Books of the Bible Index of Homilies
Matthew Mark Luke John The Acts Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians 1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 Timothy Titus Philemon Hebrews James 1 Peter 2 Peter 1 John 2 John 3 John Jude Revelation Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy Joshua Judges Ruth 1 Samuel 2 Samuel 1 Kings 2 Kings 1 Chronicles 2 Chronicles Ezra Nehemiah Tobit Judith Esther 1 Maccabees 2 Maccabees Job Psalms Proverbs Ecclesiastes The Song of Songs The Book of Wisdom Sirach Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations Baruch Ezekiel Daniel Hosea Joel Amos Obadiah Jonah Micah Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah Haggai Zechariah Malachi
Today’s first reading speaks to us of the people’s journey through the desert. We can imagine them as they walked, led by Moses; they were families: fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, grandparents, men and women of all ages, accompanied by many children and the elderly who struggled to make the journey. This people reminds us of the Church as she makes her way across the desert of the contemporary world, reminds us of the People of God composed, for the most part, of families.
This makes us think of families, our families, walking along the paths of life with all their day to day experiences. It is impossible to quantify the strength and depth of humanity contained in a family: mutual help, educational support, relationships developing as family members mature, the sharing of joys and difficulties. Families are the first place in which we are formed as persons and, at the same time, the “bricks” for the building up of society.
Let us return to the biblical story. At a certain point, “the people became impatient on the way” (Num 21:4). They are tired, water supplies are low and all they have for food is manna, which, although plentiful and sent by God, seems far too meagre in a time of crisis. And so they complain and protest against God and against Moses: “Why did you make us leave?...” (cf. Num. 21:5). They are tempted to turn back and abandon the journey.
Here our thoughts turn to married couples who “become impatient on the way”, the way of conjugal and family life. The hardship of the journey causes them to experience interior weariness; they lose the flavour of matrimony and they cease to draw water from the well of the Sacrament. Daily life becomes burdensome, and often, even “nauseating”.
During such moments of disorientation – the Bible says – poisonous serpents come and bite the people, and many die. This causes the people to repent and to turn to Moses for forgiveness, asking him to beseech the Lord so that he will cast out the snakes. Moses prays to the Lord, and the Lord offers a remedy: a bronze serpent set on a pole; whoever looks at it will be saved from the deadly poison of the vipers.
What is the meaning of this symbol? God does not destroy the serpents, but rather offers an “antidote”: by means of the bronze serpent fashioned by Moses, God transmits his healing strength, namely his mercy, which is more potent than the Tempter’s poison.
As we have heard in the Gospel, Jesus identifies himself with this symbol: out of love the Father “has given” his only begotten Son so that men and women might have eternal life (cf. Jn 3:13-17). Such immense love of the Father spurs the Son to become man, to become a servant and to die for us upon a cross. Out of such love, the Father raises up his son, giving him dominion over the entire universe. This is expressed by Saint Paul in his hymn in the Letter to the Philippians (cf. 2:6-11). Whoever entrusts himself to Jesus crucified receives the mercy of God and finds healing from the deadly poison of sin.
The cure which God offers the people applies also, in a particular way, to spouses who “have become impatient on the way” and who succumb to the dangerous temptation of discouragement, infidelity, weakness, abandonment… To them too, God the Father gives his Son Jesus, not to condemn them, but to save them: if they entrust themselves to him, he will bring them healing by the merciful love which pours forth from the Cross, with the strength of his grace that renews and sets married couples and families once again on the right path.
The love of Christ, which has blessed and sanctified the union of husband and wife, is able to sustain their love and to renew it when, humanly speaking, it becomes lost, wounded or worn out. The love of Christ can restore to spouses the joy of journeying together. This is what marriage is all about: man and woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become ever more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more a man. This is the task that you both share. “I love you, and for this love I help you to become ever more a woman”; “I love you, and for this love I help you to become ever more a man”. Here we see the reciprocity of differences. The path is not always a smooth one, free of disagreements, otherwise it would not be human. It is a demanding journey, at times difficult, and at times turbulent, but such is life! Within this theology which the word of God offers us concerning the people on a journey, spouses on a journey, I would like to give you some advice. It is normal for husband and wife to argue: it’s normal. It always happens. But my advice is this: never let the day end without having first made peace. Never! A small gesture is sufficient. Thus the journey may continue. Marriage is a symbol of life, real life: it is not “fiction”! It is the Sacrament of the love of Christ and the Church, a love which finds its proof and guarantee in the Cross. My desire for you is that you have a good journey, a fruitful one, growing in love. I wish you happiness. There will be crosses! But the Lord is always there to help us move forward. May the Lord bless you!
