans can be drawn up, and well-designed projects implemented, organized down to the last detail; one can summon crowds and have many means; but if there is no willingness to fraternity, the mission cannot advance. Once, a missionary told of how he left for Africa with a confrere. However, after some time he separated from him, stopping in a village where he successfully implemented a series of building projects for the good of the community. Everything was working well. But one day he had a jolt: he realized that his life was that of a good entrepreneur, always in the midst of building sites and paperwork! But… and that “but” remained there. So, he left the management to others, to the laypeople, and joined his confrere. He thus understood why the Lord had sent the disciples “two by two”: the evangelizing mission is not based on personal activism, that is, on “doing”, but on the witness of brotherly love, even amid the difficulties that living together entails.
So, we might wonder: how do we take the good news of the Gospel to others? Do we do so with a fraternal spirit and style, or in the manner of the world, with self-promotion, competitiveness and efficiency. Let us ask ourselves whether we have the capacity to collaborate, whether we know how to take decisions together, sincerely respecting those who are alongside us and taking into account their point of view, whether we do so in community, not by ourselves. Indeed, it is above all in this way that the life of the disciple allows that of the Master to shine through, truly announcing it to others.
May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, teach us how to prepare the way for the Lord with the witness of fraternity.
The day’s liturgy speaks about little things; we could say that today is the day of littleness. The first Reading, taken from the book of the Prophet Isaiah begins with the announcement, "On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him…" The Word of God sings the praises of what is small and makes a promise: the promise of a shoot that will sprout. And what is smaller than a sprout? And yet "the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him".
Redemption, revelation, the presence of God in the world begins like this, and is always like this. The revelation of God is made in smallness. Smallness, both humility and so many other things, but in smallness. The great seem powerful — let us think of Jesus in the desert, and how Satan presents himself as powerful, the master of the whole world: "I will give you everything, if you…" The things of God, on the other hand, begin by sprouting, from a seed, little things. And Jesus speaks about this smallness in the Gospel.
Jesus rejoices and thanks the Father because He has made known His revelation to the little ones, rather than to the powerful. At Christmas, we will all go to the Nativity scene, where the littleness of God is present.
In a Christian community where the faithful, the priests, the bishops do not take this path of smallness, there is no future, it will collapse. We have seen it in the great projects of history: Christians who seek to impose themselves, with force, with greatness, the conquests… But the Kingdom of God sprouts in the small thing, always in what is small, the small seed, the seed of life. But the seed by itself can do nothing. And there is another reality that helps and that gives strength: "On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him."
The Spirit chooses the small always, because He cannot enter into the great, the proud, the self-sufficient. The Lord reveals Himself to hearts that are small.
Those who study religion, theologians, are not those who know so much about theology, they could be called "encyclopaedists" of theology. They know everything, but they are incapable of doing theology because theology is done ‘on one’s knees’, making ourselves small.
The true pastor, whether he be a priest, bishop, pope, cardinal, whoever he might be, if he is not small, he is not a pastor. Rather he is an office manager. And that applies to everyone from those who have a function that seems more important in the Church, to the poor old woman who does works of charity in secret.
Smallness might lead to faintheartedness – that is, being closed in oneself – or to fear. On the contrary, littleness is great, it is the ability to take risks, because there is nothing to lose. It is smallness that leads to magnanimity, because it allows us to go beyond ourselves, knowing that God is the reason for greatness.
St Thomas Aquinas in the Summa says, "Don’t be afraid of great things". The Saint of today, St Francis Xavier, shows us the same thing; "Don’t be afraid, go forward; but at the same time, take into account the smallest things, this is divine". A Christian always starts from smallness. If in my prayer I feel that I am small, with my limits, my sins, like that publican who prayed at the back of the Church, ashamed, saying "Have mercy on me, a sinner", you will go forward. But if you believe that you are a good Christian, you will pray like that Pharisee who did not go forth justified: "I give you thanks, O God, because I am great". No, we thank God because we are small.
I like to hear confessions, especially those of children. Their confessions, are very beautiful, because they talk about concrete facts: "I said this word", for example and he repeats it to you. The concreteness of what is small. "Lord I am a sinner because I have done this, this, this, this… This is my misery, my smallness. But send your Spirit so that I might not be afraid of great things, not be afraid that you will do great things in my life."
