Matthew Chapter 5
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Why are there people who have their heart closed to salvation?
Fear is the answer to the question because salvation scares us. We need salvation, but at the same time we are afraid of it. When the Lord comes to save us, we must give everything, and at that point he commands; and we fear this. Men want to be in control, they want to be their own masters. And so, salvation does not come, the consolation of the Spirit does not reach us.
Furthermore, the Beatitudes are “the law of those who have been saved” and have opened their heart to salvation. “It was the People of God that followed John the Baptist first and then the Lord”, precisely because they were in need of salvation. But there were also those who “went to test this new doctrine and then to quarrel with Jesus”. Unfortunately they had closed hearts.
Ask the Lord for “the grace to follow him”, but not with the liberty of the Pharisees and Sadducees who became hypocrites because they wanted “to follow him only with human freedom”. Hypocrisy is exactly that: “Not allowing the Spirit to change our hearts with his salvation. The freedom that the Spirit gives us is also a sort of slavery, a slavery to the Lord that sets us free. It is another kind of liberty”.
Man often runs the risk of trying to “bargain”, to take what is convenient for us, “a little of this, a little of that”. It’s like “making a fruit salad: a little of the Spirit and a little of the spirit of the world”. However with God there is no halfway house: the person chooses either “one thing or the other”. The Lord is clear: no one can serve two masters. One either serves the Lord or the spirit of the world. It is impossible to mix everything together.
Dear Young People, Good Afternoon!
After having read the Gospel, Orlando came up to me and said, “I ask you to pray for the freedom of each one of us, of everyone”. This is the blessing which Orlando asked for each one of us. It is the blessing which all of us together now pray for: freedom. Freedom is a gift that God gives us, but we have to know how to accept it. We have to be able to have a free heart, because we all know that in the world there are so many things that bind our hearts and prevent them from being free. Exploitation, lack of means to survive, drug addiction, sadness, all those things take away our freedom. And so we can all thank Orlando for having asked for this blessing of having a free heart, a heart that can say what it thinks, that can express what it feels, and can act according to how it thinks and feels. That is a free heart! And that is what we are going to ask for together: the blessing which Orlando requested for all. Repeat with me: “Lord Jesus, give me a heart that is free, that I may not be a slave to all the snares in the world. That I may not be a slave to comfort and deception. That I may not be a slave to the good life. That I may not be a slave to vice. That I may not be a slave to a false freedom, which means doing what I want at every moment”. Thank you Orlando, for making us realize that we need to ask God for a heart that is free. Ask him for this everyday!
We heard two testimonies: from Liz and from Manuel. Liz has taught us all something. Just as Orlando taught us how to pray for a heart that is free, Liz, by sharing her experience, teaches us that we must not be like Pontius Pilate and wash our hands of things. Liz could quite easily have put her mother into one home, and her grandmother into another home, and then gone on to enjoy her youth, following the path of studies she desired. But Liz said, “No, there is my mother, and my grandmother”. Liz became a servant, and much more: she became a servant for her mother and her grandmother. And she did it with such love! She did it to the point, as she herself said, that the roles were reversed in her family, and she ended up being a mother to her mother, in the way she cared for her. Her mother, with that cruel illness which confuses everything. She still gives herself fully, even today, at age twenty-five, serving her mother and her grandmother. All by herself? Not at all. She told us two things that can help us. She talked about an angel, an aunt who for her was like an angel; and she talked about getting together with her friends on weekends, with a youth group committed to evangelization, a youth group that strengthened her faith. And those two angels, the aunt who watched out for her and the youth group, gave her the strength to keep going. This is what we call solidarity. What do we call it? [The young people all respond: “Solidarity!”]. This happens when we take interest in other people’s problems. There she found a haven to rest her weary heart. But there’s something still missing here. She didn’t say: “I do this and that is it”. She studied. She is a nurse. And what helps her is the solidarity she received from you, from your youth group, the solidarity she received from that aunt who was like an angel. All these helped her move forward. And today, at age twenty-five, she enjoys the grace that Orlando showed us how to pray for: she has a free heart. Liz is obeying the Fourth Commandment: “Honour your Father and your Mother”. Liz offers her life in service to her mother. It is indeed a high degree of solidarity, the highest degree of love. This is witness. “Father, is it possible to love?” There you have a person who shows us how to love.
So first of all: freedom, a free heart. So all together: [The young people repeat each phrase.] First: a free heart. Second: a solidarity that accompanies. Solidarity. This is the lesson of this testimony. And Manuel was not a spoiled child. He is not “a good kid”. He was never a “kid”, a young person who had it easy in life. He used strong words: “I was taken advantage of, I was mistreated, I risked falling into addiction, and I was alone”. Exploitation, mistreatment, and loneliness. But instead of going out and getting in trouble, instead of going out to steal, he found a job. Instead of wanting to take revenge on life, he looked ahead. And Manuel used a beautiful phrase: “I could move forward because in the situation I was in, it was hard even to talk about a future”. How many young people, how many of you, today have the opportunity to study, to sit at the table with your family every day, not to worry about the essentials. How many of you enjoy this? Altogether, those of you who have these things, let us say, “Thank you Lord!” [The young people repeat the phrase]. We have here a testimony from a young man who from childhood knew what it was to feel pain, sadness, to be exploited, mistreated, not to have food and to be alone. Lord, save all those young people who are in those conditions! And for ourselves let us pray, “Thank you, Lord!”. Everyone: “Thank you, Lord!”.
Freedom of heart. Do you remember? Freedom of heart. That is what Orlando told us. And service and solidarity. That is what Liz told us. Hope, employment, making an effort to live and to move forward. That is what Manuel told us. As you can see, life is not easy for many young people. And I want you to understand this, and I want you to keep it always in mind: “If my life is relatively easy, there are other young men and women whose lives are not relatively easy”. What is more, desperation drives them to crime, drives them to get involved in corruption. To those young people we want to say that we are close to them, we want to lend them a helping hand, we want to support them, with solidarity, love, and hope.
There were two things that Liz and Manuel both said. Two things that are beautiful. Listen to them. Liz said that she began to know Jesus and that this meant opening the door to hope. And Manuel said: “I came to know God as my strength”. To know God is strength. In other words, to know God, to draw closer to Jesus, is hope and strength. And that is what we need from young people today: young people full of hope and strength. We don’t want “namby-pambies”, young people who are just there, lukewarm, unable to say either yes or no. We don’t want young people who tire quickly and who are always weary, with bored faces. We want young people who are strong. We want young people full of hope and strength. Why? Because they know Jesus, because they know God. Because they have a heart that is free. A heart that is free, please repeat this. [The young people repeat each word]. Solidarity, work, hope, effort. To know Jesus. To know God, my strength. Can a young person who lives this way have a bored look on his face? [“No”!]. A sad heart? [“No!”]. This then is the path! But it is a path that requires sacrifice, it requires going against the tide. The plan... The plan is to go against the tide. Jesus said: “Happy are those who are poor in spirit”. He does not say, “Happy are the rich, those who make lots of money”. No. Those who are poor in spirit, those who are capable of approaching and understanding those who are poor. Jesus does not say: “Happy are those who have a good time of it”, but rather: “Happy are those who can suffer for the pain of others”. I would ask you to read at home, later on, the Beatitudes, which are in the fifth chapter of Saint Matthew’s Gospel. Which chapter? [“The fifth!”] Which Gospel? [ “Saint Matthew!”]. Read them and think about them; they will do you a lot of good.
I must thank you Liz; I thank you, Manuel, and I thank you, Orlando. A free heart, which is the way it should be. I have to go now [“No!”] The other day, a priest jokingly said to me: “Yes, keep telling young people to make a ruckus. But afterwards, we are the ones who have to clear it up”. So make a ruckus! But also help in cleaning it up. Two things: make a ruckus, but do a good job of it! A ruckus that brings a free heart, a ruckus that brings solidarity, a ruckus that brings us hope, a ruckus that comes from knowing Jesus and knowing that God, once I know him, is my strength. That is the kind of ruckus which you should make.
I already knew your questions, because I had them beforehand, so I wrote down some words for you, to share with you. But it’s boring to read a speech, so I am leaving it with the bishop in charge of the youth apostolate so that he can publish it. And now, before going [“No!”], I ask you, first of all, to continue to pray for me; second, that you carry on creating a ruckus; and third, that you organize that ruckus without ruining anything. And together now, in silence, let us raise our hearts to God. Each from the heart, in a quiet voice, let us repeat these words: “Lord Jesus, I thank you for being here, I thank you because you gave me brothers and a sister like Manuel, Orlando, and Liz. I thank you because you have given us many brothers and sisters like them. They found you, Jesus. They know you, Jesus. They know that you, their God, are their strength. Jesus, I pray for all those young boys and girls who do not know that you are their strength and who are afraid to live, afraid to be happy, afraid to have dreams. Jesus, teach them how to dream, to dream big, to dream beautiful things, things which, although they seem ordinary, are things which enlarge the heart. Lord Jesus, give us strength. Give us a free heart. Give us hope. Give us love and teach us how to serve. Amen.