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
With this catechesis we return to our reflection on the family. After speaking the last time about families wounded due to misunderstandings between spouses, today I would like to focus our attention on another reality: how to take care of those who, after an irreversible failure of their matrimonial bond, have entered into a new union.
The Church is fully aware that such a situation is contrary to the Christian Sacrament. However, her gaze as a teacher always draws from a mother’s heart; a heart which, enlivened by the Holy Spirit, always seeks the good and the salvation of the people. This is why she feels obliged, “for the sake of truth”, to “exercise careful discernment of situations”. This is how St John Paul II expressed it in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (n. 84), giving as an example the difference between one subjected to separation compared to one who has caused it. This discernment has to be made.
If we then also look at these new bonds through the eyes of the young sons and daughters — and the little ones watch — through the eyes of the children, we are aware of a greater urgency to foster a true welcome for these families in our communities. For this reason it is important that the style of the community, its language, its attitudes, always be attentive to people, starting with the little ones. They are the ones who suffer the most in these situations. After all, how can we encourage these parents to do everything possible to raise their children in the Christian life, to give them an example of committed and exercised faith, if we keep them at arm’s length from the life of the community, as if they are excommunicated? We must act in a way so as not to add even more to the burdens which the children in these situations already feel they have to bear! Unfortunately, the number of these children and youth is really large. It is important for them to feel the Church as loving mother to all, always ready to listen and to meet.
In these decades, in truth, the Church has been neither insensitive nor lazy. Thanks to the in-depth analysis performed by Pastors, led and guided by my Predecessors, the awareness has truly grown that it is necessary to have a fraternal and attentive welcome, in love and in truth, of the baptized who have established a new relationship of cohabitation after the failure of the marital sacrament; in fact, these persons are by no means excommunicated — they are not excommunicated! — and they should absolutely not be treated as such: they are still a part of the Church.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke about this question, calling for careful discernment and wise pastoral accompaniment, knowing that there are no “simple solutions” (Speech at the Seventh World Meeting of Families, Milan, 2 June 2012, answer n. 5). Here the repeated call to Pastors to openly and consistently demonstrate the community’s willingness to welcome them and encourage them, so they may increasingly live and develop their membership in Christ and in the Church through prayer, by listening to the Word of God, by attending the liturgy, through the Christian education of their children, through charity and service to the poor, through the commitment to justice and peace.
The biblical icon of the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11-18) summarizes the mission that Jesus received from the Father: that of giving his life for the sheep. This attitude is also a model for the Church, which embraces her children as a mother who gives her life for them. “The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open”.... No closed doors! No closed doors! “Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community”.... The Church “is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems” (Ap. Exhort. Evangelii Gaudium, n. 47).
In the same way all Christians are called to imitate the Good Shepherd. Especially Christian families can cooperate with Him by taking care of wounded families, accompanying them in the life of faith of the community. Each one must do his part in taking on the attitude of the Good Shepherd, who knows each one of his sheep and excludes no one from his infinitive love!
“If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 Jn 4:12).
This Sunday’s Scripture readings seem to have been chosen precisely for this moment of grace which the Church is experiencing: the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the family, which begins with this Eucharistic celebration.
Adam, as we heard in the first reading, was living in the Garden of Eden. He named all the other creatures as a sign of his dominion, his clear and undisputed power, over all of them. Nonetheless, he felt alone, because “there was not found a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:20). He was lonely.
The drama of solitude is experienced by countless men and women in our own day. I think of the elderly, abandoned even by their loved ones and children; widows and widowers; the many men and women left by their spouses; all those who feel alone, misunderstood and unheard; migrants and refugees fleeing from war and persecution; and those many young people who are victims of the culture of consumerism, the culture of waste, the throwaway culture.
Today we experience the paradox of a globalized world filled with luxurious mansions and skyscrapers, but a lessening of the warmth of homes and families; many ambitious plans and projects, but little time to enjoy them; many sophisticated means of entertainment, but a deep and growing interior emptiness; many pleasures, but few loves; many liberties, but little freedom… The number of people who feel lonely keeps growing, as does the number of those who are caught up in selfishness, gloominess, destructive violence and slavery to pleasure and money.