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today’s liturgy presents us with the parable of the “Good Samaritan”, taken from the Gospel of Luke (10:25-37). This passage, this simple and inspiring story, indicates a way of life, which has as its main point not ourselves, but others, with their difficulties, whom we encounter on our journey and who challenge us. Others challenge us. And when others do not challenge us, something is not right; something in the heart is not Christian. Jesus uses this parable in his dialogue with a lawyer when asked about the twofold commandment that allows us to enter into eternal life: to love God with your whole heart and your neighbour as yourself (cf. vv. 25-28). “Yes”, the lawyer replies, “but, tell me, who is my neighbour?” (v. 29). We too can ask ourselves this question: Who is my neighbour? Who must I love as myself? My parents? My friends? My fellow countrymen? Those who belong to my religion?... Who is my neighbour?
Jesus responds with this parable. A man, along the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, was attacked, beaten and abandoned by robbers. Along that road, a priest passed by, then a Levite, and upon seeing this wounded man, they did not stop, but walked straight past him (vv. 31-32). Then a Samaritan came by, that is, a resident of Samaria, a man who was therefore despised by the Jews because he did not practise the true religion; and yet he, upon seeing that poor wretched man, “had compassion. He went to him, bandaged his wounds [...], brought him to an inn and took care of him” (vv. 33-34); and the next day he entrusted him to the care of the innkeeper, paid for him and said that he would pay for any further costs (cf. v. 35).
At this point, Jesus turns to the lawyer and asks him: “Which of these three — the priest, the Levite, or the Samaritan — do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell victim to the robbers?”. And the lawyer, of course — because he was intelligent —, said in reply: “The one who had compassion on him” (vv. 36-37). In this way, Jesus completely overturned the lawyer’s initial perspective — as well as our own! —: I must not categorize others in order to decide who is my neighbour and who is not. It is up to me whether to be a neighbour or not — the decision is mine — it is up to me whether or not to be a neighbour to those whom I encounter who need help, even if they are strangers or perhaps hostile. And Jesus concludes, saying: “Go and do likewise” (v. 37). What a great lesson! And he repeats it to each of us: “Go and do likewise”, be a neighbour to the brother or sister whom you see in trouble. “Go and do likewise”. Do good works, don’t just say words that are gone with the wind. A song comes to mind: “Words, words, words”. No. Works, works. And through the good works that we carry out with love and joy towards others, our faith emerges and bears fruit. Let us ask ourselves — each of us responding in his own heart — let us ask ourselves: Is our faith fruitful? Does our faith produce good works? Or is it sterile instead, and therefore more dead than alive? Do I act as a neighbour or simply pass by? Am I one of those who selects people according to my own liking? It is good to ask ourselves these questions, and to ask them often, because in the end we will be judged on the works of mercy. The Lord will say to us: Do you remember that time on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho? That man who was half dead was me. Do you remember? That hungry child was me. Do you remember? That immigrant who many wanted to drive away, that was me. That grandparent who was alone, abandoned in nursing homes, that was me. That sick man, alone in the hospital, who no one visited, that was me.
May the Virgin Mary help us to walk along the path of love, love that is generous towards others, the way of the Good Samaritan. My she help us to live the first commandment that Christ left us. This is the way to enter into eternal life.
"Who is my neighbour ?"
The brigands who "beat the man", leaving him half dead "; the priest who when he saw the wounded man "passed by", without taking into account his mission, thinking only of the imminent "hour of Mass". So did the Levite, "a cultured man of the Law". Dwell on “passing by", a concept which must enter our hearts today. It is that of two "officials" who, consistent with being who they are, said: "it is not for me" to help the injured person. On the contrary, those who "do not pass by" are the Samaritan, "who was a sinner, one excommunicated by the people of Israel": the "greatest sinner. He had compassion. Perhaps he was a merchant who was traveling for business, too.
He did not look at his watch, did not think about blood. He came close to him - he got off his donkey - he tied his wounds, pouring oil and wine. He got his hands dirty, got his clothes dirty. Then he loaded him on his mount, took him to a hotel, all dirty ... blood ... And so he had to get there. And he took care of him. He did not say: "But, I’ll leave him here, call the doctors who’ll come. I'm leaving, I've done my part. " No. He took care, saying: "Now you are mine, not for a possession, but to serve you". He was not an official, he was a man with a heart, a man with an open heart.
The innkeeper was stunned to see a foreigner, a pagan - so we say - because he was not of the people of Israel who stopped to rescue the man, paying two denari and promising to pay any expenses on his return. The innkeeper does not doubt that he will receive what is owed, adds, it is the reaction of one who lives a testimony, one open to the surprises of God, just like the Samaritan.
