Books of the Bible Index of Homilies
Matthew Mark Luke John The Acts Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians 1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 Timothy Titus Philemon Hebrews James 1 Peter 2 Peter 1 John 2 John 3 John Jude Revelation Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy Joshua Judges Ruth 1 Samuel 2 Samuel 1 Kings 2 Kings 1 Chronicles 2 Chronicles Ezra Nehemiah Tobit Judith Esther 1 Maccabees 2 Maccabees Job Psalms Proverbs Ecclesiastes The Song of Songs The Book of Wisdom Sirach Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations Baruch Ezekiel Daniel Hosea Joel Amos Obadiah Jonah Micah Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah Haggai Zechariah Malachi
1. “Woe to the complacent in Zion, to those who feel secure … lying upon beds of ivory!” (Am 6:1,4). They eat, they drink, they sing, they play and they care nothing about other people’s troubles.
These are harsh words which the prophet Amos speaks, yet they warn us about a danger that all of us face. What is it that this messenger of God denounces; what does he want his contemporaries, and ourselves today, to realize? The danger of complacency, comfort, worldliness in our lifestyles and in our hearts, of making our well-being the most important thing in our lives. This was the case of the rich man in the Gospel, who dressed in fine garments and daily indulged in sumptuous banquets; this was what was important for him. And the poor man at his doorstep who had nothing to relieve his hunger? That was none of his business, it didn’t concern him. Whenever material things, money, worldliness, become the centre of our lives, they take hold of us, they possess us; we lose our very identity as human beings. Think of it: the rich man in the Gospel has no name, he is simply “a rich man”. Material things, his possessions, are his face; he has nothing else.
Let’s try to think: How does something like this happen? How do some people, perhaps ourselves included, end up becoming self-absorbed and finding security in material things which ultimately rob us of our face, our human face? This is what happens when we become complacent, when we no longer remember God. “Woe to the complacent in Zion”, says the prophet. If we don’t think about God, everything ends up flat, everything ends up being about “me” and my own comfort. Life, the world, other people, all of these become unreal, they no longer matter, everything boils down to one thing: having. When we no longer remember God, we too become unreal, we too become empty; like the rich man in the Gospel, we no longer have a face! Those who run after nothing become nothing – as another great prophet Jeremiah, observed (cf. Jer 2:5). We are made in God’s image and likeness, not the image and likeness of material objects, of idols!
2. So, as I look out at you, I think: Who are catechists? They are people who keep the memory of God alive; they keep it alive in themselves and they are able to revive it in others. This is something beautiful: to remember God, like the Virgin Mary, who sees God’s wondrous works in her life but doesn’t think about honour, prestige or wealth; she doesn’t become self-absorbed. Instead, after receiving the message of the angel and conceiving the Son of God, what does she do? She sets out, she goes to assist her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth, who was also pregnant. And the first thing she does upon meeting Elizabeth is to recall God’s work, God’s fidelity, in her own life, in the history of her people, in our history: “My soul magnifies the Lord … For he has looked on the lowliness of his servant … His mercy is from generation to generation” (Lk 1:46, 48, 50). Mary remembers God.
This canticle of Mary also contains the remembrance of her personal history, God’s history with her, her own experience of faith. And this is true too for each one of us and for every Christian: faith contains our own memory of God’s history with us, the memory of our encountering God who always takes the first step, who creates, saves and transforms us. Faith is remembrance of his word which warms our heart, and of his saving work which gives life, purifies us, cares for and nourishes us. A catechist is a Christian who puts this remembrance at the service of proclamation, not to seem important, not to talk about himself or herself, but to talk about God, about his love and his fidelity. To talk about and to pass down all that God has revealed, his teaching in its totality, neither trimming it down nor adding on to it.
Saint Paul recommends one thing in particular to his disciple and co-worker Timothy: Remember, remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, whom I proclaim and for whom I suffer (cf. 2 Tim 2:8-9). The Apostle can say this because he too remembered Christ, who called him when he was persecuting Christians, who touched him and transformed him by his grace.
The catechist, then, is a Christian who is mindful of God, who is guided by the memory of God in his or her entire life and who is able to awaken that memory in the hearts of others. This is not easy! It engages our entire existence! What is the Catechism itself, if not the memory of God, the memory of his works in history and his drawing near to us in Christ present in his word, in the sacraments, in his Church, in his love? Dear catechists, I ask you: Are we in fact the memory of God? Are we really like sentinels who awaken in others the memory of God which warms the heart?
3. “Woe to the complacent in Zion!”, says the prophet. What must we do in order not to be “complacent” – people who find their security in themselves and in material things – but men and woman of the memory of God? In the second reading, Saint Paul, once more writing to Timothy, gives some indications which can also be guideposts for us in our work as catechists: pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness (cf. 1 Tim 6:11).
Catechists are men and women of the memory of God if they have a constant, living relationship with him and with their neighbour; if they are men and women of faith who truly trust in God and put their security in him; if they are men and women of charity, love, who see others as brothers and sisters; if they are men and women of “hypomoné”, endurance and perseverance, able to face difficulties, trials and failures with serenity and hope in the Lord; if they are gentle, capable of understanding and mercy.
Let us ask the Lord that we may all be men and women who keep the memory of God alive in ourselves, and are able to awaken it in the hearts of others. Amen
Dear Brothers and Sisters Good morning!
We have heard the first commandment of the Decalogue: “You shall have no other Gods before me” (Ex 20:3). It is good to pause on the theme of idolatry which is significant and timely.
The commandment bans us from setting up idols or images of any kind of reality. Indeed, everything can be used as an idol. We are speaking about a human tendency that involves both believers and atheists. For example, we Christians can ask ourselves: who is truly my God? Is it the One and Triune Love or is it my image, my personal success, perhaps even within the Church? “Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2113).
