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
In the Gospel we heard that "Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife" (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the custos, the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: "Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ's upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ's Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model" (Redemptoris Custos, 1).
How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.
How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God's presence and receptive to God's plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a "protector" because he is able to hear God's voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God's call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!
The vocation of being a "protector", however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God's creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God's gifts!
Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are "Herods" who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.
Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be "protectors" of creation, protectors of God's plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be "protectors", we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!
Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!
Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus' three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God's people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!
In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, "hoping against hope, believed"( Romans 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God.
To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!
I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me! Amen.
The Collect asked the Lord for “the grace of unity and peace”. God reconciles: he reconciles the world to himself through Christ. Jesus, brought to us by Mary, makes peace, gives peace to two peoples, and of two peoples he makes one: Hebrews and Gentiles. One people. He makes peace. Peace in their hearts. But, how does God reconcile?. In what manner does he do this? Does he perhaps make a great assembly? Does everyone come to an agreement? Do they sign a document?. No. God uses a specific method to make peace: he reconciles and makes peace in the little things and on the journey.
“Littleness” was spoken of in the First Reading (Mic 5:1-4): “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little...”. In other words: you are so little: but you will be great, because your ruler will be born from you and he will be peace. He himself will be peace, because from that littleness comes peace. This is the manner of God, who chooses little things, humble things, to do great works. The Lord, is the Great One and we are the little ones, but the Lord advises us to make ourselves little like children to be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, whereas the great ones, the powerful, the arrogant, the proud cannot enter. God, however, reconciles and makes peace in littleness.
The Lord also reconciles on the journey: walking. The Lord does not want to make peace and reconcile with a magic wand: today — boom! — all done! No. He journeys with his people. An example of this action of God is found in the day’s Gospel (Mt 1:1-16, 18-23). The passage regarding Jesus’ lineage may seem somewhat repetitious: This one begot that one, that one begot this one, this one begot that one.... It’s a list. Yet, it is God’s journey: God’s journey among men, good and bad, because on this list there are saints and there are sinful criminals.
Thus, it is a list which even contains much sin. However, God is not afraid: he journeys. He walks with his people. And on this journey he makes hope grow in his people, hope in the Messiah. This is the closeness of God. Moses said it to his own: “Think about it: what nation has a God as close as ours?”. Thus, this journeying in littleness, with his people, this walking with the good and bad gives us our way of life. In order to walk as Christians, in order to make peace and reconcile as Jesus did, we have the path: With the Beatitudes and with the protocol by which we will all be judged. Matthew, 25: ‘Do likewise: little things’. This means in littleness and by journeying.
The people of Israel dream of being set free, they have this dream because it was promised to them. Even Joseph dreams and his dream is somewhat like a summary of the entire history of God’s journey with his people. However, not only does Joseph have dreams: God dreams. God our Father has dreams, and he dreams beautiful things for his people, for each of us, because he is Father and as Father he thinks and dreams of the best for his children.
In conclusion, this great and almighty God teaches us to do great works of peacemaking and of reconciliation in littleness, by walking, and by not losing hope, with the capacity to dream great dreams, to have vast horizons.
Let us in this commemoration of the beginning of a crucial phase of salvation history, the birth of Our Lady seek the grace that we asked for in prayer, that of unity, of reconciliation, and of peace. To be always on the path, close to others and with great dreams. With the manner of ‘littleness’, the littleness, which is found in the Eucharistic celebration: a little piece of bread, a little bit of wine. In this ‘littleness’ there is everything. God’s dream is there, his love is there, his peace is there, his reconciliation is there, Jesus is there.
“Lumen requirunt lumine”. These evocative words from a liturgical hymn for the Epiphany speak of the experience of the Magi: following a light, they were searching for the Light. The star appearing in the sky kindled in their minds and in their hearts a light that moved them to seek the great Light of Christ. The Magi followed faithfully that light which filled their hearts, and they encountered the Lord.
The destiny of every person is symbolized in this journey of the Magi of the East: our life is a journey, illuminated by the lights which brighten our way, to find the fullness of truth and love which we Christians recognize in Jesus, the Light of the World. Like the Magi, every person has two great “books” which provide the signs to guide this pilgrimage: the book of creation and the book of sacred Scripture. What is important is that we be attentive, alert, and listen to God who speaks to us, who always speaks to us. As the Psalm says in referring to the Law of the Lord: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105). Listening to the Gospel, reading it, meditating on it and making it our spiritual nourishment especially allows us to encounter the living Jesus, to experience him and his love.
The first reading echoes, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, the call of God to Jerusalem: “Arise, shine!” (Is 60:1). Jerusalem is called to be the city of light which reflects God’s light to the world and helps humanity to walk in his ways. This is the vocation and the mission of the People of God in the world. But Jerusalem can fail to respond to this call of the Lord. The Gospel tells us that the Magi, when they arrived in Jerusalem, lost sight of the star for a time. They no longer saw it. Its light was particularly absent from the palace of King Herod: his dwelling was gloomy, filled with darkness, suspicion, fear, envy. Herod, in fact, proved himself distrustful and preoccupied with the birth of a frail Child whom he thought of as a rival. In realty Jesus came not to overthrow him, a wretched puppet, but to overthrow the Prince of this world! Nonetheless, the king and his counsellors sensed that the foundations of their power were crumbling. They feared that the rules of the game were being turned upside down, that appearances were being unmasked. A whole world built on power, on success, possessions and corruption was being thrown into crisis by a child! Herod went so far as to kill the children. As Saint Quodvultdeus writes, “You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart” (Sermo 2 de Symbolo: PL 40, 655). This was in fact the case: Herod was fearful and on account of this fear, he became insane.
The Magi were able to overcome that dangerous moment of darkness before Herod, because they believed the Scriptures, the words of the prophets which indicated that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. And so they fled the darkness and dreariness of the night of the world. They resumed their journey towards Bethlehem and there they once more saw the star, and the gospel tells us that they experienced “a great joy” (Mt 2:10). The very star which could not be seen in that dark, worldly palace.