Both were not officials. "Are you a Christian? Are you Christian? ". "Yes, yes, yes, I go on Sundays to Mass and I try to do the right thing ... less talk, because I always like to talk, but the rest I do well". Are you open? Are you open to God's surprises or are you a Christian official, closed? "I do this, I go to Mass on Sunday, Communion, Confession once a year, this, this ... I am up standing". These are the Christian officials, those who are not open to the surprises of God, those who know so much about God but do not meet God. Those who never enter into amazement before a testimony. On the contrary: they are incapable of giving witness.
I therefore, urge everyone, "laymen and pastors", to ask ourselves if we are Christians open to what the Lord gives us every day, to the surprises of God that often, like this Samaritan, makes things difficult for us, or are we a Christian official, doing what we have to, feeling that we abide by "the rules" and then being constrained by the same rules. Some ancient theologians, said that in this passage "the whole Gospel" is contained.
Each of us is the man there, wounded, and the Samaritan is Jesus. And he healed our wounds. He drew near to us. He took care of us. He paid for us. And he said to his Church: "But if you need more, you pay, I will come back and I will pay". Think about this: in this passage there is the whole Gospel.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today's Gospel recounts the famous parable of the good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10: 25-37 ). Asked by a scholar of the law about what to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus invites him to find the answer in the Scriptures which say: "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind , and your neighbour as yourself "(v. 27). However, there were different interpretations about who was understood to be our neighbour. In fact that the man continues by asking: "and who is my neighbour?" (v. 29). At this point, Jesus answers with the parable, this beautiful parable: I invite all of you to pick up the Gospel today, the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 10, verse 25. It is one of the most beautiful Gospel parables. And this parable has become a paradigm of Christian life. It has become the model of how a Christian should act. Thanks to the evangelist Luke, we have this treasure.
The protagonist of the short story is a Samaritan, who comes across a man along his path who has been striped and beaten by robbers and takes care of him. We know that the Jews treated the Samaritans with contempt, considering them strangers to the chosen people. So It is no coincidence that Jesus chooses a Samaritan as a positive character in the parable. In this way he wants to overcome prejudice, and show that even a foreigner, even one who does not know the true God and does not attend His temple, is capable of behaving according to His will, feeling compassion for his brother in need and helping him with all means at its disposal.
Before the Samaritan on that same road, a priest and a Levite had come across the man. They were people dedicated to the worship of God. However, seeing the poor man on the ground, they went ahead without stopping, probably so as not to contaminate themselves with his blood. They had given precedence to a human rule – not to become contaminated by human blood – to the law God's great commandment that wants mercy above all.
Jesus, therefore, holds up the Samaritan as a model, a person who did not have faith! Many times we look at other people that we might know, we might label them as agnostic, yet they do good. Jesus choses as a model someone who is not a man of faith. And this man, by loving his brother as himself, shows that he loves God with all his heart and with all his strength – a God that he did not know! – and at the same time expresses true religiosity and full humanity.
After telling this beautiful parable, Jesus turns back to the scholar of the law who had asked him "who is my neighbour?", and says to him: "which one of these three was neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?» (v. 36). In this way He reverses the question of his interlocutor, and also our own logic. He helps us understand that it is not us on the basis of our criteria who defines who is neighbour and who is not, but rather the person in need who must be able to recognize who is his neighbour, that is, "the one who treated him with mercy" (v. 37). Being able to have compassion: this is key. This is our key. If you face a person in need and do not feel compassion, if your heart is not moved, it means that something is wrong. Be careful, be careful. Do not allow ourselves to be overcome by selfish insensitivity. The capacity of mercy has become the rock of a Christian, or rather of Jesus ' teaching. Jesus himself is the Father's compassion and mercy toward us. If you go down the street and see a homeless man lying there and walk without looking at him or think, "He is drunk, he is this way because he drinks ". We need to ask ourselves not is the person drunk, but ask yourself if your heart is hard, if your heart has become like ice. This conclusion of Jesus tells us that mercy towards a human life in need is the true face of love. That's how you become true disciples of Jesus and reveals the face of the Father's: "be merciful, as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6.36). And God, our father, is merciful, because he has compassion; He is capable of having this compassion, of drawing near to us, to our sorrow, to our sin, to our defects and also to our miseries.
