Pope Francis General Audience 05.10.22

Knowing yourself

Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Let us continue to explore the theme of discernment. Last time we considered prayer, understood as familiarity and confidence with God, as its indispensable element. Prayer, not like parrots. No: prayer as familiarity and confidence with God; prayer of the sons of the Father; prayer with an open heart. We saw this in the last Catechesis. Today I would like, in an almost complementary way, to emphasize that good discernment also requires self-knowledge. Self-knowledge. And this is not easy, eh! Indeed, it involves our human faculties: memory, intellect, will, affections. Often, we do not know how to discern because we do not know ourselves well enough, and so we do not know what we really want. You have heard many times: “But that person, why doesn’t he sort out his life? He has never known what he wants…”. And then, yes, his life goes like that, because not even he knows what he wants. Without arriving at that extreme, it happens to us too that we do not know clearly what we want, we do not know ourselves well.

Underlying spiritual doubts and vocational crises, there is not infrequently an insufficient dialogue between religious life and our human, cognitive and affective dimension. A writer on spirituality noted how many difficulties on the theme of discernment are indicative of problems of another kind, which must be recognized and explored. This author writes: “I have come to the conviction that the greatest obstacle to true discernment (and to real growth in prayer) is not the intangible nature of God, but the fact that we do not know ourselves sufficiently, and do not even want to know ourselves as we really are. Almost all of us hide behind a mask, not only in front of others, but also when we look in the mirror” (TH. GREEN, Weeds Among the Wheat, 1992). We all have the temptation to wear a mask, even in front of ourselves.

Forgetfulness of God’s presence in our life goes hand in hand with ignorance of ourselves – ignoring God and ignoring ourselves – ignorance of our personality traits and our deepest desires.

Knowing oneself is not difficult, but it is laborious: it implies patient soul-searching. It requires the capacity to stop, to “deactivate the autopilot”, to acquire awareness of our way of acting, of the feelings that dwell within us, of the recurrent thoughts that condition us, and often unconsciously. It also requires that we distinguish between emotions and spiritual faculties. “I feel” is not the same as “I am convinced”; “I feel like” is not the same as “I want”. Thus, we come to recognize that the view we have of ourselves and of reality is at times somewhat distorted. To realize this is a grace! Indeed, very often it can happen that erroneous convictions about reality, based on past experiences, strongly influence us, limiting our freedom to strive for what really matters in our lives.

Living in the age of information technology, we know how important it is to know the password in order to get into the programmes where the most personal and valuable information is stored. But spiritual life, too, has its “passwords”: there are words that touch the heart because they refer to what we are most sensitive too. The tempter, that is, the devil, knows these passwords well, and its important that we know them too, so as not to find ourselves where we do not want to be. Temptation does not necessarily suggest bad things, but often haphazard things, presented with excessive importance. In this way it hypnotizes us with the attraction that these things stir in us, things that are beautiful but illusory, that cannot deliver what they promise, and therefore leave us in the end with a sense of emptiness and sadness. That sense of emptiness and sadness is a sign that we have embarked on a path that was not right, that has disoriented us. They can be, for example, degrees, careers, relationships, all things that are in themselves praiseworthy, but towards which, if we are not free, we risk harbouring unreal expectations, such as confirmation of our worth. For example, when you think of a study you are undertaking, do you think only of promoting yourself, for your own interests, or also to serve the community? There, one can see the intentionality of each one of us. From this misunderstanding often comes the greatest suffering, because none of those things can be the guarantee of our dignity.

This is why, dear brothers and sisters, it is important to know ourselves, to know the passwords of our heart, what we are most sensitive to, in order to protect ourselves from those who present themselves with persuasive words to manipulate us, but also to recognize what is truly important for us, distinguishing it from current fads or flashy, superficial slogans. Many times, what is said in a television programme, in some advertisement that is made, touches our hearts and makes us go that way without freedom. Be careful about that: am I free, or do I let myself be swayed by the feelings of the moment, or the provocations of the moment?

An aid in this is examination of conscience, but I am not talking about the examination of conscience that we all do when we go to confession, no. This is: “But I sinned in this, that…”. No. A general examination of conscience of the day: what happened in my heart in this day? “Lots of things happened…”. Which? Why? What traces did they leave in my heart? Carrying out an examination of conscience, that is, the good habit of calmly rereading what happens in our day, learning to learn to note in our evaluations and choices what we give most importance to, what we are looking for and why, and what we eventually find. Above all, learning to recognize what satiates the heart. What satiates my heart? For only the Lord can give us confirmation of what we are worth. He tells us this every day from the cross: he died for us, to show us how precious we are in his eyes. There is no obstacle or failure that can prevent his tender embrace. The examination of conscience helps a great deal, because in this way we see that our heart is not a road where everything passes without us knowing about it. No. To see: what passed by today? What happened? What made me react? What made me sad? What made me joyful? What was bad, and did I harm others? Seeing the route our feelings took, the attractions in my heart during the day. Don’t forget! The other day we talked about prayer; today we are talking about self-awareness.

Prayer and self-knowledge enable us to grow in freedom. This is to grow in freedom! They are basic elements of Christian existence, precious elements for finding one’s place in life. Thank you.