One aspect of the light which guides us on the journey of faith is holy “cunning”. This holy “cunning” is also a virtue. It consists of a spiritual shrewdness which enables us to recognize danger and avoid it. The Magi used this light of “cunning” when, on the way back, they decided not to pass by the gloomy palace of Herod, but to take another route. These wise men from the East teach us how not to fall into the snares of darkness and how to defend ourselves from the shadows which seek to envelop our life. By this holy “cunning”, the Magi guarded the faith. We too need to guard the faith, guard it from darkness. Many times, however, it is a darkness under the guise of light. This is because the devil, as saint Paul, says, disguises himself at times as an angel of light. And this is where a holy “cunning” is necessary in order to protect the faith, guarding it from those alarmist voices that exclaim: “Listen, today we must do this, or that...”. Faith though, is a grace, it is a gift. We are entrusted with the task of guarding it, by means of this holy “cunning” and by prayer, love, charity. We need to welcome the light of God into our hearts and, at the same time, to cultivate that spiritual cunning which is able to combine simplicity with astuteness, as Jesus told his disciples: “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Mt 10:16).
On the feast of the Epiphany, as we recall Jesus’ manifestation to humanity in the face of a Child, may we sense the Magi at our side, as wise companions on the way. Their example helps us to lift our gaze towards the star and to follow the great desires of our heart. They teach us not to be content with a life of mediocrity, of “playing it safe”, but to let ourselves be attracted always by what is good, true and beautiful… by God, who is all of this, and so much more! And they teach us not to be deceived by appearances, by what the world considers great, wise and powerful. We must not stop at that. It is necessary to guard the faith. Today this is of vital importance: to keep the faith. We must press on further, beyond the darkness, beyond the voices that raise alarm, beyond worldliness, beyond so many forms of modernity that exist today. We must press on towards Bethlehem, where, in the simplicity of a dwelling on the outskirts, beside a mother and father full of love and of faith, there shines forth the Sun from on high, the King of the universe. By the example of the Magi, with our little lights, may we seek the Light and keep the faith. May it be so.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning! Happy Feast Day!
On Christmas Eve we meditated on the hastening of several shepherds of the people of Israel to the grotto of Bethlehem; today, the Solemnity of the Epiphany, we remember the arrival of the Magi, who came from the Orient to adore the new-born King of the Jews and Universal Saviour and to offer Him symbolic gifts. With their act of adoration, the Magi bear witness that Jesus has come to earth to save not one people alone but all peoples. Therefore, on today’s feast our gaze broadens to the horizons of the whole world in order to celebrate the “manifestation” of the Lord to all peoples, which is the manifestation of the love and universal salvation of God. He does not reserve his love to the privileged few, but offers it to all.
As the Creator and Father is of all people, so the Saviour wants to be for all people. That is why we are called to always nourish great faith and hope for every person and his or her salvation: even those who seem far from the Lord are followed — or better yet “chased” — by his passionate love, by his faithful and also humble love. For God’s love is humble, very humble!
The Gospel account of the Magi describes their journey from the East as a journey of the spirit, as a journey toward the encounter with Christ. They are attentive to signs that indicate his presence; they are tireless in facing the trials of the search; they are courageous in deducing the implications for life that derive from encounter with the Lord. This is life: Christian life is a journey, but being attentive, tireless and courageous. A Christian journeys like this. Journey attentively, tirelessly, courageously. The experience of the Magi evokes the journey of every man and woman towards Christ. As for the Magi, so for us, to seek God means to journey — and as I said: attentive, tireless and courageous — focused on the sky and discerning in the visible sign of the star the invisible God who speaks to our hearts. The star that is able to lead every man to Jesus is the Word of God, the Word that is in the Bible, in the Gospels. The Word of God is the light that guides our journey, nourishes our faith and regenerates it. It is the Word of God that continually renews our hearts and our communities. Therefore, let us not forget to read it and meditate upon it every day, so that it may become for each like a flame that we bear inside us to illuminate our steps, as well as those of others who journey beside us, who are perhaps struggling to find the path to Christ. Always with the Word of God! The Word of God carried in your hand: a little Gospel in your pocket, purse, always to be read. Do not forget this: always with me, the Word of God!
On this day of Epiphany, our thoughts turn also to our brothers and sisters of the Christian East, Catholics and Orthodox, many of whom are celebrating the Birth of the Lord tomorrow. May our warmest wishes reach them.
I would like to recall, then, that today we celebrate Children’s mission Day. It is the feast dedicated to children who joyfully live the gift of faith and pray for the light of Jesus to reach all the children of the world. I encourage teachers to cultivate the missionary spirit in the little ones. May they not be closed but open children and young people. May they see a great horizon, may their hearts move toward this horizon, in order that witnesses of God’s tenderness and heralds of the Gospel might arise among them. Now let us turn to the Virgin Mary and invoke her protection on the Universal Church, in order that the Gospel of Christ, the light of nations, the light of all peoples, might be spread through the entire world. And may she make us increasingly embrace the journey; may she make us journey and be attentive, untiring and courageous on that path.
Three actions of the Magi guide our journey towards the Lord, who today is revealed as light and salvation for all peoples. The Magi see the star, they set out and they bring gifts.
Seeing the star. This is where it starts. But why, we might ask, did the Magi alone see the star? Perhaps because few people raised their eyes to heaven. We often make do with looking at the ground: it’s enough to have our health, a little money and a bit of entertainment. I wonder if we still know how to look up at the sky. Do we know how to dream, to long for God, to expect the newness he brings, or do we let ourselves be swept along by life, like dry branches before the wind? The Magi were not content with just getting by, with keeping afloat. They understood that to truly live, we need a lofty goal and we need to keep looking up.