And now I will give you my blessing and I ask you please, to pray for me and to pray for all the many young people who do not have the grace which you have had: the grace of knowing Jesus, who gives you hope, who gives you a free heart, and who makes you strong.
And may almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Prepared address by the Holy Father:
Dear Young People,
I am happy to be with you in this atmosphere of celebration. Happy to listen to your witness and to share your enthusiasm and love for Jesus.
I thank Bishop Ricardo Valenzuela, who is charge of the youth apostolate, for his kind words. I also thank Manuel and Liz for their courage in sharing their lives and their testimony at this meeting. It is not easy to speak about personal things, and even less so in front of so many people. You have shared the greatest treasure which you have: your stories, your lives and how Jesus became a part of them.
To answer your questions, I would like to speak about some of the things you shared.
Manuel, you told us something like this: “Today I really want to serve others, I want to be more generous”. You experienced hard times, and very painful situations, but today you really want to help others, to go out and share your love with others.
Liz, it is not easy to be a mother to your own parents, all the more when you are young, but what great wisdom and maturity your words showed, when you said: “Today I play with her, I change her diapers. These are all things I hand over to God today, but I am barely making up for everything my mother did for me”.
You, young Paraguayans, you certainly show great goodness and courage.
You also shared how you have tried to move forward. Where you found strength. Both of you said it was in your parish. In your friends from the parish and the spiritual retreats organized there. These two things are key: friends and spiritual retreats.
Friends: Friendship is one of the greatest gifts which a person, a young person, can have and can offer. It really is. How hard it is to live without friends! Think about it: isn’t that one of the most beautiful things that Jesus tells us? He says: “I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (Jn 15:15). One of the most precious things about our being Christians is that we are friends, friends of Jesus. When you love someone, you spend time with them, you watch out for them and you help them, you tell them what you are thinking, but also you never abandon them. That’s how Jesus is with us; he never abandons us. Friends stand by one another, they help one another, they protect another. The Lord is like that with us. He is patient with us.
Spiritual retreats: Saint Ignatius has a famous meditation on the two standards. He describes the standard of the devil and then the standard of Christ. It would be like the football jerseys of two different teams. And he asks us which team we want to play for.
In this meditation, he has us imagine: What it would be like to belong to one or the other team. As if he was saying to us: “In this life, which team do you want to play for?”
Saint Ignatius says that the devil, in order to recruit players, promises that those who play on his side will receive riches, honour, glory and power. They will be famous. Everyone will worship them.
Then, Ignatius tells us the way Jesus plays. His game is not something fantastic. Jesus doesn’t tell us that we will be stars, celebrities, in this life. Instead, he tells us that playing with him is about humility, love, service to others. Jesus does not lie to us; he takes us seriously.
In the Bible, the devil is called the father of lies. What he promises, or better, what he makes you think, is that, if you do certain things, you will be happy. And later, when you think about it, you realize that you weren’t happy at all. That you were up against something which, far from giving you happiness, made you feel more empty, even sad. Friends: the devil is a con artist. He makes promises after promise, but he never delivers. He’ll never really do anything he says. He doesn’t make good on his promises. He makes you want things which he can’t give, whether you get them or not. He makes you put your hopes in things which will never make you happy. That’s his game, his strategy. He talks a lot, he offers a lot, but he doesn’t deliver. He is a con artist because everything he promises us is divisive, it is about comparing ourselves to others, about stepping over them in order to get what we want. He is a con artist because he tells us that we have to abandon our friends, and never to stand by anyone. Everything is based on appearances. He makes you think that your worth depends on how much you possess.
Then we have Jesus, who asks us to play on his team. He doesn’t con us, nor does he promise us the world. He doesn’t tell us that we will find happiness in wealth, power and pride. Just the opposite. He shows us a different way. This coach tells his players: “Blessed, happy are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”. And he ends up by telling them: “Rejoice on account of all this!”.
Why? Because Jesus doesn’t lie to us. He shows us a path which is life and truth. He is the great proof of this. His style, his way of living, is friendship, relationship with his Father. And that is what he offers us. He makes us realize that we are sons and daughters. Beloved children.
He does not trick you. Because he knows that happiness, true happiness, the happiness which can fill our hearts, is not found in designer clothing, or expensive brand-name shoes. He knows that real happiness is found in drawing near to others, learning how to weep with those who weep, being close to those who are feeling low or in trouble, giving them a shoulder to cry on, a hug. If we don’t know how to weep, we don’t know how to laugh either, we don’t know how to live.
Jesus knows that in this world filled with competition, envy and aggressivity, true happiness comes from learning to be patient, from respecting others, from refusing to condemn or judge others. As the saying goes: “When you get angry, you lose”. Don’t let your heart give in to anger and resentment. Happy are the merciful. Happy are those who know how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, those who are able to embrace, to forgive. We have all experienced this at one time or another. And how beautiful it is! It is like getting our lives back, getting a new chance. Nothing is more beautiful than to have a new chance. It is as if life can start all over again.
Happy too are those who bring new life and new opportunities. Happy those who work and sacrifice to do this. All of us have made mistakes and been caught up in misunderstandings, a thousand of them. Happy, then, are those who can help others when they make mistakes, when they experience misunderstandings. They are true friends, they do not give up on anyone. They are the pure of heart, the ones who can look beyond the little things and overcome difficulties. Happy above all are the ones who can see the good in other people.
Liz, you mentioned Chikitunga, this Paraguayan servant of God. You told us how she was your sister, your friend, your model. Like so many others, she shows us that the way of the Beatitudes is a way of fulfilment, a path we can really follow, a path which can make our hearts brim over. The saints are our friends and models. They no longer play on our field, but we continue to look to them in our efforts to play our best game. They show us that Jesus is no con artist; he offers us genuine fulfilment. But above all, he offers us friendship, true friendship, the friendship we all need.
So we need to be friends the way Jesus is. Not to be closed in on ourselves, but to join his team and play his game, to go out and make more and more friends. To bring the excitement of Jesus’ friendship to the world, wherever you find yourselves: at work, at school, on WhatsApp, Facebook or Twitter. When you go out dancing, or for a drink of tereré, when you meet in the town square or play a little match on the neighbourhood field. That is where Jesus’ friends can be found. Not by conning others, but by standing beside them and being patient with them. With the patience which comes from knowing that we are happy, because we have a Father who is in heaven.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Good morning and happy Feast Day!
The Solemnity of All Saints is “our” celebration: not because we are good, but because the sanctity of God has touched our life. The Saints are not perfect models, but people through whom God has passed. We can compare them to the Church windows which allow light to enter in different shades of colour. The saints are our brothers and sisters who have welcomed the light of God in their heart and have passed it on to the world, each according to his or her own “hue”. But they were all transparent; they fought to remove the stains and the darkness of sin, so as to enable the gentle light of God to pass through. This is life’s purpose: to enable God’s light to pass through; it is the purpose of our life too.
Indeed, today in the Gospel, Jesus addresses his followers, all of us, telling us we are “Blessed” (Mt 5:3). It is the word with which he begins his sermon, which is the “Gospel”, Good News, because it is the path of happiness. Those who are with Jesus are blessed; they are happy. Happiness is not in having something or in becoming someone, no. True happiness is being with the Lord and living for love. Do you believe this? True happiness is not in having something or in becoming someone; true happiness is being with the Lord and living for love. Do you believe this? We must go forth, believing in this. So, the ingredients for a happy life are called Beatitudes: blessed are the simple, the humble who make room for God, who are able to weep for others and for their own mistakes, who remain meek, fight for justice, are merciful to all, safeguard purity of heart, always work for peace and abide in joy, do not hate and, even when suffering, respond to evil with good.
These are the Beatitudes. They do not require conspicuous gestures; they are not for supermen, but for those who live the trials and toils of every day, for us. This is how the saints are: like everyone, they breathe air polluted by the evil there is in the world, but on the journey they never lose sight of Jesus’ roadmap, that indicated in the Beatitudes, which is like the map of Christian life.
Today is the celebration of those who have reached the destination indicated by this map: not only the saints on the calendar, but many brothers and sisters “next door”, whom we may have met and known. Today is a family celebration, of many simple, hidden people who in reality help God to move the world forward. And there are so many of them today! There are so many of them! Thanks to these unknown brothers and sisters who help God to move the world forward, who live among us; let us salute them all with a nice round of applause!