What is a “god” on the existential plane? It is what is at the centre of one’s life and on whom one’s actions and thoughts depend. One can grow up in a family that is Christian in name but that is actually centred on reference points that are foreign to the Gospel. Human beings cannot live without being centred on something. And so the world offers the ‘supermarket’ of idols, which can be objects, images, ideas and roles. For example, even prayer. We must pray to God, our Father. I remember one day I had gone to a parish in the Diocese of Buenos Aires to celebrate Mass and after that, I had to celebrate Confirmation in another parish that was a kilometre away. I went on foot and I walked across a beautiful park. But in that park, there were over 50 tables with two chairs each, and people were seated facing each other. What were they doing? Tarot cards. They went there “to pray” to their idol. Instead of praying to God who is the Providence of the future, they went there to have their fortunes told, to see the future. This is one form of the idolatry of our times. I ask you: how many of you have gone to have your cards read to see the future? How many of you, for example, have gone to have your hands read to see the future instead of praying to the Lord? This is the difference: the Lord is alive. The others are idols, forms of idolatry that are unnecessary.
How does idolatry develop? The commandment describes the various phases: “You shall not make for yourself a graven image or any likeness ... you shall not bow down to them or serve them” (Ex 20:4-5).
The word ‘idol’ in Greek is derived from the verb ‘to see’. An idol is a ‘vision’ which has the tendency to become a fixation, an obsession. The idol in reality is a projection of self onto objects or projects. Advertising, for example, uses this dynamic: I cannot see the object itself but I can perceive that car, that smartphone, that role — or other things — as a means of fulfilling myself and responding to my basic needs. And I seek it out, I speak of it, I think of it: the idea of owning that object or fulfilling that project, reaching that position, seems a marvellous path to happiness, a tower with which to reach the heavens (cf. Gen 11:1-19), and then everything serves that goal.
We then enter the second phase: “You shall not bow down to them”. Idols need worship, certain rituals: one bows down and sacrifices everything to them. In ancient times, there were human sacrifices to idols, but today too: children are sacrificed for a career, or neglected or, quite simply, not conceived. Beauty demands human sacrifices. How many hours are spent in front of the mirror! How much do some people, some women, spend on makeup? This too is idolatry. It is not bad to wear makeup but in a normal way, not to become a goddess. Beauty demands human sacrifices. Fame demands the immolation of self, of one’s innocence and authenticity. Idols demand blood. Money robs one of life, and pleasure leads to loneliness. Economic structures sacrifice human life for greater profit. Let us think of unemployed people. Why? Because at times the businessmen of that company, of that firm have decided to lay off those people in order to earn more money. The idol of money. We live in hypocrisy, doing and saying what others expect because the god of one’s self affirmation imposes it. And lives are ruined, families are destroyed and young people are left prey to destructive models in order to increase profit. Drugs too are idols. How many young people ruin their health, even their lives, by worshipping the idol of drugs?
And here we come to the third and most tragic phase: and you shall not serve them, he says. Idols enslave. They promise happiness but do not deliver it and we find ourselves living for that thing or that vision, drawn into a self-destructive vortex, waiting for a result that never comes.
Dear brothers and sisters, idols promise life but in reality they take it away. The true God does not demand life but gives it, as a gift. The true God does not offer a projection of our success but teaches us how to love. The true God does not demand children but gives his Son for us. Idols project future hypotheses and make us despise the present. The true God teaches how to live in everyday reality, in a practical way, not with illusions about the future: today and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, walking towards the future; the concreteness of the true God against the fluidity of idols. Today, I invite you to think: how many idols do I have and which one is my favourite? Because recognizing one’s own forms of idolatry is the beginning of grace and puts one on the path of love. Indeed love is incompatible with idolatry. If something becomes absolute and supreme, then it is more important than a spouse, than a child or a friendship. Being attached to an object or an idea makes one blind to love. And so, in order to pursue idols, one idol, one can even renounce a father, a mother, children, a wife, a husband, a family ... the dearest things of all. Being attached to an object or an idea makes us blind to love. Take this to heart: idols rob us of love, idols make us blind to love and, in order to truly love, we must be free from all idols.
What is my idol? Remove it and throw it out of the window!
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today’s catechesis is dedicated to the Fifth Word: You shall not kill. The fifth Commandment: you shall not kill. We are already in the second part of the Decalogue, the part which deals with relationships with our neighbour. And, with its concise and categorical formulation, this commandment rises up like a wall to defend the basic values of human relationships. And what is the basic value in human relationships?: the value of life. Thus, you shall not kill.
One could say that all the evil carried out in the world can be summed up in this: contempt for life. Life is assailed by war, by organizations that exploit people — we read in newspapers or see in newscasts many facts — by speculations on creation and by the throwaway culture and by every system that subjugates human existence to calculated opportunities, while a scandalous number of people live in a state unworthy of mankind. This is having contempt for life, that is, in some way, killing. A contradictory approach even permits the termination of human life in the maternal womb, in the name of safeguarding other rights. But how can an action that ends an innocent and defenceless life in its blossoming stage be therapeutic, civilized or simply human? I ask you: is it right to ‘do away with’ a human life in order to solve a problem? Is it right to hire a hit man in order to solve a problem? One cannot. It is not right to ‘do away with’ a human being, however small, in order to solve a problem. It is like hiring a hit man to solve a problem.