May the Virgin Mary help us to understand and above all to increasingly live that inseparable bond that exists between our love for God and a concrete and generous love for our brothers and sisters, and may she give us the grace to have compassion and to grow in compassion.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
The Gospel of today’s Liturgy recounts the parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10:25-37) – we all know it. In the backdrop is the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Jericho along which lies a man who had been beaten badly and robbed by brigands. A priest passing by sees him but does not stop; he keeps on going. A Levite, someone who performed services in the temple, does the same thing. “But a Samaritan”, the Gospel says, “as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion” (v. 33). Let us not forget this word – “he had compassion on him”. This is what God feels every time he sees we are having a problem, we have sinned, we are experiencing misery. “He had compassion on him”. The Evangelist makes it a point to specify that this Samaritan was on a journey. So, even though he had his own plans and was heading toward a distant destination, that Samaritan does not come up with an excuse but allows himself to get involved, he allows himself to get involved with what had happened along the road. Let us think about this: isn’t the Lord teaching us to do just that? To look off into the distance, to our final destination, while paying close attention to the steps to take here and now in order to get there.
It is significant that the first Christians were called “disciples of the Way” (cf. Acts 9:2). In fact, the believer strongly resembles the Samaritan – like him, the believer is on a journey, is a wayfarer. The believer knows they have not “arrived”, but wants to learn each day, following the Lord Jesus who said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6), “I am the way”. The disciple of Christ walks along following Him and thus becomes a “disciple of the Way”. He or she goes behind the Lord, is not sedentary, no, but is always on the way. Along the way, he or she meets people, heals the sick, visits villages and cities. This is what the Lord did, he was always on the move.
The “disciple of the Way”, that is, we Christians, observes, therefore, that his or her way of thinking and of acting gradually changes, becoming more and more conformed to that of the Master. Walking in the footsteps of Christ, the disciple becomes a wayfarer and – like the Samaritan – learns to see and to have compassion. He sees and has compassion on him. First of all, to see: their eyes are open to reality, not egoistically closed in on the circle of their own thoughts. Instead, the priest and the Levite see the unfortunate man, but they pass by as if they do not see him, they look the other way. The Gospel teaches us to see – it leads each of us to correctly understand reality, overcoming preconceptions and dogmatism each day. So many believers take refuge behind dogmatisms to defend themselves from reality. Then, it teaches us to follow Jesus, because following Jesus teaches us to have compassion – to see and to have compassion – to become aware of others, especially those who suffer, those who are in need, and to intervene like the Samaritan, not to pass by but to stop.
Faced with this Gospel parable, it can happen that we might blame others or blame ourselves, pointing fingers towards others, comparing them to the priest or the Levite – “That person, that person goes on, that one doesn’t stop…” – or even to blame ourselves, counting our own failures to pay attention to our neighbours. But I would like to suggest another type of exercise to you all, not one that finds fault, no. Certainly, we must recognize when we have been indifferent and have justified ourselves. But let us not stop there. We must acknowledge this, it is a mistake. But let us ask the Lord to help us overcome our selfish indifference and put ourselves on the Way. Let us ask him to see and to have compassion, this is a grace. We need to ask the Lord, “Lord, that I might see, that I might have compassions just like you see me and have compassion on me”. This is the prayer that I suggest to you today. “Lord, that I might see and have compassion just like you see me and have compassion on me” – that we might have compassion on those whom we encounter along the way, above all on those who suffer and are in need, to draw near to them and do what we can do to give them a hand. Many times, when I am with some Christian who comes to speak about spiritual things, I ask if they give alms. “Yes”, the person says to me.
“So, tell me, do you touch the hand of the person you gave the money to?”
“No, no, I throw it there.”
“And do you look into the eyes of that person?”
“No, it doesn’t cross my mind.”
If you give alms without touching the reality, without looking into the eyes of the person in need, those alms are for you, not for that person. Think about this. Do I touch misery, even the misery that I am helping? Do I look into the eyes of the people who suffer, of the people that I help? I leave you with this thought – to see and to have compassion.