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Pope Francis Angelus 02.10.22

The war in Ukraine

Excerpt below, for the full transcript of the Angelus click on the picture link above

The course of the war in Ukraine has become so serious, devastating and threatening, as to cause great concern. Therefore, today I would like to devote the entire reflection before the Angelus to this. Indeed, this terrible and inconceivable wound to humanity, instead of healing, continues to shed even more blood, risking to spread further.

I am saddened by the rivers of blood and tears spilled in these months. I am saddened by the thousands of victims, especially children, and the destruction which has left many people and families homeless and threaten vast territories with cold and hunger. Certain actions can never be justified, never! It is disturbing that the world is learning the geography of Ukraine through names such as Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Izium, Zaparizhzhia and other areas, which have become places of indescribable suffering and fear. And what about the fact that humanity is once again faced with the atomic threat? It is absurd.

What is to happen next? How much blood must still flow for us to realize that war is never a solution, only destruction? In the name of God and in the name of the sense of humanity that dwells in every heart, I renew my call for an immediate ceasefire. Let there be a halt to arms, and let us seek the conditions for negotiations that will lead to solutions that are not imposed by force, but consensual, just and stable. And they will be so if they are based on respect for the sacrosanct value of human life, as well as the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each country, and the rights of minorities and legitimate concerns.

I deeply deplore the grave situation that has arisen in recent days, with further actions contrary to the principles of international law. It increases the risk of nuclear escalation, giving rise to fears of uncontrollable and catastrophic consequences worldwide.

My appeal is addressed first and foremost to the President of the Russian Federation, imploring him to stop this spiral of violence and death, also for the sake of his own people. On the other hand, saddened by the immense suffering of the Ukrainian people as a result of the aggression they have suffered, I address an equally confident appeal to the President of Ukraine to be open to serious proposals for peace. I urge all the protagonists of international life and the political leaders of nations to do everything possible to bring an end to the war, without allowing themselves to be drawn into dangerous escalations, and to promote and support initiatives for dialogue. Please let the younger generations breathe the salutary air of peace, not the polluted air of war, which is madness!

After seven months of hostilities, let us use all diplomatic means, even those that may not have been used so far, to bring an end to this terrible tragedy. War in itself is an error and a horror!

Let us trust in the mercy of God, who can change hearts, and in the maternal intercession of the Queen of Peace, as we raise our Supplication to Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompei, spiritually united with the faithful gathered at her Shrine and in so many parts of the world.


Pope Francis General Audience 28.09.22

Familiarity with the Lord

Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

We resume our catecheses on the theme of discernment — because the theme of discernment is very important in order to know what is going on within us, to know about our feelings and ideas, we have to discern where they come from, where they lead me, to what decisions — and today we focus on the first of its constituent elements, which is prayer. To discern we need to be in an environment, in a state of prayer.

Prayer is an indispensable aid for spiritual discernment, especially when it involves the affective dimension, enabling us to address God with simplicity and familiarity, as one would speak to a friend. It is knowing how to go beyond thoughts, to enter into intimacy with the Lord, with an affectionate spontaneity. The secret of the lives of the saints is familiarity and confidence with God, which grows in them and makes it ever easier to recognize what is pleasing to Him. True prayer is familiarity with and confidence in God. It is not reciting prayers like a parrot, blah, blah, blah, no. True prayer is this spontaneity and affection for the Lord. This familiarity overcomes fear or doubt that His will is not for our good, a temptation that sometimes runs through our thoughts and makes our heart restless and uncertain, or even bitter.

Discernment does not claim absolute certainty, it is not a chemically pure method, it does not claim absolute certainty, because it is about life, and life is not always logical, it has many aspects that cannot be enclosed in one category of thought. We would like to know precisely what should be done, yet even when it happens, we do not always act accordingly. How many times have we, too, had the experience described by the apostle Paul, who says: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want” (Rom. 7:19). We are not just reason, we are not machines, it is not enough to be given instructions to carry them out: the obstacles, like the supports, to deciding for the Lord are primarily affective, from the heart.

It is significant that the first miracle performed by Jesus in Mark's Gospel is an exorcism (cf. 1:21-28). In the synagogue at Capernaum He delivers a man from the devil, freeing him from the false image of God that Satan has been suggesting since the beginning: that of a God who does not want our happiness. The possessed man in that passage of the Gospel knows that Jesus is God, but this does not lead him to believe in Him. In fact, he says, "You have come to ruin us" (v. 24).