First of all — the first Beatitude says — they are “poor in spirit” (Mt 5:3). What does this mean? That they do not live for success, power and money; they know that those who set aside treasure for themselves are not rich toward God (cf. Lk 12:21). Rather, they believe that the Lord is life’s treasure, and love for neighbour the only true source of gain. At times we are dissatisfied due to something we lack, or worried if we are not considered as we would like; let us remember that our Beatitude is not here but in the Lord and in love: only with him, only by loving do we live as blessed.
Lastly I would like to quote another beatitude, which is not found in the Gospel but at the end of the Bible, and it speaks of the end of life: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord” (Rev 14:13). Tomorrow we will be called to accompany with prayer our deceased, so they may be forever joyful in the Lord. Let us remember our loved ones with gratitude and let us pray for them. May the Mother of God, Queen of the Saints and Gate of Heaven, intercede for our journey of holiness and for our loved ones who have gone before us and who have already departed for the heavenly Homeland.
The celebration of the feast of All Souls in the catacombs – for me it is the first time in my life that I entered a catacomb, it is a surprise – they tells us many things. We can think of the lives of these people who had to hide, who had this culture of burying the dead and celebrating the Eucharist in here... It is a bad moment in history, but one that has not been overcome: even today there are. There are many. So many catacombs in other countries, where they even have to pretend to have a party or a birthday to celebrate the Eucharist, because in that place it is forbidden to do so. Even today there are persecuted Christians, more than in the first centuries, more. This – the catacombs, the persecution, the Christians – and these Readings, make me think of three words: identity, place and hope.
The identity of these people who gathered here to celebrate the Eucharist and to praise the Lord, is the same as our brothers and sisters today in so many, many countries where being a Christian is a crime, it is forbidden, they have no right. It's the same. Their identity is what we heard: it's the Beatitudes. The identity of a Christian is this: the Beatitudes. There's no other. If you do this, if you live like this, you're a Christian. "No, but look, I belong to that association, to that other..., I am of this movement...". Yes, yes, all beautiful things; but these are fantasy before this reality. Your ID card is this "it indicates the Gospel", and if you don't have this, you don't need movements or other affiliations. Either you live like this, or you're not a Christian. Simply. The Lord said so. "Yes, but it's not easy, I don't know how to live like this...". There is another passage of the gospel that helps us better understand this, and that passage of the Gospel will also be the "great protocol" according to which we will be judged. It's Matthew 25. With these two passages of the Gospel, the Beatitudes and the great protocol, we will show, living this, our identity as Christians. Without this there is no identity. There is the pretence of being Christian, but we don't have an identity.
This is the identity of the Christian. The second word: the place. Those people who came here to hide, to be safe, even to bury the dead; and people who celebrate the Eucharist today secretly, in those countries where it is forbidden... I think of that nun in Albania who was in a re-education camp, at the time of the communists, and it was forbidden for priests to give the sacraments, and this nun, there, she baptized in secret. The people, the Christians knew that this nun would baptized and the mothers went to her with their babies; but she didn't even have a glass, something to put water in... So she did it with her shoes: she took the water from the river and baptized with her shoes. The place of the Christian is a bit everywhere, we have no privileged place in life. Some want to have it, they are "qualified" Christians. But they run the risk of remaining with the "qualified" and the "Christian" part falls away. Christians, what is their place? "The souls of the just are in God's hands"(Wis 3:1): the Christian's place is in God's hands, where he wants. The hands of God, which are wounded, which are the hands of his Son who wanted to bear the wounds to show them to his Father and intercede for us. The Christian's place is in the intercession of Jesus before the Father. In God's hands. And there we are safe, let happen what happens, even the cross. Our identity indicates the gospel says that we will be blessed if they persecute us, if they say anything against us; but if we are in God's hands wounded by love, we are safe. This is our place. And today we can ask ourselves: but me, where do I feel most secure? In the hands of God or with other things, with other security that we trust ourselves to but that will eventually fall, that are not substantial?
These Christians, with this identity card, who lived and live in god's hands, are men and women of hope. And this is the third word that comes to me today: hope. We heard it in the second Reading: that final vision where everything was re-made, where everything was re-created, that homeland where we all will go. And to get in there you don't need strange things, you don't need a little sophisticated attitudes: you only need to show your ID card: "It's fine, go ahead". Our hope is in Heaven, our hope is anchored there and we, with the rope in hand, we support ourselves looking at that other shore that river that we have to cross.
Identity: the Beatitudes and Matthew 25. Place: the safest place, in God's hands, wounded by love. Hope, future: the anchor, there, on the other shore, but I well cling to the rope. This is important, always clinging to the rope! So often we can only look at the rope, not even the anchor, not even the other shore; but as long as you are clinging to the rope you will get their securely.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today we begin a series of catechesis about the Beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew (5:1-11). This text that opens the "the Sermon on the Mountain" and that has enlightened the lives of believers and also of many non-believers. It is difficult not to be touched by these words of Jesus, and it is right that we must understand them and to welcome them more and more fully. The Beatitudes contain the Christian 'identity card' - this is our identity card - because they outline the face of Jesus Himself, His way of life.
Now let us frame these words of Jesus in a global way; in the next catechesis we will comment on the individual Beatitudes, one by one.
First of all, it is important how the proclamation of this message came about: Jesus, seeing the crowds that follow him, climbs the gentle slope that surrounds the lake of Galilee, sits down and, turning to the disciples, announces the Beatitudes. So the message is addressed to the disciples, but on the horizon there are crowds, that is, all humanity. It's a message to all of humanity.
In addition, the "mountain" refers to Sinai, where God gave Moses the Commandments. Jesus begins to teach a new law: to be poor, to be meek, to be merciful. These "new commandments" are more than standards. In fact, Jesus does not impose anything, but reveals the way to happiness – His way – repeating the word " blessed " eight times.
Each Beatitude consists of three parts. At first there is always the word "blessed"; then comes the situation in which the blessed find themselves: the poverty of spirit, mourning, hunger and the thirst for justice, and so on; finally there is the reason for being blessed, introduced by the conjunction "why": "Blessed are these because, why those are blessed ..." So there are the eight Beatitudes and it would be nice to learn them by heart to repeat them, to have in our minds and hearts this law that Jesus gave us.
Let us pay attention to this fact: the reason for bliss is not the current situation but the new condition that the blessed receive as a gift from God: "because for them is the kingdom of heaven", "because they will be consoled", "because they will inherit the earth", and so on.
In the third element, which is precisely the reason for happiness, Jesus often uses a passive future: "they will be comforted", "they will inherit the earth", "they will be satisfied", "they will be forgiven", "they will be called children of God".
But what does the word" blessed" mean? Why does each of the eight Blessings begin with the word "blessed"? The original Greek term does not indicate one who has a full belly or is doing well, but he is a person who is in a state of grace, who progresses in the grace of God and who progresses on the path of God: patience, poverty, service to others, consolation ... Those who progress in these things are happy and will be blessed.
God, in order to give Himself to us, often chooses unthinkable paths, perhaps those of our limitations, of our tears, of our defeats. It is the Easter joy of which the Eastern brothers speak, the one who has the stigmata but is alive, has gone through death and has experienced the power of God. The Beatitudes always lead you to joy; are the way to joy. It will do us good to take the Gospel of Matthew today, chapter five, verses from one to eleven and read the Beatitudes - perhaps a few more times, during the week - to understand this beautiful way, this secure way to the happiness that the Lord gives to us.
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.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
We have embarked a journey to the Beatitudes and today we dwell on the second: Blessed are those who weep, for they will be comforted.
In the Greek language in which the Gospel was written, this beatitude is expressed with a verb that is not passive – in fact the blessed do not suffer this weeping – but active: "they grieve "; they grieve, but from within. It is an attitude that has become central to Christian spirituality and that the fathers of the desert, the first monks of history, called "penthos", that is, an inner pain that opens up a relationship with the Lord and with ones neighbour; a new relationship with the Lord and with those near us.
This weeping, in the scriptures, can have two aspects: the first is for someone's death or suffering. The other aspect is tears for sin – for one's own sin – when the heart bleeds in the pain of having offended God and our neighbour.
The first aspect. Someone who is dear to us and we suffer because we lose him or because he is sick or we have made him suffer. These are people who remain distant. It is therefore a question of loving the other in such a way as to hold on to him or until we share his or her pain. There are people who remain distant, one step back; instead it is important that others make inroads into our hearts.
