Matthew Chapter 6-10
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“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!
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!
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.
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” .
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.
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.
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.
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 are “Christians 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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
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.