Matthew Chapter 6-10

Chapter 6-10

Chapter 6

 Chapter 6

1-18



Pope Francis          

05.03.14  Holy Mass, Blessing and Imposition of the Ashes

Basilica of Santa Sabina  Ash Wednesday     

Joel 2: 12-18,     

Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18 

“Rend your hearts and not your garments” (Joel 2:13).

With these penetrating words of the Prophet Joel, the liturgy today introduces us into Lent, pointing to conversion of heart as the chief characteristic of this season of grace. The prophetic appeal challenges all of us without exception, and it reminds us that conversion is not to be reduced to outward forms or to vague intentions, but engages and transforms one’s entire existence beginning from the centre of the person, from the conscience. We are invited to embark upon a journey on which, by defying routine, we strive to open our eyes and ears, but especially to open our hearts, in order to go beyond our own “backyard”.

Opening oneself to God and to the brethren. We know that this increasingly artificial world would have us live in a culture of “doing”, of the “useful”, where we exclude God from our horizon without realizing it. But we also exclude the horizon itself! Lent beacons us to “rouse ourselves”, to remind ourselves that we are creatures, simply put, that we are not God. In the little daily scene, as I look at some of the power struggles to occupy spaces, I think: these people are playing God the Creator. They still have not realized that they are not God.

And we also risk closing ourselves off to others and forgetting them. But only when the difficulties and suffering of others confront and question us may we begin our journey of conversion towards Easter. It is an itinerary which involves the Cross and self-denial. Today’s Gospel indicates the elements of this spiritual journey: prayer, fasting and almsgiving (cf. Mt 6:1-6; 16-18). All three exclude the need for appearances: what counts is not appearances; the value of life does not depend on the approval of others or on success, but on what we have inside us.

The first element is prayer. Prayer is the strength of the Christian and of every person who believes. In the weakness and frailty of our lives, we can turn to God with the confidence of children and enter into communion with him. In the face of so many wounds that hurt us and could harden our hearts, we are called to dive into the sea of prayer, which is the sea of God’s boundless love, to taste his tenderness. Lent is a time of prayer, of more intense prayer, more prolonged, more assiduous, more able to take on the needs of the brethren; intercessory prayer, to intercede before God for the many situations of poverty and suffering.

The second key element of the Lenten journey is fasting. We must be careful not to practice a formal fast, or one which in truth “satisfies” us because it makes us feel good about ourselves. Fasting makes sense if it questions our security, and if it also leads to some benefit for others, if it helps us to cultivate the style of the Good Samaritan, who bends down to his brother in need and takes care of him. Fasting involves choosing a sober lifestyle; a way of life that does not waste, a way of life that does not “throw away”. Fasting helps us to attune our hearts to the essential and to sharing. It is a sign of awareness and responsibility in the face of injustice, abuse, especially to the poor and the little ones, and it is a sign of the trust we place in God and in his providence.

The third element is almsgiving: it points to giving freely, for in almsgiving one gives something to someone from whom one does not expect to receive anything in return. Gratuitousness should be one of the characteristics of the Christian, who aware of having received everything from God gratuitously, that is, without any merit of his own, learns to give to others freely. Today gratuitousness is often not part of daily life where everything is bought and sold. Everything is calculated and measured. Almsgiving helps us to experience giving freely, which leads to freedom from the obsession of possessing, from the fear of losing what we have, from the sadness of one who does not wish to share his wealth with others.

With its invitations to conversion, Lent comes providentially to awaken us, to rouse us from torpor, from the risk of moving forward by inertia. The exhortation which the Lord addresses to us through the prophet Joel is strong and clear: “Return to me with all your heart” (Jl 2:12). Why must we return to God? Because something is not right in us, not right in society, in the Church and we need to change, to give it a new direction. And this is called needing to convert! Once again Lent comes to make its prophetic appeal, to remind us that it is possible to create something new within ourselves and around us, simply because God is faithful, always faithful, for he cannot deny himself, he continues to be rich in goodness and mercy, and he is always ready to forgive and start afresh. With this filial confidence, let us set out on the journey! 

05.03.14

 

Chapter 6

1-18

cont.




Pope Francis          

18.02.15  Holy Mass, Blessing and Imposition of the Ashes,  

Basilica of Santa Sabina        Year B        

Joel 2: 12-18,      

2 Corinthians 5: 20 to 6: 2,       

Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18 

As the People of God begin the journey of Lent, the time in which we seek to be more firmly united to the Lord, to share the mystery of His Passion and His Resurrection.

Today’s liturgy offers us first and foremost a passage from the Prophet Joel, whom God sent to call the People of God to repentance and conversion, due to a natural disaster (a plague of locusts) which was devastating Judea. The Lord alone can save us from the scourge and it is therefore necessary to entreat Him with prayer and fasting, confessing one’s sins.

The Prophet emphasizes interior conversion: “return to me with all your heart” (2:12).

Returning to the Lord “with all your heart” means to begin the journey not of a superficial and transitory conversion, but rather of a spiritual itinerary with regard to the most intimate place of our person. The heart is, indeed, the seat of our feelings, the centre in which our decisions, our attitudes mature. That “return to me with all your heart” involves not only individuals, but is extended to the community as a whole. It is a convocation directed to everyone: “gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber” (v. 16). The Prophet pauses particularly on the prayer of the priests, pointing out that it is to be accompanied by tears. It will do us good, all of us, but especially for us as priests, at the beginning of Lent, to ask for the gift of tears, so as to render our prayer and our journey of conversion ever more authentic and free from hypocrisy. It will do us good to ask ourselves this question: “Do I weep? Does the Pope weep? Do the cardinals weep? Do bishops weep? Do the consecrated weep? Do priests weep? Is there weeping in our prayers?”. And this is precisely the message of today’s Gospel. In the passage from Matthew, Jesus again reads the three works of mercy called for by Mosaic law: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. He distinguishes the external disposition from the interior disposition, from the weeping of the heart. Over time, these prescriptions were corroded by external formalism, or they even mutated into a sign of social superiority. Jesus highlighted a common temptation in these three works, that can be summarized precisely as hypocrisy (He mentions it three times): “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them.... When you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do.... And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray... that they may be seen by men.... And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites...” (Mt 6:1, 2, 5, 16). You know, brothers, that hypocrites do not know how to weep, they have forgotten how to weep, they do not ask for the gift of tears.

When one performs a good work, the desire arises almost instinctively in us to be esteemed and admired for this good action, to gain satisfaction from it. Jesus calls us to perform these gestures without ostentation, and to rely solely on the reward of the Father “who sees in secret” (Mt 6:4, 6, 18).

Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord never tires of having mercy on us, and wants to offer us His forgiveness once again — we all need it — , inviting us to return to Him with a new heart, purified of evil, purified by tears, to take part in His joy. How should we accept this invitation? St Paul advises us: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). This power of conversion is not only the work of mankind, it is letting oneself be reconciled. Reconciliation between us and God is possible thanks to the mercy of the Father who, out of love for us, did not hesitate to sacrifice His only begotten Son. Indeed Christ, who was just and without sin, was made to be sin (cf. v. 21) when, on the Cross, He took on the burden of our sins, and in this way He redeemed and justified us before God. “In Him” we can become just, in Him we can change, if we accept the grace of God and do not allow this “acceptable time” to pass in vain (6:2). Please, let us stop, let us stop a while and let ourselves be reconciled to God.

With this awareness, we begin the Lenten journey with trust and joy. May Immaculate Mother Mary, without sin, sustain our spiritual battle against sin, accompany us at this acceptable time, so that we may come together to sing of the exultant victory on Easter Day. And as a sign of the will to let ourselves be reconciled to God, in addition to the tears that will be “in secret”, in public we will perform this gesture of the imposition of Ashes on the head. The celebrant speaks these words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (cf. Gen 3:19); or repeats the exhortation of Jesus: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (cf. Mk 1:15). Both formulae are a reference to the truth of human existence: we are limited creatures, always sinners in need of repentance and conversion. How important it is to listen to and accept this call in this time of ours! The call to conversion is thus an incentive to return, as the son in the parable did, to the arms of God, gentle and merciful Father, to weep in that embrace, to trust in Him and entrust ourselves to Him.

18.02.15


Chapter 6

1-18

cont.



Pope Francis 

         

10.02.16 Holy Mass, Vatican Basilica


Ash Wednesday


2 Corinthians 5: 20 - 6: 2

 

Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18  

The Word of God, at the start of the Lenten journey, addresses two invitations to the Church and to each of us.

The first is that of St Paul: “be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). It is not simply good fatherly advice, neither is it just a suggestion; it is a bona fide supplication on Christ’s behalf: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (ibid.). Why does he make such a solemn and earnest appeal? Because Christ knows how fragile and sinful we are, he knows the weakness of our heart. He immediately sees it wounded by the evil we have committed. He knows how much we need forgiveness, he knows that it is important for us to feel loved in order to do good. We cannot do it alone: this is why the Apostle does not tell us to do something but to allow ourselves to be reconciled with God, to let him forgive us, with trust, because “God is greater than our hearts” (1 Jn 3:20). He conquers sin and lifts us out of misery, if we let him. It is up to us to acknowledge that we need mercy. This is the first step on the Christian path; it entails entering through the open door which is Christ, where he, the Saviour, awaits us and offers us a new and joyful life.

There may be a few obstacles, which close the door of the heart. There is the temptation to lock the doors, or to live with our sin, minimizing it, always justifying it, thinking we are no worse than others; this, however, is how the locks of the soul are closed and we remain shut inside, prisoners of evil. Another obstacle is the shame of opening the secret door of the heart. Shame, in reality, is a good symptom, because it shows that we want to break away from evil; however, it must never be transformed into apprehension or fear. There is a third pitfall, that of distancing ourselves from the door: it happens when we hide in our misery, when we ruminate constantly, connecting it to negative things, until sinking into the darkest repositories of the soul. Then we even become kindred with the sorrow that we do not want, we become discouraged and we are weaker in the face of temptations. This happens because we bide alone with ourselves, closing ourselves off and avoiding the light; while the Lord’s grace alone frees us. Therefore let us be reconciled, let us listen to Jesus who says to those who are weary and oppressed: “Come to me” (Mt 11:28). Not to dwell within themselves, but to go to him! Comfort and peace are there.

At this celebration the Missionaries of Mercy are present, to receive the mandate to be signs and instruments of God’s forgiveness. Dear brothers, may you help to open the doors of hearts, to overcome shame, not to avoid the light. May your hands bless and lift up brothers and sisters with paternity; through you may the gaze and the hands of God rest on his children and heal them of their wounds!

There is a second invitation of God, who says, through the prophet Joel: “return to me with all your heart” (2:12). If we need to return it is because we have distanced ourselves. It is the mystery of sin: we have distanced ourselves from God, from others, from ourselves. It is not difficult to realize this: we all see how we struggle to truly trust in God, to entrust ourselves to him as Father, without fear; as it is challenging to love others, rather than thinking badly of them; how it costs us to do our true good, while we are attracted and seduced by so many material realities, which disappear and in the end leave us impoverished. Alongside this history of sin, Jesus inaugurated a history of salvation. The Gospel which opens Lent calls us to be protagonists, embracing three remedies, three medicines which heal us from sin (cf. Mt 6:1-6, 16-18).

In the first place is prayer, an expression of openness and trust in the Lord: it is the personal encounter with him, which shortens the distances created by sin. Praying means saying: “I am not self-sufficient, I need You, You are my life and my salvation”. In the second place is charity, in order to overcome our lack of involvement with regard to others. True love, in fact, is not an outward act, it is not giving something in a paternalistic way in order to assuage the conscience, but to accept those who are in need of our time, our friendship, our help. It means living to serve, overcoming the temptation to satisfy ourselves. In the third place is fasting, penance, in order to free ourselves from dependencies regarding what is passing, and to train ourselves to be more sensitive and merciful. It is an invitation to simplicity and to sharing: to take something from our table and from our assets in order to once again find the true benefit of freedom.

“Return to me” — says the Lord — “return with all your heart”: not only with a few outward deeds, but from the depths of our selves. Indeed, Jesus calls us to live prayer, charity and penance with consistency and authenticity, overcoming hypocrisy. May Lent be a beneficial time to “prune” falseness, worldliness, indifference: so as not to think that everything is fine if I am fine; so as to understand that what counts is not approval, the search for success or consensus, but the cleansing of the heart and of life; so as to find again our Christian identity, namely, the love that serves, not the selfishness that serves us. Let us embark on the journey together, as Church, by receiving Ashes — we too will become ashes — and keeping our gaze fixed on the Crucifix. He, loving us, invites us to be reconciled with God and to return to him, in order to find ourselves again. 

10.02.16

 


Chapter 6

1-18

cont.




Pope Francis       


14.02.18  Holy Mass, Blessing and Imposition of the Ashes

Basilica of Santa Sabina          

Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18 

The season of Lent is a favourable time to remedy the dissonant chords of our Christian life and to receive the ever new, joyful and hope-filled proclamation of the Lord’s Passover. The Church in her maternal wisdom invites us to pay special attention to anything that could dampen or even corrode our believing heart.

We are subject to numerous temptations. Each of us knows the difficulties we have to face. And it is sad to note that, when faced with the ever-varying circumstances of our daily lives, there are voices raised that take advantage of pain and uncertainty; the only thing they aim to do is sow distrust. If the fruit of faith is charity – as Mother Teresa often used to say – then the fruit of distrust is apathy and resignation. Distrust, apathy and resignation: these are demons that deaden and paralyze the soul of a believing people.

Lent is the ideal time to unmask these and other temptations, to allow our hearts to beat once more in tune with the vibrant heart of Jesus. The whole of the Lenten season is imbued with this conviction, which we could say is echoed by three words offered to us in order to rekindle the heart of the believer: pause, see and return.

Pause a little, leave behind the unrest and commotion that fill the soul with bitter feelings which never get us anywhere. Pause from this compulsion to a fast-paced life that scatters, divides and ultimately destroys time with family, with friends, with children, with grandparents, and time as a gift… time with God.

Pause for a little while, refrain from the need to show off and be seen by all, to continually appear on the “noticeboard” that makes us forget the value of intimacy and recollection.

Pause for a little while, refrain from haughty looks, from fleeting and pejorative comments that arise from forgetting tenderness, compassion and reverence for the encounter with others, particularly those who are vulnerable, hurt and even immersed in sin and error.

Pause for a little while, refrain from the urge to want to control everything, know everything, destroy everything; this comes from overlooking gratitude for the gift of life and all the good we receive.

Pause for a little while, refrain from the deafening noise that weakens and confuses our hearing, that makes us forget the fruitful and creative power of silence.

Pause for a little while, refrain from the attitude which promotes sterile and unproductive thoughts that arise from isolation and self-pity, and that cause us to forget going out to encounter others to share their burdens and suffering.

Pause for a little while, refrain from the emptiness of everything that is instantaneous, momentary and fleeting, that deprives us of our roots, our ties, of the value of continuity and the awareness of our ongoing journey.

Pause in order to look and contemplate!

See the gestures that prevent the extinguishing of charity, that keep the flame of faith and hope alive. Look at faces alive with God’s tenderness and goodness working in our midst.

See the face of our families who continue striving, day by day, with great effort, in order to move forward in life, and who, despite many concerns and much hardship, are committed to making their homes a school of love.

See the faces of our children and young people filled with yearning for the future and hope, filled with “tomorrows” and opportunities that demand dedication and protection. Living shoots of love and life that always open up a path in the midst of our selfish and meagre calculations.

See our elderly whose faces are marked by the passage of time, faces that reveal the living memory of our people. Faces that reflect God’s wisdom at work.

See the faces of our sick people and the many who take care of them; faces which in their vulnerability and service remind us that the value of each person can never be reduced to a question of calculation or utility.

See the remorseful faces of so many who try to repair their errors and mistakes, and who from their misfortune and suffering fight to transform their situations and move forward.

See and contemplate the face of Crucified Love, who today from the cross continues to bring us hope, his hand held out to those who feel crucified, who experience in their lives the burden of failure, disappointment and heartbreak.

See and contemplate the real face of Christ crucified out of love for everyone, without exception. For everyone? Yes, for everyone. To see his face is an invitation filled with hope for this Lenten time, in order to defeat the demons of distrust, apathy and resignation. The face that invites us to cry out: “The Kingdom of God is possible!”

Pause, see and return. Return to the house of your Father. Return without fear to those outstretched, eager arms of your Father, who is rich in mercy (cf. Eph 2:4), who awaits you.

Return without fear, for this is the favourable time to come home, to the home of my Father and your Father (cf. Jn 20:17). It is the time for allowing one’s heart to be touched… Persisting on the path of evil only gives rise to disappointment and sadness. True life is something quite distinct and our heart indeed knows this. God does not tire, nor will he tire, of holding out his hand (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 19).

Return without fear, to join in the celebration of those who are forgiven.

Return without fear, to experience the healing and reconciling tenderness of God. Let the Lord heal the wounds of sin and fulfil the prophecy made to our fathers: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek 36: 26).

Pause, see and return! 

14.02.18

 Chapter 6

1-18

cont.



Pope Francis          

06.03.19  Ash Wednesday  Basilica of Santa Sabina          

Joel 2: 12-18,    

Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18 - Ash Wednesday 

“Blow the trumpet […] sanctify a fast” (Joel 2:15), says the prophet in the first reading. Lent opens with a piercing sound, that of a trumpet that does not please the ears, but instead proclaims a fast. It is a loud sound that seeks to slow down our life, which is so fast-paced, yet often directionless. It is a summons to stop – a “halt!” –, to focus on what is essential, to fast from the unnecessary things that distract us. It is a wake-up call for the soul.

This wake-up call is accompanied by the message that the Lord proclaims through the lips of the prophet, a short and heartfelt message: “Return to me” (v 12). To return. If we have to return, it means that we have wandered off. Lent is the time to rediscover the direction of life. Because in life’s journey, as in every journey, what really matters is not to lose sight of the goal. If what interests us as we travel, however, is looking at the scenery or stopping to eat, we will not get far. We should ask ourselves: On the journey of life, do I seek the way forward? Or am I satisfied with living in the moment and thinking only of feeling good, solving some problems and having fun? What is the path? Is it the search for health, which many today say comes first but which eventually passes? Could it be possessions and wellbeing? But we are not in the world for this. Return to me, says the Lord. To me. The Lord is the goal of our journey in this world. The direction must lead to him.

Today we have been offered a sign that will help us find our direction: the head marked by ash. It is a sign that causes us to consider what occupies our mind. Our thoughts often focus on transient things, which come and go. The small mark of ash, which we will receive, is a subtle yet real reminder that of the many things occupying our thoughts, that we chase after and worry about every day, nothing will remain. No matter how hard we work, we will take no wealth with us from this life. Earthly realities fade away like dust in the wind. Possessions are temporary, power passes, success wanes. The culture of appearance prevalent today, which persuades us to live for passing things, is a great deception. It is like a blaze: once ended, only ash remains. Lent is the time to free ourselves from the illusion of chasing after dust. Lent is for rediscovering that we are created for the inextinguishable flame, not for ashes that immediately disappear; for God, not for the world; for the eternity of heaven, not for earthly deceit; for the freedom of the children of God, not for slavery to things. We should ask ourselves today: Where do I stand? Do I live for fire or for ash?