I have often spoken of the gift of tears, and how precious it is. Can you love coldly? Can you love for function, by duty? Certainly not. There are afflicted people to console, but sometimes there are also people to console to grieve, to awaken, who have a heart of stone and have unlearned to weep. There is also to awaken people who do not know how to be moved by the pain of others.
Mourning, for example, is a bitter road, but it can be useful to open our eyes to the life and sacred and irreplaceable value of each person, and at that moment one realizes how short the time is.
There is a second meaning of this paradoxical beatitude: weeping for sin.
Here we must distinguish: there are those who are angry because they have made a mistake. But that's pride. Instead there are those who weep for the evil done, for the good omitted, for the betrayal of the relationship with God. This is weeping for not having loved, that flows from having the life of others at heart. Here we mourn because we do not correspond to the Lord who loves us so much, and we are saddened by the thought of the good not done; that's the meaning of sin. They say, "I have hurt the one I love," and this grieves them to tears. God be blessed if these tears come!
This is the subject of one's mistakes to be addressed, difficult but vital. Let us think of the weeping of St Peter, which will lead him to a new and much truer love: it is a weeping that purifies, that renews. Peter looked at Jesus and wept: his heart was renewed. Unlike Judas, who did not accept that he had made a mistake and, poor man, committed suicide. Understanding sin is a gift from God, it is a work of the Holy Spirit. We alone cannot understand sin. It is a grace we must ask for. Lord, may I understand the evil I have done or can do. What have I done. This is a very great gift and after understanding this, comes the cry of repentance.
One of the first monks, Efrem the Syrian says that a face washed by tears is unspeakably beautiful (cf. Ascetic Speech). The beauty of repentance, the beauty of crying, the beauty of contrition! As always, Christian life has its best expression in mercy. Wise and blessed is the one who welcomes the pain of love, because he will receive the comfort of the Holy Spirit, which is the tenderness of God who forgives and corrects. God always forgives: let us not forget this. God always forgives, even the ugliest sins, always. The problem is within us, that we get tired of asking for forgiveness, we close ourselves in ourselves and we don't ask for forgiveness. That is the problem; but He is there to forgive.
If we always bear in mind that God "does not treat us according to our sins and does not repay us according to our faults"(Psalm 103:10), we live in mercy and compassion, and love appears in us.
May the Lord allow us to love in abundance, to love with a smile, with closeness, with service and even with tears.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
In today's catechesis, we face the third of the eight Beatitudes of Matthew's Gospel: "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth"(Mt 5:5).
The term "meek" used here means literally sweet, meek, gentle, free of violence. Meekness manifests itself in moments of conflict, you can see from how one reacts to a hostile situation. Anyone may seem meek when everything is quiet, but how does one react "under pressure" if he is attacked, offended, assaulted?
In one passage, St. Paul recalls "the gentleness and meekness of Christ"(2 Cor 10:1). And St. Peter in turn recalls Jesus' attitude during the Passion: He did not respond and did not threaten, because He "relied on the one who judges with justice"(1 Pt 2:23). And the meekness of Jesus is strongly seen in His Passion.
In Scripture the word "meek" also indicates the one who has no land ownership; and so it strikes us that the third Beatitude says precisely that the meek will inherit the earth.
In fact, this Beatitude mentions Psalm 37, which we heard at the beginning of the catechesis. There, too, the meekness and possession of the land are related. These two things, thinking about it, seem incompatible. In fact, the possession of the land is the typical area of conflict: it is often fought over for a territory, to obtain authority over a certain area. In wars the strongest prevails and conquers other lands.
But let us take a good look at the verb used to indicate the possession of meekness: they do not conquer the earth; it does not say "blessed the meek because they will conquer the earth." They inherit. Blessed are the meek because they will "inherit" the earth. In the scriptures, the verb "inherit" makes even greater sense. The People of God are called "inheritance" the very land of Israel is the Promised Land.
That land is a promise and a gift to the people of God, and becomes a sign of something much greater than a simple territory. There is a "land" – allow the play of words – that is Heaven, that is, the land towards which we walk: the new heavens and the new land to which we go (cf. Is 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pt 3:13; Ap 21:1).
So the meek are the ones who "inherit" the most sublime of the territories. He is not a coward, who finds a moral back-up to stay out of trouble. Not at all! He's someone who's been given an inheritance and doesn't want to dissipate it. The meek is not an accommodating person but is the disciple of Christ who has learned to defend much more than land. He defends his peace, he defends his relationship with God, he defends his gifts, the gifts of God, keeping mercy, fraternity, trust, hope. Because meek people are merciful, fraternal, confident, and hopeful people.
Here we must mention the sin of anger, a violent movement of which we all know the impulse. Who hasn't been angry sometimes? All. We must ask ourselves a question: how many things have we destroyed with anger? How many things have we lost? A moment of anger can destroy so many things; you lose control and you do not evaluate what is really important, and you can ruin your relationship with a brother, sometimes without remedy. Out of anger, so many brothers no longer speak to each other, they distance themselves from each other. It's the opposite of meekness. Meekness gathers, anger separates.
Meekness conquers so many things. Meekness is capable of winning the heart, saving friendships and much more, because people become angry but then calm down, think about it and get back on their feet, and so we can be rebuild with meekness.
The "land" to be conquered with meekness is the salvation of the brother of whom Matthew's Gospel speaks: "If he listens to you, you will have won over brother"(Mt 18:15). There is no land more beautiful than the heart of others, there is no more beautiful territory to gain than the peace found with a brother. And that is the land to be inherited with meekness!
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today we dwell on the fifth Beatitude, which says: "Blessed are the merciful, because they will find mercy"(Mt 5:7). In this Beatitude there is a peculiarity: it is the only one in which the cause and the fruit of happiness coincide, mercy. Those who exercise mercy will find mercy.
This theme of the reciprocity of forgiveness is not only present in this Beatitude, but is repeated in the Gospel. And how could it be otherwise? Mercy is God's very heart! Jesus says: "Do not judge and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven"(Luke 6:37). Always the same reciprocity. And James' Letter states that "mercy always triumphs over judgment" (2:13).
But it is above all in the Our Father that we pray: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" (Mt 6:12); and this is the only part of the prayer that is repeated at the end : "If you in fact forgive others for their faults, your Father who is in heaven will forgive you too; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions"(Mt 6:14-15; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church,2838).
There are two things that cannot be separated: the forgiveness given and the forgiveness received. But so many people are in difficulty, they can't forgive. So often the evil received is so great that being able to forgive seems like climbing a very high mountain: a huge effort; and one thinks: you can't, you can't. This fact of the reciprocity of mercy indicates that we need to turn our perspective upside down. We alone cannot, we need the grace of God, we must ask for it. Indeed, if the fifth Beatitude promises to find mercy and Our Father asks for the forgiveness of sins, it means that we are essentially debtors and we need to find mercy!
We're all indebted. All. To God, who is so generous, and to our brothers and sisters. Every person knows that he or she is not the father or mother they should be, the husband or wife, the brother or sister that they should be. We are all "deficient" in life. And we need mercy. We know that we too have done evil, there is always something missing from the good that we should have done.
But it is precisely this poverty of ours that becomes the force for forgiveness! We are indebted and if, as we heard at the beginning, we will be measured by the extent to which we measure others (cf. Luke 6:38), then we should enlarge the measure and pay back the debts, forgive. Everyone must remember that they need to forgive, we need forgiveness, we need patience; this is the secret of mercy: by forgiving you are forgiven. Therefore God precedes us and forgives us first (cf Rm 5:8). By receiving his forgiveness, we become capable in turn of forgiving. Thus one's own misery and lack of justice become an opportunity to open up to the kingdom of heaven, to a greater measure, the measure of God, which is mercy.
Where does our mercy come from? Jesus said to us: "Be merciful, as your Father is merciful"(Luke 6:36). The more you welcome the love of the Father, the more you love each other (cf. CCC,2842). Mercy is not a dimension among others, but it is the centre of Christian life: there is no Christianity without mercy. John Paul II said that. If all our Christianity does not lead us to mercy, we have gone the wrong way, because mercy is the only true goal of every spiritual journey. It is one of the most beautiful fruits of love. CCC, 1829).
I remember that this theme was chosen from the first Angelus that I had to say as Pope: mercy. And this has remained very imprinted in me, as a message that as Pope I should always give, a message that must be given everyday: mercy. I remember that day I also had the somewhat "shameless" attitude of advertising a book on mercy, just published by Cardinal Kasper. And that day I felt so strong that this is the message I must give, as Bishop of Rome: mercy, mercy, please, forgiveness.
God's mercy is our liberation and our happiness. We live with mercy and we cannot afford to be without mercy: it is the air to breathe. We are too poor to dictate the conditions, we need to forgive, because we need to be forgiven. Thank you!