Many people, even Christians, think the same thing: that is, that Jesus may well be the Son of God, but they doubt that He wants our happiness; indeed, some fear that taking his proposal seriously, that which Jesus proposes to us, means ruining our lives, mortifying our desires, our strongest aspirations. These thoughts sometimes creep up inside us: that God asks too much of us, we fear that God asks too much of us, that He doesn't really love us. Instead, in our first encounter we saw that the sign of meeting the Lord is joy. When I encounter the Lord in prayer, I become joyful. Each one of us becomes joyful, a beautiful thing. Sadness, or fear, on the other hand, are signs of distance from God: “If you would enter life, keep the commandments,” Jesus says to the rich young man (Mt 19:17). Unfortunately for that young man, some obstacles did not allow him to implement the desire in his heart to follow the "good teacher" more closely. He was an interested, enterprising young man, he had taken the initiative to meet Jesus, but he was also very divided in his affections, for him riches were too important. Jesus does not force him to make up his mind, but the text notes that the young man turns away from Jesus “sad” (v. 22). Those who turn away from the Lord are never happy, even though they have an abundance of possessions and possibilities at their disposal. Jesus never forces you to follow Him, never. Jesus lets you know His will, with all His heart He lets you know things, but He leaves you free. And this is the most beautiful thing about prayer with Jesus: the freedom that He allows you. On the other hand, when we distance ourselves from the Lord, we are left with something sad, something ugly in our heart.

Discerning what is happening within us is not easy, for appearances are deceptive, but familiarity with God can melt doubts and fears in a gentle way, making our lives increasingly receptive to His “gentle light,” according to the beautiful expression of Saint John Henry Newman. The saints shine with reflected light and show in the simple gestures of their day the loving presence of God, who makes the impossible possible. It is said that two spouses who have lived together for so long loving each other end up resembling each other. Something similar can be said about affective prayer: in a gradual but effective way it makes us more and more able to recognize what counts through connaturality, as something that springs from the depths of our being. To be in prayer does not mean saying words, words, no: being in prayer means opening my heart to Jesus, drawing close to Jesus, allowing Jesus to enter into my heart and making us feel His presence. And there we can discern when it is Jesus and when it is us with our thoughts, that so many times are far from what Jesus wants.

Let us ask for this grace: to live a relationship of friendship with the Lord, as a friend speaks to a friend (cf. St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, 53). I knew an old religious brother who was the doorman of a boarding school, and every time he could he would approach the chapel, look at the altar, and say, “Hello,” because he was close to Jesus. He didn't need to say blah blah blah, no: “Hello, I am close to you and you are close to me.” This is the relationship we must have in prayer: closeness, affective closeness, as brothers and sisters, closeness with Jesus. A smile, a simple gesture, and not reciting words that do not reach the heart. As I said, talk to Jesus as a friend talks to another friend. It is a grace we must ask for one another: to see Jesus as our friend, as our greatest friend, our faithful friend, who does not blackmail, above all who never abandons us, even when we turn away from Him. He remains at the door of our heart. “No, with you I don’t want to know anything,” we say. And He remains silent, He remains close at hand, at heart’s reach because He is always faithful. Let us go forward with this prayer, we could say the prayer of “Ciao,” the prayer of greeting the Lord with our heart, the prayer of affection, the prayer of closeness, with few words but with acts and good works. Thank you.

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Pope Francis Eucharistic Concelebration 25.09.22

National Eucharistic Congress, Matera, Italy

The Lord gathers us around his table, making himself bread for us. “The bread of the feast on the table of the sons creates sharing, strengthens bonds, has the flavour of communion” (Hymn XVII, National Eucharistic Congress, Matera 2022). And yet, the Gospel we have just listened to tells us that bread is not always shared on the world table: this is true; the fragrance of communion does not always emanate; it is not always broken in justice.

It is good for us to pause before the dramatic scene described by Jesus in this parable we have listened to: on one side a rich man dressed in purple and byssus, who flaunts his opulence and banquets lavishly; on the other, a poor man covered in sores, who lies at the door hoping that some crumbs will fall from the table to assuage his hunger. And faced with this contradiction – which we see every day – before this contradiction, we wonder: to what does the sacrament of the Eucharist, source and apex of Christian life, invite us?

Firstly, the Eucharist reminds us of God’s primacy. The rich man in the parable is not open to the relationship with God: he thinks only of his own wellbeing, of satisfying his needs, of enjoying life. And in so doing he has lost his name. The Gospel does not say what he is called: he is named with the adjective “rich”, whereas it gives the poor man’s name: Lazarus. Riches bring you to this, they even strip you of your name. Self-satisfied, inebriated with money, dulled by the pride of vanity, in his life there is no place for God because he worships only himself. It is not by chance that his name is not given: they call him “rich”, they define him only with an adjective because by now he has lost his name, he has lost his identity that is given to him only by the goods he possesses. How sad this situation is, also today, when we confuse what we are with what we have, when we judge people by the wealth they have, the roles they hold, or the brand of clothing they wear. It is the religion of having and appearing, which often dominates the scene in this world, but which in the end leaves us empty-handed, always. Indeed, this rich man in the Gospel is not even left with a name. He is no longer anyone. On the contrary, the poor man has a name, Lazarus, which means “God helps”. Despite his condition of poverty and marginalization, he is able to keep his dignity intact because he lives in a relationship with God. In his very name there is something of God, and God is the unshakeable hope of his life.