Where does all this come from? Violence and the rejection of life; where do they actually come from? From fear. Indeed, welcoming others is a challenge to individualism. Let us think, for example, about when it is discovered that a new life has a disability, even a serious one. In these tragic cases, parents need true closeness, true solidarity to face the reality and overcome the understandable fears. However, they often receive hasty advice to interrupt the pregnancy, which is an expression: ‘interrupting the pregnancy’ means ‘doing away with someone’, directly.
A sick child is like any other needy person on earth, like an elderly person who needs assistance, like many poor people who struggle to get by. He or she who is seen as a problem is in reality a gift from God that can save me from egocentrism and help me to grow in love. Vulnerable life shows us the way out, the way to save ourselves from a life that withdraws into itself and to discover the joy of love. And here I would like to pause to thank, to thank the many volunteers, to thank Italy’s strong volunteerism, the strongest I have ever known. Thank you.
And what leads man to reject life? It is the idols of this world: money — better to get rid of this one because it will be costly — power, success. These are the wrong parameters for evaluating life. What is the only authentic measure of life? It is love, the love with which God loves it! The love with which God loves life: this is the measure. The love with which God loves all human life.
Indeed, what is the positive meaning of the Word “you shall not kill”? That God is a “lover of life”, as we heard a short time ago in the Bible passage.
The secret of life is revealed to us by the way it was regarded by the Son of God who became man, to the point of assuming on the Cross rejection, weakness, poverty and suffering (cf. Jn 13:1). In every sick child, in every weak elderly person, in every desperate migrant, in every fragile and threatened life. Christ is seeking us (cf. Mt 25:34-46), he is seeking our heart, to open us up to the joy of love.
It is worthwhile to welcome every life because every man and woman is worth the blood of Christ himself (cf. 1 Pt 1:18-19). We cannot have contempt for what God has loved so much!
We must tell the men and women of the world: do not have contempt for life! The life of others, but also one’s own life because the Commandment “thou shall not kill” applies to it too. Many young people should be told, “do not have contempt for your life. Stop rejecting God’s work! You are a work of God! Do not underestimate yourself, do not despise yourself with the addictions that will ruin you and lead you to death!
May no one measure life according to the deceptions of this world, but instead may each one accept him or herself and others in the name of the Father who created us. He is a “lover of life”: this is beautiful. “God is a lover of life”. And we are all so dear to him that he sent his Son for us. In fact, the Gospel says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son; that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).
 Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum Vitae, 5: aas 80 (1988), 76-77: “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves ‘the creative action of God’ and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can, in any circumstance, claim for himself the right to destroy directly an innocent human being”.
The second reading tells us that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb 4:12). It really is: God’s word is not merely a set of truths or an edifying spiritual account; no – it is a living word that touches our lives, that transforms our lives. There, Jesus in person, the living Word of God, speaks to our hearts.
The Gospel, in particular, invites us to an encounter with the Lord, after the example of the “man” who “ran up to him” (cf. Mk 10:17). We can recognize ourselves in that man, whose name the text does not give, as if to suggest that he could represent each one of us. He asks Jesus how “to inherit eternal life” (v. 17). He is seeking life without end, life in its fullness: who of us would not want this? Yet we notice that he asks for it as an inheritance, as a good to be obtained, to be won by his own efforts. In fact, in order to possess this good, he has observed the commandments from his youth and to achieve this he is prepared to follow others; and so he asks: “What must I do to have eternal life?”
Jesus’s answer catches him off guard. The Lord looks upon him and loves him (cf. v. 21). Jesus changes the perspective: from commandments observed in order to obtain a reward, to a free and total love. That man was speaking in terms of supply and demand, Jesus proposes to him a story of love. He asks him to pass from the observance of laws to the gift of self, from doing for oneself to being with God. And the Lord suggests to the man a life that cuts to the quick: “Sell what you have and give to the poor…and come, follow me” (v. 21). To you, too, Jesus says: “Come, follow me!” Come: do not stand still, because it is not enough not to do evil in order to be with Jesus. Follow me: do not walk behind Jesus only when you want to, but seek him out every day; do not be content to keep the commandments, to give a little alms and say a few prayers: find in Him the God who always loves you; seek in Jesus the God who is the meaning of your life, the God who gives you the strength to give of yourself.
Again Jesus says: “Sell what you have and give to the poor.” The Lord does not discuss theories of poverty and wealth, but goes directly to life. He asks you to leave behind what weighs down your heart, to empty yourself of goods in order to make room for him, the only good. We cannot truly follow Jesus when we are laden down with things. Because if our hearts are crowded with goods, there will not be room for the Lord, who will become just one thing among the others. For this reason, wealth is dangerous and – says Jesus – even makes one’s salvation difficult. Not because God is stern, no! The problem is on our part: our having too much, our wanting too much suffocates us, suffocates our hearts and makes us incapable of loving. Therefore, Saint Paul writes that “the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Tim 6:10). We see this where money is at the centre, there is no room for God nor for man.
Jesus is radical. He gives all and he asks all: he gives a love that is total and asks for an undivided heart. Even today he gives himself to us as the living bread; can we give him crumbs in exchange? We cannot respond to him, who made himself our servant even going to the cross for us, only by observing some of the commandments. We cannot give him, who offers us eternal life, some odd moment of time. Jesus is not content with a “percentage of love”: we cannot love him twenty or fifty or sixty percent. It is either all or nothing.