On this Lenten journey, back to what is essential, the Gospel proposes three steps which the Lord invites us to undertake without hypocrisy and pretence: almsgiving,      prayer,      fasting. What are they for? Almsgiving, prayer and fasting bring us back to the three realities that do not fade away. Prayer reunites us to God; charity, to our neighbour; fasting, to ourselves. God, my neighbour, my life: these are the realities that do not fade away and in which we must invest. Lent, therefore, invites us to focus, first of all on the Almighty, in prayer, which frees us from that horizontal and mundane life where we find time for self but forget God. It then invites us to focus on others, with the charity that frees us from the vanity of acquiring and of thinking that things are only good if they are good for me. Finally, Lent invites us to look inside our heart, with fasting, which frees us from attachment to things and from the worldliness that numbs the heart. Prayer, charity, fasting: three investments for a treasure that endures.

Jesus said: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt 6:21). Our heart always points in some direction: it is like a compass seeking its bearings. We can also compare it to a magnet: it needs to attach itself to something. But if it only attaches itself to earthly things, sooner or later it becomes a slave to them: things to be used become things we serve. Outward appearance, money, a career or hobby: if we live for them, they will become idols that enslave us, sirens that charm us and then cast us adrift. Whereas if our heart is attached to what does not pass away, we rediscover ourselves and are set free. Lent is the time of grace that liberates the heart from vanity. It is a time of healing from addictions that seduce us. It is a time to fix our gaze on what abides.

Where can we fix our gaze, then, throughout this Lenten journey? It is simple: upon the Crucified one. Jesus on the cross is life’s compass, which directs us to heaven. The poverty of the wood, the silence of the Lord, his loving self-emptying show us the necessity of a simpler life, free from anxiety about things. From the cross, Jesus teaches us the great courage involved in renunciation. We will never move forward if we are heavily weighed down. We need to free ourselves from the clutches of consumerism and the snares of selfishness, from always wanting more, from never being satisfied, and from a heart closed to the needs of the poor. Jesus on the wood of the cross burns with love, and calls us to a life that is passionate for him, which is not lost amid the ashes of the world; to a life that burns with charity and is not extinguished in mediocrity. Is it difficult to live as he asks? Yes, it is difficult, but it leads us to our goal. Lent shows us this. It begins with the ashes, but eventually leads us to the fire of Easter night; to the discovery that, in the tomb, the body of Jesus does not turn to ashes, but rises gloriously. This is true also for us, who are dust. If we, with our weaknesses, return to the Lord, if we take the path of love, then we will embrace the life that never ends. And surely we will be full of joy

06.03.19


Chapter 6

1-18

cont.



Pope Francis       

26.02.20  Holy Mass, Blessing and Imposition of the Ashes

Basilica of Santa Sabina  

Ash Wednesday Year A    

2 Corinthians 5: 20 - 6: 2,   

Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18   

We begin the Lenten Season by receiving ashes: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return (cf. Gen 3:19). The dust sprinkled on our heads brings us back to earth; it reminds us that we are dust and to dust we shall return. We are weak, frail and mortal. Centuries and millennia pass and we come and go; before the immensity of galaxies and space, we are nothing. We are dust in the universe. Yet we are dust loved by God. It pleased the Lord to gather that dust in his hands and to breathe into it the breath of life (cf. Gen 2:7). We are thus a dust that is precious, destined for eternal life. We are the dust of the earth, upon which God has poured out his heaven, the dust that contains his dreams. We are God’s hope, his treasure and his glory.

Ashes are thus a reminder of the direction of our existence: a passage from dust to life. We are dust, earth, clay, but if we allow ourselves to be shaped by the hands of God, we become something wondrous. More often than not, though, especially at times of difficulty and loneliness, we only see our dust! But the Lord encourages us: in his eyes, our littleness is of infinite value. So let us take heart: we were born to be loved; we were born to be children of God.

Dear brothers and sisters, may we keep this in mind as we begin this Lenten season. For Lent is not a time for useless sermons, but for recognizing that our lowly ashes are loved by God. It is a time of grace, a time for letting God gaze upon us with love and in this way change our lives. We were put in this world to go from ashes to life. So let us not turn our hopes and God’s dream for us into powder and ashes. Let us not grow resigned. You may ask: “How can I trust? The world is falling to pieces, fear is growing, there is so much malice all around us, society is becoming less and less Christian…” Don’t you believe that God can transform our dust into glory?

The ashes we receive on our foreheads should affect the thoughts passing through our minds. They remind us that, as God’s children, we cannot spend our lives chasing after dust. From there a question can pass into our hearts: “What am I living for?” If it is for the fleeting realities of this world, I am going back to ashes and dust, rejecting what God has done in my life. If I live only to earn money, to have a good time, to gain a bit of prestige or a promotion in my work, I am living for dust. If I am unhappy with life because I think I do not get enough respect or receive what I think is my due, then I am simply staring at dust.

That is not why we have been put in this world. We are worth so much more. We live for so much more, for we are meant to make God’s dream a reality and to love. Ashes are sprinkled on our heads so that the fire of love can be kindled in our hearts. We are citizens of heaven, and our love for God and neighbour is our passport to heaven. Our earthly possessions will prove useless, dust that scatters, but the love we share – in our families, at work, in the Church and in the world – will save us, for it will endure forever.

The ashes we receive remind us of a second and opposite passage: from life to dust. All around us, we see the dust of death. Lives reduced to ashes. Rubble, destruction, war. The lives of unwelcomed innocents, the lives of the excluded poor, the lives of the abandoned elderly. We continue to destroy ourselves, to return to ashes and dust. And how much dust there is in our relationships! Look at our homes and families: our quarrels, our inability to resolve conflicts, our unwillingness to apologize, to forgive, to start over, while at the same time insisting on our own freedom and our rights! All this dust that besmirches our love and mars our life. Even in the Church, the house of God, we have let so much dust collect, the dust of worldliness.

Let us look inside, into our hearts: how many times do we extinguish the fire of God with the ashes of hypocrisy! Hypocrisy is the filth that Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that we have to remove. Indeed, the Lord tells us not only to carry out works of charity, to pray and to fast, but also to do these without pretence, duplicity and hypocrisy (cf. Mt 6:2.5.16). Yet how often do we do things only to be recognized, to look good, to satisfy our ego! How often do we profess to be Christians, yet in our hearts readily yield to passions that enslave us! How often do we preach one thing and practice another! How many times do we make ourselves look good on the outside while nursing grudges within! How much duplicity do we have in our hearts... All this is dust that besmirches, ashes that extinguish the fire of love.

We need to be cleansed of all the dust that has sullied our hearts. How? The urgent summons of Saint Paul in today’s second reading can help us. Paul says: “Be reconciled to God!” He does not simply ask; he begs: “We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). We would have said: “Reconcile yourselves with God!” But no, Paul uses passive form: Be reconciled! Holiness is not achieved by our efforts, for it is grace! By ourselves, we cannot remove the dust that sullies our hearts. Only Jesus, who knows and loves our heart, can heal it. Lent is a time of healing.

What, then, are we to do? In journeying towards Easter, we can make two passages: first, from dust to life, from our fragile humanity to the humanity of Jesus, who heals us. We can halt in contemplation before the crucified Lord and repeat: “Jesus, you love me, transform me... Jesus, you love me, transform me...” And once we have received his love, once we have wept at the thought of that love, we can make the second passage, by determining never to fall again from life into dust. We can receive God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance, because there the fire of God’s love consumes the ashes of our sin. The embrace of the Father in confession renews us from inside and purifies our heart. May we allow ourselves to be reconciled, in order to live as beloved children, as forgiven and healed sinners, as wayfarers with him at our side.

Let us allow ourselves to be loved, so that we can give love in return. Let us allow ourselves to stand up and walk towards Easter. Then we will experience the joy of discovering how God raises us up from our ashes.

26.02.20  m



Chapter 6

1-18

cont.



Pope Francis    

12.02.21  Message for Lent                  

Matthew 6: 1-18 

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem” (Mt 20:18)

Lent: a Time for Renewing Faith, Hope and Love

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Jesus revealed to his disciples the deepest meaning of his mission when he told them of his passion, death and resurrection, in fulfilment of the Father’s will. He then called the disciples to share in this mission for the salvation of the world.

In our Lenten journey towards Easter, let us remember the One who “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). During this season of conversion, let us renew our faith, draw from the “living water” of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God, who makes us brothers and sisters in Christ. At the Easter vigil, we will renew our baptismal promises and experience rebirth as new men and women by the working of the Holy Spirit. This Lenten journey, like the entire pilgrimage of the Christian life, is even now illumined by the light of the resurrection, which inspires the thoughts, attitudes and decisions of the followers of Christ.

Fasting, prayer and almsgiving, as preached by Jesus (cf. Mt 6:1-18), enable and express our conversion. The path of poverty and self-denial (fasting), concern and loving care for the poor (almsgiving), and childlike dialogue with the Father (prayer) make it possible for us to live lives of sincere faith, living hope and effective charity.

1. Faith calls us to accept the truth and testify to it before God and all our brothers and sisters.

In this Lenten season, accepting and living the truth revealed in Christ means, first of all, opening our hearts to God’s word, which the Church passes on from generation to generation. This truth is not an abstract concept reserved for a chosen intelligent few. Instead, it is a message that all of us can receive and understand thanks to the wisdom of a heart open to the grandeur of God, who loves us even before we are aware of it. Christ himself is this truth. By taking on our humanity, even to its very limits, he has made himself the way – demanding, yet open to all – that leads to the fullness of life.

Fasting, experienced as a form of self-denial, helps those who undertake it in simplicity of heart to rediscover God’s gift and to recognize that, created in his image and likeness, we find our fulfilment in him. In embracing the experience of poverty, those who fast make themselves poor with the poor and accumulate the treasure of a love both received and shared. In this way, fasting helps us to love God and our neighbour, inasmuch as love, as Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches, is a movement outwards that focuses our attention on others and considers them as one with ourselves (cf. Fratelli Tutti, 93).

Lent is a time for believing, for welcoming God into our lives and allowing him to “make his dwelling” among us (cf. Jn 14:23). Fasting involves being freed from all that weighs us down – like consumerism or an excess of information, whether true or false – in order to open the doors of our hearts to the One who comes to us, poor in all things, yet “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14): the Son of God our Saviour.

2. Hope as “living water” enabling us to continue our journey.

The Samaritan woman at the well, whom Jesus asks for a drink, does not understand what he means when he says that he can offer her “living water” (Jn 4:10). Naturally, she thinks that he is referring to material water, but Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit whom he will give in abundance through the paschal mystery, bestowing a hope that does not disappoint. Jesus had already spoken of this hope when, in telling of his passion and death, he said that he would “be raised on the third day” (Mt 20:19). Jesus was speaking of the future opened up by the Father’s mercy. Hoping with him and because of him means believing that history does not end with our mistakes, our violence and injustice, or the sin that crucifies Love. It means receiving from his open heart the Father’s forgiveness.

In these times of trouble, when everything seems fragile and uncertain, it may appear challenging to speak of hope. Yet Lent is precisely the season of hope, when we turn back to God who patiently continues to care for his creation which we have often mistreated (cf. Laudato Si’, 32-33; 43-44). Saint Paul urges us to place our hope in reconciliation: “Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). By receiving forgiveness in the sacrament that lies at the heart of our process of conversion, we in turn can spread forgiveness to others. Having received forgiveness ourselves, we can offer it through our willingness to enter into attentive dialogue with others and to give comfort to those experiencing sorrow and pain. God’s forgiveness, offered also through our words and actions, enables us to experience an Easter of fraternity.

In Lent, may we be increasingly concerned with “speaking words of comfort, strength, consolation and encouragement, and not words that demean, sadden, anger or show scorn” (Fratelli Tutti, 223). In order to give hope to others, it is sometimes enough simply to be kind, to be “willing to set everything else aside in order to show interest, to give the gift of a smile, to speak a word of encouragement, to listen amid general indifference” (ibid., 224).

Through recollection and silent prayer, hope is given to us as inspiration and interior light, illuminating the challenges and choices we face in our mission. Hence the need to pray (cf. Mt 6:6) and, in secret, to encounter the Father of tender love.

To experience Lent in hope entails growing in the realization that, in Jesus Christ, we are witnesses of new times, in which God is “making all things new” (cf. Rev 21:1-6). It means receiving the hope of Christ, who gave his life on the cross and was raised by God on the third day, and always being “prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls [us] to account for the hope that is in [us]” (1 Pet 3:15).

3. Love, following in the footsteps of Christ, in concern and compassion for all, is the highest expression of our faith and hope.

Love rejoices in seeing others grow. Hence it suffers when others are anguished, lonely, sick, homeless, despised or in need. Love is a leap of the heart; it brings us out of ourselves and creates bonds of sharing and communion.

“‘Social love’ makes it possible to advance towards a civilization of love, to which all of us can feel called. With its impulse to universality, love is capable of building a new world. No mere sentiment, it is the best means of discovering effective paths of development for everyone” (Fratelli Tutti, 183).

Love is a gift that gives meaning to our lives. It enables us to view those in need as members of our own family, as friends, brothers or sisters. A small amount, if given with love, never ends, but becomes a source of life and happiness. Such was the case with the jar of meal and jug of oil of the widow of Zarephath, who offered a cake of bread to the prophet Elijah (cf. 1 Kings 17:7-16); it was also the case with the loaves blessed, broken and given by Jesus to the disciples to distribute to the crowd (cf. Mk 6:30-44). Such is the case too with our almsgiving, whether small or large, when offered with joy and simplicity.

To experience Lent with love means caring for those who suffer or feel abandoned and fearful because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In these days of deep uncertainty about the future, let us keep in mind the Lord’s word to his Servant, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you” (Is 43:1). In our charity, may we speak words of reassurance and help others to realize that God loves them as sons and daughters.

“Only a gaze transformed by charity can enable the dignity of others to be recognized and, as a consequence, the poor to be acknowledged and valued in their dignity, respected in their identity and culture, and thus truly integrated into society” (Fratelli Tutti, 187).

Dear brothers and sisters, every moment of our lives is a time for believing, hoping and loving. The call to experience Lent as a journey of conversion, prayer and sharing of our goods, helps us – as communities and as individuals – to revive the faith that comes from the living Christ, the hope inspired by the breath of the Holy Spirit and the love flowing from the merciful heart of the Father.

May Mary, Mother of the Saviour, ever faithful at the foot of the cross and in the heart of the Church, sustain us with her loving presence. May the blessing of the risen Lord accompany all of us on our journey towards the light of Easter.


Rome, Saint John Lateran, 11 November 2020, the Memorial of Saint Martin of Tours 

12.02.21


Chapter 6

1-18

cont.



We are now embarking on our Lenten journey, which opens with the words of the prophet Joel. They point out the path we are to follow. We hear an invitation that arises from the heart of God, who with open arms and longing eyes pleads with us: “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). Return to me. Lent is a journey of return to God. How many times, in our activity or indifference, have we told him: “Lord, I will come to you later, just wait a little... I can’t come today, but tomorrow I will begin to pray and do something for others”. We do this, time and time again. Right now, however, God is speaking to our hearts. In this life, we will always have things to do and excuses to offer, but right now, brothers and sisters, right now is the time to return to God.

Return to me, he says, with all your heart. Lent is a journey that involves our whole life, our entire being. It is a time to reconsider the path we are taking, to find the route that leads us home and to rediscover our profound relationship with God, on whom everything depends. Lent is not just not about the little sacrifices we make, but about discerning where our hearts are directed. This is the core of Lent: asking where our hearts are directed. Let us ask: Where is my life’s navigation system taking me – towards God or towards myself? Do I live to please the Lord, or to be noticed, praised, put at the head of line…? Do I have a “wobbly” heart, which takes a step forwards and then one backwards? Do I love the Lord a bit and the world a bit, or is my heart steadfast in God? Am I content with my hypocrisies, or do I work to free my heart from the duplicity and falsehood that tie it down?

The journey of Lent is an exodus, an exodus from slavery to freedom. These forty days correspond to the forty years that God’s people trekked through the desert to return to their homeland. How difficult it was to leave Egypt! It was more difficult for God’s people to leave the Egypt of the heart, that Egypt they carried within them, than to leave the land of Egypt. It is hard to leave Egypt behind. During their journey, there was an ever-present temptation to yearn for leeks, to turn back, to cling to memories of the past or to this or that idol. So it is with us: our journey back to God is blocked by our unhealthy attachments, held back by the seductive snares of our sins, by the false security of money and appearances, by the paralysis of our discontents. To embark on this journey, we have to unmask these illusions.

But we can ask ourselves: how do we then proceed on our journey back to God? We can be guided by return journeys described in the word of God.

We can think of the prodigal son and realize that, for us too, it is time to return to the Father. Like that son, we too have forgotten the familiar scent of our home, we have squandered a precious inheritance on paltry things and have ended up with empty hands and an unhappy heart. We have fallen down, like little children who constantly fall, toddlers who try to walk but keep falling and need, time and time again, to be picked up by their father. It is the Father’s forgiveness that always set us back on our feet. God’s forgiveness – Confession – is the first step on our return journey. In mentioning Confession, I ask confessors to be like fathers, offering not a rod but an embrace.

We then need to return to Jesus, like the leper who, once cured, returned to give him thanks. Although ten had been healed, he was the only one saved, because he returned to Jesus (cf. Lk 17:12-19). All of us have spiritual infirmities that we cannot heal on our own. All of us have deep-seated vices that we cannot uproot alone. All of us have paralyzing fears that we cannot overcome alone. We need to imitate that leper, who came back to Jesus and threw himself at his feet. We need Jesus’ healing, we need to present our wounds to him and say: “Jesus, I am in your presence, with my sin, with my sorrows. You are the physician. You can set me free. Heal my heart”.

Once again, the word of God asks us to return to the Father, to return to Jesus. It also calls us to return to the Holy Spirit. The ashes on our head remind us that we are dust and to dust we will return. Yet upon this dust of ours, God blew his Spirit of life. So we should no longer live our lives chasing dust, chasing things that are here today and gone tomorrow. Let us return to the Spirit, the Giver of Life; let us return to the Fire that resurrects our ashes, to the Fire who teaches us to love. We will always be dust, but as a liturgical hymn says, “dust in love”. Let us pray once more to the Holy Spirit and rediscover the fire of praise, which consumes the ashes of lamentation and resignation.

Brothers and sisters, our return journey to God is possible only because he first journeyed to us. Otherwise, it would be impossible. Before we ever came to him, he came down to us. He preceded us; he came down to meet us. For our sake, he lowered himself more than we can ever imagine: he became sin, he became death. So Saint Paul tells us: “For our sake God made him to be sin” (2 Cor 5:21). Not to abandon us but to accompany us on our journey, he embraced our sin and our death. He touched our sin; he touched our death. Our journey then is about letting him take us by the hand. The Father who bids us come home is the same who left home to come looking for us; the Lord who heals us is the same who let himself suffer on the cross; the Spirit who enables us to change our lives is the same who breathes softly yet powerfully on our dust.

This, then, is the Apostle’s plea: “Be reconciled to God” (v. 20). Be reconciled: the journey is not based on our own strength. No one can be reconciled to God on his or her own. Heartfelt conversion, with the deeds and practices that express it, is possible only if it begins with the primacy of God’s work. What enables us to return to him is not our own ability or merit, but his offer of grace. Grace saves us; salvation is pure grace, pure gratuitousness. Jesus says this clearly in the Gospel: what makes us just is not the righteousness we show before others, but our sincere relationship with the Father. The beginning of the return to God is the recognition of our need for him and his mercy, our need for his grace. This is the right path, the path of humility. Do I feel in need, or do I feel self-sufficient?