May the Virgin Mary accompany us on this journey of growth. May she, who “shows us the Way”, that is Jesus, help us also to more and more become “disciples of the Way”.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
This Sunday we continue reading the 10 chapters of the Evangelist Luke. The passage today is that on Martha and Mary. Who are these two women? Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus, are the relatives and faithful disciples of the Lord, who lived in Bethany. St Luke describes them in this way: Mary, at the feet of Jesus, “listened to his teaching”, while Martha was burdened with much serving (cf. Lk 10:39-40). Both welcome the Lord on his brief visit, but they do so differently. Mary sets herself at the feet of Jesus to listen but Martha lets herself become absorbed in preparing everything, and so much so that she says to Jesus: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me” (v. 40). And Jesus answers scolding her sweetly: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing” (v. 41).
What does Jesus mean? What is this one thing that we need? First of all, it is important to understand that this is not about two contradictory attitudes: listening to the word of the Lord, contemplation, and practical service to our neighbour. These are not two attitudes opposed to one another, but, on the contrary, they are two essential aspects in our Christian life; aspects that can never be separated, but are lived out in profound unity and harmony. Why then was Martha scolded, even if kindly, by Jesus? Because she considered only what she was doing to be essential; she was too absorbed and worried by the things “to do”. For a Christian, works of service and charity are never detached from the principle of all our action: that is, listening to the Word of the Lord, to be — like Mary — at the feet of Jesus, with the attitude of a disciple. And that is why Martha was scolded.
In our Christian life too, dear brothers and sisters, may prayer and action always be deeply united. A prayer that does not lead you to practical action for your brother — the poor, the sick, those in need of help, a brother in difficulty — is a sterile and incomplete prayer. But, in the same way, when ecclesial service is attentive only to doing, things gain in importance, functions, structures, and we forget the centrality of Christ. When time is not set aside for dialogue with him in prayer, we risk serving ourselves and not God present in our needy brother and sister. St Benedict sums up the kind of life that indicated for his monks in two words: ora et labora, pray and work. It is from contemplation, from a strong friendship with the Lord that the capacity is born in us to live and to bring the love of God, his mercy, his tenderness, to others. And also our work with brothers in need, our charitable works of mercy, lead us to the Lord, because it is in the needy brother and sister that we see the Lord himself.
Let us ask the Virgin Mary, the Mother of listening and of service, to teach us to meditate in our hearts on the Word of her Son, to pray faithfully, to be ever more attentive in practical ways to the needs of our brothers and sisters.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In today’s Gospel the Evangelist Luke writes about Jesus who, on the way to Jerusalem, enters a village and is welcomed into the home of two sisters: Martha and Mary (cf. Lk 10:38-42). Both welcome the Lord, but they do so in different ways. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and listens to his words (cf. v. 39), whereas Martha is completely caught up in preparing things; at a certain point she says to Jesus: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me” (v. 40). Jesus responds to her: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her” (vv. 41-42).
In bustling about and busying herself, Martha risks forgetting — and this is the problem — the most important thing, which is the presence of the guest, Jesus in this case. She forgets about the presence of the guest. A guest is not merely to be served, fed, looked after in every way. Most importantly he ought to be listened to. Remember this word: Listen! A guest should be welcomed as a person, with a story, his heart rich with feelings and thoughts, so that he may truly feel like he is among family. If you welcome a guest into your home but continue doing other things, letting him just sit there, both of you in silence, it is as if he were of stone: a guest of stone. No. A guest is to be listened to. Of course, Jesus’ response to Martha — when he tells her that there is only one thing that needs to be done — finds its full significance in reference to listening to the very word of Jesus, that word which illuminates and supports all that we are and what we do. If we go to pray, for example, before the Crucifix, and we talk, talk, talk, and then we leave, we do not listen to Jesus. We do not allow him to speak to our heart. Listen: this is the key word. Do not forget! And we must not forget that in the house of Martha and Mary, Jesus, before being Lord and Master, is a pilgrim and guest. Thus, his response has this significance first and foremost: “Martha, Martha why do you busy yourself doing so much for this guest even to the point of forgetting about his presence? — A guest of stone! — Not much is necessary to welcome him; indeed, only one thing is needed: listen to him — this is the word: listen to him — be brotherly to him, let him realize he is among family and not in a temporary shelter.