Our experience today is, in some way, like that of Adam: so much power and at the same time so much loneliness and vulnerability. The image of this is the family. People are less and less serious about building a solid and fruitful relationship of love: in sickness and in health, for better and for worse, in good times and in bad. Love which is lasting, faithful, conscientious, stable and fruitful is increasingly looked down upon, viewed as a quaint relic of the past. It would seem that the most advanced societies are the very ones which have the lowest birth-rates and the highest percentages of abortion, divorce, suicide, and social and environmental pollution.
Love between man and woman
In the first reading we also hear that God was pained by Adam’s loneliness. He said: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:18). These words show that nothing makes man’s heart as happy as another heart like his own, a heart which loves him and takes away his sense of being alone. These words also show that God did not create us to live in sorrow or to be alone. He made men and women for happiness, to share their journey with someone who complements them, to live the wondrous experience of love: to love and to be loved, and to see their love bear fruit in children, as the Psalm proclaimed today says (cf. Ps 128).
This is God’s dream for his beloved creation: to see it fulfilled in the loving union between a man and a woman, rejoicing in their shared journey, fruitful in their mutual gift of self. It is the same plan which Jesus presents in today’s Gospel: “From the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh” (Mk 10:6-8; cf. Gen 1:27; 2:24).
To a rhetorical question – probably asked as a trap to make him unpopular with the crowd, which practiced divorce as an established and inviolable fact – Jesus responds in a straightforward and unexpected way. He brings everything back to the beginning, to the beginning of creation, to teach us that God blesses human love, that it is he who joins the hearts of two people who love one another, he who joins them in unity and indissolubility. This shows us that the goal of conjugal life is not simply to live together for life, but to love one another for life! In this way Jesus re-establishes the order which was present from the beginning.
“What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mk 10:9). This is an exhortation to believers to overcome every form of individualism and legalism which conceals a narrow self-centredness and a fear of accepting the true meaning of the couple and of human sexuality in God’s plan.
Indeed, only in the light of the folly of the gratuitousness of Jesus’ paschal love will the folly of the gratuitousness of an exclusive and life-long conjugal love make sense.
For God, marriage is not some adolescent utopia, but a dream without which his creatures will be doomed to solitude! Indeed, being afraid to accept this plan paralyzes the human heart.
Paradoxically, people today – who often ridicule this plan – continue to be attracted and fascinated by every authentic love, by every steadfast love, by every fruitful love, by every faithful and enduring love. We see people chase after fleeting loves while dreaming of true love; they chase after carnal pleasures but desire total self-giving.
“Now that we have fully tasted the promises of unlimited freedom, we begin to appreciate once again the old phrase: “world-weariness”. Forbidden pleasures lost their attraction at the very moment they stopped being forbidden. Even if they are pushed to the extreme and endlessly renewed, they prove dull, for they are finite realities, whereas we thirst for the infinite” (Joseph Ratzinger, Auf Christus schauen. Einübung in Glaube, Hoffnung, Liebe, Freiburg, 1989, p. 73).
In this extremely difficult social and marital context, the Church is called to carry out her mission in fidelity, truth and love.
To carry out her mission in fidelity to her Master as a voice crying out in the desert, in defending faithful love and encouraging the many families which live married life as an experience which reveals of God’s love; in defending the sacredness of life, of every life; in defending the unity and indissolubility of the conjugal bond as a sign of God’s grace and of the human person’s ability to love seriously.
The Church is called to carry out her mission in truth, which is not changed by passing fads or popular opinions. The truth which protects individuals and humanity as a whole from the temptation of self-centredness and from turning fruitful love into sterile selfishness, faithful union into temporary bonds. “Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love” (Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 3).
And the Church is called to carry out her mission in charity, not pointing a finger in judgment of others, but – faithful to her nature as a mother – conscious of her duty to seek out and care for hurting couples with the balm of acceptance and mercy; to be a “field hospital” with doors wide open to whoever knocks in search of help and support; even more, to reach out to others with true love, to walk with our fellow men and women who suffer, to include them and guide them to the wellspring of salvation.
A Church which teaches and defends fundamental values, while not forgetting that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27); and that Jesus also said: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mk 2:17). A Church which teaches authentic love, which is capable of taking loneliness away, without neglecting her mission to be a good Samaritan to wounded humanity.
I remember when Saint John Paul II said: “Error and evil must always be condemned and opposed; but the man who falls or who errs must be understood and loved… we must love our time and help the man of our time” (John Paul II, Address to the Members of Italian Catholic Action, 30 December 1978). The Church must search out these persons, welcome and accompany them, for a Church with closed doors betrays herself and her mission, and, instead of being a bridge, becomes a roadblock: “For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb 2:11).