Today we bow our heads to receive ashes. At the end of Lent, we will bow even lower to wash the feet of our brothers and sisters. Lent is a humble descent both inwards and towards others. It is about realizing that salvation is not an ascent to glory, but a descent in love. It is about becoming little. Lest we go astray on our journey, let us stand before the cross of Jesus: the silent throne of God. Let us daily contemplate his wounds, the wounds that he brought to heaven and shows daily to the Father in his prayer of intercession. Let us daily contemplate those wounds. In them, we recognize our emptiness, our shortcomings, the wounds of our sin and all the hurt we have experienced. Yet there too, we see clearly that God points his finger at no one, but rather opens his arms to embrace us. His wounds were inflicted for our sake, and by those wounds we have been healed (cf. 1 Pet 2:25; Is 53:5). By kissing those wounds, we will come to realize that there, in life’s most painful wounds, God awaits us with his infinite mercy. Because there, where we are most vulnerable, where we feel the most shame, he came to meet us. And having come to meet us, he now invites us to return to him, to rediscover the joy of being loved. 

17.02.21


Chapter 6

1-18

cont.



Pope Francis Homily  read by Cardinal Parolin

02.03.22 Holy Mass, Blessing and Imposition of the Ashes,

Basilica of Saint Andrew delle Fratte  

Ash Wednesday  Year C

Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18

Today, as we embark on the Lenten season, the Lord says to us: “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Mt 6:1). It may be surprising, but in today’s Gospel, the word we hear most frequently is reward (cf. vv 1.2.5.16). Usually, on Ash Wednesday, we think more of the commitment demanded by the journey of faith, rather than the prize that is its goal. Yet today Jesus keeps returning to that word, reward, which can appear to be the reason for our actions. Yet within our hearts, in fact, there is a thirst, a desire for a reward, which attracts and motivates us.

The Lord, however, speaks of two kinds of reward to which our lives can tend: a reward from the Father and, on the other hand, a reward from others. The first is eternal, the true and ultimate reward, the purpose of our lives. The second is ephemeral, a spotlight we seek whenever the admiration of others and worldly success become the most important thing for us, our greatest gratification. Yet the latter is merely an illusion. It is like a mirage that, once we get there, proves illusory; it leaves us unfulfilled. Restlessness and discontent are always around the corner for those who look to a worldliness that attracts but then disappoints. Those who seek worldly rewards never find peace or contribute to peace. They lose sight of the Father and their brothers and sisters. This is a risk we all face, and so Jesus tells us to “beware”. As if to say: “You have a chance to enjoy an infinite reward, an incomparable reward. Beware, then, and do not let yourself be dazzled by appearances, pursuing cheap rewards that disappoint as soon as you touch them”.

The rite of receiving ashes on our heads is meant to protect us from the error of putting the reward received from others ahead of the reward we receive from the Father. This austere sign, which leads us to reflect on the transience of our human condition, is like a medicine that has a bitter taste and yet is effective for curing the illness of appearances, a spiritual illness that enslaves us and makes us dependent on the admiration of others. It is a true “slavery” of the eyes and the mind (cf. Eph 6:6, Col 3:22). A slavery that makes us live our lives for vainglory, where what counts is not our purity of heart but the admiration of others. Not how God sees us, but how others see us. We cannot live well if we are willing to be content with that reward.

The problem is that this “illness of appearances” threatens even the most sacred of precincts. That is what Jesus’ tells us today: that even prayer, charity and fasting can become self-referential. In every act, even the most noble, there can hide the worm of self-complacency. Then our heart is not completely free, for it seeks, not the love of the Father and of our brothers and sisters, but human approval, people’s applause, our own glory. Everything can then become a kind of pretence before God, before oneself and before others. That is why the word of God urges us to look within and to recognize our own hypocrisies. Let us make a diagnosis of the appearances that we seek, and let us try to unmask them. It will do us good.

The ashes bespeak the emptiness hiding behind the frenetic quest for worldly rewards. They remind us that worldliness is like the dust that is carried away by a slight gust of wind. Sisters and brothers, we are not in this world to chase the wind; our hearts thirst for eternity. Lent is the time granted us by the Lord to be renewed, to nurture our interior life and to journey towards Easter, towards the things that do not pass away, towards the reward we are to receive from the Father. Lent is also a journey of healing. Not to be changed overnight, but to live each day with a renewed spirit, a different “style”. Prayer, charity and fasting are aids to this. Purified by the Lenten ashes, purified of the hypocrisy of appearances, they become even more powerful and restore us to a living relationship with God, our brothers and sisters, and ourselves.

Prayer, humble prayer, prayer “in secret” (Mt 6:6), in the hiddenness of our rooms, becomes the secret to making our lives flourish everywhere else. Prayer is a dialogue, warm in affection and trust, which consoles and expands our hearts. During this Lenten season, let us pray above all by looking at the Crucified Lord. Let us open our hearts to the touching tenderness of God, and in his wounds place our own wounds and those of our world. Let us not be always in a rush, but find the time to stand in silence before him. Let us rediscover the fruitfulness and simplicity of a heartfelt dialogue with the Lord. For God is not interested in appearances. Instead, he loves to be found in secret, “the secrecy of love”, far from all ostentation and clamour.

If prayer is real, it necessarily bears fruit in charity. And charity sets us free from the worst form of enslavement, which is slavery to self. Lenten charity, purified by these ashes, brings us back to what is essential, to the deep joy to be found in giving. Almsgiving, practised far from the spotlights, fills the heart with peace and hope.  It reveals to us the beauty of giving, which then becomes receiving, and thus enables us to discover a precious secret: our hearts rejoice more at giving than at receiving (cf. Acts 20:35).

Finally, fasting. Fasting is not a diet. Indeed, it sets us free from the self-centred and obsessive quest of physical fitness, in order to help us to keep in shape not only our bodies but our spirit as well. Fasting makes us appreciate things for their true worth. It reminds us in a concrete way that life must not be made dependent upon the fleeting landscape of the present world. Nor should fasting be restricted to food alone.  Especially in Lent, we should fast from anything that can create in us any kind of addiction. This is something each of us should reflect on, so as to fast in a way that will have an effect on our actual lives.

Prayer, charity and fasting need to grow “in secret”, but that is not true of their effects. Prayer, charity and fasting are not medicines meant only for ourselves but for everyone: they can change history. First, because those who experience their effects almost unconsciously pass them on to others; but above all, because prayer, charity and fasting are the principal ways for God to intervene in our lives and in the world. They are weapons of the spirit and, with them, on this day of prayer and fasting for Ukraine, we implore from God that peace which men and women are incapable of building by themselves.

O Lord, you see in secret and you reward us beyond our every expectation. Hear the prayers of those who trust in you, especially the lowly, those sorely tried, and those who suffer and flee before the roar of weapons. Restore peace to our hearts; once again, grant your peace to our days. Amen.

02.03.22 m

“Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor 6:2). With these words, the Apostle Paul helps us enter into the spirit of the Lenten season. Lent is indeed the “favourable time” to return to what is essential, to divest ourselves of all that weighs us down, to be reconciled with God, and to rekindle the fire of the Holy Spirit hidden beneath the ashes of our frail humanity. Return to what is essential. It is the season of grace when we put into practice what the Lord asks of us at the beginning of today’s first reading: “Return to me with all your heart” (Jl 2:12). Return to what is essential: it is the Lord.

The rite of the imposition of ashes serves as the beginning of this return journey.  It exhorts us to do two things: to return to the truth about ourselves and to return to God and to our brothers and sisters.

First, to return to the truth about ourselves. The ashes remind us who we are and whence we come. They bring us back to the essential truth of our lives: the Lord alone is God and we are the work of his hands. That is the truth of who we are. We have life, whereas God is life. He is the Creator, while we are the fragile clay fashioned by his hands. We come from the earth and we need heaven; we need him. With God, we will rise from our ashes, but without him, we are dust. As we humbly bow our heads to receive the ashes, we are reminded of this truth: we are the Lord’s; we belong to him. For God “formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Gen 2:7); we exist because he breathed into us the breath of life. As a tender and merciful Father, God too experiences Lent, since he is concerned for us; he waits for us; he awaits our return.  And he constantly urges us not to despair, even when we lie fallen in the dust of our weakness and sin, for “he knows how we were made; he remembers that we are dust” (Ps 103:14). Let us listen to those words again: He remembers that we are dust. God knows this; yet we often forget it, and think that we are self-sufficient, strong and invincible without him. We put on make up and think we are better than we really are. We are dust.

Lent, then, is the time to remind ourselves who is the Creator and who is the creature. The time to proclaim that God alone is Lord, to drop the pretense of being self-sufficient and the need to put ourselves at the centre of things, to be the top of the class, to think that by our own abilities we can succeed in life and transform the world around us. Now is the favourable time to be converted, to stop looking at ourselves and to start looking into ourselves. How many distractions and trifles distract us from the things that really count!  How often do we get caught up in our own wants and needs, lose sight of the heart of the matter, and fail to embrace the true meaning of our lives in this world! Lent is a time of truth, a time to drop the masks we put on each day to appear perfect in the eyes of the world. It is a time, as Jesus said in the Gospel, to reject lies and hypocrisy: not those of others, but of ourselves: We look them in the eye and resist them.

Yet there is a second step: the ashes invite us also to return to God and to our brothers and sisters. Once we return to the truth about ourselves and remind ourselves that we are not self-sufficient, we realize that we exist only through relationships: our primordial relationship with the Lord and our vital relationships with others. The ashes we receive this evening tell us that every presumption of self-sufficiency is false and that self-idolatry is destructive, imprisoning us in isolation and loneliness: we look in the mirror and believe that we are perfect, the centre of the world. Life is instead a relationship: we receive it from God and from our parents, and we can always revive and renew it thanks to the Lord and to those he puts at our side. Lent, then, is a season of grace when we can rebuild our relationship with God and with others, opening our hearts in the silence of prayer and emerging from the fortress of our self-sufficiency. Lent is the favourable time when we can break the chains of our individualism and isolation, and rediscover, through encounter and listening, our companions along the journey of each day. And to learn once more to love them as brothers and sisters.

How can we do this? To make this journey, to return to the truth about ourselves and to return to God and to others, we are urged to take three great paths: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. These are the traditional ways, and there is no need for novelty. Jesus said it clearly: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. It is not about mere external rites, these must be actions expressing the renewal of our hearts.  Almsgiving is not a hasty gesture performed to ease our conscience, to compensate for our interior imbalance; rather, it is a way of touching the sufferings of the poor with our own hands and heart. Prayer is not a ritual, but a truthful and loving dialogue with the Father.  Fasting is not a quaint devotion, but a powerful gesture to remind ourselves what truly matters and what is merely ephemeral. Jesus gives “advice that still retains its salutary value for us: external gestures must always be matched by a sincere heart and consistent behaviour.  Indeed, what use is it to tear our garments if our hearts remain distant from the Lord, that is, from goodness and justice?” (BENEDICT XVI, Homily for Ash Wednesday, 1 March 2006). All too often, our gestures and rites have no impact on our lives; they remain superficial. Perhaps we perform them only to gain the admiration or esteem of others. Let us remember this: in our personal life, as in the life of the Church, outward displays, human judgments and the world’s approval count for nothing; the only thing that truly matters is the truth and love that God himself sees.

If we stand humbly before his gaze, then almsgiving, prayer and fasting will not simply remain outward displays, but will express what we truly are: children of God, brothers and sisters of one another. Almsgiving, charity, will be a sign of our compassion toward those in need, and help us to return to others. Prayer will give voice to our profound desire to encounter the Father, and will bring us back to him. Fasting will be the spiritual training ground where we joyfully renounce the superfluous things that weigh us down, grow in interior freedom and return to the truth about ourselves. Encounter with the Father, interior freedom, compassion.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us bow our heads, receive the ashes, and lighten our hearts. Let us set out on the path of charity. We have been given forty days, a “favourable time” to remind ourselves that the world is bigger than our narrow personal needs, and to rediscover the joy, not of accumulating material goods, but of caring for those who are poor and afflicted. Let us set out, then, on the path of prayer and use these forty days to restore God’s primacy in our lives and to dialogue with him from the heart, and not only in spare moments. Let us set out on the path of fasting and use these forty days to take stock of ourselves, to free ourselves from the dictatorship of full schedules, crowded agendas and superficial needs, and choose the things that truly matter.

Brothers and sisters, let us not neglect the grace of this holy season, but fix our gaze on the cross and set out, responding generously to the powerful promptings of Lent. At the end of the journey, we will encounter with greater joy the Lord of life, we will meet him, who alone can raise us up from our ashes.

22.02.23 m

Chapter 6

1-18

cont.



Pope Francis

14.02.24 Holy Mass, Blessing and Imposition of the Ashes,

Basilica of Santa Sabina   

Ash Wednesday  

Joel 2: 12-18,

Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18  

When you give alms, or pray or fast, take care to do these things in secret, for your Father sees in secret (cf. Mt 6:4). “Go to your room”: this is the invitation that Jesus addresses to each of us at the beginning of the Lenten journey.

Going to your room means returning to the heart, as the prophet Joel admonishes (cf. Joel  2:12). It means journeying from without to within, so that our whole life, including our relationship with God, is not reduced to mere outward show, a frame without a picture, a draping of the soul, but is born from within and reflects the movements of our heart, our deepest desires, our thoughts, our feelings, the very core of our person.

Lent, then, immerses us in a bath of purification and of self-spoliation: it helps us to remove all the cosmetics that we use in order to appear presentable, better than we really are. To return to the heart means to go back to our true self and to present it just as it is, naked and defenceless, in the sight of God. It means looking within ourselves and acknowledging our real identity, removing the masks we so often wear, slowing the frantic pace of our lives and embracing life and the truth of who we are. Life is not a play; Lent invites us to come down from the stage and return to the heart, to the reality of who we are: a return to the heart and the truth.

That is why this evening, in a spirit of prayer and humility, we receive ashes on our head. This gesture is meant to remind us of the ultimate reality of our lives: that we are dust and our life passes away like a breath (cf. Ps 39:6; 144:4). Yet the Lord – he and he alone – does not allow it to vanish; he gathers and shapes the dust that we are, lest it be swept away by the winds of life or sink into the abyss of death.

The ashes placed on our head invite us to rediscover the secret of life. They tell us that as long as we continue to shield our hearts and hide ourselves behind a mask, to appear invincible, we will be empty and arid within.  When, on the other hand, we have the courage to bow our heads in order to look within, we will discover the presence of God who loves us and has always loved us. At last those shields you have built for yourself will be shattered and you will be able to feel yourself loved with an eternal love.

Sister, brother, I, you, each of us, is loved with an eternal love.  We are ashes on which God has breathed his breath of life, we are the earth which he has shaped with his own hands (cf. Gen 2:7; Ps 119:73), dust from which we will rise for a life without end prepared for us from all eternity (cf. Is 26:9). And if, in the ashes that we are, the fire of the love of God burns, then we will discover that we have indeed been shaped by that love and called to love others in turn. To love the brothers and sisters all around us, to be considerate to others, to feel compassion, to show mercy, to share all that we are and all that we have with those in need. Almsgiving, prayer and fasting are not mere external practices; they are paths that lead to the heart, to the core of the Christian life. They make us realize that we are ashes loved by God, and they enable us to spread that love on the “ashes” of so many situations in our daily lives, so that in them hope, trust and joy may be reborn.

Saint Anselm of Aosta has left us these words of encouragement that this evening we can make our own: “Escape from your everyday business for a short while, hide for a moment from your restless thoughts. Break off from your cares and troubles and be less concerned about your tasks and labours. Make a little time for God and rest a while in him. Enter into your mind’s inner chamber. Shut out everything but God and whatever helps you to seek him; and when you have shut the door, look for him. Speak now to God and say with your whole heart: I seek your face; your face, O Lord, I desire” (Proslogion, 1).

Let us listen then, throughout this Lent, to the voice of the Lord who does not tire of repeating: go to your room, return to your heart. It is a salutary invitation for us, who so often live on the surface of things, who are so concerned to be noticed, who constantly need to be admired and appreciated. Without realizing it, we find ourselves no longer having an “inner chamber” in which we can stop and care for ourselves, immersed as we are in a world in which everything, including our emotions and deepest feelings, has to become “social” – but how can something be “social” that does not come from the heart? Even the most tragic and painful experiences risk not having a quiet place where they can be kept. Everything has to be exposed, shown off, fed to the gossip-mill of the moment. But the Lord says to us: Enter into the secret, return to the centre of yourself. Precisely there, where so many fears, feelings of guilt and sin are lurking, precisely there the Lord has descended in order to heal and cleanse you. Let us enter into our inner chamber: there the Lord dwells, there our frailty is accepted and we are loved unconditionally.

Let us return, brothers and sisters. Let us return to God with all our heart. During these weeks of Lent, let us make space for the prayer of silent adoration, in which we experience the presence of the Lord, like Moses, like Elijah, like Mary, like Jesus. Have we noticed that we have lost the sense of worship? Let us return to worship. Let us lend the ear of our hearts to the One who, in silence, wants to say to us: “I am your God – the God of mercy and compassion, the God of pardon and love, the God of tenderness and care… Do not judge yourself. Do not condemn yourself. Do not reject yourself. Let my love touch the deepest, most hidden corners of your heart and reveal to you your own beauty, a beauty that you have lost sight of, but will become visible to you again in the light of my mercy.” The Lord is calling us: “Come, let me wipe your tears, and let my mouth come close to your ear and say to you: I love you, I love you, I love you” (H. NOUWEN, The Road to Daybreak, New York, 1988, 157-158). Do we believe that the Lord loves us, that the Lord loves me?

Brothers and sisters, let us not be afraid to strip ourselves of worldly trappings and return to the heart, returning to what is essential. Let us think of Saint Francis, who after stripping himself embraced with his entire being the Father in heaven. Let us acknowledge what we are: dust loved by God, called to be dust in love with God. Thanks to him, we will be reborn from the ashes of sin to new life in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit.

14.02.24 m

 Chapter 6

19-23


Pope Francis          

21.06.13  Holy Mass,  Santa Marta     

Mathew 6: 19-23 

The most important thing to do, is to ask yourself: “What is my treasure?”. It certainly cannot be riches, as the Lord has said: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, because in the end you will lose them”. What is the treasure that we can take with us to the end of life? You can take that which you have given, and only that.

“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”. The Lord has made us look for it, to find it, and to grow. But if our treasure is not close to the Lord, if it is not of the Lord, then our heart is restless. We think: what am I? A weary heart that wants to settle with only three or four things, with a nice bank account? Or do I have a restless heart, which increasingly seeks the things of the Lord?.

“The eye is the lamp of the body”. The eye holds the intention of the heart, if your gaze is simple, if it comes from a loving heart, a heart that seeks the Lord, a humble heart, then your whole body will be bright. But if your eye is wicked, your whole body will be shadowlike.

Pray that the Lord change our hearts, that the Lord make human those pieces of heart that are stone, and instil in them a healthy restlessness to move ahead, searching for him and letting him search for us. Because, only the Lord can save us “from the treasures that hinder our encounter with him in the service of others” .

21.06.13

 Chapter 6

24-34


Pope Francis          

22.06.13 Holy Mass Santa Marta      

Matthew 6: 24-34 Matthew 13: 22 

No one can serve two masters.... You cannot serve God and mammon (Mt 6:24-34) 

The parable of the sower (Mt 13) helps us to understand this. The seed that fell upon thorny ground was choked. But who choked it? Jesus says ‘riches and worldly concerns’. We see that Jesus had clear ideas on this. Riches and worldly concerns therefore choke the word of God, they prevent it from growing and the word dies choked because it is not tended.