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
On this solemn Feast of All Saints, the Church invites us to reflect on the great hope, the great hope that is based on Christ’s resurrection: Christ is risen and we will also be with Him, we will be with Him. The Saints and Blesseds are the most authoritative witnesses of Christian hope, because they lived it fully in their lives, amidst joys and sufferings, putting into practice the Beatitudes that Jesus preached and which resound in the Liturgy (see Mt 5:1-12a). The evangelical Beatitudes, in fact, are the path to holiness. I will reflect now on two Beatitudes, the second and the third.
The second one is this: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (v. 4). These words seem contradictory because mourning is not a sign of joy and happiness. Reasons for mourning come from suffering and death, illness, moral adversity, sin and mistakes: simply from everyday life, fragile, weak and marked by difficulties. A life at times wounded and pained by ingratitude and misunderstanding. Jesus proclaims blessed those who mourn over this reality, who trust in the Lord despite everything and put themselves under His shadow. They are not indifferent, nor do they harden their hearts when they are in pain, but they patiently hope for God’s comfort. And they experience this comfort even in this life.
In the third Beatitude, Jesus states: “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” (v. 5). Brothers and sisters, meekness! Meekness is characteristic of Jesus, who said of Himself: “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29). The meek are those who know how to control themselves, who leave space for the other, they listen to the other, respect the other’s way of living, his or her needs and requests. They do not intend to overwhelm or diminish the other, they do not want to be on top of or dominate everything, nor do they impose their ideas or their own interests to the detriment of others. These people, not appreciated by the world and its mentality, are, instead, precious in God’s eyes. God gives them the promised land as an inheritance, that is, life eternal. This beatitude also begins here below and will be fulfilled in Heaven, in Christ. Meekness. At this moment in life, even in the world, there is so much aggression, even in everyday life, the first thing that comes out of us is aggression, defensiveness. We need meekness to progress on the path of holiness. To listen, to respect, not to attack: meekness.
Dear brothers and sisters, choosing purity, meekness and mercy; choosing to entrust oneself to the Lord in poverty of spirit and in affliction; dedicating oneself to justice and peace – all this means going against the current in respect to this world’s mentality, in respect to the culture of possessing, of meaningless fun, of arrogance against the weakest. This evangelical path was trodden by the Saints and Blesseds. Today’s solemnity that honours All Saints reminds us of the personal and universal vocation to holiness, and proposes sure models for this journey that each person walks in a unique way, an unrepeatable way. It is enough to think of the inexhaustible variety of gifts and real life stories there are among the saints: they are not equal, each one has their own personality and developed their own life of holiness according to their own personality, and each one of us can do it, taking this path: meekness, meekness, please, and we will head toward holiness.
This immense family of faithful disciples of Christ has a Mother, the Virgin Mary. We venerate her under the title Queen of All Saints; but she is first of all the Mother who teaches everyone how to welcome and follow her children. May she help us nourish the desire for holiness, walking the path of the Beatitudes.
Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In this Sunday’s Gospel passage, immediately after the Beatitudes, Jesus says to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth ... You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:13-14). This surprises us a bit when we think of those who were before Jesus when he spoke these words. Who were these disciples? They were fishermen, simple people... But Jesus sees them with God’s eyes, and his assertion can be understood precisely as a result of the Beatitudes. He wishes to say: if you are poor in spirit, if you are meek, if you are pure of heart, if you are merciful... you will be the salt of the earth and the light of the world!
To better understand these images, we must keep in mind that Jewish Law prescribed that a little bit of salt be sprinkled over every offering presented to God, as a sign of the covenant. Light for Israel was a symbol of messianic revelation, triumph over the darkness of paganism. Christians, the new Israel, receive a mission to carry into the world for all men: through faith and charity they can guide, consecrate, and make humanity fruitful. We who are baptized Christians are missionary disciples and we are called to become a living Gospel in the world: with a holy life we will “flavour” different environments and defend them from decay, as salt does; and we will carry the light of Christ through the witness of genuine charity. But if we Christians lose this flavour and do not live as salt and light, we lose our effectiveness. This mission of giving light to the world is so beautiful! We have this mission, and it is beautiful! It is also beautiful to keep the light we have received from Jesus, protecting it and safeguarding it. The Christian should be a luminous person; one who brings light, who always gives off light! A light that is not his, but a gift from God, a gift from Jesus. We carry this light. If a Christian extinguishes this light, his life has no meaning: he is a Christian by name only, who does not carry light; his life has no meaning. I would like to ask you now, how do you want to live? As a lamp that is burning or one that is not? Burning or not? How would you like to live? [The people respond: Burning!] As burning lamps! It is truly God who gives us this light and we must give it to others. Shining lamps! This is the Christian vocation.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
These Sundays the liturgy offers us the so-called Sermon on the Mount, in the Gospel of Matthew. After presenting the Beatitudes last Sunday, today [Matthew] emphasizes Jesus’ words describing his disciples’ mission in the world. (cf. Mt 5:13-16). He uses the metaphors of salt and light, and his words are directed to the disciples of every age, therefore also to us.
Jesus invites us to be a reflection of his light, by witnessing with good works. He says: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (v. 16). These words emphasize that we are recognizable as true disciples of the One who is the Light of the World, not in words, but by our works. Indeed, it is above all our behaviour that — good or bad — leaves a mark on others. Therefore, we have a duty and a responsibility towards the gift received: the light of the faith, which is in us through Christ and the action of the Holy Spirit; and we must not withhold it as if it were our property. Instead we are called to make it shine throughout the world, to offer it to others through good works. How much the world needs the light of the Gospel which transforms, heals and guarantees salvation to those who receive it! We must convey this light through our good works.
The light of our faith, in giving of oneself, does not fade but strengthens. However it can weaken if we do not nourish it with love and with charitable works. In this way the image of light complements that of salt. The Gospel passage, in fact, tells us that, as disciples of Christ, we are also “the salt of the earth” (v. 13). Salt is an ingredient which, while it gives flavour, keeps food from turning and spoiling — in Jesus’ time there were no refrigerators! Thus, Christians’ mission in society is that of giving “flavour” to life with the faith and the love that Christ has given us, and at the same time, keeping away the contaminating seeds of selfishness, envy, slander, and so on. These seeds degrade the fabric of our communities, which should instead shine as places of welcome, solidarity and reconciliation. To fulfil this mission, it is essential that we first free ourselves from the corruptive degeneration of worldly influences contrary to Christ and to the Gospel; and this purification never ends, it must be done continuously; it must be done every day!
Each one of us is called to be light and salt, in the environment of our daily life, persevering in the task of regenerating the human reality in the spirit of the Gospel and in the perspective of the Kingdom of God. May there always be the helpful protection of Mary Most Holy, first disciple of Jesus and model for believers who live their vocation and mission each day in history. May our Mother help us to let ourselves always be purified and enlightened by the Lord, so as to become, in our turn, “salt of the earth” and “light of the world”.
Christian witness is meant to edify others and not to serve as path to self-promotion.
Christians are called to provide simple, habitual witness to Jesus; “everyday holiness.”
Christian witness, can mean giving one’s life in martyrdom, after Jesus’ example. But another path is to point to Christ in our everyday actions, when we wake, work, and go to bed.
It seems like such a small thing but miracles are done through small things.
Salt for others; light for others: Because salt does not give flavour to itself but serves others. Light does not illuminate itself but serves others… Supermarkets sell salt in small quantities, not by the ton. And salt does not promote itself because it doesn’t serve itself. It exists to serve others, by conserving things and giving flavour. This is simple witness.
Daily Christian witness means being light for others, “to help them in their darkest hour.”
The Lord says: ‘You are salt; you are light.’… But do so in order that others see and glorify God. You will not even receive any merit. When we eat, we don’t compliment the salt. No, we say the pasta or meat is good… When we go to sleep at night, we don’t say the light is good. We ignore the light, but we live illuminated by light. This impels Christians to be anonymous witnesses.
Do not act like the Pharisee who thanks the Lord for his holiness. We are not the authors of our own merits.
Everyday holiness means being salt and light for others.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
In today's Gospel (cf. Mt 5:13-16), Jesus says to his disciples: "You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world" (vv. 13.14). He uses symbolic language not so much to give a definition of the disciple but to set out for those who wish to follow Him certain criteria for living their mission in the world.