Dear brothers and sisters, our heart is like a magnet: it lets itself be attracted by love, but it can cling to one master only and it must choose: either it will love God or it will love the world’s treasure (cf. Mt 6:24); either it will live for love or it will live for itself (cf. Mk 8:35). Let us ask ourselves where we are in our story of love with God. Do we content ourselves with a few commandments or do we follow Jesus as lovers, really prepared to leave behind something for him? Jesus asks each of us and all of us as the Church journeying forward: are we a Church that only preaches good commandments or a Church that is a spouse, that launches herself forward in love for her Lord? Do we truly follow him or do we revert to the ways of the world, like that man in the Gospel? In a word, is Jesus enough for us or do we look for many worldly securities? Let us ask for the grace always to leave things behind for love of the Lord: to leave behind wealth, leave behind the yearning for status and power, leave behind structures that are no longer adequate for proclaiming the Gospel, those weights that slow down our mission, the strings that tie us to the world. Without a leap forward in love, our life and our Church become sick from “complacency and self-indulgence” (Evangelii Gaudium, 95): we find joy in some fleeting pleasure, we close ourselves off in useless gossip, we settle into the monotony of a Christian life without momentum, where a little narcissism covers over the sadness of remaining unfulfilled.
This is how it was for the man, who – the Gospel tells us – “went away sorrowful” (v. 22). He was tied down to regulations of the law and to his many possessions; he had not given over his heart. Even though he had encountered Jesus and received his loving gaze, the man went away sad. Sadness is the proof of unfulfilled love, the sign of a lukewarm heart. On the other hand, a heart unburdened by possessions, that freely loves the Lord, always spreads joy, that joy for which there is so much need today. Pope Saint Paul VI wrote: “It is indeed in the midst of their distress that our fellow men need to know joy, to hear its song” (Gaudete in Domino, I). Today Jesus invites us to return to the source of joy, which is the encounter with him, the courageous choice to risk everything to follow him, the satisfaction of leaving something behind in order to embrace his way. The saints have travelled this path.
Paul VI did too, after the example of the Apostle whose name he took. Like him, Paul VI spent his life for Christ’s Gospel, crossing new boundaries and becoming its witness in proclamation and in dialogue, a prophet of a Church turned outwards, looking to those far away and taking care of the poor. Even in the midst of tiredness and misunderstanding, Paul VI bore witness in a passionate way to the beauty and the joy of following Christ totally. Today he still urges us, together with the Council whose wise helmsman he was, to live our common vocation: the universal call to holiness. Not to half measures, but to holiness. It is wonderful that together with him and the other new saints today, there is Archbishop Romero, who left the security of the world, even his own safety, in order to give his life according to the Gospel, close to the poor and to his people, with a heart drawn to Jesus and his brothers and sisters. We can say the same about Francesco Spinelli, Vincenzo Romano, Maria Caterina Kasper, Nazaria Ignazia of Saint Teresa of Jesus, and also our Abruzzese-Neapolitan young man, Nunzio Sulprizio: the saintly, courageous, humble young man who encountered Jesus in his suffering, in silence and in the offering of himself. All these saints, in different contexts, put today’s word into practice in their lives, without lukewarmness, without calculation, with the passion to risk everything and to leave it all behind. Brothers and sisters, may the Lord help us to imitate their example.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
The Gospel passage for this first Sunday of Lent (cf. Lk 4:1-13) recounts the experience of the temptation of Jesus in the desert. After fasting for 40 days, Jesus is tempted three times by the devil. First he invites Him to change stone into bread (v. 3); then, from above, he shows Him all the kingdoms of the world and the prospect of becoming a powerful and glorious messiah (vv. 5-6); lastly he takes Him to the pinnacle of the temple of Jerusalem and invites Him to throw himself down, so as to manifest His divine power in a spectacular way (vv. 9-11). The three temptations point to three paths that the world always offers, promising great success, three paths to mislead us: greed for possession — to have, have, have —, human vainglory and the exploitation of God. These are three paths that will lead us to ruin.
The first, the path of greed for possession. This is always the devil’s insidious logic He begins from the natural and legitimate need for nourishment, life, fulfilment, happiness, in order to encourage us to believe that all this is possible without God, or rather, even despite Him. But Jesus countervails, stating: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone’’’ (v. 4). Recalling the long journey of the chosen people through the desert, Jesus affirms his desire to fully entrust himself to the providence of the Father, who always takes care of his children.
The second temptation: the path of human vainglory. The devil says: “If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours” (v. 7). One can lose all personal dignity if one allows oneself to be corrupted by the idols of money, success and power, in order to achieve one’s own self-affirmation. And one tastes the euphoria of a fleeting joy. And this also leads us to be ‘peacocks’, to vanity, but this vanishes. For this reason Jesus responds: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve” (v. 8).
And then the third temptation: exploiting God to one’s own advantage. In response to the devil — who, citing Scripture, invites Him to seek a conspicuous miracle from God — Jesus again opposes with the firm decision to remain humble, to remain confident before the Father: “It is said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (v. 12). Thus, he rejects perhaps the most subtle temptation: that of wanting to ‘pull God to our side’, asking him for graces which in reality serve and will serve to satisfy our pride.
These are the paths that are set before us, with the illusion that in this way one can obtain success and happiness. But in reality, they are completely extraneous to God’s mode of action; rather, in fact they distance us from God, because they are the works of Satan. Jesus, personally facing these trials, overcomes temptation three times in order to fully adhere to the Father’s plan. And he reveals the remedies to us: interior life, faith in God, the certainty of his love — the certainty that God loves us, that he is Father, and with this certainty we will overcome every temptation.
But there is one thing to which I would like to draw your attention, something interesting. In responding to the tempter, Jesus does not enter a discussion, but responds to the three challenges with only the Word of God. This teaches us that one does not dialogue with the devil; one must not discuss, one only responds to him with the Word of God.
Therefore, let us benefit from Lent as a privileged time to purify ourselves, to feel God’s comforting presence in our life.
May the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, icon of faithfulness to God, sustain us in our journey, helping us to always reject evil and welcome good.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning!