In this spirit we ask the Lord to accompany us during the Synod and to guide his Church, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse.
The question posed by the Pharisees concerned marriage; they wanted to know if it was lawful for a husband to divorce his wife. But, Jesus goes beyond the simple question of lawfulness, going back to the “the beginning.” Jesus speaks about marriage as it is in itself, perhaps the greatest thing created by God in those seven days of Creation.
“From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Jesus words in the Gospel are very strong. He speaks of “one flesh” which cannot be divided. Jesus lays aside the problem of separation, and goes to the beauty of the couple, who ought to be one.
We must not focus, like these doctors do, on [the answer] "Yes, you can" divide a marriage, or "No, you can’t." At times there is misfortune, when it doesn't work, and it is better to separate in order to avoid a world war. But this is a misfortune. Let us go and look at the positive.
I met a couple who were celebrating 60 years of marriage and asked them, “Are you happy?” They looked at one another, and with tears in their eyes, answered, “We are in love!”
It’s true that there are difficulties, there are problems with children or with the couple themselves, arguments and fights… but the important thing is that the flesh remains one, and you can overcome, you can overcome, you can overcome. And this is not only a sacrament for them, but also for the Church, a sacrament, as it were, that attracts attention: “See, love is possible!” And love is capable of allowing you to live your whole life “in love”: in joy and in sorrow, with the problems of children, and their own problems… but always going forward. In sickness and in health, but always going forward. This is beautiful.
Man and woman are created in God’s image and likeness; and for this reason, marriage likewise becomes an image of God. This makes marriage very beautiful. Matrimony is a silent homily for everyone else, a daily homily.
It’s sad when this is not news: the newspapers, the TV news shows, don’t consider this news. But this couple, together for so many years… it’s not news. Scandal, divorce, separation – these are considered newsworthy. Although at times its necessary to separate, as I said, to avoid a greater evil. The image of God isn’t news. But this is the beauty of marriage. They [the couple] are the image and likeness of God. And this is our news, the Christian news. Patience is the most important virtue
Marriage and family life is not easy. James 5: 9-12 speaks about patience. Patience, is perhaps the most important virtue for the couple – both for the man and for the woman. Pray that the Lord might give to the Church and to society a more profound and more beautiful understanding of marriage, so that we all might be able to appreciate and reflect upon [the fact] that the image and likeness of God is present in marriage.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
This Sunday’s Gospel reading (cf. Mk 10:2-16) offers us Jesus’ words on marriage. The passage opens with the provocation of the Pharisees who ask Jesus if it is “lawful for a man to divorce his wife”, as the Law of Moses provides (cf. vv. 2-4). Jesus firstly, with the wisdom and authority that come to him from the Father, puts the Mosaic prescription into perspective, saying: “For your hardness of heart he” — that is, the ancient legislator — “wrote you this commandment” (v. 5). Thus it is a concession that is needed to mend the flaws created by our selfishness, but it does not correspond to the Creator’s original intention.
And here, Jesus again takes up the Book of Genesis: “from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’” (vv. 6-8). And he concludes: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (v. 9). In the Creator’s original plan, it is not that a man marries a woman and, if things do not go well, he repudiates her. No. Rather, the man and the woman are called to recognize each other, to complete each other, to help each other in marriage.
This teaching of Jesus is very clear and defends the dignity of marriage as a union of love which implies fidelity. What allows the spouses to remain united in marriage is a love of mutual giving supported by Christ’s grace. However, if in the spouses, individual interests, one’s own satisfaction prevails, then their union cannot endure.
And the Gospel passage itself reminds us, with great realism, that man and woman, called to experience a relationship of love, may regretfully behave in a way that places it in crisis. Jesus does not admit all that can lead to the failure of the relationship. He does so in order to confirm God’s plan, in which the power and beauty of the human relationship emerge. The Church, on the one hand, does not tire of confirming the beauty of the family as it was consigned to us by Scripture and by Tradition; at the same time, she strives to make her maternal closeness tangibly felt by those who experience relationships that are broken or that continue in a difficult and trying way.
God’s way of acting with his unfaithful people — that is, with us — teaches us that wounded love can be healed by God through mercy and forgiveness. For this reason in these situations, the Church is not asked to express immediately and only condemnation. On the contrary, before so many painful marital failures, she feels called to show love, charity and mercy, in order to lead wounded and lost hearts back to God.