Yet we can also ask why, among all those who looked up at the heavens, so many others did not follow that star, “his star” (Mt 2:2). Perhaps because the star was not eye-catching, did not shine any brighter than other stars. It was a star – so the Gospel tells us – that the Magi saw “at its rising” (vv. 2, 9). Jesus’ star does not dazzle or overwhelm, but gently invites. We may ask ourselves what star we have chosen to follow in our lives. Some stars may be bright, but they do not point the way. So it is with success, money, career, honours and pleasures when these become our life. They are meteors: they blaze momentarily, but then quickly burn out and their brilliance fades. They are shooting stars that mislead rather than lead. The Lord’s star, however, may not always overwhelm by its brightness, but it is always there, ever kindly: it takes you by the hand in life and accompanies you. It does not promise material reward, but ensures peace and grants, as it did to the Magi, “exceedingly great joy” (Mt 2:10). But it also tells us to set out.
Setting out, the second thing the Magi do, is essential if we are to find Jesus. His star demands a decision to take up the journey and to advance tirelessly on our way. It demands that we free ourselves from useless burdens and unnecessary extras that only prove a hindrance, and accept unforeseen obstacles along the map of life. Jesus allows himself to be found by those who seek him, but to find him we need to get up and go, not sit around but take risks, not stand still, but set out. Jesus makes demands: he tells those who seek him to leave behind the armchair of worldly comforts and the reassuring warmth of hearth and home. Following Jesus is not a polite etiquette to be observed, but a journey to be undertaken. God, who set his people free in the exodus and called new peoples to follow his star, grants freedom and joy always and only in the course of a journey. In other words, if we want to find Jesus, we have to overcome our fear of taking risks, our self-satisfaction and our indolent refusal to ask anything more of life. We need to take risks simply to meet a Child. Yet those risks are immensely worth the effort, since in finding that Child, in discovering his tenderness and love, we rediscover ourselves.
Setting out is not easy. The Gospel shows us this through a cast of characters. There is Herod, wild with fear that the birth of a king will threaten his power. So he organizes meetings and sends people out to gather information, yet he himself does not budge; he stays locked up in his palace. Even “all Jerusalem” (v. 3) is afraid: afraid of the new things God is bringing about. They want everything to remain as it was – that is the way it has always been – no one has the courage to leave. The temptation of the priests and scribes is more subtle: they know the exact place and tell it to Herod, quoting the ancient prophecy. They know, but they themselves make no move towards Bethlehem. Theirs can be the temptation of those who are used to being believers: they can talk at length about the faith they know so well, but will not take a personal risk for the Lord. They talk, but do not pray; they complain, but do no good. The Magi, on the other hand, talk little and journey much. Ignorant of the truths of faith, they are filled with longing and set out. So the Gospel tells us: They “came to worship him” (v. 2); “they set out; they went in, and fell down and worshiped him; they went back” (vv. 9, 11, 12). They kept moving.
Bringing gifts. Having come to Jesus after a long journey, the Magi do as he does: they bring gifts. Jesus is there to give his life; they offer him their own costly gifts: gold, incense and myrrh. The Gospel becomes real when the journey of life ends in giving. To give freely, for the Lord’s sake, without expecting anything in return: this is the sure sign that we have found Jesus. For he says: “The gift you have received, give freely as a gift” (Mt 10:8). To do good without counting the cost, even when unasked, even when you gain nothing thereby, even if it is unpleasant. That is what God wants. He, who become small for our sake, asks us to offer something for the least of his brothers and sisters. Who are they? They are those who have nothing to give in return, the needy, the hungry, the stranger, the prisoner, the poor (cf. Mt 25:31-46). We give a gift pleasing to Jesus when we care for a sick person, spend time with a difficult person, help someone for the sake of helping, or forgive someone who has hurt us. These are gifts freely given, and they cannot be lacking in the lives of Christians. Jesus reminds us that if we only love those who love us, we do as the pagans do (cf. Mt 5:46-47). Today let us look at our hands, so often empty of love, and let us try to think of some free gift that we can give without expecting anything in return. That will please the Lord. And let us ask him: “Lord, let me rediscover the joy of giving”.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us imitate the Magi: looking upwards, setting out, and freely offering our gifts.
The Evangelist Matthew tells us that the Magi, when they came to Bethlehem, “saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him” (Mt 2:11). Worshiping the Lord is not easy; it does not just happen. It requires a certain spiritual maturity and is the fruit of an at times lengthy interior journey. Worshiping God is not something we do spontaneously. True, human beings have a need to worship, but we can risk missing the goal. Indeed, if we do not worship God, we will worship idols – there is no middle way, it is either God or idols; or, to use the words of a French writer: “Whoever does not worship God, worships the devil” – and instead of becoming believers, we will become idolaters. That's the way it is, either one or the other.
In our day, it is particularly necessary for us, both as individuals and as communities, to devote more time to worship. We need to learn ever better how to contemplate the Lord. We have somewhat lost the meaning of the prayer of adoration, so we must take it up again, both in our communities and in our own spiritual life. Today, then, let us learn a few useful lessons from the Magi. Like them, we want to fall down and worship the Lord. To worship him seriously, not as Herod said: “Let me know where the place is and I will go to worship him”. No, that worship is not good. Ours must be serious!
The Liturgy of the Word offers us three phrases that can help us to understand more fully what it means to be worshipers of the Lord. They are: “to lift up our eyes”, “to set out on a journey” and “to see”. These three phrases can help us to understand what it means to be a worshiper of the Lord.
The first phrase, to lift up our eyes, comes to us from the prophet Isaiah. To the community of Jerusalem, recently returned from exile and disheartened by great challenges and hardships, the prophet addresses these powerful words of encouragement: “Lift up your eyes and look around” (60:4). He urges them to lay aside their weariness and complaints, to escape the bottleneck of a narrow way of seeing things, to cast off the dictatorship of the self, the constant temptation to withdraw into ourselves and our own concerns. To worship the Lord, we first have to “lift up our eyes”. In other words, not to let ourselves be imprisoned by those imaginary spectres that stifle hope, not to make our problems and difficulties the centre of our lives. This does not mean denying reality, or deluding ourselves into thinking that all is well. On the contrary, it is a matter of viewing problems and anxieties in a new way, knowing that the Lord is aware of our troubles, attentive to our prayers and not indifferent to the tears we shed.