The Christian community is born from the superabundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit and it grows thanks to the leaven of sharing among brothers and sisters in Christ. There is a dynamism of solidarity which builds up the Church as the family of God, for whom the experience of koinonia is central. What does this strange word mean? It is a Greek word which means “pooling one’s goods”, “sharing in common”, being a community, not isolated. This is the experience of the first Christian community, that is, “communality”, “sharing”, “communicating, participating”, not isolation. In the primitive Church, this koinonia, this communality, refers primarily to participation in the Body and Blood of Christ. This is why when we receive Holy Communion, we say that “we communicate”, we enter into communion with Jesus, and from this communion with Jesus we reach a communion with our brothers and sisters. And this communion in the Body and Blood of Christ that we share during Holy Mass translates into fraternal union and, therefore also into what is most difficult for us; pooling our resources and collecting money for the mother Church in Jerusalem (cf. Rm 12:13, 2 Cor 8-9) and the other Churches. If you want to know whether you are good Christians, you have to pray, try to draw near to Communion, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But the sign that your heart has converted is when conversion reaches the pocket, when it touches one’s own interests. That is when one can see whether one is generous to others, if one helps the weakest, the poorest. When conversion achieves this, you are sure that it is a true conversion. If you stop at words, it is not a real conversion.
Eucharistic life, prayer, the preaching of the Apostles and the experience of communion (cf. Acts 2:42) turn believers into a multitude of people who — the Book of the Acts of the Apostles says — are of “one heart and soul” and who do not consider their property their own, but hold everything in common (cf. Acts 4:32). It is such a powerful example of life that it helps us to be generous and not miserly. This is why the Book says, “there was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need” (Acts 4:34-35). The Church has always had this gesture of Christians who stripped themselves of the things they had in excess, the things that were not necessary, in order to give them to those in need. And not just money: also time. How many Christians — you for example, here in Italy — how many Christians do volunteer work! This is beautiful. It is communion, sharing one’s time with others to help those in need. And thus: volunteer work, charity work, visits to the sick; we must always share with others and not just seek after our own interests.
In this way, the community, or koinonia, becomes the new way of relating among the Lord’s disciples. Christians experience a new way of being and behaving among themselves. And it is the proper Christian method, to such an extent that Gentiles would look at Christians and remark: “Look at how they love each other!”. Love was the method. But not love in word, not false love: love in works, in helping one another, concrete love, the concreteness of love. The Covenant with Christ establishes a bond among brothers and sisters which merges and expresses itself in the communion of material goods too. Yes this method of being together, of loving this way, ‘up to the pocket’, also brings one to strip oneself of the hindrance of money and to give it to others, going against one’s own interests. Being the limbs of the Body of Christ makes believers share the responsibility for one another. Being believers in Jesus makes us all responsible for each other. “But look at that one, the problem he has. I don’t care, it’s his business”. No, among Christians we cannot say: “poor thing, he has a problem at home, he is going through this family problem”. But “I have to pray, I take him with me, I am not indifferent”. This is being Christian. This is why the strong support the weak (cf. Rom 15:1) and no one experiences poverty that humiliates and disfigures human dignity because they live in this community: having one heart in common. They love one another. This is the sign: concrete love.
James, Peter and John, the three Apostles who were the “pillars” of the Church in Jerusalem, take a decision in common that Paul and Barnabas would evangelise the Gentiles while they evangelised the Hebrews, and they only asked Paul and Barnabas for one condition: not to forget the poor, to remember the poor (cf. Gal 2:9-10) Not only the material poor, but also the poor in spirit, the people with difficulty who need our closeness. A Christian always begins with him/herself, from his/her own heart and approaches others as Jesus approached us. This was the first Christian community.
A practical example of sharing and communion of goods comes to us from the testimony of Barnabas. He owns a field and sells it in order to give the proceeds to the Apostles (cf. Acts 4:36-37). But beside this positive example, there is another that is sadly negative: After selling their land, Ananias and his wife Sapphira decide to hand over only part of the proceeds to the Apostles and to keep part of the proceeds for themselves (cf. Acts 5:1-2). This deceit interrupts the chain of freely sharing, serene and disinterested sharing and the consequences are tragic. They are fatal (Acts 5:5-10). The Apostle Peter exposes Ananias and his wife’s deceit and says to them: “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? ... You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:3-4). We could say that Ananias lied to God because of an isolated conscience, a hypocritical conscience, that is due to an ecclesial belonging that is “negotiated”, partial and opportunistic. Hypocrisy is the worst enemy of this Christian community, of this Christian love: pretending to love each other but only seeking one’s own interests.
Falling short of sincere sharing, indeed, falling short of the sincerity of love means cultivating hypocrisy, distancing oneself from the truth, becoming selfish, extinguishing the fire of communion and choosing the frost of inner death. Those who behave in this manner move in the Church like a tourist. There are many tourists in the Church who are always passing through but never enter the Church. It is spiritual tourism that leads them to believe they are Christians whereas they are only tourists of the catacombs. No, we should not be tourists in the Church but rather one another’s brothers and sisters. A life based only on drawing gain and advantages from situations to the detriment of others, inevitably causes inner death. And how many people say they are close to the Church, friends of priests, of bishops, while they only seek their own interests. Such hypocrisy destroys the Church!
May the Lord — I ask this for all of us — pour over us his Spirit of tenderness which vanquishes all hypocrisy and generates that truth that nourishes Christian solidarity, which, far from being an activity of social work, is the inalienable expression of the Church, the most tender mother of all, especially of the poorest.
Let us pray today for those people who in this time of pandemic are taking advantage of those in need: they are profiting from the necessity of others and sell them: the mafia, those who lend and many others. May the Lord touch their hearts and convert them.