What do these riches and concerns do to us? They merely cut us out of time. Our whole life rests on three pillars: one in the past, one in the present and another in the future. This is clear in the Bible; the pillar of the past is the choice.... The Lord chose us. Each one of us can say: ‘the Lord chose me, he loved me, he said come, and in Baptism he chose me to follow a path, the Christian path’. The future is the promise Jesus made to humankind. He chose me to walk towards a promise, he made a promise to us. Lastly, the present is our response to this God who is so good, who chose me, who makes me a promise and suggests a covenant to me; and I make a covenant with him.

Choice, promise. covenant; these are therefore the three pillars of the entire history of salvation. However it can sometimes happen that when our heart enters this, which Jesus explains to us, it cuts out time. It cuts out the past, it cuts out the future and is confused in the present.

This happens because those who cling to riches are not concerned with either the past or the future. they have everything. Wealth is an idol. It has no need of a past, a promise, an election or a future, it needs nothing. What we worry about is what can happen.

Those attached to wealth therefore cut off their relationship with the future..... However this does not lead them to a promise so they remain confused and lonely. Let us not cut out the past. We have a Father who has set us on our way. And the future is joyful too, for we are journeying toward a promise and no concerns surface. The Lord is faithful, he does not disappoint. And so, let us go onwards. Let us remember well: the seed that falls among thorns is choked... by riches and worldly concerns: two elements that make us forget the past and the future; so we have a Father but we live as though we did not have one and our future is uncertain.

Ask the Lord for the grace not to err by giving importance to the concerns and idolatry of riches, but always to remember that we have a Father who chose us and promised us something good; we must therefore walk toward that promise, taking the present as it comes. 

22.06.13


 

Chapter 6

24-34

cont.



Pope Francis          

25.11.19  Holy Mass, Tokyo Dome             

Genesis 1: 1, 26-31b        

Matthew 6: 24-34   

The Gospel we have heard is part of Jesus’ first great sermon. We know it as the Sermon on the Mount, and it describes for us the beauty of the path we are called to take. In the Bible, the mountain is the place where God reveals himself and makes himself known. “Come up to me”, God says to Moses (cf. Ex 24:1). A mountain whose summit is not reached by willpower or social climbing, but only by attentive, patient and sensitive listening to the Master at every crossroads of life’s journey. The summit presents us with an ever new perspective on all around us, centred on the compassion of the Father. In Jesus, we encounter the summit of what it means to be human; he shows us the way that leads to a fulfilment exceeding all our hopes and expectations. In him, we encounter a new life, where we come to know the freedom of knowing that we are God’s beloved children.

Yet all of us know that along the way, the freedom of being God’s children can be repressed and weakened if we are enclosed in a vicious circle of anxiety and competition. Or if we focus all our attention and energy on the frenetic pursuit of productivity and consumerism as the sole criterion for measuring and validating our choices, or defining who we are or what we are worth. This way of measuring things slowly makes us grow impervious or insensible to the really important things, making us instead pant after things that are superfluous or ephemeral. How greatly does the eagerness to believe that everything can be produced, acquired or controlled oppress and shackle the soul!

Here in Japan, in a society with a highly developed economy, the young people I met this morning spoke to me about the many people who are socially isolated. They remain on the margins, unable to grasp the meaning of life and their own existence. Increasingly, the home, school and community, which are meant to be places where we support and help one another, are being eroded by excessive competition in the pursuit of profit and efficiency. Many people feel confused and anxious; they are overwhelmed by so many demands and worries that take away their peace and stability.

The Lord’s words act as a refreshing balm, when he tells us not to be troubled but to trust. Three times he insists: “Do not be anxious about your life… about tomorrow” (cf. Mt 6:25.31.34). This is not an encouragement to ignore what happens around us or to be irresponsible about our daily duties and responsibilities. Instead, it is an invitation to set our priorities against a broader horizon of meaning and thus find the freedom to see things his way: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:33).

The Lord is not telling us that basic necessities like food and clothing are unimportant. Rather, he invites us to re-evaluate our daily decisions and not to become trapped or isolated in the pursuit of success at any cost, including the cost of our very lives. Worldly attitudes that look only to one’s own profit or gain in this world, and a selfishness that pursues only individual happiness, in reality leave us profoundly unhappy and enslaved, and hinder the authentic development of a truly harmonious and humane society.

The opposite of an isolated, enclosed and even asphyxiated “I” can only be a “we” that is shared, celebrated and communicated (cf. General Audience, 13 February 2019). The Lord’s call reminds us that “we need to acknowledge jubilantly that our life is essentially a gift, and recognize that our freedom is a grace. This is not easy today, in a world that thinks it can keep something for itself, the fruits of its own creativity or freedom” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 55). In today’s first reading, the Bible tells us how our world, teeming with life and beauty, is above all a precious gift of the Creator: “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Gen 1:31). God offers us this beauty and goodness so that we can share it and offer it to others, not as masters or owners, but as sharers in God’s same creative dream. “Genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others” (Laudato Si’, 70).

Given this reality, we are invited as a Christian community to protect all life and testify with wisdom and courage to a way of living marked by gratitude and compassion, generosity and simple listening. One capable of embracing and accepting life as it is, “with all its fragility, its simplicity, and often enough too, with its conflicts and annoyances” (Address at the Vigil of World Youth Day, Panama, 26 January 2019). We are called to be a community that can learn and teach the importance of accepting “things that are not perfect, pure or ‘distilled’, yet no less worthy of love. Is a disabled or frail person not worthy of love? Someone who happens to be a foreigner, someone who made a mistake, someone ill or in prison: is that person not worthy of love? We know what Jesus did: he embraced the leper, the blind man, the paralytic, the Pharisee and the sinner. He embraced the thief on the cross and even embraced and forgave those who crucified him” (ibid.).

The proclamation of the Gospel of Life urgently requires that we as a community become a field hospital, ready to heal wounds and to offer always a path of reconciliation and forgiveness. For the Christian, the only possible measure by which we can judge each person and situation is that of the Father’s compassion for all his children.

United to the Lord, in constant cooperation and dialogue with men and women of good will, including those of other religious convictions, we can become the prophetic leaven of a society that increasingly protects and cares for all life. 

25.11.19

 Chapter 6

53-56


Pope Francis          

Genesis 1: 1-19,         

In Psalm 104, “we praised the Lord”, saying: “You are very great, O Lord, my God! You are great indeed!”. This Psalm, is a song of praise: we praise the Lord for the things we heard in both readings, for creation, so great; and in the second reading, for the re-creation, the even more wondrous creation that Jesus makes. The Father labours and thus, Jesus says: ‘My Father labours and I too labour”. It is a way of saying ‘labour’, ad instar laborantis, as one who labours, as Saint Ignatius defines in the Exercises (cf. Spiritual Exercises, n. 236).

In this way, the Father labours to make this wonder of creation, and with the Son to make this wonder of re-creation; to make that passing from chaos to cosmos, from disorder to order, from sin to grace. And, this is the Father’s labour and for this reason we praised the Father, the Father who labours.

But, “why did God want to create the world?”. This is one of the difficult questions. Once, a boy put me in difficulty because he asked me this question: ‘tell me, Father, what did God do before he created the world;  was he bored?”. Surely, children know how to ask questions, and they ask the right questions that put you in difficulty.

To answer that child, the Lord helped me and I told the truth: God loved; in his fullness, he loved, among the three Persons, he loved and needed nothing more. The answer, gave rise to another question: if God “needed nothing more, why did he create the world? This is a question, not posed in a childlike manner but as the first theologians did, the great theologians, the first. Thus, why did God “create the world?”. The response to give is this: “Simply to share his fullness, to have someone whom to give and with whom to share his fullness”. In a word, “to give”.

We can ask “the same question, in regard to re-creation: “why did he send his Son for this work of re-creation?”. He did so “in order to share, to re-organize”. And in the first creation, as in the second, he makes out of chaos a cosmos, out of ugliness something beautiful, out of a mistake a truth, out of bad something good. This is precisely the labour of creation that is God, and one he does by hand. And, in Jesus we clearly see: with his body he gives life completely. Thus, “when Jesus says: ‘The Father labours always, and I too labour always ’, the doctors of the law were scandalized and wanted to kill him because they did not know how to receive the things of God as a gift, but “only as justice”; and so they even came to think: the commandments are few: let’s make more!

Thus, instead of opening their heart to the gift, they hid; they sought refuge in the rigidity of the commandments, which they had increased up to 500 or more: they did not know how to receive the gift. The gift, is only received with freedom, but these rigid men were afraid of God-given freedom; they were afraid of love. For this reason, they wanted to kill Jesus, because He said the Father had done this wonder as a gift: receive the gift of the Father!

You are great, Lord, I love you, because you have given me this gift, you have saved me, you created me: this, is the prayer of praise, the prayer of joy, the prayer that gives us the cheerfulness of Christian life. It is not that closed, sad prayer of people who are never able to receive a gift because they are afraid of the freedom that a gift always brings. Thus, in the end, they know only duty, but a closed duty: slaves to duty, but not to love. But, when you become a slave to love you are free: it is a beautiful slavery, but they did not understand this.

Therefore, these are the two wonders of the Lord: the wonder of creation and the wonder of redemption, of re-creation; that of the beginning of the world and that, after the fall of man, of restoring the world and this is why he sent the Son: it is beautiful. Of course, we can ask ourselves how I receive these wonders, how I receive this creation God has given me as a gift. And, if I receive it as a gift, I love creation, I safeguard creation because it was a gift.

In this light, we should ask ourselves: how I receive redemption, the forgiveness that God has given me, making me a son or daughter with his Son, with love, with tenderness, with freedom. We must never hide in the rigidity of closed commandments that are always, always more ‘certain’ — in quotation marks — but which give you no joy because they do not make you free. Each one of us, can ask ourselves how we can live these two wonders: the wonder of creation and the even greater wonder of re-creation. We must do so with the hope that the Lord will help us understand this great thing and help us understand what he did before creating the world: he loved. May he help us understand his love for us and may we say — as we have said today — ‘You are very great, O Lord. Thank you, thank you!’”. And let us go forth in this way.

06.02.17

Chapter 7

Chapter 7

21-29



Pope Francis          

27.06.13   Holy Mass,  Santa Marta  

Mathew 7: 21-29 

The Lord speaks to us of our foundation, the foundation of our Christian life”; and he tells us that this foundation is the rock”. We must therefore “build the house”, namely, our life, on the rock that is Christ. When St Paul speaks of the rock in the desert, he is referring to Christ. He is the only rock “that can give us security”, so that “we are all invited to build our life upon this rock of Christ. Not on any other”.

In the Gospel passage, Jesus also mentions to all who believe they can build their life on words alone: “Not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven. But Jesus straight away suggests building our house upon the rock”. There are two classes of Christians in the history of the Church: the first, of whom to beware, are the “Christians of words”, that is, those who limit themselves to repeating: 'Lord, Lord, Lord'. The second, the genuine Christians areChristians of action and of truth”. There is always a temptation to live our Christianity away from the rock that is Christ; the only One who gives us the freedom to say “Father” to God; the only one who supports us in difficult moments”. Jesus himself says so with vivid examples: “the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew”, but where “the rock is, there is safety”. On the contrary, when there are only “words, words fly, they are of no use”. One ends in fact facing the “temptation of these 'Christians of words': a Christianity without Jesus, a Christianity without Christ. And unfortunately “this happened and is still happening in the church today”.

This temptation, present in the Church's history in many different ways, has given life to various categories of “Christians without Christ”. The “light Christian”, who, “instead of loving the rock, loves beautiful words, beautiful words” and turns towards a “god of spray”, a “personal god”, with attitudes of superficiality and flimsiness”. This temptation still exists today: “superficial Christians who indeed believe in God”, but not in Jesus Christ, “the One who gives you a foundation”. Those who give into the temptation of a fluid Christianity are “the modern Gnostics”..

Those who believe that Christian life” must be taken so seriously” that they end by “confusing solidity and firmness with rigidity”. These “rigid Christians”, “think that to be a Christian it is necessary to wear mourning”, and always “ take everything seriously”, paying attention to formalities, just as the scribes and Pharisees did. These are Christians for whom “everything is serious. They are today's Pelagians who believe in the firmness of faith and are convinced that “salvation is the way I do things”. “I must do them seriously” without any joy. They are very numerous. They are not Christians. They disguise themselves as Christians”.

In short, these two categories of believers – Gnostics and Pelagians – “do not know Jesus, they do not know who the Lord is, they do not know what the rock is, they have none of the freedom of Christians” Consequently, “they have no joy”.... And in addition to having no joy, they “have no freedom” either. “In their life there is no room for the Holy Spirit”.

Build our Christian life on the rock that gives us freedom” and “enables us to continue on Christ's path, following what he proposes”. Thus a grace to ask of the Lord is the ability “to go ahead in life as Christians, standing firm on the rock that is Jesus Christ and with the freedom that the Holy Spirit gives us.” A grace to ask “in a special way of Our Lady. She knows what it means to be founded on the rock.

27.06.13



Chapter 7

21-29

cont.


Pope Francis    

06.12.18   Holy Mass Santa Marta  

Isaiah 26: 1-6,     

Matthew 7: 21, 24-27 

Speaking and acting; sand and rock; high and low.

Speaking is a way of believing, but very superficial, a halfway journey: I say that I am a Christian but I don’t act like a Christian. To put it simply, it’s a little bit like dressing up as a Christian: only saying the words is a kind of deception, speaking without doing. Jesus’ proposal is concrete, always concrete. When someone drew near and asked for advice, [He always suggested] concrete things. The works of mercy are concrete.

Sand is “not solid,” it is a consequence of speaking” but not acting; of dressing up like a Christian. But it is a life constructed without foundations. The rock, on the other hand, is the Lord. He is the strength. But many times, those who trust in the Lord are not seen, do not have success, they are hidden… but they are steady. He doesn’t place his hope in speaking, in vanity, in pride, in the ephemeral powers of life, [but] in the Lord, the rock. The concreteness of the Christian life makes us go forward and build on the rock that is God, that is Jesus; on the solid ground of the divinity. Not on appearances or vanities, pride, recommendations… No. [On] the truth.

The Lord, “humbles those in high places, and the lofty city he brings down; He tumbles it to the ground, levels it with the dust. It is trampled underfoot by the needy, by the footsteps of the poor. This passage from the Prophet Isaiah has the air of the Magnificat, the song of our Lady: The Lord raises the humble, those who are in the concreteness of every day, and beats down the proud, those who build their lives on vanity, pride… these things do not last.

In this period of Advent, it would be helpful to ask ourselves certain crucial questions: “Am I a Christian of words, or of deeds?” “Am I building my life on the rock of God, or on the sand of worldliness, of vanity?” “Am I humble, always trying to go along the lowly path, without pride, so as to serve the Lord?”

06.12.18

Chapter 7

21-29

cont.



Pope Francis          


05.12.19  Holy Mass Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)


Thursday of the First Week of Advent Year A      


Matthew 7: 21, 24-27 


In the Gospel, Jesus compares the wise person who built his house on rock with the fool who built his house on sand. Those who listen to the words of the Lord are wise, while those who refuse to do so live like fools and base everything on appearances.

What is the foundation of our hopes, of our security and of our lives. We need God’s grace to discern where the sand is and where the rock is to sink our foundations.

The Rock. That’s what the Lord is. Those who entrust themselves to the Lord will always remain safe, because their foundations are on the rock. That’s what Jesus says in the Gospel. He speaks about a wise man who built his house on rock, that is, on trust in the Lord and on serious things. And this trust is a noble thing, because the foundation of this building of our lives is sure; it is strong.

The wise man built on the rock, while the fool chose the shifting sands and is swept away by winds and rain. Even in our own lives it can happen, when my foundations are not strong. The storm comes – and we all have storms in our lives, all of us, from the Pope to the last, everyone – and we are unable to stand firm. Many say: ‘No, I’ll change my life.’ They think making life changes is like putting on makeup. Changing my life requires changing the foundations of my life, that is, finding the rock that is Christ. ‘I would like to renovate this building because it’s extremely ugly, so I would like to make it a little more beautiful and strengthen the foundation.’ But if all I do is put on makeup, then things won’t go far; it will fall. Christian life falls when based on appearances.

Jesus is the only sure foundation, while appearances are of no assistance, and this is also seen in the confessional. Only those who recognize they are sinners, weak, and eager for salvation show that their life is built on rock, as they believe and trust in Jesus as the source of salvation.

We cannot build our lives on passing things, on appearances, on acting like everything is fine. Let us go to the rock, where our salvation is. And there we will all be happy. All.

Let each of us, on this day in Advent, think about what foundation we give to our lives, whether solid rock or sand and ask the Lord for the grace to be able to discern. 

05.12.19

Chapter 7

21-29

cont.



Pope Francis          

03.12.20 Saint John Lateran, Rome       

Matthew 7: 24-27;     

Dear brothers and sisters,

This year’s celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is an occasion to express my closeness to those experiencing situations of particular difficulty during the crisis caused by the pandemic. All of us are in the same boat in the midst of a turbulent sea that can frighten us. Yet in this same boat, some of us are struggling more; among them are persons with serious disabilities.

The theme of this year’s celebration is “Building Back Better: Toward a Disability-inclusive, Accessible and Sustainable post-COVID-19 World”. I find the expression “building back better” quite striking. It makes me think of the Gospel parable of the house built on rock or sand (cf. Mt 7:24-27; Lk 6:46-49). So I take this special occasion to share some reflections based on that parable.

1. The threat of the throwaway culture

In the first place, the “rain”, the “rivers” and the “winds” that threaten the house can be identified with the throwaway culture widespread in our time (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 53). For that culture, “some parts of our human family, it appears, can be readily sacrificed for the sake of others considered worthy of a carefree existence. Ultimately, persons are no longer seen as a paramount value to be cared for and respected, especially when they are poor and disabled” (Fratelli Tutti, 18).

That culture affects especially the most vulnerable, among whom are the persons with disabilities. In the last fifty years, important steps forward have been taken on both the civil and ecclesial levels. Awareness of the dignity of each person has grown, and this has resulted in courageous decisions to promote the inclusion of those experiencing physical and psychological limitations. Yet, on the cultural level, much still stands in the way of this trend. We see it in attitudes of rejection, due also to a narcissistic and utilitarian mentality, that give rise to marginalization that ignores the inevitable fact that frailty is part of everyone’s life. Indeed, some with even severe disabilities, despite great challenges, have found the way to a beautiful and meaningful life, whereas many “able-bodied” people feel dissatisfied or even desperate. “Vulnerability is intrinsic to the essential nature of humanity” (Address to the Conference “Catechesis and People with Disabilities”, 21 October 2017).

Consequently, it is important, on this Day, to promote a culture of life that constantly affirms the dignity of every person and works especially to defend men and women with disabilities, of all ages and social conditions.

2. The “rock” of inclusion

The present pandemic has further highlighted the disparities and inequalities widespread in our time, particularly to the detriment of the most vulnerable. “The virus, while it does not distinguish between people, has found, in its devastating path, great inequalities and discrimination. And it has only made them worse” (Catechesis at the General Audience of 19 August 2020).

For this reason, inclusion should be the first “rock” on which to build our house. Although this term is at times overused, the Gospel parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37) continues to be timely. Along the road of life, we often come across wounded people, and these can include persons with disabilities and particular needs. “The decision to include or exclude those lying wounded along the roadside can serve as a criterion for judging every economic, political, social and religious project. Each day we have to decide whether to be Good Samaritans or indifferent bystanders” (Fratelli Tutti, 69).

Inclusion should be the “rock” on which to build programmes and initiatives of civil institutions meant to ensure that no one, especially those in greatest difficulty, is left behind. The strength of a chain depends upon the attention paid to its weakest links.