Here then is the ongoing challenge that the Eucharist offers to our lives: to worship God and not ourselves. To put him at the centre, and not the vanity of self. To remind ourselves that only the Lord is God and everything else is a gift of his love. Because if we worship ourselves, we die suffocated by our small selves; if we worship the riches of this world, they take possession of us and make us slaves; if we worship the god of appearance and inebriate ourselves in wastefulness, sooner or later life itself will ask us for the bill. Life always asks us for the bill. When, on the other hand, we adore the Lord Jesus present in the Eucharist, we also receive a new outlook on our lives: I am not the things I possess or the successes I manage to achieve; the value of my life does not depend on how much I can show off, nor does it diminish when I falter and fail. I am a beloved child, each one of us is a beloved child; I am blessed by God; He wanted to clothe me with beauty and He wants me free, He wants me free from all slavery. Let us remember this: he who worships God does not become a slave to anyone: he is free. Let us rediscover the prayer of adoration, a prayer that is often forgotten. Worship, the prayer of adoration, let us rediscover it: it frees us and restores us to our dignity as sons and daughters, not slaves.

Besides God’s primacy, the Eucharist calls us to love our brothers and sisters. This Bread is the quintessential Sacrament of love. It is Christ who offers himself and breaks himself for us, and asks us to do likewise, so that our life may be ground wheat and become bread to feed the hungry. The rich man of the Gospel fails in this task: he lives in opulence and banquets abundantly without even being aware of the silent cry of poor Lazarus, who lies exhausted at his door. Only at the end of life, when the Lord turns the tables, does he finally notice Lazarus, but Abraham tells him, “Between you and us a great chasm has been fixed” (Lk 16:26). But you fixed it: yourself. This is us, when in selfishness we create abysses. It was the rich man who dug an abyss between himself and Lazarus during earthly life and now, in eternal life, that abyss remains. Because our eternal future depends on this present life: if we now dig an abyss with our brothers and sisters now, we “dig our own grave” for later; if we raise walls against our brothers and sisters now, we remain imprisoned in solitude and death afterwards too.

Dear brothers and sisters, it is painful to see that this parable is still the story of our times: injustices, disparities, the earth’s resources distributed unequally, the abuses perpetrated by the powerful against the weak, indifference to the cry of the poor, the abyss that we dig every day, generating marginalization – all these things cannot leave us indifferent. And so today, together, let us acknowledge that the Eucharist is the prophecy of a new world, it is the presence of Jesus who asks us to work to make an effective conversion take place: conversion from indifference to compassion, conversion from waste to sharing, conversion from selfishness to love, conversion from individualism to fraternity.

Brothers and sisters, let us dream. Let us dream of such a Church: a Eucharistic Church. Made up of women and men who offer themselves as bread for all those who are fed loneliness and poverty, for those who hunger for tenderness and compassion, for those whose lives are crumbling because the good leaven of hope has been lacking. A Church that kneels before the Eucharist and worships with awe the Lord present in the bread; but which also knows how to bend with compassion and tenderness before the wounds of those who suffer, lifting up the poor, wiping away the tears of those who suffer, making itself the bread of hope and joy for all. Because there is no true Eucharistic worship without compassion for the many “Lazaruses” who even today walk beside us. There are so many of them!

Brothers, sisters, from this city of Matera, “city of bread”, I would like to say to you: let us return to Jesus, let us return to the Eucharist. Let us return to the taste of bread, because while we hunger for love and hope, or are broken by the hardships and sufferings of life, Jesus makes himself the nourishment that feeds and heals us. Let us return to the flavour of bread, because while injustice and discrimination against the poor continue to take place in the world, Jesus gives us the Bread of Sharing and sends us out daily as apostles of fraternity, apostles of justice, apostles of peace. Let us return to the taste of bread to be a Eucharistic Church, which puts Jesus at the centre and becomes the bread of tenderness, the bread of mercy for all. Let us return to the taste of bread to remember that while this earthly existence of ours is being consumed, the Eucharist anticipates the promise of the resurrection and guides us towards the new life that conquers death.

Let us think seriously today about the rich man and Lazarus. It happens every day, this. And very often also – shame on us – it happens in us, this battle between us, in the community. And when hope is extinguished and we feel within us the loneliness of the heart, inner weariness, the torment of sin, the fear of failure, let us again return to the taste of bread. We are all sinners: each one of us bears his or her own sins. But, sinners, let us return to the taste of the Eucharist, the taste of bread. Let us return to Jesus, let us worship Jesus, let us welcome Jesus. Because he is the only one who defeats death and always renews our life.


Pope Francis Angelus 25.09.22

National Eucharistic Congress, Matera

Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

At the end of this celebration, I would like to thank all of you who have taken part, representing the holy People of God in Italy. And I am grateful to Cardinal Zuppi, who acted as its spokesperson. I congratulate the diocesan community of Matera-Irsina for the organizational and welcoming effort, and I thank everyone who collaborated in this Eucharistic Congress.

Now, before concluding, let us turn to the Virgin Mary, Eucharistic Woman. We entrust to her the journey of the Church in Italy, so that in every community the fragrance of Christ the living Bread descended from Heaven may be felt. Today I would dare to ask for Italy: more births, more children. And we invoke her maternal intercession for the world's most urgent needs.

