Material things


Pope Francis

29.09.13 Holy Mass, Saint Peter's Square

The Day for Catechists

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Amos 6: 1,4 Luke 16: 19-31

Jeremiah 2: 5 1 Timothy 6: 11-16

1. “Woe to the complacent in Zion, to those who feel secure … lying upon beds of ivory!” (Am 6:1,4). They eat, they drink, they sing, they play and they care nothing about other people’s troubles.

These are harsh words which the prophet Amos speaks, yet they warn us about a danger that all of us face. What is it that this messenger of God denounces; what does he want his contemporaries, and ourselves today, to realize? The danger of complacency, comfort, worldliness in our lifestyles and in our hearts, of making our well-being the most important thing in our lives. This was the case of the rich man in the Gospel, who dressed in fine garments and daily indulged in sumptuous banquets; this was what was important for him. And the poor man at his doorstep who had nothing to relieve his hunger? That was none of his business, it didn’t concern him. Whenever material things, money, worldliness, become the centre of our lives, they take hold of us, they possess us; we lose our very identity as human beings. Think of it: the rich man in the Gospel has no name, he is simply “a rich man”. Material things, his possessions, are his face; he has nothing else.

Let’s try to think: How does something like this happen? How do some people, perhaps ourselves included, end up becoming self-absorbed and finding security in material things which ultimately rob us of our face, our human face? This is what happens when we become complacent, when we no longer remember God. “Woe to the complacent in Zion”, says the prophet. If we don’t think about God, everything ends up flat, everything ends up being about “me” and my own comfort. Life, the world, other people, all of these become unreal, they no longer matter, everything boils down to one thing: having. When we no longer remember God, we too become unreal, we too become empty; like the rich man in the Gospel, we no longer have a face! Those who run after nothing become nothing – as another great prophet Jeremiah, observed (cf. Jer 2:5). We are made in God’s image and likeness, not the image and likeness of material objects, of idols!

2. So, as I look out at you, I think: Who are catechists? They are people who keep the memory of God alive; they keep it alive in themselves and they are able to revive it in others. This is something beautiful: to remember God, like the Virgin Mary, who sees God’s wondrous works in her life but doesn’t think about honour, prestige or wealth; she doesn’t become self-absorbed. Instead, after receiving the message of the angel and conceiving the Son of God, what does she do? She sets out, she goes to assist her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth, who was also pregnant. And the first thing she does upon meeting Elizabeth is to recall God’s work, God’s fidelity, in her own life, in the history of her people, in our history: “My soul magnifies the Lord … For he has looked on the lowliness of his servant … His mercy is from generation to generation” (Lk 1:46, 48, 50). Mary remembers God.

This canticle of Mary also contains the remembrance of her personal history, God’s history with her, her own experience of faith. And this is true too for each one of us and for every Christian: faith contains our own memory of God’s history with us, the memory of our encountering God who always takes the first step, who creates, saves and transforms us. Faith is remembrance of his word which warms our heart, and of his saving work which gives life, purifies us, cares for and nourishes us. A catechist is a Christian who puts this remembrance at the service of proclamation, not to seem important, not to talk about himself or herself, but to talk about God, about his love and his fidelity. To talk about and to pass down all that God has revealed, his teaching in its totality, neither trimming it down nor adding on to it.

Saint Paul recommends one thing in particular to his disciple and co-worker Timothy: Remember, remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, whom I proclaim and for whom I suffer (cf. 2 Tim 2:8-9). The Apostle can say this because he too remembered Christ, who called him when he was persecuting Christians, who touched him and transformed him by his grace.

The catechist, then, is a Christian who is mindful of God, who is guided by the memory of God in his or her entire life and who is able to awaken that memory in the hearts of others. This is not easy! It engages our entire existence! What is the Catechism itself, if not the memory of God, the memory of his works in history and his drawing near to us in Christ present in his word, in the sacraments, in his Church, in his love? Dear catechists, I ask you: Are we in fact the memory of God? Are we really like sentinels who awaken in others the memory of God which warms the heart?

3. “Woe to the complacent in Zion!”, says the prophet. What must we do in order not to be “complacent” – people who find their security in themselves and in material things – but men and woman of the memory of God? In the second reading, Saint Paul, once more writing to Timothy, gives some indications which can also be guideposts for us in our work as catechists: pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness (cf. 1 Tim 6:11).

Catechists are men and women of the memory of God if they have a constant, living relationship with him and with their neighbour; if they are men and women of faith who truly trust in God and put their security in him; if they are men and women of charity, love, who see others as brothers and sisters; if they are men and women of “hypomoné”, endurance and perseverance, able to face difficulties, trials and failures with serenity and hope in the Lord; if they are gentle, capable of understanding and mercy.

Let us ask the Lord that we may all be men and women who keep the memory of God alive in ourselves, and are able to awaken it in the hearts of others. Amen

29.09.13


Pope Francis

18.09.22 Angelus, St Peter's Square, Rome

25th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C

Luke 16: 1-13


Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!

The parable in the Gospel of today's liturgy (cf. Lk 16:1-13) seems a bit difficult to understand for us. Jesus tells a story about corruption: a dishonest manager who steals, and then after being discovered by his master, acts shrewdly to get out of the situation. We ask ourselves: what is this shrewdness of the corrupt manager about and what does Jesus want to tell us?

In this story we see how the corrupt manager ends up in trouble because he took advantage of his master's property. Now he must give an account, and he will lose his job. But he does not give up, he does not resign himself to his fate and does not play the victim. On the contrary, he acts immediately with shrewdness, he looks for a solution and is creative. Jesus uses this story as a way to put before us a provocation when he says: "The children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light." (v. 8) It happens that those who move in darkness, by certain worldly standards, know how to get by even when in trouble, they know how to be more shrewd than others. Instead, Jesus' disciples, namely ourselves, sometimes have fallen asleep or are naive, not knowing how to take the initiative to find ways out of difficulties (cf. Evangelii gaudium, 24). For example, I am thinking of times of personal or social crisis, but also of Church crisis: sometimes we allow discouragement to overcome us or we start to complain and play the victim. Instead, Jesus says we can also be clever in following the Gospel, awake and attentive to discern reality and be creative to find good solutions for us and others.

But there is another teaching that Jesus gives us. Indeed, what is the shrewdness of the manager about we ask? He decides to give a discount to those who were in debt, and so they become his friends and he hopes they can help him when his master fires him. Before he was accumulating wealth for himself, but now he uses it in the same way by stealing to make friends who can help him in the future. Jesus then gives us a teaching on how we use material goods: "And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes." (v. 9). To inherit eternal life then, there is no need to accumulate goods in this world, but what matters is the love we will have expressed in our fraternal relations. This is what Jesus asks of us: do not use the goods of this world only for yourselves and selfishly, but use them to create friendship, to create good relationships, to act with charity, to promote fraternity and to show care for the weakest.

Brothers and sisters, even in our world today there are stories of corruption like the one in the Gospel: dishonest conduct, unfair policies, selfishness that dominates the choices of individuals and institutions, and many other murky situations. But we Christians are not allowed to become discouraged, or worse, to let go of things, remaining indifferent. On the contrary, we are called to be creative in doing good with the prudence and the cleverness of the Gospel, using the goods of this world, not only material but all of the gifts we have received from the Lord, not to enrich ourselves, but to generate fraternal love and social fellowship. This is very important: through our behaviour we can create social friendship.

Let us pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary so that she may help us be like herself poor in spirit and rich in works of charity for one another.

18.09.22