This way of seeing things, which despite everything continues to trust in the Lord, gives rise to filial gratitude. When this happens, our hearts become open to worship. On the other hand, when we focus exclusively on problems, and refuse to lift up our eyes to God, fear and confusion creep into our hearts, giving rise to anger, bewilderment, anxiety and depression. Then it becomes difficult to worship the Lord. Once this happens, we need to find the courage to break out of the circle of our foregone conclusions and to recognize that reality is much greater than we imagine. Lift up your eyes, look around and see. The Lord asks us first to trust in him, because he truly cares for everyone. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he provide for us? (cf. Lk 12:28). If we lift up our eyes to the Lord, and consider all things in his light, we will see that he never abandons us. The Word became flesh (cf. Jn 1:14) and remains with us always, for all time (cf. Mt 28:20). Always.
When we lift up our eyes to God, life’s problems do not go away, no; instead we feel certain that the Lord grants us the strength to deal with them. The first step towards an attitude of worship, then, is to “lift up our eyes”. Our worship is that of disciples who have found in God a new and unexpected joy. Worldly joy is based on wealth, success or similar things, always with ourselves at the centre. The joy of Christ’s disciples, on the other hand, is based on the fidelity of God, whose promises never fail, whatever the crises we may face. Filial gratitude and joy awaken within us a desire to worship the Lord, who remains ever faithful and never abandons us.
The second helpful phrase is to set out on a journey. Before they could worship the Child in Bethlehem, the Magi had to undertake a lengthy journey. Matthew tells us that in those days “wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying: ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him’” (Mt 2:1-2). A journey always involves a transformation, a change. After a journey, we are no longer the same. There is always something new about those who have made a journey: they have learned new things, encountered new people and situations, and found inner strength amid the hardships and risks they met along the way. No one worships the Lord without first experiencing the interior growth that comes from embarking on a journey.
We become worshipers of the Lord through a gradual process. Experience teaches us, for example, that at fifty we worship differently than we did at thirty. Those who let themselves be shaped by grace usually improve with time: on the outside, we grow older – so Saint Paul tells us – while our inner nature is being renewed each day (cf. 2 Cor 4:16), as we grow in our understanding of how best to worship the Lord. From this point of view, our failures, crises and mistakes can become learning experiences: often they can help us to be more aware that the Lord alone is worthy of our worship, for only he can satisfy our innermost desire for life and eternity. With the passage of time, life’s trials and difficulties – experienced in faith – help to purify our hearts, making them humbler and thus more and more open to God. Even our sins, the awareness of being sinners, of experiencing such bad things. “But I did this... I did...”: if you approach it with faith and repentance, with contrition, it will help you to grow. Paul says that everything can help us to grow spiritually, to encounter Jesus, even our sins. And Saint Thomas adds: “etiam mortalia”, even the bad sins, the worst. But if you respond with repentance it will help you on this journey towards encountering the Lord and to worship him better.
Like the Magi, we too must allow ourselves to learn from the journey of life, marked by the inevitable inconveniences of travel. We cannot let our weariness, our falls and our failings discourage us. Instead, by humbly acknowledging them, we should make them opportunities to progress towards the Lord Jesus. Life is not about showing off our abilities, but a journey towards the One who loves us. We are not to show off our virtues in every step of our life; rather, with humility we should journey towards the Lord. By keeping our gaze fixed on the Lord, we will find the strength needed to persevere with renewed joy.
And so we come to the third phrase: to see. To lift up our eyes; to set out on a journey; to see. The Evangelist tells us that, “going into the house they saw the child with Mary, his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him” (Mt 2:10-11). Worshiping was an act of homage reserved for sovereigns and high dignitaries. The Magi worshiped the One they knew was the king of the Jews (cf. Mt 2:2). But what did they actually see? They saw a poor child and his mother. Yet these wise men from far-off lands were able to look beyond those lowly surroundings and recognize in that Child a royal presence. They were able to “see” beyond appearances. Falling to their knees before the Babe of Bethlehem, they expressed a worship that was above all interior: the opening of the treasures they had brought as gifts symbolized the offering of their own hearts.
To worship the Lord we need to “see” beyond the veil of things visible, which often prove deceptive. Herod and the leading citizens of Jerusalem represent a worldliness enslaved to appearances and immediate attractions. They see, yet they cannot see. It is not that they do not believe, no; it is that they do not know how to see because they are slaves to appearances and seek what is attractive. They value only the sensational, the things that capture the attention of the masses. In the Magi, however, we see a very different approach, one we can define as theological realism – a very “high” word, yet helpful – a way of perceiving the objective reality of things and leads to the realization that God shuns all ostentation. The Lord is in humility, he is like that humble child, who shuns that ostentation which is precisely the product of worldliness. A way of “seeing” that transcends the visible and makes it possible for us to worship the Lord who is often hidden in everyday situations, in the poor and those on the fringes. A way of seeing things that is not impressed by sound and fury, but seeks in every situation the things that truly matter, and that seeks the Lord. With Saint Paul, then, let us “look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor 4:18).
May the Lord Jesus make us true worshipers, capable of showing by our lives his loving plan for all humanity. Let us ask for the grace for each of us and for the whole Church, to learn to worship, to continue to worship, to exercise this prayer of adoration often, because only God is to be adored.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany, that is, the manifestation of the Lord to all peoples: in fact, the salvation wrought by Christ knows no boundaries. It is for everyone. Epiphany is not an additional mystery, it is always the same mystery as the Nativity, viewed, however, from the dimension of light, the light that illumines every man and women, the light to be welcomed in faith and the light to bring to others in charity, through witness, in the proclamation of the Gospel.