Let us invoke the Virgin Mary, that she help married couples to always live and renew their union, beginning with God’s original Gift.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today we are confronted with the first of the eight Beatitudes of the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus begins to proclaim His way to happiness with a paradoxical proclamation: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"(5:3). A surprising road and a strange object of bliss, poverty.
We must ask ourselves: what does "poor" mean here? If Matthew used only this word, then the meaning would simply be economic, that is, it would indicate people who have little or no means of livelihood and need the help of others.
But the Gospel of Matthew, unlike Luke, speaks of "poor in spirit". What does that mean? The spirit, according to the Bible, is the breath of life that God has communicated to Adam; it is our most intimate dimension, we say the spiritual dimension, the most intimate, the one that makes us human people, the deep core of our being. Then the "poor in spirit" are those who are and feel poor, beggars, in the depths of their being. Jesus proclaims them blessed, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them.
How many times have we been told otherwise! You have to be something in life, be someone... You have to make a name for yourself... This is where loneliness and unhappiness arises: if I have to be "someone", I am competing with others and I live in obsessive concern for my ego. If I do not accept being poor, I hate everything that reminds me of my fragility. Because this fragility prevents me from becoming an important person, rich not only in money, but in fame, of everything.
Everyone, in front of himself, knows well that, no matter how hard he tries, he remains radically incomplete and vulnerable. There's no make-up that covers this vulnerability. Each of us is vulnerable inside. Its all from the same place. You can live so badly if you reject your own limits! You live badly. The limits are here within us. Proud people don't ask for help, they can't ask for help, they can't ask for help because they have to prove themselves self-sufficient. And how many of them need help, but pride prevents them from asking for help. And how hard it is to admit a mistake and ask for forgiveness! When I give some advice to newlyweds, who ask me how to carry on their marriage well, I tell them: "There are three magic words: may I, thank you, sorry. " These are the words that come from the poverty of spirit. You don't have to be pushy, but ask permission: "Do you think it's good to do this?", so there is dialogue in the family, dialogue between husband and wife. "You did this for me, thank you I needed it." Then you always make mistakes, you slip: "Excuse me." And usually, couples, new marriages, those who are here and many, tell me: "The third is the most difficult", apologize, ask forgiveness. Because the proud can't do it. They can't apologize: they are always right. They are not poor in spirit. But the Lord never tires of forgiving; unfortunately, we grow tired of asking for forgiveness (cf. Angelus, 17 March 2013). The tiredness of asking for forgiveness: this is an ugly disease!
Why is it difficult to ask forgiveness? Because it humiliates our hypocritical image. Yet living trying to conceal one's own shortcomings is exhausting and distressing. Jesus Christ tells us: being poor is an occasion of grace; and it shows us the way out of this toil. We are given the right to be poor in spirit, because this is the way of the Kingdom of God.
But there is a fundamental thing to reiterate: we must not transform ourselves to become poor in spirit, we must not make any transformation to do this because we already are! We are poor ... or more clearly: we are poor in spirit! We all need this. We are all poor in spirit, we are beggars. It's the human condition.
The Kingdom of God is for the poor in spirit. There are those who have the kingdoms of this world: they have goods and they have comfort. But they are kingdoms that end. The power of men, even the greatest empires, pass and disappear. So many times when we look at the news or in the newspapers we see people governing, powerful people and so that government that was there yesterday is no longer there today, has fallen. The riches of this world will disappear, and also the money. The old men taught us that the shroud had no pockets. It's true. I've never seen a moving truck behind a funeral procession: no one brings anything. These riches remain here.
The Kingdom of God is for the poor in spirit. There are those who have the kingdoms of this world, have goods and have comfort. But we know how they end up. He who knows how to love the true good more than himself truly reigns. And this is the power of God.
How did Christ be powerful? Because He has been able to do what the kings of the earth did not do: giving their lives for men. And that's the real power. The power of brotherhood, the power of charity, the power of love, the power of humility. This is what Christ did.
In this lies true freedom: those who have this power of humility, service and brotherhood are free. At the service of this freedom lies the poverty praised by the Beatitudes.
Because there is a poverty that we must accept, that of our being, and a poverty that we must seek, the concrete one, from the things of this world, in order to be free and to be able to love. We must always seek the freedom of the heart, which has its roots in the poverty of ourselves.
Marriage is a precious sign. It is the icon of God’s love for us. This does not mean
that the love spouses have for each other must be perfect… Nobody is perfect. But
the love spouses have for each other is a dynamic process that progresses and improves over a lifetime. This is why marriage requires fidelity. Marriage lasts forever.