As for ecclesial institutions, I reiterate the need to make available suitable and accessible means for handing on the faith. I also hope that these can be made available to those who need them, cost-free to the extent possible, also through the new technologies that have proven so important for everyone in the midst of this pandemic. I also encourage efforts to provide all priests, seminarians, religious, catechists and pastoral workers with regular training concerning disabilities and the use of inclusive pastoral tools. Parish communities should be concerned to encourage among the faithful a welcoming attitude towards people with disabilities. Creating a fully accessible parish requires not only the removal of architectural barriers, but above all, helping parishioners to develop attitudes and acts of solidarity and service towards persons with disabilities and their families. Our aim should be to speak no longer about “them”, but rather about “us”.

3. The “rock” of active participation

To help our society to “build back better”, inclusion of the vulnerable must also entail efforts to promote their active participation.

Before all else, I strongly reaffirm the right of persons with disabilities to receive the sacraments, like all other members of the Church. All liturgical celebrations in the parish should be accessible to them, so that, together with their brothers and sisters, each of them can deepen, celebrate, and live their faith. Special attention should be paid to people with disabilities who have not yet received the sacraments of Christian initiation: they should be welcomed and included in programmes of catechesis in preparation for these sacraments. No one should be excluded from the grace of these sacraments.

“In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples. All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization” (Evangelii Gaudium, 120). People with disabilities, both in society and in the Church, also wish to become active subjects of our pastoral ministry, and not simply its recipients. “Many persons with disabilities feel that they exist without belonging and without participating. Much still prevents them from being fully enfranchised. Our concern should be not only to care for them, but also to ensure their ‘active participation’ in the civil and ecclesial community. That is a demanding and even tiring process, yet one that will gradually contribute to the formation of consciences capable of acknowledging each individual as a unique and unrepeatable person” (Fratelli Tutti, 98). Indeed, the active participation of people with disabilities in the work of catechesis can greatly enrich the life of the whole parish. Precisely because they have been grafted onto Christ in baptism, they share with him, in their own particular way, the priestly, prophetic, and royal mission of evangelizing through, with and in the Church.

The presence of persons with disabilities among catechists, according to their own gifts and talents, is thus a resource for the community. Efforts should be made to provide them with appropriate training, so that they can acquire greater knowledge also in the areas of theology and catechesis. I trust that, in parish communities, more and more people with disabilities can become catechists, in order to pass on the faith effectively, also by their own witness (cf. Address to the Conference “Catechesis and People with Disabilities”, 21 October 2017).

“Even worse than this crisis would be the tragedy of squandering it” (Homily on the Solemnity of Pentecost, 31 May 2020). For this reason, I encourage all those who daily and often silently devote themselves to helping others in situations of fragility and disability. May our common desire to “build back better” give rise to new forms of cooperation between both civil and ecclesial groups and thus build a solid “house” ready to withstand every storm and capable of welcoming people with disabilities, because built on the rock of inclusion and active participation. 

03.12.20

Chapter 8



Chapter 8

5-11


Pope Francis       

03.12.18 Holy Mass Santa Marta     

Matthew 8: 5-11  


Advent, which began on Sunday, is a good time for purifying the spirit, for making the faith grow with this purification. Even today, it can happen that faith can become a habit for us; we can get used to it, forgetting its “liveliness.” When the faith becomes a habit, we lose that strength of the faith, that newness of the faith that is always renewed.

The first dimension of Advent is the past, “the purification of memory”: We have to remember that Christmas is not about the birth of a Christmas tree, but about the birth of Jesus Christ.

The Lord is born, the Redeemer who has come to save us. Yes, it is a celebration…but we always face the danger, we will always have within us the temptation to make Christmas mundane, worldly… When the celebration stops being about contemplation—a beautiful family celebration with Jesus at the centre—it begins to be a worldly celebration: all about shopping, presents, this and that… and the Lord remains there, forgotten. Even in our own life: yes, He is born, at Bethlehem, but then what?… Advent is a time for purifying the memory of this time past, of that dimension.

Advent also serves to purify hope, preparing us for the definitive encounter with the Lord.

Because the Lord who came then will return! He will return! He will return to ask us: “How did your life go?” It will be a personal encounter. We have a personal encounter with the Lord, today, in the Eucharist; we cannot have such a personal with the Christmas of 2000 years ago: we have the memorial of that. But when He will return, we will have that personal encounter. It is purifying hope.

I invite everyone to cultivate the daily dimension of the faith, despite so many cares and worries, taking custody of our own interior home. Our God, in fact, is the God of surprises, and Christians must constantly discern what the heavenly Father is saying to us today.

The third dimension is more daily: purifying our watchfulness. Vigilance and prayer are two words for Advent: Because historically the Lord came in Bethlehem; and He will come, at the end of the world and also at the end of our individual lives. But every day, every moment, He comes into our hearts, with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

03.12.18

Chapter 8

23-27



Pope Francis          

02.07.13 Holy Mass  Santa Marta   

Genesis 19: 15-29,       Psalm 26: 2-3, 9-12,         

Matthew 8: 23-27 

To reflect on the four possible attitudes with which one may deal with difficult situations would do us good. The first attitude is illustrated by the “slowness” of Lot’s reaction when the angel tells him to leave the city, before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. He was determined to leave, but when the time came he was cautious and “lingered”, even when the angel had urged him to flee. It is very hard to cut ties with a sinful situation. It is hard!... But the voice of God tells us this word: Flee! You cannot fight here, because the fire, the sulphur will kill you. Flee!.

The angel told him: Flee for your life, do not look back, go forward. The Exodus of the People of God in the desert had everything, promises of the Lord, everything, and yet they continued to have nostalgia for the “onions of Egypt”, forgetting that they had eaten them on “the table of slavery”. The angel's advice is wise: Do not look back! Keep going!. We must leave behind all nostalgia, because there is also the temptation of curiosity.... We must flee and not look back, for we are all weak and must protect ourselves.

Matthew 8: 23-27. When there is a storm at sea, waves swamp the boat. “Save us, Lord, we are perishing!” they say. Fear is also a temptation of the devil: to be afraid to continue on the Lord’s path. Fear, however is not a good counsellor. Jesus said so many times: “Do not be afraid’”.

The fourth attitude “is the grace of the Holy Spirit”. When Jesus calms the sea, the disciples on the boat are filled with awe. When faced with sin, nostalgia, fear we must always “look at the Lord” and “contemplate the Lord”. We must say: “Save us Lord, we are perishing”. Yes we are weak, but we must be courageous in our weakness. 

02.07.13

Chapter 9

Chapter 9

9-13



Pope Francis          

21.09.18   Holy Mass  Santa Marta          

Mathew 9: 9-13 

One may think that Jesus lacked the good sense to choose the right people as his followers, In the life of the Church, so many Christians, so many saints have been chosen by Jesus from the ‘lowest ranks’.

Thus, Christians should always be aware of where they come from and they should never forget their sins; they must cherish the memory of the Lord “who had mercy of their sins and chose them to be a Christian, an apostle”.

The tax collector Matthew ’s did not dress in luxury, he did not begin to tell others “I am the prince of the apostles, I issue orders… No! He lived the rest of his life for the Gospel”.

When an apostle forgets his origins and starts off on a career path, he distances himself from the Lord and become an ‘official’. An official who perhaps does a good job, but he is not an apostle. He is incapable of ‘transmitting’ Jesus; he is someone who organizes pastoral projects and plans and many other things; he is what he called an “affarista” - a “wheeler-dealer” - of the Kingdom of God because he has forgotten from where he was chosen.

That’s why, it is important to preserve the memory of our origins: this memory must accompany the life of the apostle and of every Christian.

Instead of looking at ourselves,  we tend to look at others, at their sins, and to talk about them. This, is a harmful habit. It’s better to accuse oneself, and keep in mind from where the Lord chose us from.

When the Lord chooses it is for something great. To be a Christian is a great thing, a beautiful thing.

It is us, who distance ourselves: “we lack generosity and we negotiate with the Lord, but He awaits us”.

When Matthew was called by Jesus he renounced all to follow Him, he invited his friends to sit with Jesus to celebrate the Master. At that table, sat “the very worst of society. And Jesus with them".

The doctors of the Law, were scandalized. They called the disciples and said: "Why does your teacher eat with these people? Eating with some who is unclean contaminates you”. But, Jesus heard this and said “Go and learn the words: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’.

God's mercy seeks everyone, forgives everyone. The only thing he asks of you is to say: ‘Yes, help me’. That’s all”

To those who were scandalized, Jesus said that “those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do”.

The Lord's mercy is a mystery; God’s heart is the greatest and most beautiful mystery. If you want to make your way to God’s heart, take the road of mercy, and allow yourself be treated with mercy. 

21.09.18


Chapter 9

9-13

cont.


Pope Francis          

11.01.23 General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall

Catechesis. The passion for evangelization: The believer's apostolic zeal. The call to the apostolate (Mt 9:9-13)   

Matthew 9: 9-13

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today we begin a new cycle of catechesis, dedicated to an urgent and decisive theme for Christian life: the passion for evangelisation, that is, apostolic zeal. It is a vital dimension for the Church: the community of Jesus' disciples is in fact born apostolic, born missionary, not proselytizing. And from the start we have to distinguish: being missionary, being apostolic, evangelizing, is not the same as proselytizing, they have nothing to do with one another. It concerns a vital dimension for the Church. The community of the disciples of Jesus is born apostolic and missionary. The Holy Spirit moulds it outwardly – the Church moves out, that goes out – so that it is not closed in on itself, but turned outward, a contagious witness of Jesus – the faith is also contagious – reaching out to radiate His light to the ends of the earth. It can happen, however, that the apostolic ardour, the desire to reach others with the good news of the Gospel, diminishes, becomes tepid. Sometimes it seems to be eclipsed; there are “closed-off” Christians, they don’t think of others. But when Christian life loses sight of the horizon of evangelization, horizon of proclamation, it grows sick: it closes in on itself, becomes self-referential, it becomes atrophied. Without apostolic zeal, faith withers. Mission, on the other hand, is the oxygen of Christian life: it invigorates and purifies it. Let us embark, then, on a process of rediscovering the evangelising passion, starting with the Scriptures and the Church's teaching, to draw apostolic zeal from its sources. Then we will approach some living sources, some witnesses who have rekindled within the Church the passion for the Gospel, so that they may help us to rekindle the fire that the Holy Spirit wants to keep burning within us.

And today I would like to begin with a somewhat emblematic Gospel episode; we just heard it, the call of the Apostle Matthew. And he himself tells the story in his Gospel, which we have heard (cf. 9:9-13).

It all begins with Jesus, who, the text says, “sees a man.” Few people saw Matthew as he was: they knew him as the one who was “sitting at the tax booth” (v. 9). He was, in fact, a tax collector: that is, someone who collected taxes on behalf of the Roman empire that occupied Palestine. In other words, he was a collaborator, a traitor to the people. We can imagine the contempt the people felt for him: he was a “publican,” as they were called. But in the eyes of Jesus, Matthew is a man, with both his miseries and his greatness. Be aware of this: Jesus does not stop at the adjective – Jesus always seeks out the noun. “This person is a sinner, he’s that kind of person…” these are adjectives: Jesus goes to the person, to the heart, “This is a person, this is a man, this is a woman.” Jesus goes to the subject, the noun, never the adjective, He leaves aside the adjectives. And while there is distance between Matthew and his people – because they see the adjective, “publican” – Jesus draws near to Him, because every man is loved by God. “Even this wretch?” Yes, even this wretch. Indeed, the Gospel says He came for this very wretch: “I have come for sinners, not for the righteous.” This gaze of Jesus is really beautiful. It sees the other, whoever he may be, as the recipient of love, is the beginning of the evangelising passion. Everything starts from this gaze, which we learn from Jesus.

We can ask ourselves: how do we look upon others? How often do we see their faults and not their needs; how often do we label people according to what they do or what they think! Even as Christians we say to ourselves: is he one of us or not? This is not the gaze of Jesus: He always looks at each person with mercy and indeed with predilection. And Christians are called to do as Christ did, looking like Him especially at the so-called “distant ones.” Indeed, Matthew's account of the call ends with Jesus saying, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (v. 13). And if any one of us considers themselves righteous, Jesus is far away. He draws near to our limitations, to our miseries, to heal them.

It all starts, then, with the gaze of Jesus. “He sees a man,” Matthew. This is followed - second step - by a movement. First the gaze: Jesus sees. Second, movement. Matthew was sitting at the tax office; Jesus said to him: “Follow me.” And “ he rose and followed Him” (v. 9). We note that the text emphasises that “he rose.” Why is this detail so important? Because in those days he who was seated had authority over the others, who stood before him to listen to him or, as in that case, to pay tribute. He who sat, in short, had power. The first thing Jesus does is to detach Matthew from power: from sitting to receive others, He sets him in motion towards others, not receiving, no: he goes out to others. He makes him leave a position of supremacy in order to put him on an equal footing with his brothers and sisters and open to him the horizons of service. This is what Christ does, and this is fundamental for Christians: do we disciples of Jesus, we Church, sit around waiting for people to come, or do we know how to get up, to set out with others, to seek others? Saying, “But let them come to me, I am here, let them come,” is a non-Christian position. No, you go to seek them out, you take the first step.

A look – Jesus sees; a movement – “he rose”; and third, a destination. After getting up and following Jesus, where will Matthew go? We might imagine that, having changed the man’s life, the Master would lead him to new encounters, new spiritual experiences. No, or at least not immediately. First, Jesus goes to his home; there Matthew prepares “a great feast” for Him, in which “a large crowd of tax collectors” – that is, people like him – takes part (Lk 5:29). Matthew returns to his environment, but he returns there changed and with Jesus. His apostolic zeal does not begin in a new, pure, place, an ideal place, far away, but instead he begins there where he lives, with the people he knows. Here is the message for us: we do not have to wait until we are perfect and have come a long way following Jesus to bear witness to Him, no. Our proclamation begins today, there where we live. And it does not begin by trying to convince others, no, not to convince: by bearing every day to the beauty of the Love that has looked upon us and lifted us up. And it is this beauty, communicating this beauty that will convince people – not communicating ourselves but the Lord Himself. We are the ones who proclaim the Lord, we don’t proclaim ourselves, we don’t proclaim a political party, an ideology. No: we proclaim Jesus. We need to put Jesus in contact with the people, without convincing them but allowing the Lord do the convincing. For as Pope Benedict taught us, “The Church does not engage in proselytism. Instead, she grows by ‘attraction’” (Homily at the Mass for the Inauguration of the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, Aparecida, 13 May 2007). Don’t forget this: when you see Christians proselytising, making a list of people to come... these are not Christians, they are pagans disguised as Christians, but the heart is pagan. The Church grows not by proselytism, it grows by attraction.

I remember once, in a hospital in Buenos Aires, the women religious who worked there left because they were too few, and they couldn’t run the hospital. And a community of sisters from Korea came. And they arrived, let's say on a Monday for example (I don't remember the day). They took possession of the sisters’ house in the hospital and on Tuesday they came down to visit the sick in the hospital, but they didn't speak a word of Spanish. They only spoke Korean and the patients were happy, because they commented: “Well done! These nuns, bravo, bravo!” “But what did the sister say to you?” “Nothing, but with her gaze she spoke to me, they communicated Jesus,” not themselves, with their gaze, with their gestures. To communicate Jesus, not ourselves: This is attraction, the opposite of proselytism.

This attractive witness, this joyful witness is the goal to which Jesus leads us with His loving gaze and with the outgoing movement that His Spirit raises up in our hearts. And we can consider whether our gaze resembles that of Jesus, to attract the people, to bring them closer to the Church. Let’s think about that.

11.01.23

 


Chapter 9

18-26




Pope Francis       

08.07.19  Holy Mass for Migrants,  St Peter's Basilica, Rome

Monday of 14th Week of Ordinary Time   Year C    

Genesis 28: 10-22A,   Matthew 9: 18-26 

Today the word of God speaks to us of salvation and liberation.

Salvation. During his journey from Beersheba to Haran, Jacob decides to stop and rest in a solitary place. In a dream, he sees a ladder: its base rests on the earth and its top reaches to heaven (cf. Gen 28:10-22). The ladder, on which angels of God are ascending and descending, represents the connection between the divine and the human, fulfilled historically in Christ’s incarnation (cf. Jn 1:51), which was the Father’s loving gift of revelation and salvation. The ladder is an allegory of the divine action that precedes all human activity. It is the antithesis of the Tower of Babel, built by men with their own strength, who wanted to reach heaven to become gods. In this case, however, it is God who comes down; it is the Lord who reveals himself; it is God who saves. And Emmanuel, God-with-us, fulfils the promise of mutual belonging between the Lord and humanity, in the sign of an incarnate and merciful love that gives life in abundance.

Faced with this revelation, Jacob makes an act of trust in the Lord, which becomes a work of recognition and adoration that marks a key moment in the history of salvation. He asks the Lord to protect him on the difficult journey he must make, and says: “The Lord shall be my God” (Gen 28:21).

Echoing the words of the patriarch, we repeated in the psalm: “O my God, I trust in you”. He is our refuge and our strength, our shield and our armour, our anchor in times of trial. The Lord is a refuge for the faithful who call on him in times of tribulation. For it is indeed at such moments that our prayer is made purer, when we realize that the security the world offers has little worth, and only God remains. God alone opens up heaven for those who live on earth. Only God saves.

This total and absolute trust is shared by the head of the synagogue and the sick woman in the Gospel (cf. Mt 9:18-26). These are scenes of liberation. Both draw close to Jesus in order to obtain from him what no one else can give them: liberation from sickness and from death. On the one hand, there is the daughter of one of the city authorities; on the other, a woman afflicted by a sickness that has made her an outcast, marginalized, someone impure. But Jesus makes no distinctions: liberation is generously given to each of them. Their longing places both the woman and the girl among the “least” who are to be loved and raised up.

Jesus reveals to his disciples the need for a preferential option for the least, those who must be given the front row in the exercise of charity. There are many forms of poverty today; as Saint John Paul II wrote: “The ‘poor’, in varied states of affliction, are the oppressed, those on the margin of society, the elderly, the sick, the young, any and all who are considered and treated as ‘the least’” (Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, 82).

On this sixth anniversary of the visit to Lampedusa, my thoughts go out to those “least ones” who daily cry out to the Lord, asking to be freed from the evils that afflict them. These least ones are abandoned and cheated into dying in the desert; these least ones are tortured, abused and violated in detention camps; these least ones face the waves of an unforgiving sea; these least ones are left in reception camps too long for them to be called temporary. These are only some of the least ones who Jesus asks us to love and raise up. Unfortunately the existential peripheries of our cities are densely populated with persons who have been thrown away, marginalized, oppressed, discriminated against, abused, exploited, abandoned, poor and suffering. In the spirit of the Beatitudes we are called to comfort them in their affliction and offer them mercy; to sate their hunger and thirst for justice; to let them experience God’s caring fatherliness; to show them the way to the Kingdom of Heaven. They are persons; these are not mere social or migrant issues! “This is not just about migrants”, in the twofold sense that migrants are first of all human persons, and that they are the symbol of all those rejected by today’s globalized society.

We spontaneously return to the image of Jacob’s ladder. In Christ Jesus, the connection between earth and heaven is guaranteed and is accessible to all. Yet climbing the steps of this ladder requires commitment, effort and grace. The weakest and most vulnerable must to be helped. I like to think that we could be those angels ascending and descending, taking under our wings the little ones, the lame, the sick, those excluded: the least ones, who would otherwise stay behind and would experience only grinding poverty on earth, without glimpsing in this life anything of heaven’s brightness.