Understood in this light, hospitality, which is one of the works of mercy, is revealed as a truly human and Christian virtue, a virtue which in today’s world is at risk of being overlooked. In fact, nursing homes and hospices are multiplying, but true hospitality is not always practised in these environments. Various institutions are opened to care for many types of disease, of loneliness, of marginalization, but opportunities are decreasing for those who are foreign, marginalized, excluded, from finding someone ready to listen to them: because they are foreigners, refugees, migrants. Listen to that painful story. Even in one’s own home, among one’s own family members, it might be easier to find services and care of various kinds rather than listening and welcome. Today we are so taken, by excitement, by countless problems — some of which are not important — that we lack the capacity to listen. We are constantly busy and thus we have no time to listen. I would like to ask you, to pose a question to you, each one answer in your own heart: do you, husband, take time to listen to your wife? And do you, woman, take time to listen to your husband? Do you, parents, take time, time to “waste”, to listen to your children? or your grandparents, the elderly? — “But grandparents always say the same things, they are boring...” — But they need to be listened to! Listen. I ask that you learn to listen and to devote more of your time. The root of peace lies in the capacity to listen.
May the Virgin Mary, Mother of listening and of service and of attentive care, teach us to be welcoming and hospitable to our brothers and our sisters.
There are so many Christians, yes, they go to Mass on Sundays, but they are always busy. They have no time for their children, they don’t play with their children. This is bad. “I have so much to do, I’m so busy…” [they say]. And in the end they become worshippers of that religion which is busy-ness: they belong to the group of the busy, who are always doing things… But pause, gaze upon the Lord, take the Gospel, listen to the Word of the Lord, open your heart… No: always the language of the hands, always. And they do good, but not Christian good: a human good. These people lack contemplation. Martha lacked that. [She was] courageous, always going forward, taking things in hand, but lacking peace: losing time gazing upon the Lord.
On the other hand, Mary doesn’t sit around “doing-nothing.” She “gazed upon the Lord because the Lord had touched her heart; and it is from there, from that inspiration of the Lord, that there came the work that she had to undertake later.” This is the rule of St Benedict, “Ora et labora,” “pray and work,” which monks and nuns incarnate in the cloister, who certainly don’t spend the whole day gazing at the heavens. They pray and work.” And this was especially what St Paul incarnated, as he wrote in the day’s first Reading: “When God chose him,” the Pope said, “he didn’t go off to preach” immediately, but instead “went off to pray,” “to contemplate the mystery of Jesus Christ who was revealed”:
Everything Paul did, he did with this spirit of contemplation, of gazing upon the Lord. It was the Lord who spoke from his heart, because Paul was in love with the Lord. And this is the key for not going astray: “being in love.” In order to know which side we are on, or whether we are exaggerating because we are getting into an overly abstract, even gnostic, contemplation; or whether we are too busy; we must ask ourselves the question: “Am I in love with the Lord? Am I certain, certain that He has chosen me? Or do I live my Christianity like this, doing things… Yes, I do this, I do that; But what does my heart do? Does it contemplate?
The Pope said it is like a husband returning home from work, and finding his wife waiting to greet him: A wife that is truly in love does not make him comfortable, and then return to her chores; she “takes the time to be with him.” We too take time for the Lord in our service to others:
Contemplation and service: this is the path of our life. Each one of us can think to ourselves, “How much time each day do I give to contemplating the mystery of Jesus?” And then, “How do I work? Do I work so much that there seems to be an alienation? Or is my work consistent with my faith, work as a service that comes from the Gospel?” We would do well to consider this.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
In this Sunday's Gospel passage, Luke the evangelist tells us of Jesus's visit to the house of Martha and Mary, the Sisters of Lazarus (cf. Lk 10: 38-42). They welcome Him, and Mary sits at His feet to listen to Him; she leaves what she was doing to be close to Jesus: she does not want to miss any of His words. As it was for Mary it can be said for each of us. There should be no occupation or concern that can keep us away from the divine master. Everything should always be put aside because, when He comes to visit us in our lives, His presence and His word come before everything else. The Lord always surprises us: when we really listen to Him, the clouds vanish, doubts give way to truth, fears to serenity, and the numerous situations of life find their rightful place. The Lord always, fixes things as well. Even for us.
In this scene of Mary of Bethany at the feet of Jesus, St. Luke shows the prayerful attitude of the believer, who knows how to be in the presence of the Master in order to listen to Him and to be in harmony with Him. It is a matter of taking a break during the day, of gathering together in silence for a few minutes to make room for the Lord who passes and of finding the courage to remain a little on the side lines with Him in order to then return, with more serenity and effectiveness to the aspects of everyday life. Praising the behaviour of Mary, who has chosen the better part (v. 42), Jesus seems to repeat to each of us: "do not be carried away by things to do but listen to the voice of the Lord, to carry out well the tasks that life gives you."