Isaiah’s vision, reported in today’s Liturgy (see 60:1-6), resounds in our time and is more timely than ever: “darkness covers the earth, and thick darkness the peoples” (v. 2), the text from Isaiah says. With that background, the prophet announced the light: the light given by God to Jerusalem and destined to enlighten the path of all the peoples. This light has the power to attract everyone, near and far, everyone sets out on the path to reach it, (v 3). It is a vision that opens the heart, that makes the breath come easier, that invites hope. Certainly, the darkness is present and threatening in everyone’s life and in the story of humanity; but God’s light is more powerful. It needs to be welcomed so that it might shine on everyone. But, we can distance this light from us. But we can ask ourselves: “Where is this light?” The prophet caught a glimpse of it from afar, but that was already enough to fill the heart of Jerusalem with irrepressible joy.
Where is this light? The Evangelist Matthew in his turn, recounting the episode of the Magi (see 2:1-12), shows that this light is the Baby of Bethlehem, it is Jesus, even if His kingship was not accepted by everyone. Rather some rejected it, like King Herod. He is the star who appeared on the horizon, the awaited Messiah, the One through whom God would inaugurate His kingdom of love, His kingdom of of justice and of peace. He was born not only for some, but for all men and women, for all peoples. The light is for all peoples, salvation is for all peoples.
And how does this “radiation” come? How does Christ’s light shine in every place and at every moment? It has its own method of expanding. It does not do so through the powerful means of this world’s empires who always seek to seize power. No, Christ’s light spreads through the proclamation of the Gospel. Through proclamation…by word and witness. And with this same “method”, God chose to come among us: the Incarnation, that is, by drawing near to the other, encountering the other, assuming the reality of the other and bringing the witness of our faith, everyone. This is the only way that Christ’s light, who is Love, can shine in those who welcome it and attract others. Christ’s light does not expand only through words, through fake methods, commercial ones…. No, no, through faith, word and witness. Thus the light of Christ expands. The star is Christ, but we too can and must also be the star for our brothers and sisters, as witnesses of the treasures of goodness and infinite mercy that the Redeemer offers freely to everyone. Christ’s light does not expand through proselytism. It expands through witness, through the confession of the faith. Even through martyrdom.
Therefore, the condition is to welcome this light within, to welcome it always more. Woe to us if we think we possess it, no; woe to us if we think that we only need to “manage” it! No. Like the Magi, we too are called to allow ourselves to be fascinated, attracted, guided, illuminated and converted by Christ: He is the journey of faith, through prayer and the contemplation of God’s works, who continually fills us with joy and wonder, an ever new wonder. That wonder is the always the first step to go forward in this light.
Let us invoke the protection of Mary on the universal Church, so that it might spread throughout the entire world the Gospel of Christ, the light of all the peoples, the light of every people.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
On this first Sunday after Christmas, the Liturgy invites us to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Indeed, every nativity scene shows us Jesus together with Our Lady and St Joseph in the grotto of Bethlehem. God wanted to be born into a human family, he wanted to have a mother and father like us.
And today the Gospel presents the Holy Family to us on the sorrowful road of exile, seeking refuge in Egypt. Joseph, Mary and Jesus experienced the tragic fate of refugees, which is marked by fear, uncertainty and unease (cf. Mt 2:13-15; 19-23). Unfortunately, in our own time, millions of families can identify with this sad reality. Almost every day the television and papers carry news of refugees fleeing from hunger, war and other grave dangers, in search of security and a dignified life for themselves and for their families.
In distant lands, even when they find work, refugees and immigrants do not always find a true welcome, respect and appreciation for the values they bring. Their legitimate expectations collide with complex and difficult situations which at times seem insurmountable. Therefore, as we fix our gaze on the Holy Family of Nazareth as they were forced to become refugees, let us think of the tragedy of those migrants and refugees who are victims of rejection and exploitation, who are victims of human trafficking and of slave labour. But let us also think of the other “exiles”: I would call them “hidden exiles”, those exiles who can be found within their own families: the elderly for example who are sometimes treated as a burdensome presence. I often think that a good indicator for knowing how a family is doing is seeing how their children and elderly are treated.
Jesus wanted to belong to a family who experienced these hardships, so that no one would feel excluded from the loving closeness of God. The flight into Egypt caused by Herod’s threat shows us that God is present where man is in danger, where man is suffering, where he is fleeing, where he experiences rejection and abandonment; but God is also present where man dreams, where he hopes to return in freedom to his homeland and plans and chooses life for his family and dignity for himself and his loved ones.
Today our gaze on the Holy Family lets us also be drawn into the simplicity of the life they led in Nazareth. It is an example that does our families great good, helping them increasingly to become communities of love and reconciliation, in which tenderness, mutual help, and mutual forgiveness is experienced. Let us remember the three key words for living in peace and joy in the family: “may I”, “thank you” and “sorry”. In our family, when we are not intrusive and ask “may I”, in our family when we are not selfish and learn to say “thank you”, and when in a family one realizes he has done something wrong and knows how to say “sorry”, in that family there is peace and joy. Let us remember these three words. Can we repeat them all together: may I, thank you, sorry. (Everyone: may I, thank you, sorry!) I would also like to encourage families to become aware of the importance they have in the Church and in society. The proclamation of the Gospel, in fact, first passes through the family to reach the various spheres of daily life.
Let us fervently call upon Mary Most Holy, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother, and St Joseph her spouse. Let us ask them to enlighten, comfort and guide every family in the world, so that they may fulfil with dignity and peace the mission which God has entrusted to them.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Each year, the Gospel of the First Sunday of Lent sets before us the narrative of the temptation of Jesus, when the Holy Spirit, having descended upon him after his Baptism in the Jordan, prompts him to confront Satan openly in the desert for 40 days, before beginning his public ministry.