This is, brothers and sisters, a tremendous responsibility, from which no one is exempt if we wish to fulfil the mission of salvation and liberation in which the Lord himself has called us to cooperate. I know that many of you, who arrived just a few months ago, are already assisting brothers and sisters who have come even more recently. I want to thank you for this most beautiful example of humanity, gratitude and solidarity.

08.07.19

 


Chapter 9

27-31




Pope Francis          

03.12.21 Holy Mass “GSP Stadium” in Nicosia, Cyprus 

Matthew 9: 27-31

As Jesus was passing by, two blind men cried out in misery and hope: “Have mercy on us, Son of David” (Mt 9:27). “Son of David” was a title attributed to the Messiah, who the prophecies predicted would come from the line of David.  The two men in today’s Gospel are blind, yet they see the most important thing: they realize that Jesus is the Messiah who has come into the world. Let us reflect on three steps in this encounter. They can help us in turn, during this Advent season, to welcome the Lord when he comes, when he passes by us.

First: They went to Jesus for healing. The text says that the two blind men cry out to the Lord while following him (cf. v. 27). They cannot see him, but they hear his voice and follow in his footsteps. In Christ, they are seeking what the prophets had foretold: signs of God’s healing power and compassion present in the midst of his people. Isaiah had written: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened” (35:5). And yet another prophecy, which we heard in today’s first reading, had promised: “Out of their gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see” (29:18). The two men in the Gospel trusted in Jesus. They followed him in search of light for their eyes.

Why, brothers and sisters, did they trust in Jesus? Because they realized that, within the darkness of history, he is the light that brightens the “nights” of the heart and the world. The light that overcomes the darkness and triumphs over the blindness. We too have a kind of “blindness” in our hearts. Like those two blind men, we are often like wayfarers, immersed in the darkness of life. The first thing to do in response is go to Jesus, just as he tells us: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). Is there any one of us who is not, in some way, tired or heavy laden? All of us are. Yet, we resist coming to Jesus. Often we would rather remain closed in on ourselves, alone in the darkness, feeling sorry for ourselves and content to have sadness as our companion. Jesus is the divine physician: he alone is the true light that illuminates every man and woman (cf. Jn 1:9), the one who gives us an abundance of light, warmth and love.  Jesus alone frees the heart from evil. So let us ask ourselves: do I remain wrapped in the darkness of despondency and joylessness, or do I go to Jesus and give my life to him? Do I follow Jesus, shout out my needs, and hand my bitterness over to him? Let us do it!  Let us give Jesus the chance to heal our hearts. That is the first step; but interior healing requires two further steps.

The next step: They shared their pain. The Gospel does not speak of the healing of an individual blind person, as was the case, for example, with Bartimaeus (cf. Mk 10:46-52) or the man blind from birth (cf. Jn 9:1-41). Here there are two blind men. They are together on the roadside. They share their pain, their unhappiness at being blind, and their desire for a light to glow in the heart of their “night”. When they speak, it is in the plural, since they do everything together: both of them follow Jesus, both cry out to him and ask for healing; not each for himself, but together, as one. Significantly, they say to Christ: Have mercy on us. On “us”, not on “me”. They ask for help together. This is an eloquent sign of the Christian life and the distinctive trait of the ecclesial spirit: to think, to speak and to act as “we”, renouncing the individualism and the sense of self-sufficiency that infect the heart.

In the sharing of their suffering and their fraternal friendship, these two blind men have much to teach us. Each of us is blind in some way as a result of sin, which prevents us from “seeing” God as our Father and one another as brothers and sisters. For that is what sin does; it distorts reality: it makes us see God as a tyrant and each other as problems. It is the work of the tempter, who distorts things, putting them in a negative light, in order to make us fall into despair and bitterness. And then we become prey to a terrible sadness, which is dangerous and not from God. We must not face the darkness alone. If we bear our inner blindness alone, we can become overwhelmed. We need to stand beside one another, to share our pain and to face the road ahead together.

Dear brothers and sisters, faced with our own inner darkness and the challenges before us in the Church and in society, we are called to renew our sense of fraternity. If we remain divided, if each person thinks only of himself or herself, or his or her group, if we refuse to stick together, if we do not dialogue and walk together, we will never be completely healed of our blindness. Healing takes place when we carry our pain together, when we face our problems together, when we listen and speak to one another. That is the grace of living in community, of recognizing how important it is to be together, to be community. This is what I ask for you: that you always remain together, always united; that you go forward together with joy as Christian brothers and sisters, children of the one Father. And I ask it for myself as well.

And now, the third step: They joyfully proclaimed the Good News.  After Jesus healed them, the two men in Gospel, in whom we can see a reflection of ourselves, began to spread the good news to the entire region, the talk about it everywhere. There is a bit of irony in this. Jesus had told them to tell no one what had happened, yet they do exactly the opposite (cf. Mt 9:30-31).  From what we are told, it is clear that their intention was not to disobey the Lord; they were simply unable to contain their excitement at their healing and the joy of their encounter with Jesus. This is another distinctive sign of the Christian: the irrepressible joy of the Gospel, which “fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus” (Evangelii Gaudium, 1); the joy of the Gospel naturally leads to witness and frees us from the risk of a private, gloomy and querulous faith.

Dear brothers and sisters, it is good to see you living with joy the liberating message of the Gospel. I thank you for this. It is not proselytism – please, never engage in proselytism! – but witness; not a moralism that judges but a mercy that embraces; not superficial piety but love lived out. I encourage you to keep advancing on this path. Like the two blind men in the Gospel, let us ourselves once more encounter Jesus, and come out of ourselves to be fearless witnesses of Jesus to all whom we meet! Let us go forth, carrying the light we have received. Let us go forth to illuminate the night that often surrounds us! We need enlightened Christians, but above all those who are light-filled, those who can touch the blindness of our brothers and sisters with tender love and with gestures and words of consolation that kindle the light of hope amid the darkness. Christians who can sow the seeds of the Gospel in the parched fields of everyday life, and bring warmth to the wastelands of suffering and poverty.

Brothers and sisters, the Lord Jesus is also passing through the streets of Cyprus, our streets, hearing the cries of our blindness. He wants to touch our eyes, to touch our hearts, and to lead us to the light, to give us spiritual rebirth and new strength. That is what Jesus wants to do. He asks us the same question that he asked the two blind men: “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Mt 9:28). Do we believe that Jesus can do this? Let us renew our faith in him. Let us say to him: Jesus, we believe that your light is greater than our darkness; we believe that you can heal us, that you can renew our fellowship, that you can increase our joy. With the entire Church, let us pray: Come, Lord Jesus! [All repeat: “Come, Lord Jesus!]

03.12.21

 


Chapter 9

36 to 10:8




Pope Francis       

18.06.23 Angelus,  Saint Peter's Square,   

11th Sunday of Year A  

Matthew 9: 36 - 10: 8


Dear brothers and sisters, good day!

I wish to express my gratitude to those who, during the days of my stay at the Gemelli Hospital, showed me affection, care and friendship, and assured me of the support of prayer. This human closeness and spiritual closeness were of great help and comfort to me. Thank you all! Thank you! Thank you from my heart!

Today, in the Gospel, Jesus calls by name – he calls by name - and sends out the twelve Apostles. By sending them, he asks them to proclaim just one thing: “Preach as you go, saying ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Mt 10:7). It is the same proclamation with which Jesus began his preaching: the kingdom of God, that is, his lordship of love, has come near, it comes in our midst. And this is not just one piece of news among others, no, but the fundamental reality of life: the vicinity of God, the vicinity of Jesus.

Indeed, if the God of heaven is close, we are not alone on earth, and even in difficulty we do not lose faith. Here is the first thing to say to people: God is not far away, but he is a Father. God is not distant, he is a Father, he knows you and he loves you; he wants to take you by the hand, even when you travel on steep and rugged paths, even when you fall and struggle to get up again and get back on track. He, the Lord, is there with you. Indeed, often in the moments when you are at your weakest, you can feel his presence all the more strongly. He knows the path, he is with you, he is your Father! He is my Father! He is our Father!

Let us remain with this image, because proclaiming God as close to us is inviting you to think like a child, who walks held by his father’s hand: everything seems different. The world, large and mysterious, becomes familiar and secure, because the child knows he is protected. He is not afraid, and learns how to open up: he meets other people, finds new friends, learns with joy things that he did not know, and then returns home and tells everyone what he has seen, while within him there grows the desire to become grown up and to do the things he has seen his daddy do. This is why Jesus starts out from here, this is why God’s vicinity is the first proclamation: by staying close to God, we conquer fear, we open ourselves to love, we grow in goodness and we feel the need and the joy to proclaim.

If we want to be good apostles, we must be like children: we must sit “on God’s lap” and, from there, look at the world with trust and love, in order to bear witness that God is the Father, that he alone transforms our hearts and gives us that joy and that peace that we ourselves cannot attain.

To proclaim that God is near – but how can we do this? In the Gospel, Jesus recounts and recommends not saying many words, but performing many deeds of love and hope in the name of the Lord. Not saying many words, performing deeds! “Heal the sick”, says the Lord, “raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without pay, give without pay” (Mt 10:8). Here is the heart of proclamation: witness freely given, service. I will tell you something: I am always puzzled, very puzzled, by the “talkers” with their endless talk and no action.

At this point, let us ask a few questions: we, who believe in God who is close, I wonder: do we confide in him? Do we know how to look forward trustfully, like a child who knows he is held in his father’s arms? Do we know how to sit in the Father’s lap with prayer, by listening to the Word, partaking of the Sacraments? And finally, close to him, do we know how to instil courage in others, to make ourselves close to those who suffer and are alone, to those who are distant and even those who are hostile? This is the substance of faith. This is what counts.

And let us now pray to Mary; may she help us feel we are loved and transmit closeness and trust.

18.06.23

Chapter 10

Chapter 10

7-16



Pope Francis       


11.06.13   Holy Mass  Santa Marta     

Mathew 10: 7-13

Gospel preaching is born from gratuitousness, from wonder at salvation which comes; and what I have received freely I must give freely.

This is evident when Jesus sends out his Apostles with instructions for their mission. “His orders are very simple, do not provide yourselves with gold, or silver, or copper in your belts...”. It was a mission of salvation that consisted in healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing lepers and chasing out demons. It was to bring people close to the kingdom of God, to give them the good news that the kingdom of God is at hand, indeed is already here.

The key sentence in Christ’s instructions to his disciples is: “you received without pay, give without pay”. These words contain the full gratuitousness of salvation, because: “we cannot preach or proclaim the kingdom of God, without this inner certainty that it is all freely given, it is all grace”. And if we act without leaving room for grace, “the Gospel has no effectiveness”.

Moreover various episodes in the life of the first Apostles testify that Gospel preaching is born from what is given freely. St Peter, had no bank account and when he had to pay taxes, the Lord sent him to fish in the sea to find in the fish the money to pay them.

When an apostle does not give freely he also loses the ability to praise the Lord, for “praising the Lord is essentially gratuitous. It is prayer freely prayed... We do not only ask, we praise”; but when disciples “want to make a rich Church, a Church without freely given praise, she “ages, she becomes an NGO, she is lifeless. 

11.06.13


Chapter 10

7-16

cont.




Pope Francis          

11.06.15 Holy Mass Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)

Matthew 10: 7-13 

A disciple of the Lord, is called to set out on a journey that is not a "stroll" but a mission to proclaim the Gospel and spread the good news of Salvation. And this is the task that Jesus gives to his disciples. One who “stands still and doesn’t go out, doesn’t give to others what he received in Baptism, is not a true disciple of Jesus”. Indeed, “he lacks the missionary spirit”, and doesn’t “go out of himself to bring something good to others”.

There is another pathway for the disciple of Jesus: the inner journey, the path within, the path of the disciple who seeks the Lord every day, through prayer, in meditation.

This is not secondary, a disciple must also take this journey because if the disciple does not continuously seek God in this way, the Gospel that is taken to others will be weak, watered down – a Gospel with no strength.

Thus it is a “twofold journey that Jesus wants from his disciples”. One has to walk in order to serve others.

The Gospel reads: “preach as you go, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons”. Here we find again the “disciple’s duty: to serve”.

A disciple who doesn’t serve others is not a Christian.

Every disciple’s point of reference should be what “Jesus preached in those two columns of Christianity: the Beatitudes and the the ‘protocol’ by which we will be judged”, namely that indicated by Matthew in Chapter 25. This is the “framework” of “evangelical service”. There are no loopholes: “If a disciple does not walk in order to serve, his walking is of no use. If his life is not in service, his life is of no use, as a Christian”.

In this very aspect the “temptation of selfishness” can be seen in many people. There are indeed those who say: “Yes, I’m a Christian, I’m at peace, I confess, I go to Mass, I follow the Commandments”. But where is the service to others? Where, is “the service to Jesus in the sick, in the imprisoned, in the hungry, those with no shirt on their back". Jesus wants this of us because He is to be found in them: “Service to Christ in others."

There is also great meaning in the third word inferred from this passage, which is “gratuitous”. Walk, in service, without pay. The passage reads "Freely you have received, freely you must give." A detail so fundamental that the Lord stated it clearly, just in case “the disciples didn’t understand”. He explained to them: “Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics”. In other words, the journey of service is free, because we have received salvation for free. None of us “bought salvation, none of us has earned it”: it is ours purely by the “grace of the Father in Jesus Christ, in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ”.

It’s sad when we see Christians who forget these words of Jesus: ‘Freely you have received, freely give'”. And it’s sad when those who forget are Christian communities, parishes, religious congregations or dioceses. When this happens, it is because in the background “there is the mistake” of assuming “that salvation comes from riches, from human power”.

Three words. Walk, but walk” in order “to proclaim. Service: the life of a Christian is not for himself; it is for others, as Jesus’ life was. And third, “gratuitous”.

This, is how we can place our hope back in Jesus, who “thus sends us a hope which never disappoints”. On the other hand, “when hope is in being comfortable on the journey” or when “hope is in selfishly seeking things for oneself” and not in serving others, or when hope is in riches or in small worldly assurances, all of this caves in. The Lord himself crushes it.

Let us make this journey toward God with Jesus on the altar, in order to then walk toward others in service and in poverty, with only the riches of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus himself gave us.

11.06.15



Chapter 10

7-16

cont.



Pope Francis       

11.06.18   Holy Mass   Santa Marta     

Acts 11: 21B-2613: 1-3,   

Matthew 10: 7-13 

Evangelization has three fundamental dimensions: proclamation,    service and gratuitousness.

The readings for the Memorial of St Barnabas (Acts 11:21-26; 12: 1-3 and Matthew 10:7-13) demonstrate that the Holy Spirit is the “protagonist” of the Gospel proclamation. That proclamation is unlike other types of communication. Due to the action of the Holy Spirit, it has the power to change hearts. There have been pastoral plans that seem to be perfect. They were incapable of changing hearts because they were ends in themselves. They were not instruments of evangelization.

It is not with an entrepreneurial attitude that Jesus sends us…. No, it is with the Holy Spirit. This is courage. The true courage behind evangelization is not human stubbornness. No, it is the Spirit who gives us courage and who carries you forward.

Service is the second dimension of evangelization. In fact, pursuing a career or success in the Church is a sure sign that someone doesn’t know what evangelization is…for the one who commands must be the one who serves.

We can say good things but without service it is not proclamation. It may seem to be, but it is not, because the Spirit not only carries you forward to proclaim the truths of the Lord and the life of the Lord, but He also brings you to the service of the brothers and sisters, even in small things. It’s awful when you find evangelizers who make others serve them and who live to be served. They are like the princes of evangelization – how awful.

Gratuitousness is the third aspect of evangelization because no one can be redeemed by his or her own merit. The Lord reminds us, “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give” (Matthew 10:8).

All of us have been saved gratuitously by Jesus Christ. Therefore, we must give gratuitously. Those who carry out the pastoral work of evangelization must learn this. Their life must be gratuitous, given in service, proclamation, borne by the Spirit. Their personal poverty forces them to open themselves up to the Spirit. 

11.06.18



Chapter 10

7-16

cont.



Pope Francis       

11.06.19 Holy Mass Santa Marta       

Matthew 10: 7-13 

Give freely that which you have received freely.

We are called to serve and love our brothers and sisters in the same way that God has done with us.

Christians cannot remain stationary, since our way of life impels us to hit the road, always.

Jesus has already given us our mission: "As you go, make this proclamation: 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons."

Christian life is for service. It saddens us to find Christians who at the beginning of their conversion, or awareness of being Christian, serve and are open to serve the people of God, but who later end up making use of the people of God. This causes much harm to God’s people. Our vocation is to ‘serve’, not to ‘make use of’.

 Christian life, is lived gratuitously. "Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give," was how Jesus described the core of salvation.

Salvation cannot be bought, because God saves us free of charge and requires no payment.

As God has done with us, so we are to do with others. And this gratuity of God is one of the most beautiful things.

Realize that the Lord is full of gifts for us. He asks just one thing: that our hearts be open. When we say ‘Our Father’ and we pray, we open our heart, allowing this gratuitousness to enter. Often when we need some spiritual grace, we say: ‘Well, now I will fast, do penance, pray a novena…’ Fine, but be careful: this is not done to ‘pay’ or ‘buy’ grace. We do it to open our hearts so that grace might enter. Grace is freely given.

All God’s gifts, are given without cost. And sometimes the heart folds in on itself and remains closed, and it is no longer able to receive such freely given love.

We should not bargain with God.

Let us Christians, and especially pastors and bishops, give freely and not try to sell God’s graces.

It pains the heart when we see pastors that make money off of God’s grace: ‘I can help you, but it will cost this much…’

In our spiritual life we always run the risk of slipping up on the question of payment, even when speaking with the Lord, as if we needed to bribe the Lord. No! That is not the correct path… I make a promise, in order to expand my heart to receive what is already there, waiting for us free of charge. This relationship of gratuitousness with God is what will help us to have the same rapport with others, whether it be in Christian witness, Christian service, or the pastoral work of those who guide the people of God. We do so along the way. Christian life means walking. Preach and serve, but do not make use of others. Serve and give freely that which you have received freely. 

May our life of holiness be permeated by this openness of heart, so that the gratuitousness of God – the graces that He wishes to give us without cost – may enter our hearts.

11.06.19



Chapter 10

7-16

cont.



Pope Francis          

15.02.23 General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall  

Catechesis - The passion for evangelization: the apostolic zeal of the believer - 4. The First Apostolate  

Matthew 10: 7-10,16

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

We continue our catechesis; the theme we have chosen is “The passion of evangelizing, apostolic zeal.” Because evangelizing is not saying, ‘Look, blah, blah, blah’ and nothing more. There is a passion that involves everything: the mind, the heart, the hands, going out… everything, the whole person is involved with this proclamation of the Gospel, and for this reason we talk about the passion for evangelizing. After having seen in Jesus the model and the master of proclamation, we turn today to the first disciples, to what the disciples did. The Gospel says that Jesus “appointed twelve, to be with Him, and to be sent out to preach” (Mk 3:14), two things: to be with him and to send them to preach. There is one aspect that seems contradictory: He called them to be with Him and to go and preach. One would say: either one or the other, either stay or go. But no: for Jesus there is no going without staying and there is no staying without going. It is not easy to understand this, but that’s the way it is. Let us try to understand a little bit what is the sense in which Jesus says these things.