I think, in particular, of Myanmar. For more than two years that noble country has been martyred by serious armed clashes and violence, which have caused many victims and displaced persons. This week I heard the cry of grief at the death of children in a bombed school. We see that in today’s world there is a trend for bombing schools. May the cry of these little ones not go unheard! These tragedies must not happen!

Mary, Queen of Peace, comfort the martyred Ukrainian people and obtain from the heads of Nations the strength of will immediately to find effective initiatives to bring the war to an end.

I join in the appeal of the bishops of Cameroon for the liberation of some people kidnapped in the diocese of Mamfe, including five priests and a religious sister. I pray for them and for the populations of the ecclesiastical province of Bamenda: may the Lord give peace to hearts and to the social life of that dear country.

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Pope Francis Message for the 108th World Day of Migrants and Refugees 25.09.22

Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Today, this Sunday, the Church celebrates World Day of Migrants and Refugees, on the theme: “Building the future with migrants and refugees”. Let us renew our commitment to building the future in accordance with God’s plan: a future in which every person may find his or her place and be respected; in which migrants, refugees, displaced persons and the victims of human trafficking may live in peace and with dignity. So that the Kingdom of God is realized with them, without exclusion. It is also thanks to those brothers and sisters that communities can grow on a social, economic, cultural and spiritual level; and the sharing of diverse traditions enriches the People of God. Let us all work together to build a more inclusive and fraternal future! Migrants must be welcomed, accompanied, supported and integrated.

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Pope Francis General Audience 21.09.22

The Apostolic Journey in Kazakhstan

Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Last week, from Tuesday to Thursday, I travelled to Kazakhstan, a vast country in Central Asia, for the Seventh Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. I renew my gratitude to the President of the Republic and the other Authorities of Kazakhstan for the cordial welcome I was given and for the generous efforts in organizing it. I also sincerely thank the Bishops and all the collaborators for the great work they have done, and especially for the joy they have given me in being able to meet and see them all together.

As I said, the main reason for the trip was to take part in the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. This initiative has been carried out for 20 years by the Authorities of the country, which presents itself to the world as a place of meeting and dialogue, in this case at the religious level, and thus as a leading player in promoting peace and human brotherhood. It was the seventh edition of this congress. A country that has been independent for 30 years has already had seven editions of these congresses, one every three years. This means putting religions at the center of efforts to build a world where we listen to each other and respect each other in diversity. And this is not relativism, no, it is listening and respecting. And credit for this must be given to the Kazakh government, which, having freed itself from the yoke of the atheistic regime, now proposes a path of civilization, clearly condemning fundamentalism and extremism. It is a balanced position and one of unity.

The Congress discussed and approved the Final Declaration, which stands in continuity with the one signed in Abu Dhabi in February 2019 on human fraternity. I like to interpret this step forward as the fruit of a journey that starts from afar: I am thinking, of course, of the historic Interfaith Meeting for Peace convened by St. John Paul II in Assisi in 1986, much criticized by people who lacked vision; I am thinking of the far-sighted gaze of St. John XXIII and St. Paul VI; and also that of great souls of other religions – I limit myself to recalling Mahatma Gandhi. But how can we not remember so many martyrs, men and women of all ages, languages and nations, who paid with their lives for their fidelity to the God of peace and fraternity? We know: solemn moments are important, but then it is the daily commitment, it is the concrete witness that builds a better world for all.

In addition to the Congress, this trip gave me the opportunity to meet the Authorities of Kazakhstan and the Church living there.

After visiting the President of the Republic – who I thank again for his kindness – we went to the new Concert Hall, where I was able to speak to the political Leaders, representatives of civil society, and the Diplomatic Corps. I emphasized Kazakhstan’s vocation to be a country of encounter: in fact, about one hundred and fifty ethnic groups – one hundred and fifty ethnic groups! – coexist there and more than eighty languages are spoken. This vocation, which is due to its geographical characteristics and history – this vocation of being a country of encounter, of culture, of language – has been welcomed and embraced as a path, which deserves to be encouraged and supported. I hoped as well that the construction of an increasingly mature democracy, capable of effectively responding to the needs of society as a whole, could continue. This is an arduous task, which takes time, but already it must be acknowledged that Kazakhstan has made very positive choices, such as saying “no” to nuclear weapons and making good energy and environmental policies. This was courageous. At a time when this tragic war brings us to the point where some people are thinking of nuclear weapons, that madness, this country says “no” to nuclear weapons from the very beginning

As for the Church, I was so glad to meet a community of happy, joyful people filled with enthusiasm. Catholics are few in that vast country. But this condition, if lived with faith, can bring evangelical fruits: first of all, the blessedness of littleness, of being leaven, salt, and light relying solely on the Lord and not on some form of human relevance. Moreover, numerical scarcity invites the development of relationships with Christians of other denominations, and also fraternity with all. So a small flock, yes, but open, not closed, not defensive, open and trusting in the action of the Holy Spirit, who blows freely where and how He wills. We also remembered that grey part, the martys, the martyrs of that holy People of God, because they suffered decades of atheistic oppression, until liberation thirty years ago, men and women who suffered so much for the faith during the long period of persecution. Murdered, tortured, imprisoned for the faith.