When we think about selling people, what comes to mind is the slave trade made that took place between Africa and America – an old thing – then the trade, for example, of Yazidi girls sold to Daesh: but it is a distant thing, it is a thing ... Even today people are sold. Every day. There are Judas's who sell their brothers and sisters, exploiting them in their work, not paying the just wage, not recognizing their duties ... In fact, many time they sell those who are most dear to us. I think that to be more comfortable one is able to turn away parents and not see them anymore, put them safe in a nursing home and not go to see them ... Sell them. There is a very common saying that, speaking of people like this, says that "he is capable of selling his mother": and they sell them. Now they are quiet, they are turned away: "Take care of them you ...".
Today human trafficking is as it was in earlier times: it is done. Why is that? Because as Jesus said. They made money a lord. Jesus said, "You cannot serve God and money," two lords. There is only one thing that Jesus puts to us and each one of us must choose: either serve God, and you will be free in adoration and service, or you serve money, and you will be a slave to money. This is the option and so many people want to serve God and money. And that can't be done. In the end, they pretend to serve God to serve money. They are the hidden exploiters who are socially impeccable, but under the table they trade, even with people: it doesn't matter. Human exploitation is selling ones neighbour.
Judas went away, but he has left disciples, who are not his disciples but the devils. What Judas's life was like, we don't know. A normal boy, perhaps, with anxieties, because the Lord called him to be a disciple. He never succeeded in being one: he didn't have a disciple's way of talking and a disciple's heart, as we read in the first Reading. He was weak in his discipleship, but Jesus loved him. You can say he was a worthy person. Then the Gospel makes us understand that he liked money: at Lazarus's house, when Mary anoints the feet of Jesus with that expensive perfume, he makes the reflection and John points out: "But he does not say it because he loved the poor: because he was a thief". Love of money had led him outside of the rules, to steal, and from steeling to betraying there is only a little step. Those who love money too much betray to get more, always: it is a rule, it is a fact. The boy Judas, perhaps good, with good intentions, ends up a traitor to the point of going to the market to sell him: "He went to the chief priests and said, "What are you willing to give me for me to hand him over to you, directly?" In my opinion, this man was out of his mind.
One thing that catches my attention is that Jesus never says "traitor"; he says he will be betrayed, but does not call him "traitor." He never says, "Go away, traitor." Never! In fact, he says to him, "Friend," and kisses him. The mystery of Judas ... What is the mystery of Judas? I don't know... Don Primo Mazzolari explained it better than I did ... Yes, I console myself to contemplate that capital of Vezelay: how did Judas end? I don't know. Jesus threatens strongly here; a strong threat: "Woe to that man from whom the Son of Man is betrayed: better for that man if he had never been born!" But does that mean Judas is in hell? I don't know. I look at the capital. And I hear the word of Jesus: "Friend."
But this makes us think of another thing, which is more real today: the devil entered Judas, it was the devil who led him to this point. And how did the story end? The devil is a bad payer: he is not a reliable payer. He promises you everything, makes you see everything and in the end leaves you alone in your desperation to hang yourself.
The heart of Judas, restless, tormented by greed and tormented by love of Jesus, a love that has failed, tormented with this fog that he was in, he returns to the priests asking for forgiveness, asking for salvation. "What is that to us? Look to it yourself ...": the devil speaks like this and leaves us in despair.
Let us think of so many institutionalized Judas in this world, who exploit people. And let us also think of the little Judas that each of us has within ourselves at the hour of choosing: between loyalty or self-interest. Each of us has the capacity to betray, to sell, to choose for our own interest. Each of us has the possibility of being attracted to the love of money or goods or future well-being. "Judas, where are you?" But each of us has to ask the question: "You, Judas, the little Judas I have inside: where are you?"
Let us pray today for the rulers, the scientists, the politicians, who have begun to study the way out, the post-pandemic, this "after" that has already begun: so that they may find the right way, always in favour of the people, always on behalf of the people.
Today's Gospel presents us with an option, an everyday option, a human option but which holds from that day: the option between joy, the hope of Jesus' resurrection, and the nostalgia for the tomb.
Women go ahead and bring the announcement (cf. Mt. 28:8): God always begins with women, always. They open the way. They do not doubt: they know; they saw him, they touched him. They also saw the empty tomb. It is true that the disciples could not believe them and said: "But these women are perhaps a little too imaginative" ... don't know, they had their doubts. But they were sure and they eventually carried this message to the present day: Jesus is resurrected, he is alive among us. Mt. 28: 9-10).
And then there is the other matter: it is better not to live with the empty tomb. This empty tomb will bring us too many problems. And the decision to hide the fact. It is as always: when we do not serve God, the Lord, we serve the other god, money. Let us remember what Jesus said: they are two lords, the Lord God and the lord money. You can't serve both. And to get out of this evidence, from this reality, the priests, the doctors of the Law chose the other way, the one that god of money offered them and they paid: they paid for silence (cf. Mt. 28: 12-13). The silence of the witnesses. One of the guards had confessed, as soon as Jesus died: "Truly this man was Son of God!" (Mark.15:39).
These poor men do not understand, they are afraid because their life is at stake there... and they went to the priests, to the doctors of the law. And they paid: they paid for silence, and this, dear brothers and sisters, is not a bribe: this is pure corruption, pure corruption. If you do not confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, think why: where is the seal of your tomb, where there is corruption. It is true that so many people do not confess to Jesus because they do not know him, because we have not proclaimed him consistently; and that's our fault. But when before the evidence you take this path, it's the devil's way, it's the road of corruption. You are paid to keep quiet.