The first image: salt. Salt is the component that gives flavour and that stores and preserves food from corruption. The disciple is therefore called to keep society away from the dangers, and the corrosive elements that pollute people's lives. It is a question of resisting sin and moral degradation, and bearing witness to the values of honesty and fraternity, without giving in to the worldly enticements of careerism, power and wealth. The disciple is "salt" who, despite the daily failures – because we all have them – rises from the dust of their own mistakes, starting again with courage and patience, every day, to seek dialogue and encounter with others. A disciple is "salt" who does not seek approval and praise, but strives to be a humble and constructive presence, in fidelity to the teachings of Jesus who came into the world not to be served, but to serve. And this attitude is greatly needed!
The second image that Jesus offers to His disciples is that of light: "You are the light of the world." The light disperses the darkness and allows you to see. Jesus is the light that has dispelled the darkness, but it still remains in the world and in individual people. It is the task of the Christian to dispel it further by making Christ's light shine among others and by proclaiming His Gospel. This outpouring of light can come from our words, but it must come mainly from our 'good deeds' (see 16). A disciple and a Christian community are the light of the world when they direct others to God, helping each person to experience His goodness and mercy. A disciple of Jesus is light when he or she knows how to live their faith outside of confined spaces, helping to eliminating prejudices, eliminating slander, and in bringing the light of truth into situations tainted by hypocrisy and lies. You must be the light. But it is not my own light, it is the light of Jesus : we are instruments of Jesus and we must radiate His light to reach everyone.
Jesus invites us not to be afraid to live in the world, even if there are sometimes conditions of conflict and sin in it. In the face of violence, injustice and oppression, Christians cannot shut up within themselves in or hide in the security of their own enclosure; even the Church cannot shut up within herself, she cannot abandon her mission of evangelization and service. Jesus, in the Last Supper, asked the Father not to remove the disciples from the world, to leave them, there, in the world, but to guard them from the spirit of the world. The Church gives generously and tenderly for the least and the poor: this is not the spirit of the world, this is her light, she is salt. The Church hears the cry of the least and the excluded, because she is aware of being a pilgrim community called to extend throughout history the saving presence of Jesus Christ.
May the Blessed Virgin helps us to be salt and light in the world, bringing to everyone, in life and word, the Good News of God's love.
St John said that anyone who expresses resentment or hatred for his brother or sister is in fact a murderer at heart. There is a need to enter into the logic of perfecting or reviewing our conduct. Of course, this calls to mind the subject of discrediting our brother or sister, starting with our inner passions. In practice this is motivation for insult. Furthermore, recourse to marvellously imaginative insults is widespread in the Latin tradition, for we invent one insult after another.
As long as the epithet is friendly let it go. However the problem arises when there is another epithet that veers towards the offensive. We then go and qualify it with a series of definitions that are not exactly evangelical. Verbal abuse, is a way of taking people down a peg.
There is no need to go to a psychiatrist to know that when people do someone else down it is because they themselves are unable to develop and need to feel that the other is less important in order for them to feel that they count. What Jesus simply said was quite the opposite the: “do not speak badly of others, do not belittle them, do not discredit them; basically we are all walking on the same path”.
With regard to insulting, Jesus is even more radical and goes much further. For he says that when you begin to feel something negative in your heart against one of your brethren and express it with an insult, a curse or an outburst of anger, something is wrong. You must convert, you must change.
The Apostle James who says that “ships are guided by a rudder and people are guided by their tongue”. So if someone “is unable to control his tongue, he or she is lost”. This is man’s weakness.
Cain’s natural aggression towards his brother has been repeated in the course of history. It is not that we are wicked; we are weak and sinful. This explains why it is far easier to solve a situation with an insult, with slander, with mud-slinging, rather than with kind words, as Jesus says.
Ask the Lord for the grace for all to be a little more careful with their tongue regarding what we say of others. This is without a doubt a small penance, but it yields good fruits. It is true that it demands sacrifice and effort, since it is far easier to enjoy the fruit of a racy comment against another. In the long run this hunger is rewarding and does us good. Hence our need to ask the Lord for the grace to conform our life to this new law, which is the law of docility, the law of love, the law of peace. We must start by pruning our language a little, by cutting back a bit our comments about others or the explosions that lead us to insulting them and flaring up in anger.
One time, the disciples of Jesus were eating grain because they were hungry; but it was Saturday and on Saturday grain was not allowed to be eaten. Still, they picked it [rubbing his hands together] and ate the grain. And they [the Pharisees] said: “But look at what they are doing! Whoever does this breaks the Law and soils his soul, for he does not obey the Law!”. And Jesus responded: “nothing that comes from without soils the soul. Only what comes from within, from your heart, can soil your soul”. And I believe that it it would do us good today to think not about whether my soul is clean or dirty, but rather about what is in my heart, what do I have inside, what I know I have but no one else knows.
Being honest with yourself is not easy! Because we always try to cover it up when we see something wrong inside, no? So that it doesn’t come out, don’t we? What is in our heart: is it love? Let us think: do I love my parents, my children, my wife, my husband, people in the neighbourhood, the sick?... Do I love? Is there hate? Do I hate someone? Often we find hatred, don’t we? “I love everyone except for this one, this one and that one!”. That’s hatred, isn’t it? What is in my heart, forgiveness? Is there an attitude of forgiveness for those who have offended me, or is there an attitude of revenge — “he will pay for it!”. We must ask ourselves what is within, because what is inside comes out and harms, if it is evil; and if it is good, it comes out and does good. And it is so beautiful to tell ourselves the truth, and feel ashamed when we are in a situation that is not what God wants, it is not good; when my heart feels hatred, revenge, so many situations are sinful. How is my heart?...
Jesus said today, for example — I will give only one example: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘you shall not kill’. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother has killed him in his heart”. And whoever insults his brother, kills him in his heart, whoever hates his brother, kills his brother in his heart; whoever gossips against his brother, kills him in his heart. Maybe we are not conscious of it, and then we talk, “we write off” this person or that, we speak ill of this or that ... And this is killing our brother.
That is why it is important to know what is inside, what is happening in my heart. If one understands his brother, the people, he loves his brother, because he forgives: he understands, he forgives, he is patient.... Is this love or hate? We must be sure of this.
And we must ask the Lord for two graces. The first: to know what is in our own heart, not to deceive ourselves, not to live in deceit. The second grace: to do what is good in our hearts and not to do the evil that is in our hearts.
And as for “killing”, remember that words can kill. Even ill-will toward another kills. Often, when we listen to people talking, saying evil things about others, it seems like the sin of slander. The sin of defamation had been removed from the Ten Commandments and yet to speak evil of a person is still a sin. Why is speaking ill of another a sin? Because there is hatred in my heart, aversion, not love.
We must always ask for this grace: to know what is happening in our heart, to constantly make the right choice, the choice for good. And that the Lord help us to love one another. And if I cannot love another well, why not? Pray for that person, pray that the Lord make me love him. And like this we move forward, remembering that what taints our lives is the evil that comes from our hearts. And that the Lord can help us.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today’s liturgy presents us with another passage of the Sermon on the Mount, which we find in the Gospel of Matthew (cf. 5:17-37). In this passage, Jesus wants to help his listeners to reread the Mosaic law. What had been said in the ancient covenant was true, but that was not all: Jesus came to bring to fulfilment and to promulgate in a definitive way the Law of God, up to the last iota (cf. v. 18). He manifests its original aims and fulfils its authentic aspects, and he does all this through his preaching and, even more, with the offering of himself on the Cross. In this way, Jesus teaches how to fully carry out God’s will, and he uses these words: with a ‘righteousness’ that ‘exceeds’ that of the scribes and the Pharisees (cf. v. 20). A righteousness enlivened by love, charity, mercy, and hence capable of fulfilling the substance of the commandments, avoiding the risk of formalism. Formalism: this I can, this I cannot; up to this point I can, up to this point I cannot.... No: more, more.
In particular, in today’s Gospel, Jesus examines three aspects, three commandments [that regard] murder, adultery and swearing.
With regard to the commandment ‘you shall not kill’, he states that it is violated not only by murder in effect, but also by those behaviours that offend the dignity of the human person, including insulting words (cf. v. 22). Of course, these insulting words do not have the same gravity and culpability as killing, but they are set along the same line, because they are the pretext to it and they reveal the same malevolence. Jesus invites us not to establish a ranking of offences, but to consider all of them damaging, inasmuch as they are driven by the intent to do harm to one’s neighbour. Jesus gives an example. Insulting: we are accustomed to insulting; it is like saying “good morning”. And that is on the same line as killing. One who insults his brother, in his heart kills his brother. Please do not insult! We do not gain anything....