With this small but joyful flock, we celebrated the Eucharist, also at Nur Sultan, in the Expo 2017 plaza, surrounded by ultra-modern architecture. It was the feast of the Holy Cross. And this leads us to reflect: in a world in which progress and regression are intertwined, the Cross of Christ remains the anchor of salvation: a sign of hope that does not disappoint because it is founded on the love of God, merciful and faithful. Our gratitude goes out to Him for this journey, as does our prayer that it will be rich in fruit for the future of Kazakhstan and for the life of the pilgrim Church in that land. Thank you.

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Pope Francis Angelus 18.09.22

How we use material goods

Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

The parable in the Gospel of today's liturgy (cf. Lk 16:1-13) seems a bit difficult to understand for us. Jesus tells a story about corruption: a dishonest manager who steals, and then after being discovered by his master, acts shrewdly to get out of the situation. We ask ourselves: what is this shrewdness of the corrupt manager about and what does Jesus want to tell us?

In this story we see how the corrupt manager ends up in trouble because he took advantage of his master's property. Now he must give an account, and he will lose his job. But he does not give up, he does not resign himself to his fate and does not play the victim. On the contrary, he acts immediately with shrewdness, he looks for a solution and is creative. Jesus uses this story as a way to put before us a provocation when he says: "The children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light." (v. 8) It happens that those who move in darkness, by certain worldly standards, know how to get by even when in trouble, they know how to be more shrewd than others. Instead, Jesus' disciples, namely ourselves, sometimes have fallen asleep or are naive, not knowing how to take the initiative to find ways out of difficulties (cf. Evangelii gaudium, 24). For example, I am thinking of times of personal or social crisis, but also of Church crisis: sometimes we allow discouragement to overcome us or we start to complain and play the victim. Instead, Jesus says we can also be clever in following the Gospel, awake and attentive to discern reality and be creative to find good solutions for us and others.

But there is another teaching that Jesus gives us. Indeed, what is the shrewdness of the manager about we ask? He decides to give a discount to those who were in debt, and so they become his friends and he hopes they can help him when his master fires him. Before he was accumulating wealth for himself, but now he uses it in the same way by stealing to make friends who can help him in the future. Jesus then gives us a teaching on how we use material goods: "And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes." (v. 9). To inherit eternal life then, there is no need to accumulate goods in this world, but what matters is the love we will have expressed in our fraternal relations. This is what Jesus asks of us: do not use the goods of this world only for yourselves and selfishly, but use them to create friendship, to create good relationships, to act with charity, to promote fraternity and to show care for the weakest.

Brothers and sisters, even in our world today there are stories of corruption like the one in the Gospel: dishonest conduct, unfair policies, selfishness that dominates the choices of individuals and institutions, and many other murky situations. But we Christians are not allowed to become discouraged, or worse, to let go of things, remaining indifferent. On the contrary, we are called to be creative in doing good with the prudence and the cleverness of the Gospel, using the goods of this world, not only material but all of the gifts we have received from the Lord, not to enrich ourselves, but to generate fraternal love and social fellowship. This is very important: through our behaviour we can create social friendship.

Let us pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary so that she may help us be like herself poor in spirit and rich in works of charity for one another.

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Pope Francis Apostolic Journey to Kazakhstan 15.09.22

Reading of the Final Declaration and Conclusion of the Congress at the "Palace of Peace and Reconciliation", Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan

Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

We have travelled this road together, and I thank you for coming from so many different parts of the world and for bringing with you the richness of your beliefs and cultures. Thank you for having taken part so intensely in these days of work, commitment and sharing in the service of dialogue. This is more valuable than ever in challenging times like our own, when the problems of the pandemic have been compounded by the utter folly of war. There are altogether too many cases of hatred and division, too little dialogue and effort to understand others. In our globalized world, this is all the more dangerous and scandalous. Our human family cannot advance if simultaneously united and divided, interconnected and torn apart by massive inequality. Thank you, then, for these efforts to build peace and unity. Our thanks go likewise to the local authorities, who hosted us and organized this Congress with great care, and to the hospitable and courageous people of Kazakhstan, capable of embracing other cultures while at the same time preserving their own noble history and precious traditions.

The motto of my Visit, now drawing to an end, has been “Messengers of Peace and Unity”. It is deliberately in the plural, for all of us are on a common journey. This Seventh Congress, in which we have taken part by the grace of the Almighty, has marked an important step on this shared itinerary.

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Pope Francis Apostolic Journey to Kazakhstan 15.09.22

Meeting with Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Consecrated Persons, Seminarians and Pastoral Workers in Our Lady Of Perpetual Help Cathedral, Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan

Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

I am pleased to be with you, to greet the Bishops’ Conference of Central Asia and to encounter a Church of so many different faces, histories and traditions, all united by our one faith in Christ Jesus. I thank Bishop Mumbiela Sierra for his kind words of greeting, in which he stated that “most of us are foreigners”. That is true, since you come from various places and countries. Yet the beauty of the Church comes from the fact that we are one family, in which no one is a stranger. Let me repeat: in the Church, no one is a stranger! We are the one holy People of God, enriched by a multitude of peoples! The strength of this priestly and holy people lies precisely in its ability to draw richness from this diversity, by sharing with one another who we are and what we have. Indeed, our “littleness” is magnified when it is shared.