Then there is the other sister, Martha. Saint Luke says that she was the one who welcomed Jesus (cf. v. 38). Perhaps Martha was the older of the two sisters, we don't know, but certainly this woman had the charism of hospitality. In fact, while Mary is listening to Jesus, she's taken with many services. Therefore, Jesus says to her, "Martha, Martha, you anxious and worried about many things" (v. 41). With these words He certainly doesn't intend to condemn the attitude of service, but rather the anxiety with which it is sometimes experienced. We also share Saint Martha's concern and, following her example, we propose to make sure that in our families and in our communities, there is a sense of welcome, of fraternity, so that everyone can feel at home, especially the little ones and the poor and those who knock on our door.
Therefore, today's Gospel reminds us that the wisdom of the heart lies precisely in knowing how to combine these two elements: contemplation and action. Martha and Mary show us the way. If we want to savour life with joy, we must associate these two attitudes: on the one hand, to stand at the feet of Jesus, to listen to Him as He reveals to us the secret of everything; on the other, to be attentive and ready in hospitality, when He passes by and knocks on our door, with the face of a friend who needs a moment of refreshment and fraternity. It wants our hospitality.
May Mary most Holy, Mother of the Church, give us the grace to love and serve God and our brothers and sisters with the hands of Martha and the heart of Mary, so that by always listening to Christ can we be artisans of peace and hope. And this is interesting: with these two attitudes we can become artisans of peace and hope.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
The Gospel of this Sunday’s Liturgy presents us with a lively domestic scene with Martha and Mary, two sisters who extend their hospitality to Jesus in their home (cf. Lk 10:38-42). Martha immediately sets about welcoming the guests, whereas Mary sits at Jesus’ feet to listen to him. Then Martha turns to the Master and asks him to tell Mary to help her. Martha’s complaint does not seem out of place; indeed, we would tend to agree with her. Yet Jesus answers her: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, but few things are needed. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (Lk 10:41-42). This is a surprising answer. But Jesus overturns our way of thinking many times. So, let us ask ourselves why the Lord, while appreciating Martha’s generous care, says that Mary's behaviour is to be preferred.
Martha’s “philosophy” seems to be this: first duty, then pleasure. In effect, hospitality is not composed of fine words, but demands that you put your hand to the stove, that everything necessary is done so the guest feels welcome. Jesus is well aware of this. And indeed, he acknowledges Martha’s effort. However, he wants to make her understand that there is a new order of priorities, different from the one she had followed until then. Mary had intuited that there is a “better part” that must be accorded first place. Everything else comes after, like a stream flowing from the source. And so we wonder: what is this “better part”? It is listening to Jesus’ words. The Gospel says Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to what he was saying” (v. 39). Note: she did not listen while standing, doing other things, but she sat at Jesus’ feet. She understood that he is not like other guests. At first sight it seems that he has come to receive, because he needs food and lodging, but in reality, the Master came to give himself to us through his word.
The word of Jesus is not abstract; it is a teaching that touches and shapes our life, changes it, frees it from the opaqueness of evil, satisfies and infuses it with a joy that does not pass: Jesus’ word is the better part, that Mary had chosen. Therefore, she gives it first place: she stops and listens. The rest will come after. This does not detract from the value of practical effort, but it must not precede, but rather flow from listening to the word of Jesus. It must be enlivened by his Spirit. Otherwise, it is reduced to fussing and fretting over many things, it is reduced to sterile activism.
Brothers and sisters, let us take advantage of this summer vacation time to stop and listen to Jesus. Nowadays it is increasingly difficult to find free time to meditate. For many people the rhythm of life is frenetic and wearisome. Summertime can be valuable also for opening the Gospel and reading it slowly, without haste, a passage each day, a short passage from the Gospel. And this lets us enter into this dynamic of Jesus. Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by those pages, asking ourselves how our life, my life, is going, if it is in line with what Jesus says, or not so much. In particular, let us ask ourselves: When I start my day, do I throw myself headlong into the things to be done, or do I first seek inspiration in the Word of God? At times we begin the day automatically, we start doing things … like hens. No, We must start the day by first of all looking to the Lord, taking his Word, briefly, but let this be the inspiration for the day. If we leave the house in the morning keeping a word of Jesus in mind, the day will surely acquire a tone marked by that word, which has the power to orient our actions according to the wishes of the Lord.
May the Virgin Mary teach us to choose the better part, which will never be taken from us.