The tempter seeks to divert Jesus from the Father’s plan, that is, from the way of sacrifice, of the love that offers itself in expiation, to make him take an easier path, one of success and power. The duel between Jesus and Satan takes place through strong quotations from Sacred Scripture. The devil, in fact, to divert Jesus from the way of the cross, sets before him false messianic hopes: economic well-being, indicated by the ability to turn stones into bread; a dramatic and miraculous style, with the idea of throwing himself down from the highest point of the Temple in Jerusalem and being saved by angels; and lastly, a shortcut to power and dominion, in exchange for an act of adoration to Satan. These are the three groups of temptations: and we, too, know them well!
Jesus decisively rejects all these temptations and reiterates his firm resolve to follow the path set by the Father, without any kind of compromise with sin or worldly logic. Note well how Jesus responds. He does not dialogue with Satan, as Eve had done in the earthly paradise. Jesus is well aware that there can be no dialogue with Satan, for he is cunning. That is why Jesus, instead of engaging in dialogue as Eve had, chooses to take refuge in the Word of God and responds with the power of this Word. Let us remember this: at the moment of temptation, of our temptations, there is no arguing with Satan, our defence must always be the Word of God! And this will save us. In his replies to Satan, the Lord, using the Word of God, reminds us above all that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3); and this gives us the strength, sustains us in the struggle against a worldly mind-set that would lower man to the level of his primitive needs, causing him to lose hunger for what is true, good and beautiful, the hunger for God and for his love. Furthermore, he recalls that “it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (v. 7), for the way of faith passes also through darkness and doubt, and is nourished by patience and persevering expectation. Lastly, Jesus recalls that “it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only you shall serve’” (v. 10); i.e., we must rid ourselves of idols, of vain things, and build our lives on what is essential.
Jesus’ words will then be borne out in his actions. His absolute fidelity to the Father’s plan of love will lead him after about three years to the final reckoning with the “prince of this world” (Jn 16:11), at the hour of his Passion and Cross, and Jesus will have his final victory, the victory of love!
Dear brothers and sisters, the time of Lent is a propitious occasion for us all to make a journey of conversion, by sincerely allowing ourselves to be confronted with this passage of the Gospel. Let us renew the promises of our Baptism: let us renounce Satan and all his works and seductions — for he is a seducer — in order to follow the path of God and arrive at Easter in the joy of the Spirit (cf. Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Anno a).
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In this First Sunday of Lent, the Gospel introduces us to the journey toward Easter, revealing Jesus as he remains in the desert for 40 days, subjected to the temptations of the devil (cf. Mt 4:1-11). This episode takes place at a precise moment in Jesus’ life: immediately after his Baptism in the River Jordan and prior to his public ministry. He has just received the solemn investiture: the Spirit of God has descended upon him, the heavenly Father has declared him “my beloved Son” (Mt 3:17). Jesus is now ready to begin his mission; and as this mission has a declared enemy, namely, Satan, He confronts him straight away, “up close”. The devil plays precisely on the title “Son of God” in order to deter Jesus from the fulfilment of his mission: “If you are the Son of God” (4:3, 6); and proposes that He perform miraculous acts — to be a “magician” — such as transforming stones into bread so as to satiate his hunger, and throwing himself down from the temple wall so as to be saved by the angels. These two temptations are followed by the third: to worship him, the devil, so as to have dominion over the world (cf. v. 9).
Through this three-fold temptation, Satan wants to divert Jesus from the way of obedience and humiliation — because he knows that in this way, on this path, evil will be conquered — and to lead Him down the false shortcut to success and glory. But the devil’s poisonous arrows are “blocked” by Jesus with the shield of God’s Word (vv. 4, 10), which expresses the will of the Father. Jesus does not speak a word of his own: He responds only with the Word of God. Thus the Son, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, comes out of the desert victorious.
During the 40 days of Lent, as Christians we are invited to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and face the spiritual battle with the Evil One with the strength of the Word of God. Not with our words: they are worthless. The Word of God: this has the strength to defeat Satan. For this reason, it is important to be familiar with the Bible: read it often, meditate on it, assimilate it. The Bible contains the Word of God, which is always timely and effective. Someone has asked: what would happen were we to treat the Bible as we treat our mobile phone?; were we to always carry it with us, or at least a small, pocket-sized Gospel, what would happen?; were we to turn back when we forget it: you forget your mobile phone — ‘oh! I don’t have it, I’m going back to look for it’; were we to open it several times a day; were we to read God’s messages contained in the Bible as we read telephone messages, what would happen? Clearly the comparison is paradoxical, but it calls for reflection. Indeed, if we had God’s Word always in our heart, no temptation could separate us from God, and no obstacle could divert us from the path of good; we would know how to defeat the daily temptations of the evil that is within us and outside us; we would be more capable of living a life renewed according to the Spirit, welcoming and loving our brothers and sisters, especially the weakest and neediest, and also our enemies.
May the Virgin Mary, perfect icon of obedience to God and of unconditional trust in his will, sustain us on the Lenten journey, that we may set ourselves to listen docilely to the Word of God in order to achieve a true conversion of heart.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin the Lenten journey, a forty-day journey towards Easter, towards the heart of the liturgical year and of the faith. It is a journey that follows that of Jesus, who at the beginning of his ministry withdrew for forty days to pray and fast, tempted by the devil, into the desert. I would like to speak to you today about the spiritual significance of the desert. What the desert means spiritually to all of us, even us who live in the city, what the desert means.