First of all, there is no going without staying: before sending the disciples on mission, Christ—the Gospel says—“calls them to Himself” (cf. Mt 10:1). The proclamation is born from the encounter with the Lord; every Christian activity, especially the mission, begins from there. Not from what is learnt in an academy. No, no! It begins from the encounter with the Lord. Witnessing Him, in fact, means radiating Him; but, if we do not receive His light, we will be extinguished; if we do not spend time with Him, we will bear ourselves instead of Him—I am bringing myself and not Him—and it will all be in vain. So only the person who remains with Him can bring the Gospel of Jesus. Someone who does not remain with Him cannot bear the Gospel. He will bring ideas, but not the Gospel. Equally, however, there is no staying without going. In fact, following Christ is not an inward looking fact: without proclamation, without service, without mission, the relationship with Jesus does not grow. We note that in the Gospel the Lord sends the disciples before having completed their preparation: shortly after having called them, He is already sending them! This means that the mission experience is part of Christian formation. Let us then recall these two constitutive moments for every disciple: staying with Jesus and going forth, sent by Jesus.

Having called the disciples to Himself and before sending them, Christ addresses a discourse to them, known as the ‘missionary discourse’—this is what it is called in the Gospel. It is found in chapter 10 of Matthew’s Gospel and is like the ‘constitution’ of the proclamation. From that discourse, which I recommend you read today—it is only one page in the Gospel—I draw out three aspects: why proclaim, what to proclaim and how to proclaim.

Why to proclaim: The motivation lies in a few words of Jesus, which it is good for us to remember: “Freely you have received, freely give” (v. 8). They are just a few words. But why proclaim? Because I have received freely, and I should give freely. The proclamation does not begin from us, but from the beauty of what we have received for free, without merit: meeting Jesus, knowing Him, discovering that we are loved and saved. It is such a great gift that we cannot keep it to ourselves, we feel the need to spread it; but in the same style, right? That is, in gratuitousness. In other words: we have a gift, so we are called to make a gift of ourselves; we have received a gift and our vocation is to make a gift of ourselves to others; there is in us the joy of being children of God, it must be shared with our brothers and sisters who do not yet know it! This is the reason for the proclamation. Going forth and bringing the joy of what we have received.

Second: What, then, to proclaim? Jesus says: “Preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (v. 7). This is what must be said, first and foremost: God is near. So, never forget this: God has always been close to the people. He said it to the people Himself: He said, “Look, what God is as close to the nations as I am to you?” This closeness is one of the most important things about God. There are three important things: closeness, mercy, and tenderness. Don’t forget that. Who is God? The One Who is Close, the One Who is Tender, the One Who is Merciful. This is the reality of God. We, in preaching, often urge people to do something, and that is fine; but let’s not forget that the main message is that He is near: closeness, mercy, and tenderness. Accepting God’s love is more difficult because we always want to be in the centre, we want to be protagonists, we are more inclined to do than to let ourselves be moulded, to speak than to listen. But, if what we do comes first, we will still be the protagonists. Instead, the proclamation must give primacy to God: to give the primacy to God, the first place to God, and to give to others the opportunity to welcome Him, to realise that He is near. And me in the background.

The third point: how to proclaim. This is the aspect Jesus dwells on most: how to proclaim, what is the method, what should be the language for proclaiming; it’s significant: He tells us that the manner, the style is essential in witnessing. Witnessing does not just involve the mind and saying something, the concepts. No. It involves everything, mind, heart, hands, everything, the three languages of the person: the language of thought, the language of affection, and the language of work. The three languages. One cannot evangelise only with the mind or only with the heart or only with the hands. Everything is involved. And, in style, the important thing is testimony, as Jesus wants us to do. He says this: “I send you out as sheep among wolves” (v. 16). He does not ask us to be able to face the wolves, that is, to be able to argue, to offer counter arguments, and to defend ourselves. No, no. We might think like this: let us become relevant, numerous, prestigious, and the world will listen to us and respect us and we will defeat the wolves. No, it’s not like that. No, I send you out as sheep, as lambs. This is important. If you don’t want to be sheep, the Lord will not defend you from the wolves. Deal with it as best you can. But if you are sheep, rest assured that the Lord will defend you from the wolves. Be humble. He asks us to be like this, to be meek and with the will to be innocent, to be disposed to sacrifice; this is what the lamb represents: meekness, innocence, dedication, tenderness. And He, the Shepherd, will recognise His lambs and protect them from the wolves. On the other hand, lambs disguised as wolves are unmasked and torn to pieces. A Church Father wrote: ‘As long as we are lambs, we will conquer, and even if we are surrounded by many wolves, we will overcome them. But if we become wolves—‘Ah, how clever, look, I feel good about myself’—we will be defeated, because we will be deprived of the shepherd’s help. He does not shepherd wolves, but lambs’ (St John Chrysostom, Homily 33 on the Gospel of Matthew). If I want to be the Lord’s, I have to allow Him to be my shepherd; and He is not the shepherd of wolves, He is the shepherd of lambs, meek, humble, kind as the Lord is.

Still on the subject of how to proclaim, it is striking that Jesus, instead of prescribing what to bring on a mission, says what not to bring. At times, one sees some apostles, some person who relocates, some Christian that says he is an apostle and has given his life to the Lord, and he is carrying a lot of luggage. But this is not of the Lord. The Lord makes you lighten your load. “Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff” (vv. 9—10). Don’t take anything. He says not to lean on material certainties, but to go into the world without worldliness. That is to say, I am going into the world, not with the style of the world, not with the world’s values, not with wordliness—for the Church, falling into worldliness is the worst thing that can happen. I go forth with simplicity. This is how one should proclaim: by showing Jesus rather than talking about Jesus. And how do we show Jesus? With our witness. And finally, by going together, in community: the Lord sends all the disciples, but no one goes alone. The apostolic Church is completely missionary and in the mission it finds its unity. So: going forth, meek and good as lambs, without worldliness, and going together. Here is the key to the proclamation, this is the key to success in evangelization. Let us accept these invitations from Jesus: may His words be our point of reference.

15.02.23



Chapter 10

16-18




Pope Francis       

19.04.23 General Audience, Saint Peter's Square  

Catechesis. The passion for evangelization: the apostolic zeal of the believer. 9. Witnesses: the martyrs 

Matthew 10:  16-18

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

After… talking about evangelization and talking about apostolic zeal, after considering the witness of Saint Paul, the true “champion” of apostolic zeal, today we will turn our attention not to a single figure, but to the host of  martyrs, men and women of every age, language and nation who have given their life for Christ, who have shed their blood to confess Christ. After the generation of the Apostles, they were the quintessential “witnesses” of the Gospel. The martyrs: the first was the deacon Saint Stephen, stoned to death outside the walls of Jerusalem. The word “martyr” derives from the Greek  martyria, which indeed means  witness. That is, a martyr is a witness, one who bears witness to the point of shedding their blood. However, very soon in the Church the word martyr began to be used to indicate those who bore witness to the point of shedding their blood [1]. That is, a martyr can be one who witnesses every day. But it was used afterwards for one who gives their blood, who gives their life.

The martyrs, however, are not to be seen as “heroes” who acted individually, like flowers blooming in a desert, but as the ripe and excellent fruit of the vineyard of the Lord, which is the Church. In particular, Christians, by participating assiduously in the celebration of the Eucharist, were led by the Spirit to base their lives on that mystery of love: namely, on the fact that the Lord Jesus had given his life for them, and therefore that they too could and should give their life for Him and for their brothers and sisters. A great generosity, the journey of Christian witness. Saint Augustine often underlines this dynamic of gratitude and the gratuitous reciprocation of giving. Here, for example, is what he preached on the feast of Saint Lawrence: in that Church of Rome, said Saint Augustine, “he performed the office of deacon; it was there that he administered the sacred chalice of Christ’s blood; there that he shed his own blood for the name of Christ. The blessed apostle John clearly explained the mystery of the Lord’s supper when he said, ‘Just as Christ laid down his life for us, so we too ought to lay down our lives for the brethren’ (1 Jn 3:16). Saint Lawrence understood this, my brethren, and he did it; and he undoubtedly prepared things similar to what he received at that table. He loved Christ in his life, he imitated him in his death” (Sermons 304, 14; PL 38, 1395-1397). In this way Saint Augustine explained the spiritual dynamism that inspired the martyrs. With these words: the martyrs love Christ in his life and imitate him in his death.

Today, dear brothers and sisters, let us remember all the martyrs who have accompanied the life of the Church. As I have already said many times before, they are more numerous in our time than in the first centuries. Today there are many martyrs in the Church, many of them, because for confessing the Christian faith they are banished from society or end up in prison… there are many. Vatican Council II reminds us that “The Church considers martyrdom”, this disciple, “as an exceptional gift and as the fullest proof of love. By martyrdom a disciple is transformed into an image of his Master by freely accepting death for the salvation of the world – as well as his conformity to Christ in the shedding of his blood” (Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 42). The martyrs, in imitation of Christ and with his grace, turn the violence of those who refuse the proclamation into a great occasion of love, supreme, which goes as far as forgiveness of their own tormentors. This is interesting: the martyrs always forgive their tormentors. Stephen, the first martyr, died praying, “Lord, forgive them, they know not what they do”. The martyrs pray for their tormentors.

Although martyrdom is asked of only a few, “nevertheless all must be prepared to confess Christ before men. They must be prepared to make the profession of faith even in the midst of persecutions, which will never be lacking to the Church, in following the way of the cross” (ibid., 42). But, were these persecutions something of those times? No, no: today. Today there are persecutions of Christians throughout the world, many, many. There are more martyrs today than in the first times. Many. The martyrs show us that every Christian is called to the witness of life, even when this does not go as far as the shedding of blood, making a gift of themselves to God and to their brethren, in imitation of Jesus.

And I would like to conclude by recalling the Christian witness present in every corner of the world. I think, for example, of Yemen, a land that has for many years been afflicted by a terrible, forgotten war, that has caused many deaths and still causes many people, especially children, to suffer today. In this very land there have been shining witnesses of faith, such as that of the Missionary Sisters of Charity, who have given their life there. They are still present today in Yemen, where they offer assistance to the elderly sick and to people with disabilities. Some of them have suffered martyrdom, but the others continue, risking their lives, but they keep on going. These sisters welcome everyone, of any religion, because charity and fraternity have no boundaries. In July 1998, Sister Aletta, Sister Zelia and Sister Michael, while returning home after Mass, were killed by a fanatic, because they were Christians. More recently, shortly after the beginning of the still ongoing conflict, in March 2016, Sister Anselm, Sister Marguerite, Sister Reginette and Sister Judith were killed together with some laypeople who helped them in their work of charity among the least. They are the martyrs of our time. Among these laypeople killed, as well as Christians there were some Muslim faithful who worked with the religious sisters. It moves us to see how the witness of blood can unite people of different religions. One should never kill in the name of God, because for Him we are all brothers and sisters. But together one can give one’s life for others.

Let us pray, then, that we may never tire of bearing witness to the Gospel, even in times of tribulation. May all the martyr saints be seeds of peace and reconciliation among peoples, for a more humane and fraternal world, as we await the full manifestation of the Kingdom of Heaven, when God will be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15:28). Thank you.


[1] Origen,  In Johannem, II, 210: “Now everyone who bears witness to the truth, whether he support it by words or deeds, or in whatever way, may properly be called a witness ( martyr); but it has come to be the custom of the brotherhood, since they are struck with admiration of those who have contended to the death for truth and valour, to keep the name of martyr more properly for those who have borne witness to the mystery of godliness by shedding their blood for it.”

19.04.23


Chapter 10

17-22


Pope Francis          

26.12.13  Angelus, St Peter's Square   

Feast of St Stephen  Year A    

Acts 6: 8-10,         Acts 7: 54-59,     

Matthew 10: 17-22   

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning.

You aren’t afraid of the rain, you are very good!

The liturgy extends the Solemnity of Christmas for eight days: a time of joy for the entire People of God! And on this second day of the octave, the Feast of St Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, is inserted into the joy of Christmas. The book of the Acts of the Apostles presents him to us as “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (6:5), chosen with six others for the service of widows and the poor in the first Community of Jerusalem. And it tells us about his martyrdom, when after a fiery dispute that aroused the anger of the members of the Sanhedrin, he was dragged outside the city walls and stoned. Stephen dies like Jesus, asking pardon for those who killed him (7:55-60).

In the joyful atmosphere of Christmas, this commemoration may seem out of place. For Christmas is the celebration of life and it fills us with sentiments of serenity and peace. Why disturb the charm with the memory of such atrocious violence? In reality, from the perspective of faith, the Feast of St Stephen is in full harmony with the deeper meaning of Christmas. In martyrdom, in fact, violence is conquered by love, death by life. The Church sees in the sacrifice of the martyrs their “birth into heaven”. Therefore, today we celebrate the “birth” of Stephen, which in its depths springs from the Birth of Christ. Jesus transforms the death of those who love him into a dawn of new life!

In the martyrdom of Stephen the same confrontation between good and evil, between hatred and forgiveness, between meekness and violence, which culminated in the Cross of Christ. Thus, the remembrance of the first martyr immediately dispels a false image of Christmas: the fairy-tale, sugar-coated image, which is not in the Gospel! The liturgy brings us back to the authentic meaning of the Incarnation, by linking Bethlehem to Calvary and by reminding us that the divine salvation involved the battle against sin, it passes through the narrow door of the Cross. This is the path which Jesus clearly indicated to his disciples, as today’s Gospel attests: “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Mt 10:22).

Therefore today we pray especially for the Christians who are discriminated against on account of the witness they bear to Christ and to the Gospel. Let us remain close to these brothers and sisters who, like St Stephen, are unjustly accused and made the objects of various kinds of violence. Unfortunately, I am sure they are more numerous today than in the early days of the Church. There are so many! This occurs especially where religious freedom is still not guaranteed or fully realized. However, it also happens in countries and areas where on paper freedom and human rights are protected, but where in fact believers, and especially Christians, face restrictions and discrimination. I would like to ask you to take a moment in silence to pray for these brothers and sisters [...] and let us entrust them to Our Lady (Hail Mary...). This comes as no surprise to a Christian, for Jesus foretold it as a propitious occasion to bear witness. Still, on a civil level, injustice must be denounced and eliminated.

May Mary Queen of Martyrs help us to live Christmas with the ardour of faith and love which shone forth in St Stephen and in all of the martyrs of the Church. 

26.12.13

 




Chapter 10

17-22

cont.




Pope Francis          

26.12.14  Angelus St Peter's Square         

Feast of St Stephen Year B       

Matthew 10: 17-22  

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,

Today the Liturgy recalls the witness of St Stephen, who, chosen by the Apostles, along with six others, to carry out the deaconry of charity, that is, to attend to the poor, the orphans, the widows in the community of Jerusalem, became the first martyr of the Church. Stephen, through his martyrdom, honours the coming of the King of Kings into the world, he bears witness to Him and offers up his very life, as he did in his service to the most needy. And he thereby shows us how to live the mystery of Christmas in its fullness.

The Gospel on this feast day recounts part of Jesus’ discourse to his disciples at the time that He sends them on mission. He says, among other things: “you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Mt 10:22). These words of the Lord do not disturb the celebration of Christmas, but remove that artificial sugary coating which does not appertain to it. They enable us to understand that in the the trials accepted as the result of faith, violence is conquered by love, death by life. And to truly welcome Jesus into our life and to prolong the joy of the Holy Night, the path is the very one indicated by this Gospel, that is, to bear witness to Jesus in humility, in silent service, without fear of going against the current and of paying in the first person. And if not all are called, like St Stephen, to shed their blood, each Christian is, however, asked to be consistent in every circumstance with the faith that he or she professes. And Christian consistency is a grace that we must ask of the Lord. To be consistent, to live as Christians and not to say: “I am a Christian”, but live as a pagan. Consistency is a grace we must ask for today.

Following the Gospel is certainly a demanding but beautiful, very beautiful journey, and those who follow it with faithfulness and courage receive the reward promised by the Lord to men and women of good will. As the angels sang on Christmas Day: “Peace! Peace!”. This peace granted by God is capable of calming the conscience of those who, through the trials of life, are able to receive the Word of God and commit themselves to observing it with perseverance to the end (cf. Mt 10:22).

Today, brothers and sisters, let us pray in a special way for those who are discriminated against, persecuted and killed for bearing witness to Christ. I would like to say to each one of them: if you bear this cross with love, you have entered into the mystery of Christmas, you are in the heart of Christ and of the Church.

Further, let us pray, also because of the sacrifice of these martyrs of today — there are so many, so very many! — that the commitment to recognize and concretely ensure religious freedom be strengthened, as this freedom is an inalienable right of every human being.

Dear brothers and sisters, I hope that you spend the Christmas season peacefully. May St Stephen, Deacon and First Martyr, sustain us on our daily journey, which we hope to crown, in the end, with the joyous assembly of Saints in Paradise.

26.12.14

 


Chapter 10

17-22

cont.



Pope Francis          

26.12.16  Angelus, St Peter's Square   

Feast of St Stephen  Year A    

Acts 6: 8-10,    Acts 7: 54-59,     

Matthew 10: 17-22  

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

The joy of Christmas fills our hearts today too, as the liturgy involves us in celebrating the martyrdom of Saint Stephen, the First Martyr, inviting us to reflect on the witness that he gave us with his sacrifice. It is precisely the glorious witness of Christian martyrdom, suffered for love of Christ; the martyrdom which continues to be present in the history of the Church, from Stephen up to our time.

Today’s Gospel (cf. Mt 10:17-22) told us of this witness. Jesus forewarns the disciples of the rejection and persecution they will encounter: “you will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (v. 22). But why does the world persecute Christians? The world hates Christians for the same reason that they hated Jesus: because he brought the light of God, and the world prefers darkness so as to hide its evil works. Let us recall that Jesus himself, at the Last Supper, prayed that the Father might protect us from the wicked worldly spirit. There is opposition between the Gospel and this worldly mentality. Following Jesus means following his light, which was kindled in the night of Bethlehem, and abandoning worldly obscurity.

The Protomartyr Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, was stoned because he professed his faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Only Begotten Son who comes into the world invites every believer to choose the way of light and life. This is the meaning of his coming among us. Loving the Lord and obeying his voice, the Deacon Stephen chose Christ, Life and Light for all mankind. By choosing truth, he became at the same time a victim of the inexplicable iniquity present in the world. But in Christ, Stephen triumphed!

Today too, in order to bear witness to light and to truth, the Church experiences, in different places, harsh persecution, up to the supreme sacrifice of martyrdom. How many of our brothers and sisters in faith endure abuse and violence, and are hated because of Jesus! I shall tell you something: today’s martyrs are more numerous with respect to those of the first centuries. When we read the history of the first centuries, here in Rome, we read of so much cruelty toward Christians; I tell you: there is the same cruelty today, and to a greater extent, toward Christians. Today we should think of those who are suffering from persecution, and to be close to them with our affection, our prayers and also our tears. Yesterday, Christmas Day, Christians persecuted in Iraq celebrated Christmas in their destroyed cathedral: it is an example of faithfulness to the Gospel. In spite of the trials and dangers, they courageously witness their belonging to Christ and live the Gospel by committing themselves in favour of the least, of the most neglected, doing good to all without distinction; in this way they witness to charity in truth.

In making room in our heart for the Son of God who gives himself to us at Christmas, let us joyfully and courageously renew the will to follow him faithfully, as the only guide, by continuing to live according to the Gospel attitude and rejecting the mentality of those who dominate this world.

Let us raise our prayers to the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Queen of Martyrs, that she may guide us and always sustain us on our journey in following Jesus Christ, whom we contemplate in the grotto of the Nativity and who is the faithful Witness of God the Father. 