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Pope Francis Holy Mass 14.09.22

in the Expo grounds, Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

The cross is a gibbet of death. Yet today we celebrate the exaltation of the cross of Christ, for on its wood Jesus took upon himself all our sin and the evil of our world, and vanquished them by his love. That is why we celebrate today’s Feast. The word of God that we have just heard tells us how, by contrasting serpents that bite with a serpent that saves. Let us reflect on these two images.

First, serpents that bite. These serpents attacked the people who had fallen once more into the sin of speaking against God. Such speaking against God was more than simply grumbling and complaining; on a deeper level, it was a sign that in their hearts the Israelites had lost their trust in him and his promises. As God’s people were making their way through the desert towards the promised land, they grew weary and could no longer endure the journey (cf. Num 21:4). They grew discouraged; they lost hope, and, at a certain point, they even seemed to forget the Lord’s promise. They lacked even the strength to believe that the Lord himself was guiding them towards a land of plenty.

It is no coincidence that, once the people no longer trusted in God, they were bitten by deadly serpents. We are reminded of the first serpent mentioned in the Bible, in the Book of Genesis: the tempter, who poisoned the hearts of Adam and Eve and made them doubt God. The devil, in the form of a serpent, tricked them and sowed seeds of distrust in them, convincing them that God is not good, and is even envious of their freedom and happiness. Now, in the desert, serpents reappear, this time as “fiery serpents” (v. 6). In other words, original sin returns: the Israelites doubt God; they do not trust him; they complain and they rebel against the one who gave them life, and so they meet their death. That is where distrustful hearts end up!

Dear brothers and sisters, this first part of the narrative asks us to examine closely those moments in our own personal and community lives when our trust in the Lord and one another has failed. How often have we grown dry, disheartened and impatient in our own personal deserts, and lost sight of our journey’s goal! Here too, in this vast country, there is a desert. For all its great natural beauty, it can also remind us of the weariness and aridity that we at times bear in our hearts. Moments of fatigue and trial, when we no longer have the strength to look up towards God. Situations in our lives when, as individuals, as Church and as a society, we can be bitten by the serpent of distrust, poisoned by disillusionment and despair, pessimism and resignation, and caught up only with ourselves, lacking all enthusiasm.

Yet this land has experienced other kinds of painful “bites” in its history. I think of the fiery serpents of violence, atheistic persecution and all those troubled times when people’s freedom was threatened and their dignity offended. We do well to keep alive the memory of those sufferings and not forget certain grim moments; otherwise, we can consider them water under the bridge and think that now, once and for all, we are on the right road. No. Peace is never achieved once and for all; like integral development, social justice and the harmonious coexistence of different ethnic groups and religious traditions, it must be achieved anew each day. Commitment is demanded on the part of all if Kazakhstan is to keep growing in “fraternity, dialogue and understanding… building bridges of solidarity and cooperation with other peoples, nations and cultures”. Yet even before that, we need to renew our faith in the Lord: to look upwards, to look to him and to learn from his universal and crucified love.

And so we come to the second image: the serpent that saves. As the people are dying from the fiery serpents, God hears Moses’ prayer of intercession and tells him: “Make a fiery serpent and put it on a pole. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live” (Num 21:8). And indeed, “if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived” (v. 9). Yet, we might ask: Why did God not simply destroy those poisonous serpents instead of giving these detailed instructions to Moses? God’s way of acting reveals to us his way of dealing with evil, sin and distrust on the part of humanity. Then, as now, in the great spiritual battle that continues throughout history, God does not destroy the vile and worthless things that men and women choose to pursue. Poisonous serpents do not disappear; they are always there, lying in wait, ever ready to bite. What has changed then, what does God do?

Jesus tells us in the Gospel: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn 3:14-15). This is the decisive shift: the serpent that saves has now come among us. Jesus, lifted up on the pole of the cross, does not allow the poisonous serpents that attack us to cause our death. Confronting our misery, God gives us a new horizon: if we keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, the sting of evil can no longer prevail over us, for on the cross he took upon himself the venom of sin and death, and crushed their destructive power. That was the Father’s response to the spread of evil in the world: he gave us Jesus, who drew near to us in a way we could never have imagined. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin” (2 Cor 5:21). Such is the infinite grandeur of divine mercy: Jesus “became sin” for our sake. Jesus, we could say, on the cross “became a serpent”, so that by gazing upon him we might resist the poisonous bites of the evil serpents that assail us.

Brothers and sisters, this is the path, the path to our salvation, our rebirth and our resurrection: to behold the crucified Jesus. From the heights of the cross, we can view our life and the history of our peoples in a new way. For from the cross of Christ we learn love, not hatred; compassion, not indifference; forgiveness, not vengeance. The outstretched arms of Jesus are the embrace of tender love with which God wishes to embrace us. They show us the fraternal love that we are called to have for one another and for everyone. They show us the way, the Christian way. It is not the way of imposition and force, of power and status; it never brandishes the cross of Christ against our brothers and sisters for whom he gave his life! Jesus’ way, the way of salvation is different: it is the way of a humble gratuitous and universal love, with no “ifs”, “ands” or “buts”.