Let's imagine you're in a desert. The first feeling would be to be enveloped by a great silence: no noise, apart from the wind and our breath. Here, the desert is the place of detachment from the din that surrounds us. It is the absence of words to make room for another Word, the Word of God, which as a light breeze caresses our heart (cf. 1 Kings 19:12). The desert is the place of the Word, with a capital W. In the Bible, in fact, the Lord loves to speak to us in the desert. In the desert he gives Moses the "ten words", the ten commandments. And when the people distance themselves from him, becoming like an unfaithful bride, God says, "Here, I will lead you into the desert and speak to your heart. There you will answer me, as in the days of your youth"(Hosea 2:13-14). In the desert you hear the Word of God, which is like a slight sound. The Book of Kings says that the Word of God is like a thread of silence that makes a sound. In the desert we find intimacy with God, the love of the Lord. Jesus loved to retreat every day to deserted places to pray (cf. Luke 5:16). He taught us how to look for the Father, who speaks to us in silence. And it is not easy to be silent in our hearts, because we always try to talk a little, to be with others.
Lent is a good time to make space for the Word of God. It's the time to turn off the television and open the Bible. It's a time to disconnect from your phones and connect to the Gospel. When I was a child there was no television, but there was a custom of not listening to the radio. Lent is deserted, it is a time to give up, to disconnect from our phones and connect to the Gospel. It is time to give up useless words, gossip, rumours and to speak intimately with the Lord. It's time to devote yourself to a healthy ecology of the heart, to clean it. We live in an environment polluted by too much verbal violence, by so many offensive and harmful words, that the web amplifies. Today we insult as if we were saying "Good Morning". We are inundated with empty words, advertising, deceitful messages. We have become accustomed to hearing everything about everyone and we risk slipping into a mundaneness that atrophies our heart and there is no by-pass to heal this, but only silence. We struggle to distinguish the voice of the Lord who speaks to us, the voice of conscience, the voice of good. Jesus, calling us into the desert, invites us to listen to what matters, to the important, to the essential. To the devil who tempted Him He replied, "It is not only by bread alone that man lives, but by every word that comes out of God's mouth" (Matthew 4:4). Like bread, more than bread we need the Word of God, we need to speak with God: we need to pray. Because only before God do the inclinations of the heart come to light and the duplicity of our souls fall. Here is the desert, a place of life, not of death, because dialogue in silence with the Lord gives us life.
Let's try to think of a desert again. The desert is the place of the essential. Let's look at our lives: how many useless things surround us! We chase a thousand things that seem necessary and are not really. How good would it be for us to get rid of so many superfluous realities, to rediscover what matters, to find the faces of those around us! Jesus also sets an example on this, fasting. Fasting is to know how to give up the vain things, the superfluous, to go to the essentials. Fasting is not just about losing weight, fasting is going to the essentials, it is seeking the beauty of a simpler life.
Finally, the desert is the place of solitude. Even today, near us, there are many deserts. They are lonely and abandoned people. How many poor and elderly people stand by us and live in silence, without any noise, marginalized and discarded! Talking about them doesn't create an audience, ratings. But the desert leads us to them, to all those who are silenced, silently ask for our help. So many silent glances asking for our help. The journey through the Lent desert is a journey of charity to those who are weakest.
Prayer, fasting, works of mercy: this is the path in the Lenten desert.
Dear brothers and sisters, with the voice of the prophet Isaiah, God has made this promise: "Here, I will do something new, I will open a path in the desert"(Is 43:19). In the desert the path is opened up that brings us from death to life. Let us enter the desert with Jesus, and we will come out of it savouring Easter, the power of God's love that renews life. The same will happen to us that happens in the deserts that bloom in spring, making buds suddenly, "out of nothing", buds and plants. Take courage, let us enter this desert of Lent, follow Jesus into the desert: with him our deserts will flourish.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
On this first Sunday of Lent, the Gospel (cf. Mt 4:1-11) recounts that Jesus, after having been baptised in the Jordan River, "was led by the Spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil" (v. 1). He is preparing to begin his mission of proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven and, just as Moses and Elijah did (cf. Es 24:18; 1 King 19:8), in the Old Testament, He does so with a forty-day fast. This is the beginning of Lent.
At the end of this period of fasting, the tempter, the devil, breaks in, and three times tries to put Jesus to the test. The first temptation arises by the fact that Jesus is hungry; and so the devil suggests to Him, "If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread" (v. 3). A challenge. But Jesus' answer is clear: "It is written: "One does not live on bread alone but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God" (4:4). He recalls Moses, when he reminded the people of the long journey they had made in the desert, through which he learned that his life depended on the Word of God (cf. Dt 8:3).
Then the devil makes a second attempt, (cf. vv. 5-6) he gets more cunning, this time he quotes the Sacred Scripture. The strategy is clear: if you have so much confidence in the power of God, then try it, in fact Scripture itself confirms that you will be aided by angels (cf. v. 6). But even in this case Jesus does not allow himself to be confounded, because those who believe know that one does not put God to the test, instead he trusts Gods goodness. Therefore, to the words of the Bible, which Satan has interpreted for his own purposes, Jesus responds with another quote: "Again it is written: "You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test" (v. 7).
Finally, the third attempt (cf. 8-9) reveals the true reasoning of the devil: since the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven marks the beginning of his own defeat, the evil one would like to divert Jesus from fulfilling His mission, by presenting Him as a political Messiah. But Jesus rejects the idolatry of human power and glory and, in the end, drives out the tempter by saying to him: "Be gone, Satan! It is written: "The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve" (v. 10). And at this point, the angels approach to serve Jesus, who is faithful in handing Himself over to the Father (cf. v. 11).
This teaches us one thing: Jesus does not dialogue with the devil. Jesus responds to the devil with the Word of God, not by His own words. In temptation, we often begin to dialogue with temptation, to dialogue with the devil: "Yes, but I may do this..., then I confess, then this, that one...". Never dialogue with the devil. Jesus says only two things to the devil: he drives him away or, as in this case, responds with the Word of God. Be careful: never dialogue with temptation, never dialogue with the devil.