Another fulfilment is generated by the matrimonial law. Adultery was considered a violation of man’s property right over the woman. Instead, Jesus goes to the root of the evil. As one comes to killing through injuries, offences and insults, in this way one reaches adultery through covetous intentions in regard to a woman other than one’s own wife. Adultery, like theft, corruption and all the other sins, are first conceived in the depth of our being and, once the wrong choice is made in the heart, it is carried out in concrete behaviour. Jesus says: one who looks with a covetous spirit at a woman who is not his own is an adulterer in his heart, has set off on the path towards adultery. Let us think a little bit about this: about the wicked thoughts that go along this line.
Jesus then tells his disciples not to swear, as swearing is a sign of the insecurity and duplicity with which human relationships unfold. God’s authority is exploited so as to guarantee our human narrative. Instead, we are called to establish among ourselves, in our families and in our communities, a climate of clarity and mutual trust, so that we can be considered sincere without resorting to greater tactics in order to be believed. Mistrust and mutual suspicion always threaten peace!
May the Virgin Mary, a woman of listening and joyful obedience, help us to draw ever closer to the Gospel, to be Christians not ‘of façade’, but of substance! This is possible with the grace of the Holy Spirit, who allows us to do everything with love, and thus to wholly fulfil the will of God.
Christ said that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery. Many females are used and cast aside. Young women who are forced to sell their own dignity in order to earn a living.
Women are what men on their own lack to be the image and likeness of God. Jesus’ words about women were radical and ground-breaking and changed history. This was because up until then, a woman was considered a second class citizen, she was enslaved and did not even enjoy complete freedom.
Jesus' doctrine about women changes history. Before Jesus the view about women was one thing but after Jesus they are another. Jesus dignifies women and puts them on the same level as men because he takes that first word of the Creator, both are "the image and likeness of God", both of them; not first the man and then a little lower down the woman, no, both are. And a man without a woman beside him - whether as a mother, as a sister, as a bride, as a working companion, as a friend - that man by himself is not the image of God.
We see women treated as objects of desire in the media and those same images of women are often used to sell a product and we see her humiliated or wearing no clothes. This exploitation of women is not happening in far off places but right here all around us, where we live and in the workplace. Women are the victims of that use and throw away mentality and don't even seem to be treated as a person.
This is a sin against God the Creator, rejecting women because without her we men cannot be the image and likeness of God. There is an anger and resentment against women, a nasty anger. Even without saying it... But how many times do young women have to sell themselves as disposable objects in order to get a job? How many times? "Yes, Father, I heard in that country...". Here in Rome. There’s no need to go far away.
What would you see if you took a walk at night around certain areas of the city where so many women including migrant women are being exploited like in a market. When men approach these women on the streets they are not saying “Hello” to them but asking how much they cost and they salve their consciences by referring to them as prostitutes.
All this happens here in Rome, it happens in every city, anonymous women, women - we can describe as "faceless" because shame covers their faces, women who do not know how to laugh and many of them do not know the joy of breastfeeding their baby and the experience of being a mother. But, even in our everyday life, without going to those places, there is this ugly way of thinking, of rejecting women or seeing her as a "second class" person. We need to reflect more deeply about this. And by doing this or saying this, by entering into this way of thinking, we despise the image of God, who made man and woman together with his image and likeness. This Gospel reading helps us to think about the marketing of women, a trade, yes, trafficking, that exploitation which is visible but also that trade which we can’t see but is taking place out of sight. A woman is trampled underfoot precisely because she is a woman.
During his ministry Jesus encountered so many women who were despised, marginalized and cast aside and with great tenderness he restored their dignity. Jesus had a mother and many female friends who followed him to help him in his ministry and to provide support.
The theme of both readings today is the Law (cf. Dt 4.1.5-9; Mt 5.17-19). The Law that God gives to His people. The Law that the Lord wanted to give to us and that Jesus wanted to bring to the ultimate perfection. But there is one thing that attracts attention: the way God gives the Law. Moses says: "Indeed, what great nation is there that has gods so close to it, as the Lord, our God, is close to us whenever we call to him?" (Dt 4:7). The Lord gives the Law to his people with an attitude of closeness. They are not the prescriptions of a ruler, who may be far away, or a dictator...no. It's the nearness. And we know through revelation that it is a father's closeness, as a father, who accompanies His people by giving them the gift of the Law. The God who is near. "Indeed, what great nation has gods so close to it, as the Lord, our God, is close to us whenever we call Him?"
Our God is the God of nearness, a God who is near, who walks with his people. That image in the desert, in Exodus: the cloud and the pillar of fire to protect the people: He walks with his people. He is not a God who leaves the written prescriptions and says, "Go ahead." He makes the prescriptions, writes them with his own hands on the stone, gives them to Moses, hands them to Moses, but does not leave the prescriptions and leaves: He walks, He is close. "Which nation has such a close God?" It's the nearness. Ours is a God of nearness.
And man's first response, in the first pages of the Bible, is that of not drawing near. Our response is always to distance ourselves, we distance ourselves from God. He gets close and we walk away. Those two first pages. Adam's first attitude with his wife is to hide: they hide from God's nearness, they were ashamed, because they had sinned, and sin leads us to hide, to not want closeness (cf. Gen 3:8-10). And so often, we adopt a theology thinking that He's a judge; and that's why I'm hiding, I'm afraid. The second human way of behaving, to the proposal of this closeness of God is to kill. Killing his brother. "I am not my brother's keeper" (cf. Gen 4:9).
Two attitudes that inhibit any closeness. Man rejects God's closeness, he wants to be in control of relationships, and closeness always brings with it some type of vulnerability. God drawing near makes Himself vulnerable, and the closer He comes, the more vulnerable He seems. When He comes among us, to live with us, He makes himself a man, one of us: he makes himself weak and bears that weakness to the point of death and the most cruel death, the death at the hands of assassins, the death of the greatest sinners. Drawing near humiliates God. He humiliates Himself to be with us, to walk with us, to help us.
The "God who draws near" speaks to us of humility. He's not a "great God," up there. No. He is very near. He's in the house. And we see this in Jesus, God made man, near even to death. With His disciples: He accompanies them, teaches them, corrects them with love... Let us think, for example, of Jesus' closeness to the anguished disciples of Emmaus: they were distressed, they were defeated, and He slowly approaches, to make them understand the message of life, of resurrection (cf. Luke 24,13-32).
Our God is near and asks us to be near to each other, not to distance ourselves from each other. And in this moment of crisis because of the pandemic that we are experiencing, this nearness asks us to manifest it more, to make it more visible. We cannot, perhaps, draw near physically for fear of contagion, but we can reawaken in ourselves an attitude of closeness between us: with prayer, with help, so many ways of drawing near. And why do we have to be near to each other? Because our God is near, He wanted to accompany us in life. He is the God of proximity. For this reason, we are not isolated people: we are neighbours, because this is our inheritance that we have received from the Lord, proximity, that is, the reaction of drawing near.
Let us ask the Lord for the grace to be near to each other; don't hide from each other; don't wash your hands, as Cain did, of the problem of others, no. Nearness. Proximity. Proximity. "Indeed, what great nation has gods so near to it, as the Lord, our God, is near to us every time we call Him?"
This is no easy matter, and in general, we think that Jesus is asking too much of us. We think: ‘Let's leave this to the cloistered sisters who are holy, a few holy souls!’. But this is not the right attitude. Jesus says that you must do this, otherwise you are like the Publicans, like the pagans, and you are not Christians. In fact, how can we love those who decide to bomb and kill so many people? How can we love who for love of money do not allow medicines to get to those who are in need, to the elderly and let them die?. And once again: How can we love people who seek only their interests and power and do so much evil?.
This is the mystery of salvation: with forgiveness, with love for our enemy, we become poorer. But this poverty is a seed bearing fruit for others, as Jesus' poverty became grace for us all, salvation.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mt 5:38-48) — one of the passages that best illustrates Christian “revolution” — Jesus shows us the way of true justice through the law of love which is greater than the law of retaliation, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. This ancient law imposed the infliction on wrongdoers of a punishment equivalent to the damage they caused: death for those who killed, amputation for those who injured, and so on. Jesus does not ask his disciples to abide evil, but asks them to react; however, not with another evil action, but with good. This is the only way to break the chain of evil: one evil leads to another which leads to another evil.... This chain of evil is broken and things truly begin to change. Evil is, in fact, a “void”, a void of good. It is not possible to fill a void, except with “fullness”, that is, good. Revenge never leads to conflict resolution. “You did this to me, I will do it back to you”: this never resolves conflict, nor is it even Christian.
According to Jesus, the rejection of violence can also involve the sacrifice of a legitimate right. He gives a few examples of this: turn the other cheek, give up your coat or money, accept other sacrifices (v. 39-42). But such sacrifice does not mean that the demands of justice should be ignored or contradicted. No, on the contrary, Christian love, which manifests itself in a special way in mercy, is an achievement superior to justice. What Jesus wants to teach us is the clear distinction that we must make between justice and revenge. Distinguishing between justice and revenge. Revenge is never just. We are permitted to ask for justice. It is our duty to exercise justice. We are, however, not permitted to avenge ourselves or, in any way foment revenge, as it is an expression of hatred and violence.