Even today, before the end – we hope it will be soon – the end of this pandemic, there is the same option: either our choice will be for life, for the resurrection of people or it will be for the god of money: return to the tomb of hunger, slavery, wars, weapons factories, children without education ... that's the tomb.
The Lord, both in our personal life and in our social life, always helps us to choose the proclamation: the proclamation that is the horizon, is open, always forward; helps us to choose for the good of the people. And never to fall into the tomb of the god of money.
In this time there is so much silence. You can also hear the silence. May this silence, which is a little new in our habits, teach us to listen, make us grow in our ability to listen. Let us pray for it.
"To be born from above" (John 3:7) is to be born with the strength of the Holy Spirit. We cannot take hold of the Holy Spirit for ourselves; we can only allow him transform us. And our docility opens the door to the Holy Spirit: it is he who makes the change, transformation, this rebirth from above. It is Jesus' promise to send the (cf. Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit is capable of doing wonders, things that we cannot even think of.
An example is this first Christian community, which is not a fantasy, what they tell us here: it is a model, which can be achieved when there is docility and let the Holy Spirit in and transform us. We can say that this is an "ideal" community. It is true that soon after this problems will begin, but the Lord shows us how far we can go if we are open to the Holy Spirit, if we are docile. In this community there is harmony (cf. Acts 4:32-37). The Holy Spirit is the master of harmony, he is capable of doing it and he has done it here. He must do it in our hearts, he must change so many things about us, to make harmony: because he himself is harmony. The harmony between the Father and the Son and he is also the love of harmony, He. And with harmony he creates things such as this harmonious community. But then, history tells us – the Book of Acts of the Apostles itself – of so many problems in the community. This is a model: the Lord has allowed this model of an almost "heavenly" community to show us where we should go.
But then the divisions began in the community. The Apostle James, in the second chapter of his Letter, says: "May your faith be immune from personal favouritism" (James 2:1): because they were there! "Don't discriminate": the apostles must go out and warn this. And Paul, in the first Letter to the Corinthians, in chapter 11, complains: "I have heard that there are divisions among you" (cf. 1Cor 11:18): internal divisions begin in communities. This "ideal" must be arrived at, but it is not easy: there are many things that divide a community, whether a Christian parish or diocesan community or of priests or religious. So many things come in to divide the community.
Seeing the things that have divided the first Christian communities, I find three: first, money. When the Apostle James says this, not to have personal favouritism, he gives an example because "if in your church, in your assembly someone enters with a golden ring, and they immediately bring him to the front of the community, and the poor person is left on the side" (cf. James 2:2). Money. Paul himself says the same: "The rich bring food and they eat, and the poor standing" (cf. 1Cor 11:20-22), we leave them there as if to say to them: "Take care of yourselves as you can." Money divides, the love of money divides the community, divides the Church.
Many times, in the history of the Church, where there are doctrinal deviations – not always, but often – behind it is money: the money of power, both political power, and cash, but it is money. Money divides the community. For this reason, poverty is the mother of the community, poverty is the wall that guards the community. Money and self-interest divide. Even in families: how many families have ended up divided by an inheritance? How many families? And they never speak anymore ... How many families ... An inheritance ... They divide: money divides.
Another thing that divides a community is vanity, that desire to feel better than others. "I thank you, Lord, because I am not like the others" (cf. Luke 18:11), the prayer of the Pharisee. Vanity, makes me feel this ... And even the vanity to be seen, vanity in habits, in dressing: how many times – not always but how many times – the celebration of a sacrament is an example of vanity, who goes with the best clothes, who does that and the other ... Vanity ... For the biggest party ... That's where vanity comes in. And vanity divides. Because vanity leads you to be like a peacock and where there is a peacock, there is division, always.
A third thing that divides a community is gossip: it is not the first time I have said this, but it is reality. It's reality. That thing the devil puts in us, like a need to talk about others. "But what a good person he is ..." – "Yes, yes, but ...": immediately the "but": that is a stone to disqualify the other person and right away I say something that I have heard and so the other person is diminished a little.
But the Holy Spirit always comes with his strength to save us from this worldliness of money, vanity and gossip, because the Spirit is not of the world: is against the world. He is capable of doing these miracles, these great things.
Let us ask the Lord for this docility to the Spirit so that he may transform us and transform our communities, our parish, diocesan, religious communities: transform them, to always move forward in the harmony that Jesus wants for the Christian community.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
The scene described in the Gospel of today’s Liturgy takes place inside the Temple of Jerusalem. Jesus looks, he looks at what is happening in this the most sacred of places; and he sees how the scribes love to walk around to be seen, greeted and revered, and to have the places of honour. And Jesus adds that they “devour widows’ houses and recite long prayers in order to be seen” (cf. Mk 12:40). At the same time, another scene catches his eyes: a poor widow, precisely one of those exploited by the powers that be, puts in the Temple treasury “everything she had, her whole living” (Mk 12:44). This is what the Gospel says, she puts everything she had to live on in the Treasury. The Gospel presents us with this striking contrast: the rich who give from their surplus wealth to make themselves seen, and a poor woman, who without seeming to, offers every little bit she has. Two symbols of human attitudes.
Jesus watches the two scenes. And it is specifically this verb – “to watch” – that sums up his teaching: “we must watch out for” those who live their faith with duplicity, like the scribes, so as not to become like them; whereas we must “watch” the widow, and take her as a model. Let us reflect on this: to watch out for hypocrites and to watch the poor widow.