26.12.16

 


Chapter 10

17-22

cont.



Pope Francis       

26.12.19  Angelus, St Peter's Square

Feast of St Stephen  Year A      

Acts 6: 8-10,    Acts 7: 54-59,   

Matthew 10: 17-22  

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

The feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr, is celebrated today. The Book of Acts of the Apostles tells us about him (see Chapter 6-7) and on the page of today's liturgy presents him in the final moments of his life, when he is captured and stoned (cf. 6:12; 7:54-60). In the joyful atmosphere of Christmas, this memory of the first Christian killed for faith may seem out of place. However, precisely from the perspective of faith, today's celebration stands in harmony with the true meaning of Christmas. In Stephen's martyrdom, in fact, violence is defeated by love, death by life: he, in the hour of supreme witness, contemplates the heavens open and offers pardon to his persecutors (cf. v. 60).

This young servant of the Gospel, full of the Holy Spirit, was able to speak about Jesus with words, and especially with his life. Looking at him, we see Jesus' promise to his disciples come true: "When they mistreat you because of me, the Spirit of the Father will give you the strength and the words to bear witness" (cf. Mt 10:19-20). At the school of St. Stephen, who became like his Master in both life and death, we also fix our gaze on Jesus, the Father's faithful witness. We learn that the glory of Heaven, the glory that lasts for eternal life, is not made up of riches and power, but of love and self-giving.

We need to keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, the "author and perfecter of our faith"(Heb 12:2), in order to give the reasons for the hope that has been given to us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15), through the challenges and trials we face on a daily basis. For us Christians, Heaven is no longer far away, separated from earth: in Jesus, Heaven has descended to earth. And thanks to Him, with the strength of the Holy Spirit, we can take on all that is human and direct it towards Heaven. So it is precisely our way of being human that is our first manner of bearing witness, a lifestyle shaped after Jesus: meek and courageous, humble and noble, non-violent and strong.

Stephen was a deacon, one of the first seven deacons of the Church (cf. Acts 6:1-6). He teaches us to proclaim Christ through acts of fraternity and evangelical charity. His witness, culminating in martyrdom, is a source of inspiration for the renewal of our Christian communities. They are called to become more and more missionary, all of them aimed at evangelization, determined to reach men and women in the existential and geographical peripheries, where there is more thirst for hope and salvation. Communities that do not follow worldly logic, which do not focus on their own image, but only the glory of God and the good of others, especially the weakest and the poor.

The feast of this first martyr Stephen calls us to remember all the martyrs of yesterday and today, - today there are many! - to feel united in communion with them, and to ask them for the grace to live and die with the name of Jesus in our hearts and lips. May Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, help us to live this Christmas season with our gaze fixed on Jesus, to become more like Him every day.

26.12.19

 


Chapter 10

17-22

cont.



Pope Francis       

26.12.22 Angelus, Saint Peter's Square  

Feast of St Stephen  Year A  

Acts 6: 8-10, 7: 54-59,  

Matthew 10: 17-22 

Dear sisters and brothers, good afternoon, happy feast day!

Yesterday we celebrated the Nativity of the Lord and the liturgy, to help us to welcome it better, extends the duration of the feast until 1 January: for eight days. Surprisingly, however, these same days commemorate some dramatic figures of martyr saints. Today, for example, Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr; the day after tomorrow, the Holy Innocents, the children killed by King Herod for fear that Jesus would take away his throne (cf. Mt 2:1-18). In short, the liturgy really seems to want to steer us away from the world of lights, lunches and gifts in which we might indulge somewhat in these days. Why?

Because Christmas is not the fairytale of the birth of a king, but it is the coming of the Saviour, who frees us from evil by taking upon himself our evil: selfishness, sin, death. This is our evil: the selfishness we carry within us, sin, because we are all sinners, and death. And the martyrs are those most similar to Jesus. Indeed, the word martyr means witness: the martyrs are witnesses, that is, brothers and sisters who, through their lives, show us Jesus, who conquered evil with mercy. And even in our day, martyrs are numerous, more so than in the early times. Today let us pray for these persecuted martyr brothers and sisters, who bear witness to Christ. But it will do us good to ask ourselves: do I bear witness to Christ? And how can we improve in this? We can indeed be helped by the figure of Saint Stephen.

First and foremost, the Acts of the Apostles tell us that he was one of the seven deacons that the community of Jerusalem had consecrated for table service, that is, for charity (cf. 6:1-6). This means that his first witness was not given in words, but through the love with which he served those most in need. But Stephen did not limit himself to this work of assistance. He spoke of Jesus to those he met: he shared faith in the light of the Word of God and the teaching of the Apostles (cf. Acts 7:1-53, 56). This is the second dimension of his witness: welcoming the Word and communicating its beauty, telling how the encounter with Jesus changes life. This was so important for Stephen that he did not let himself be intimidated even by the threats of his persecutors, even when he saw that things were going badly for him (cf. 54). Charity and proclamation, this was Stephen. However, his greatest testimony is yet another: that he knew how to unite charity and proclamation. He left it to us at the point of his death when, following the example of Jesus, he forgave his killers (cf. 60; Lk 23, 34).

Here, then, is our answer to the question: we can improve our witness through charity towards our brothers and sisters, fidelity to the Word of God, and forgiveness. Charity, Word, forgiveness. It is forgiveness that tells whether we truly practice charity towards others, and if we live the Word of God. Forgiveness in Italian perdono, is indeed as the word itself suggests, a greater gift, dono, a gift we give to others because we belong to Jesus, forgiven by him. I forgive because I have been forgiven: let us not forget this… Let us think, let each one of us think of his or her own capacity to forgive: how is my capacity to forgive, in these days in which perhaps we encounter, among the many, some people with whom we have not got along, who have hurt us, with whom we have never patched up our relationship. Let us ask the newborn Jesus for the newness of a heart capable of forgiveness: we all need a forgiving heart! Let us ask the Lord for this grace: Lord, may I learn to forgive. Let us ask for the strength to pray for those who have hurt us, to pray for those who have harmed us, and to take steps of openness and reconciliation. May the Lord give us today this grace. 

May Mary, Queen of martyrs, help us to grow in charity, in love of the Word and in forgiveness.

26.12.22

Chapter 10

24-33



Pope Francis

       

25.06.17  Angelus, St Peter's Square           


12th Sunday of the Year - Year A       


Matthew 10: 26-33

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning!

In today’s Gospel (cf. Mt 10:26-33) the Lord Jesus, after having called and sent the disciples on mission, teaches them and prepares them to face the trials and persecutions they will have to endure. Going on mission is not like tourism, and Jesus cautions them: “you will find persecutions”. So he exhorts them: “have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed.... What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light.... And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (vv. 26-28). They can only kill the body; they do not have the power to kill souls: do not fear this. Jesus’ dispatch [of the disciples] on mission does not guarantee their success, just as it does not protect them from failure and suffering. They have to take into account both the possibility of rejection and that of persecution. This is somewhat frightening but it is the truth.

The disciple is called to conform his life to Christ who was persecuted by men, knew rejection, abandonment and death on the cross. There is no Christian mission marked by tranquillity! Difficulties and tribulations are part of the work of evangelization and we are called to find in them the opportunity to test the authenticity of our faith and of our relationship with Jesus. We must consider these difficulties as the opportunity to be even more missionary and to grow in that trust toward God, our Father who does not abandon his children during the storm. Amid the difficulties of Christian witness in the world, we are not forgotten but always assisted by the attentive concern of the Father. For this reason, in today’s Gospel, a good three times Jesus reassures the disciples, saying: “Do not fear!”.

Even in our day, brothers and sisters, persecution against Christians is present. We pray for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted and we praise God because, in spite of this, they continue to bear witness to their faith with courage and faithfulness. Their example helps us to not hesitate in taking the position in favour of Christ, bearing witness bravely in everyday situations, even in apparently peaceful contexts. In effect, a form of trial can also be the absence of hostility and tribulation. Besides [sending us out] as “sheep in the midst of wolves”, the Lord even in our times sends us out as sentinels in the midst of people who do not want to be woken from their worldly lethargy which ignores the Gospel’s words of Truth, building for themselves their own ephemeral truths. And if we go to or live in these contexts, and we proclaim the Words of the Gospel, this is bothersome and they will look at us unkindly.

But in all this, the Lord continues to tell us, as he did to the disciples of his time: “Do not fear!”. Let us not forget these words: always, when we experience any tribulation, any persecution, anything that causes us to suffer, let us listen to the voice of Jesus in our hearts: “Do not fear! Do not fear! Go Forth! I am with you!”. Do not fear those who mock you and mistreat you and do not fear those who ignore you or respect you “to your face”, but fight the Gospel “behind your back”. There are so many who smile to our face, but fight the Gospel behind our backs. We all know them. Jesus does not leave us all alone, because we are precious to him. That is why he does not leave us all alone. Each one of us is precious to Jesus and he accompanies us.

May the Virgin Mary, example of humility and courageous adherence to the Word of God, help us to understand that success does not count in the witness of faith, but rather faithfulness, faithfulness to Christ, recognizing in any circumstance even the most problematic, the inestimable gift of being his missionary disciples.

25.06.17

Chapter 10

24-33

cont.


Pope Francis 

      

21.06.20 Angelus, St Peter's Square      

12th Sunday of Year A      

Matthew 10: 26-33 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Good day!

In this Sunday's Gospel (cf. Mt 10:26-33) the invitation Jesus addresses to His disciples resonates: to have no fear, to be strong and confident in the face of life's challenges, as He forewarns them of the adversities that await them. Today's passage is part of the missionary discourse, with which the Teacher prepares the Apostles for their first experience of proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Jesus persistently exhorts them “not to be afraid”, “do not be afraid”, and Jesus describes three tangible situations that they will find themselves facing.

First and foremost, the first, the hostility of those who would like to stifle the Word of God by sugar-coating it, by watering it down or by silencing those who proclaim it. In this case, Jesus encourages the Apostles to spread the message of salvation that He has entrusted to them. For the moment, He has transmitted it cautiously, somewhat covertly within the small group of the disciples. But they are to utter His Gospel “in the light”, that is, openly; and are to proclaim it “from the housetops” - as Jesus says - that is, publicly.

The second difficulty that Christ's missionaries will encounter is the physical threat against them, that is, direct persecution against them personally, to the point of being killed. Jesus’s prophesy is fulfilled in every age: it is a painful reality, but it attests to the faithfulness of the witnesses. How many Christians are persecuted even today throughout the world! They suffer for the Gospel with love, they are the martyrs of our day. And we can say with certainty that there are more of them than the martyrs of the early times: so many martyrs, merely for the fact of being Christians. Jesus advises these disciples of yesterday and today who suffer persecution: “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (v. 28). There is no need to be frightened of those who seek to extinguish the evangelizing force with arrogance and violence. Indeed, they can do nothing against the soul, that is, against their union with God: no one can take this away from the disciples, because it is a gift from God. The only fear that a disciple should have is to lose this divine gift, this closeness to and friendship with God, to stop living according to the Gospel, thereby experiencing moral death, which is the effect of sin.

The third type of trial that Jesus indicates the Apostles will find themselves facing is the sensation, which some may feel, that God Himself has abandoned them, remaining distant and silent. Here too, Jesus exhorts them not to fear, because even while experiencing these and other pitfalls, the lives of the disciples rest firmly in the hands of God, who loves us and looks after us. They are like the three temptations: to sugar-coat the Gospel, to water it down; second, persecution; and third, the sensation that God has abandoned us. Even Jesus suffered this trial in the garden of olives and on the cross: “Father, why have you forsaken me?”, says Jesus. At times one feels this spiritual aridness. We must not be afraid of it. The Father takes care of us, because we are greatly valued in His eyes. What is important is the frankness, the courage of our witness, of our witness of faith: “recognizing Jesus before others” and continuing to do good.

May Mary Most Holy, model of trust and abandonment in God in the hour of adversity and danger, help us never to surrender to despair, but rather always to entrust ourselves to Him and to His grace, since the grace of God is always more powerful than evil. 

21.06.20

Chapter 10

24-33

cont.



Pope Francis


24.05.23 General Audience, Saint Peter's Square


Catechesis. The passion for evangelization: The apostolic zeal of the believer. 14. Witnesses: Saint Andrea Kim Tae-gon  


Matthew 10: 24-25, 27


Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

In this series of catecheses that we are undertaking, we place ourselves in the school of some of the saints who, as exemplary witnesses, teach us apostolic zeal. Let’s recall that we are talking about apostolic zeal, which is what we must have in order to proclaim the Gospel.

Today we are going to find a great example of a saint of the passion for evangelization in a land far away, namely the Korean Church. Let us look at the Korean martyr and first priest St Andrew Kim Tae-gon.

But, the first Korean priest: you know something? The evangelisation of Korea was done by the laity! It was the baptized laity who transmitted the faith, there were no priests, because they had none. Then, later... but the first evangelisation was done by the laity. Would we be capable of something like that? Let’s think about it: it’s interesting. And this is one of the first priests, St Andrew. His life was and remains an eloquent testimony of the proclamation of the Gospel, the zeal for this.

About 200 years ago, the Korean land was the scene of a very severe persecution: Christians were persecuted and annihilated. At that time, believing in Jesus Christ in Korea meant being ready to bear witness even unto death. Specifically from the example of St Andrew Kim, we can draw out two concrete aspects of his life.

The first is the way he used to meet with the faithful. Given the highly intimidating context, the saint was forced to approach Christians in a discreet manner, and always in the presence of other people, as if they had been talking to each other for awhile. Then, to confirm the Christian identity of his interlocutor, St Andrew would implement these devices: first, there was a previously agreed upon sign of recognition: “You will meet with this Christian and he will have this sign on his outfit or in his hand.” “And after that, he would surreptitiously ask the question—but all this under his breath, eh?—“Are you a disciple of Jesus?” Since other people were watching the conversation, the saint had to speak in a low voice, saying only a few words, the most essential ones. So, for Andrew Kim, the expression that summed up the whole identity of the Christian was “disciple of Christ.” “Are you a disciple of Christ?”—but in a soft voice because it was dangerous. It was forbidden to be a Christian there.

Indeed, being a disciple of the Lord means following Him, following His path. And the Christian is by nature one who preaches and bears witness to Jesus. Every Christian community receives this identity from the Holy Spirit, and so does the whole Church, since the day of Pentecost (cf. Conc. Vat. II, Decr. Ad gentes, 2). It is from this Spirit that we receive the passion, the passion for evangelisation, this great apostolic zeal; it is a gift of the Spirit Who gives. And even if the surrounding context is not favourable—like the Korean context of Andrew Kim—it does not change; on the contrary, it becomes even more valuable. St Andrew Kim and other Korean believers have demonstrated that witnessing to the Gospel in times of persecution can bear much fruit for the faith.

Now let us look at a second concrete example. When he was still a seminarian, St Andrew had to find a way to secretly welcome missionary priests from abroad. This was not an easy task, as the regime of the time strictly forbade all foreigners from entering the territory. That’s why it had been, before this, so difficult to find a priest that could come to do missionary work: the laity undertook the mission.

One time—think about what St Andrew did—one time, he was walking in the snow, without eating, for so long that he fell to the ground exhausted, risking unconsciousness and freezing. At that point, he suddenly heard a voice, “Get up, walk!” Hearing that voice, Andrew came to his senses, catching a glimpse of something like a shadow of someone guiding him.

This experience of the great Korean witness makes us understand a very important aspect of apostolic zeal; namely, the courage to get back up when one falls.

But do saints fall? Yes! Indeed, from the earliest times. Think of St Peter: he committed a great sin, eh? But he found strength in God's mercy and got up again. And in St Andrew we see this strength: he had fallen physically but he had the strength to go, go, go to carry the message forward.

No matter how difficult the situation may be—and indeed, at times it may seem to leave no room for the Gospel message—we must not give up and we must not forsake pursuing what is essential in our Christian life: namely, evangelization.

This is the path. And each of us can think to themselves: “But what about me, how can I evangelize?” But you look at these great ones and you consider your smallness, we consider our littleness: evangelising the family, evangelising friends, talking about Jesus—but talking about Jesus and evangelising with a heart full of joy, full of strength. And this is given by the Holy Spirit. Let us prepare to receive the Holy Spirit this coming Pentecost, and ask Him for that grace, the grace of apostolic courage, the grace to evangelize, to always carry the message of Jesus forward. Thank you.

24.05.23



Chapter 10

24-33

cont.


Pope Francis          

25.06.23 Angelus, St Peter's Square   

12th Sunday of Year A  

Matthew 10: 26-33

Dear brothers and sisters, Good Day, Good Sunday!

In today’s Gospel, Jesus repeats to his disciples three different times: “have no fear” (Mt 10:26, 28, 31). Shortly prior to this, he had spoken to them about the persecutions they would have to undergo for the Gospel, a fact that is still a reality. Since its beginning, in fact, the Church has experienced, together with joys – of which she has had many – many persecutions. It seems paradoxical: the proclamation of the Kingdom of God is a message of peace and justice, founded on fraternal charity and on forgiveness; and yet it meets with opposition, violence, persecution. Jesus, however, says not to fear, not because everything will be all right in the world, no, but because we are precious to his Father and nothing that is good will be lost. He therefore tells us not to let fear block us, but rather to fear one other thing, only one. What is the thing Jesus tells us we should fear?

We discover what it is through an image Jesus uses today: the image of “Gehenna” (cf. v. 28). The valley of “Gehenna” was a place the inhabitants of Jerusalem knew well. It was the city’s large garbage dump. Jesus speaks about it in order to say that the true fear we should have, is that of throwing away one’s own life. Jesus says, “Yes, be afraid of that”. It was like saying: you do not need so much to be afraid of suffering misunderstanding and criticism, of losing prestige and economic advantages to remain faithful to the Gospel, no, but of wasting your existence in the pursuit of trivial things that do not fill life with meaning.

This is important for us today. Even today, in fact, some are ridiculed or discriminated against for not following certain fads, which, however, place second-rate realities at the centre – for example, to follow after things instead of people, achievement instead of relationships. Let us give an example: I am thinking of some parents who need to work to maintain their family, but who cannot live for work alone – they need enough time to be with their children. I am also thinking of a priest or a sister who need to dedicate themselves to their service, without, however, forgetting to dedicate time to be with Jesus, otherwise, they will fall into spiritual worldliness and lose the sense of who they are. And again, I am thinking of a young man or woman who have thousands of commitments and passions – school, sports, various interests, cell phones and social networks – but who need to meet people and achieve great dreams, without losing time on passing things that do not leave their mark.

All of this, brothers and sisters, requires some renunciation regarding the idols of efficiency and consumerism. But this is necessary so as not to get lost in things that end up getting thrown out, as they threw things out in Gehenna back then. And people often end up in today’s Gehenna’s, instead. Let’s think, of the least who are often treated like waste products and unwanted objects. There is a cost to remain faithful to what counts. The cost is going against the tide, the cost is freeing oneself from being conditioned by popular opinion, the cost is being separated from those who “follow the current”. But it does not matter, Jesus says. What matters is not to throw away the greatest good: life. This is the only thing that should frighten us.

So let us ask ourselves: I, what do I fear? Not having what I like? Not reaching the goals society imposes? The judgement of others? Or rather of not pleasing the Lord, and not putting his Gospel in first place? Mary, ever Virgin, Mother most Wise, help us to be wise and courageous in the choices we make.

25.06.23



Chapter 10

37-42



Pope Francis       

02.07.17 Angelus, St Peter's Square  

13th Sunday  Year A   

Matthew 10: 37-42