Jesus does not wish to propose a new system of civil law, but rather the commandment to love thy neighbour, which also includes loving enemies: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. (v. 44) And this is not easy. These words should not be seen as an approval of evil carried out by an enemy, but as an invitation to a loftier perspective, a magnanimous perspective, similar to that of the Heavenly Father, who, Jesus says, “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust”. (v. 45). An enemy, in fact, is also a human being, created as such in God’s image, despite the fact that in the present, that image may be tarnished by shameful behaviour.
When we speak of “enemies”, we should not think about people who are different or far removed from us; let us also talk about ourselves, as we may come into conflict with our neighbour, at times with our relatives. How many hostilities exist within families — how many! Let us think about this. Enemies are also those who speak ill of us, who defame us and do us harm. It is not easy to digest this. We are called to respond to each of them with good, which also has strategies inspired by love.
May the Virgin Mary help us follow Jesus on this demanding path, which truly exalts human dignity and lets us live as children of our Father who art in Heaven. May she help us exercise patience, dialogue, forgiveness, and to be artisans of communion, artisans of fraternity in our daily life, and above all in our families.
The mystery of Christian life is loving our enemies and praying for our persecutors. Forgiveness, prayer, and love for those who seek to destroy us is the path Jesus has laid out for us. The challenge of Christian life is asking the Lord for the grace to bless our enemies and to love them..
To pray for those who want to destroy me, my enemies, so that God may bless them: This is truly difficult to understand. We can recall events of the last century, like the poor Russian Christians who, simply for being Christians, were sent to Siberia to die of cold. And they should pray for the executing government that sent them there? How can that be? Yet many did so: they prayed. We think of Auschwitz and other concentration camps. Should they pray for the dictator who sought a ‘pure race’ and killed without scruple, even to pray that God should bless him? And yet many did so.”
Jesus’ “difficult logic” is contained in his prayer for those who put him to death on the Cross. Jesus asks God to forgive them.
There is an infinite distance between us – we who frequently refuse to forgive even small things – and what the Lord asks of us, which he has exemplified for us: To forgive those who seek to destroy us. It is often very difficult within families, for example, when spouses need to forgive one another after an argument, or when one needs to forgive their mother-in-law. It’s not easy… Rather, [we are invited] to forgive those who are killing us, who want us out of the way… Not only forgive, but even pray that God may watch over them! Even more, to love them. Only Jesus’ word can explain this.
It is a grace “to understand this Christian mystery and be perfect like the Father, who gives good things to the good and the bad. It would do us well, today, to think of our enemy – I think all of us have one – someone who has hurt us or wants to hurt us. The Mafia’s prayer is: ‘You’ll pay me back.’ The Christian prayer is: ‘Lord, give them your blessing, and teach me to love them.’ Let us think of one enemy, and pray for them. May the Lord to give us the grace to love them.
Jesus quotes the ancient law: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Mt 5:38; Ex 21:24). We know what that law meant: when someone takes something from you, you are to take the same thing from him. This law of retaliation was actually a sign of progress, since it prevented excessive retaliation. If someone harms you, then you can repay him or her in the same degree; you cannot do something worse. Ending the matter there, in a fair exchange, was a step forward.
But Jesus goes far beyond this: “But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil” (Mt 5:39). But how, Lord? If someone thinks badly of me, if someone hurts me, why can I not repay him with the same currency? “No”, says Jesus. Nonviolence. No act of violence.
We might think that Jesus’ teaching is a part of a plan; in the end, the wicked will desist. But that is not why Jesus asks us to love even those who do us harm. What, then, is the reason? It is that the Father, our Father, continues to love everyone, even when his love is not reciprocated. The Father “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (v. 45). In today’s first reading, he tells us: “You shall be holy; for I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Lev 19:2). In other words: “Live like me, seek the things that I seek”. And that is precisely what Jesus did. He did not point a finger at those who wrongfully condemned him and put him to a cruel death, but opened his arms to them on the cross. And he forgave those who drove the nails into his wrists (cf. Lk 23:33-34).
If we want to be disciples of Christ, if we want to call ourselves Christians, this is the only way; there is no other. Having been loved by God, we are called to love in return; having been forgiven, we are called to forgive; having been touched by love, we are called to love without waiting for others to love first; having been saved graciously, we are called to seek no benefit from the good we do. You may well say: “But Jesus goes too far! He even says: “Love your enemies and pray for those who they persecute you” (Mt 5:44). Surely he speaks like this to gain people’s attention, but he cannot really mean it”. But he really does. Here Jesus is not speaking in paradoxes or using nice turns of phrase. He is direct and clear. He quotes the ancient law and solemnly tells us: “But I say to you: love your enemies”. His words are deliberate and precise.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. This is the Christian innovation. It is the Christian difference. Pray and love: this is what we must do; and not only with regard to those who love us, not only with regard to our friends or our own people. The love of Jesus knows no boundaries or barriers. The Lord demands of us the courage to have a love that does not count the cost. Because the measure of Jesus is love without measure. How many times have we neglected that demand, behaving like everyone else! Yet his commandment of love is not simply a challenge; it is the very heart of the Gospel. Where the command of universal love is concerned, let us not accept excuses or preach prudent caution. The Lord was not cautious; he did not yield to compromises. He asks of us the extremism of charity. This is the only legitimate kind of Christian extremism: the extremism of love.
Love your enemies. We do well today, at Mass and afterwards, to repeat these words to ourselves and apply them to those who treat us badly, who annoy us, whom we find hard to accept, who trouble our serenity. Love your enemies. We also do well to ask ourselves: “What am I really concerned about in this life? About my enemies, or about those who dislike me? Or about loving?” Do not worry about the malice of others. about those who think ill of you. Instead, begin to disarm your heart out of love for Jesus. For those who love God have no enemies in their hearts.
The worship of God is contrary to the culture of hatred. And the culture of hatred is fought by combatting the cult of complaint. How many times do we complain about the things that we lack, about the things that go wrong! Jesus knows about all the things that don’t work. He knows that there is always going to be someone who dislikes us. Or someone who makes our life miserable. All he asks us to do is pray and love. This is the revolution of Jesus, the greatest revolution in history: from hating our enemy to loving our enemy; from the cult of complaint to the culture of gift. If we belong to Jesus, this is the road we are called to take! There is no other.
True enough, you can object: “I understand the grandeur of the ideal, but that is not how life really is! If I love and forgive, I will not survive in this world, where the logic of power prevails and people seem to be concerned only with themselves”. So is Jesus’ logic, his way of seeing things, the logic of losers? In the eyes of the world, it is, but in the eyes of God it is the logic of winners. As Saint Paul told us in the second reading: “Let no one deceive himself... For the wisdom of this world is folly with God” (1 Cor 3:18-19). God sees what we cannot see. He knows how to win. He knows that evil can only be conquered by goodness. That is how he saved us: not by the sword, but by the cross. To love and forgive is to live as a conqueror. We will lose if we defend the faith by force.
The Lord would repeat to us the words he addressed to Peter in Gethsemane: “Put your sword into its sheath” (Jn 18:11). In the Gethsemanes of today, in our indifferent and unjust world that seems to testify to the agony of hope, a Christian cannot be like those disciples who first took up the sword and later fled. No, the solution is not to draw our sword against others, or to flee from the times in which we live. The solution is the way of Jesus: active love, humble love, love “to the end” (Jn 13:1).
Dear brothers and sisters, today Jesus, with his limitless love, raises the bar of our humanity. In the end, we can ask ourselves: “Will we be able to make it?” If the goal were impossible, the Lord would not have asked us to strive for it. By our own effort, it is difficult to achieve; it is a grace and it needs to be implored. Ask God for the strength to love. Say to him: “Lord, help me to love, teach me to forgive. I cannot do it alone, I need you”. But we also have to ask for the grace to be able to see others not as hindrances and complications, but as brothers and sisters to be loved. How often we pray for help and favours for ourselves, yet how seldom do we pray to learn how to love! We need to pray more frequently for the grace to live the essence of the Gospel, to be truly Christian. For “in the evening of life, we will be judged on love” (Saint John of the Cross, Sayings of Light and Love, 57).
Today let us choose love, whatever the cost, even if it means going against the tide. Let us not yield to the thinking of this world, or content ourselves with half measures. Let us accept the challenge of Jesus, the challenge of charity. Then we will be true Christians and our world will be more human.