First of all, to watch out for hypocrites, that is, to be careful not to base our life on the cult of appearances, externals, and the exaggerated care of one’s own image. And most importantly, to be careful not to bend faith around our own interests. In the name of God, those scribes covered-up their own vanity, and even worse, they used religion to cultivate their own affairs, abusing their authority and exploiting the poor. Here we see that very bad attitude that we see in many places today, clericalism, this being above the humble, exploiting them, demeaning them, considering oneself perfect. This is the evil of clericalism. This is a warning for all time and for everyone, Church and society: never to take advantage of a specific role to crush others, never to make money off the backs of the weakest! And to watch out so as not to fall into vanity, so as not to be fixated on appearances, losing what is essential and living superficially. Let us ask ourselves, it will help us: do we want to be appreciated and gratified by what we say and what we do, or rather to be of service to God and neighbour, especially the weakest? We must be watch out for falsehood of the heart, against hypocrisy which is a dangerous illness of the soul! It is a dualism of thought, a dual judgement, as the word itself says: “to judge below”, to appear one way and “hypo”, beneath, to think in a different way. Doubles, people with double souls, a duality of the soul.
To heal this illness, Jesus invites us to watch the poor widow. The Lord denounces the exploitation of this woman, who, in making her offering, must return home without even the little she had to live on. How important it is to free the sacred from ties with money! Jesus had already said it elsewhere: you cannot serve two masters. Either you serve God - and we think he says “or the devil”, no - either God or money. He is a master, and Jesus says we must not serve him. But, at the same time, Jesus praises the fact that this widow puts all she has into the treasury. She has nothing left, but finds her everything in God. She is not afraid of losing the little she has because she trusts in God’s abundance, and God’s abundance multiplies the joy of those who give. This also makes us think of that other widow, the one of the prophet Elijah, who was about to make a flatbread with the last of her flour and the last of her oil; Elijah says to her: “Feed me” and she gives; and the flour never runs out, it is a miracle (cf. 1 Kings 17:9-16). The Lord always, in the face of people’s generosity, goes further, is more generous. But it is He, not our avarice. This is why Jesus proposes her as a teacher of faith, this woman: she does not go to the Temple to clear her conscience, she does not pray to make herself seen, she does not show off her faith, but she gives from her heart generously and freely. The sound of her few coins is more beautiful than the grandiose offerings of the rich, since they express a life sincerely dedicated to God, a faith that does not live by appearances but by unconditional trust. Let us learn from her: a faith without external frills, but interiorly sincere; a faith composed of humble love for God and for our brothers and sisters.
And now let us turn to the Virgin Mary, who with a humble and transparent heart made her entire life a gift for God and for his people.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
The days of the Easter Octave are like a single day in which the joy of the Resurrection is prolonged. Thus, the Gospel of today’s liturgy continues to tell us about the Risen One, his appearance to the women who went to the tomb (cf. Mt 28:8-15). Jesus goes to meet them and greets them. Then the Lord says two things, two pieces of advice that would be good also for us to welcome as an Easter gift.
The first is he reassures them with simple words: “Do not be afraid” (v. 10). The Lord knows that our fears are our daily enemies. He also knows that our fears hide from the great fear, that of death: fear of fading away, of losing loved ones, of being sick, of not being able to cope further... But at Easter Jesus conquered death. So, no one else can tell us in a more convincing way: “Do not be afraid.” The Lord says this right there next to the tomb from which he came out victorious. He invites us to come out of the tomb of our fears. Listen closely: come out of the tombs of our fears, since our fears are like tombs, they bury us. He knows that fear is always lurking at the door of our heart, and we need to hear ourselves say do not be afraid, fear not on Easter morning as on the morning of every day, “do not be afraid.” Take courage. Brother, sister, who believe in Christ, do not be afraid! Jesus says: “I tasted death for you, I took your pain upon myself. Now I have risen to tell you: I am here with you forever. Do not be afraid!” Fear not.
But how can we combat fear? The second thing Jesus tells the women can help us: “Go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” (v. 10) Go and tell. Fear always closes us in on ourselves, while Jesus instead makes us go forth and sends us to others. This is the solution. We might say to ourselves, but I am not capable of doing this! But just think, the women were not perhaps the most suitable and prepared to proclaim the resurrection, but that did not matter to the Lord. He cares that we go forth and proclaim. Go and tell. Because the Easter joy is not to be kept to oneself. The joy of Christ is strengthened by giving it, it multiplies sharing it. If we open ourselves and bear the Gospel, our hearts will open and overcome fear. This is the secret: we proclaim and overcome fear.
Today’s text recounts that proclamation can encounter an obstacle: falsehood. The Gospel narrates a “counter-proclamation,” that of the soldiers who guarded the tomb of Jesus. The Gospel says they were paid “a sum of money” (v. 12), a good sum, and received these instructions: “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’” (v. 13) ‘You were sleeping? Did you see during your sleep how they stole the body?’ There is a contradiction there, but a contradiction that everyone believes because money was involved. It is the power of money, the other lord that Jesus says we must never serve. Here is the falsehood, the logic of concealment that opposes the proclamation of truth. It is a reminder for us also: falsehoods – in words and in life – they taint the announcement, they corrupt within, leading back to the tomb. Falsehoods take us backwards, they lead right to death, to the tomb. The Risen One instead wants us to come out of the tombs of falsehood and dependency. Before the Risen Lord, there is another “god” – the god of money that dirties and ruins everything, that closes the door to salvation. This is present everywhere in daily life with the temptation to adore the god of money.
Dear brothers and sisters, rightfully we are scandalized when in the news we discover deceit and lies in the lives of persons and society. But let us give a name also to the obscurity and falsehoods we have in ourselves! And let us place our own darkness and falsehoods before the light of the Risen Jesus. He wants to bring hidden things to light to make us transparent and luminous witnesses to the joy of the Gospel, of the truth that will make you free (cf Jn 8:32).
May Mary, Mother of the Risen One, help us overcome our fears and give us passion for the truth.