Even today Satan breaks into people's lives to tempt them with his tempting proposals; he mixes his voice with the many other voices that try to tame our conscience. Messages come at us from many places inviting us to "let ourselves be tempted" to experience the intoxication of the transgression. The experience of Jesus teaches us that temptation is an attempt to follow alternative paths to God's: "But, do this, there is no problem, then God forgives! But a day of joy take it..." – "But it is a sin!" – "No, it is nothing like this". This is an alternative route to God's path, and these give us the sense of being self-sufficient, of the enjoyment of life as an end to itself. But all this is illusory: we soon realize that the more we distance ourselves from God, the more defenceless and helpless we feel in the face of the great problems of existence.
May the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Him who crushed the head of the serpent, helps us in this time of Lent to be vigilant in the face of temptations, not to submit to any idol of this world, to follow Jesus in the fight against evil; and we will also succeed as Jesus.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
This Sunday’s Gospel recounts the beginnings of the public life of Jesus in the cities and villages of Galilee. His mission does not begin in Jerusalem, the religious centre and also the social and political centre, but in an area on the outskirts, an area looked down upon by the most observant Jews because of the presence in that region of various foreign peoples; that is why the Prophet Isaiah calls it “Galilee of the nations” (Is 9:1).
It is a borderland, a place of transit where people of different races, cultures, and religions converge. Thus Galilee becomes a symbolic place for the Gospel to open to all nations. From this point of view, Galilee is like the world of today: the co-presence of different cultures, the necessity for comparison and the necessity of encounter. We too are immersed every day in a kind of “Galilee of the nations”, and in this type of context we may feel afraid and give in to the temptation to build fences to make us feel safer, more protected. But Jesus teaches us that the Good News, which he brings, is not reserved to one part of humanity, it is to be communicated to everyone. It is a proclamation of joy destined for those who are waiting for it, but also for all those who perhaps are no longer waiting for anything and haven’t even the strength to seek and to ask.
Starting from Galilee, Jesus teaches us that no one is excluded from the salvation of God, rather it is from the margins that God prefers to begin, from the least, so as to reach everyone. He teaches us a method, his method, which also expresses the content, which is the Father’s mercy. “Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel” (Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 20).
Jesus begins his mission not only from a decentralized place, but also among men whom one would call, refer to, as having a “low profile”. When choosing his first disciples and future apostles, he does not turn to the schools of scribes and doctors of the Law, but to humble people and simple people, who diligently prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus goes to call them where they work, on the lakeshore: they are fishermen. He calls them, and they follow him, immediately. They leave their nets and go with him: their life will become an extraordinary and fascinating adventure.
Dear friends, the Lord is calling today too! The Lord passes through the paths of our daily life. Even today at this moment, here, the Lord is passing through the square. He is calling us to go with him, to work with him for the Kingdom of God, in the “Galilee” of our times. May each one of you think: the Lord is passing by today, the Lord is watching me, he is looking at me! What is the Lord saying to me? And if one of you feels that the Lord says to you “follow me” be brave, go with the Lord. The Lord never disappoints. Feel in your heart if the Lord is calling you to follow him. Let’s let his gaze rest on us, hear his voice, and follow him! “That the joy of the Gospel may reach to the ends of the earth, illuminating even the fringes of our world” (ibid., n. 288).
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today’s Gospel passage (cf. Mt 4:12-23) recounts the beginning of Jesus’ preaching in Galilee. He leaves Nazareth, a village in the mountains, and settles in Capernaum, an important centre on the lakeshore, inhabited largely by pagans, a crossroads between the Mediterranean and the Mesopotamian inland. This choice indicates that the beneficiaries of his preaching are not only his compatriots, but those who arrive in the cosmopolitan “Galilee of the Gentiles” (v. 15, cf. Is 9:1): that’s what it was called. Seen from the capital Jerusalem, that land is geographically peripheral and religiously impure because it was full of pagans, having mixed with those who did not belong to Israel. Great things were not expected from Galilee for the history of salvation. Instead, right from there — precisely from there — radiated that “light” on which we meditated in recent Sundays: the light of Christ. It radiated right from the periphery.
Jesus’ message reiterates that of the Baptist, announcing the “kingdom of heaven” (v. 17). This kingdom does not involve the establishment of a new political power, but the fulfilment of the Covenant between God and his people, which inaugurates a season of peace and justice. To secure this covenant pact with God, each one is called to convert, transforming his or her way of thinking and living. This is important: converting is not only changing the way of life but also the way of thinking. It is a transformation of thought. It is not a matter of changing clothing, but habits! What differentiates Jesus from John the Baptist is the way and manner. Jesus chooses to be an itinerant prophet. He doesn’t stay and await people, but goes to encounter them. Jesus is always on the road! His first missionary appearances take place along the lake of Galilee, in contact with the multitude, in particular with the fishermen. There Jesus does not only proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God, but seeks companions to join in his salvific mission. In this very place he meets two pairs of brothers: Simon and Andrew, James and John. He calls them, saying: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (v. 19). The call reaches them in the middle of their daily activity: the Lord reveals himself to us not in an extraordinary or impressive way, but in the everyday circumstances of our life. There we must discover the Lord; and there he reveals himself, makes his love felt in our heart; and there — with this dialogue with him in the everyday circumstances of life — he changes our heart. The response of the four fishermen is immediate and willing: “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (v. 20). We know, in fact, that they were disciples of the Baptist and that, thanks to his witness, they had already begun to believe in Jesus as the Messiah (cf. Jn 1:35-42).
We, today’s Christians, have the joy of proclaiming and witnessing to our faith because there was that first announcement, because there were those humble and courageous men who responded generously to Jesus’ call. On the shores of the lake, in an inconceivable land, the first community of disciples of Christ was born. May the knowledge of these beginnings give rise in us to the desire to bear Jesus’ word, love and tenderness in every context, even the most difficult and resistant. To carry the Word to all the peripheries! All the spaces of human living are soil on which to cast the seeds of the Gospel, so they may bear the fruit of salvation.
May the Virgin Mary help us with her maternal intercession to respond joyfully to Jesus’ call, and to place ourselves at the service of the Kingdom of God.
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.