Yes, for on the wood of the cross Christ removed the venom from the serpent of evil. Being a Christian, then, means living without venom: not biting one another, not complaining, blaming and backbiting, not disseminating evil, not polluting the earth with the sin and distrust that comes from the evil one. Brothers and sisters, we have been reborn from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus. May we be free of the poison of death (cf. Wis 1:14), and pray that by God’s grace we can become ever more fully Christian: joyful witnesses of new life, love and peace.

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Pope Francis Apostolic Journey to Kazakhstan 14.09.22

Silent Prayer of the Religious Leaders, and Opening and Plenary Session of the "VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions" at the "Palace of Peace and Reconciliation", Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan

Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Let me address you in this direct and familiar way, as brothers and sisters. For that is how I would like to greet all of you – religious leaders and authorities, members of the diplomatic corps and of international organizations, representatives of academic and cultural institutions of civil society and various nongovernmental organizations – in the name of the fraternity that unites us as children of the same Heaven.

Before the mystery of the infinite that transcends and attracts us, the religions remind us that we are creatures; we are not omnipotent, but men and women journeying towards the same heavenly goal. Our shared nature as creatures thus gives rise to a common bond, an authentic fraternity. It makes us realize that the meaning of life cannot be reduced to our own individual interests, but is deeply linked to the fraternity that is part of our identity. We mature only with others and thanks to others.


Pope Francis Apostolic Journey to Kazakhstan 13.09.22

Meeting with the Authorities, Civil Society and the Diplomatic Corps at the "Qazaq Concert Hall", Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan

Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

I am honoured to be here with you, in this land as vast as it is ancient. I have come here as a pilgrim of peace, seeking dialogue and unity. Our world urgently needs peace: it needs to recover harmony. A harmony that, here in this country, can be illustrated by what I have learned is one of its traditional musical instruments: the dombra. The dombra is a hallmark of your culture and one of the most important symbols of Kazakhstan, so much so that a specific day was recently set aside to honour it. I would like to use the dombra as a starting-point for what I wish to share with you today.

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Pope Francis Angelus 11.09.22

God always awaits us with open arms

Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

The Gospel of today’s Liturgy presents us the three parables of mercy (cf. Lk 15, 4-32); this is what they are called because they show God’s merciful heart. Jesus tells them to respond to the grumblings of the pharisees and the scribes, who say: “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them” (v.2). They are scandalized because Jesus was among sinners. If for them this is religiously scandalous, Jesus, by welcoming sinners and eating with them, reveals to us that God is just like that: God excludes no one, he wants everyone at his banquet, because he loves everyone as his children: everyone, no-one excluded, everyone. The three parables, then, summarize the heart of the Gospel: God is the Father and comes in search of us whenever we are lost.

Indeed, the protagonists of the parables, who represent God, are a shepherd who searches for the lost sheep, a woman who finds the lost coin, and the father of the prodigal son. Let us dwell on an aspect that all these three protagonists have in common. All three of them essentially have something in common, which we might define thus: restlessness for something that is missing – whether you are missing a sheep, you are missing a coin, you are missing a son – the unease of missing something, all three protagonists of these parables are uneasy because they are missing something. All three, after all, if they were to calculate, could rest easy: the shepherd is missing a sheep, but he has ninety-nine others – “Let it be lost…”; the woman is missing a coin, but has nine others; and even the father has another son, obedient, to devote himself to – why think about the one who has gone off to live a dissolute life? Nonetheless, there is anxiety in their hearts – of the shepherd, the woman and the father – about what is missing: the sheep, the coin, the son who has gone away. One who loves is concerned about the one who is missing, longs for who is absent, seeks who is lost, await who has gone astray. For he wants no-one to be lost.

Brothers and sisters, God is like this: he does not “rest easy” if we stray from Him, he is grieved, He trembles in his innermost being; and he sets out to look for us, until He takes us back into his arms. The Lord does not calculate losses and risks; he has the heart of a father and a mother, and suffers for the lack of his beloved children. “But why does he suffer if this son is a scoundrel, if he has gone?” He suffers, he suffers. God suffers for our distance and when we go astray, he awaits our return. Remember: God always awaits us with open arms, whatever the situation in life in which we are lost may be. As a Psalm says, He will “neither slumber nor sleep”, he always watches over us (cf. 121, 4-5).

Let us look at ourselves now, and ask ourselves: do we imitate the Lord in this, that is, are we anxious about what is missing? Do we have nostalgia for those who are missing, who have drifted from Christian life? Do we carry this inner restlessness, or are we serene and undisturbed among ourselves? In other words, do we truly miss those who are missing from our communities, or do we pretend and not let it touch our hearts? Do I truly miss those who are missing in my life? Or are we comfortable among ourselves, calm and blissful in our groups – “I attend a very good apostolic group…” – without compassion for those who are far away? It is not a question merely of being “open to others”, it is the Gospel! The shepherd of the parable did not say, “I have another ninety-nine sheep, why should I waste time to go and look for the lost one?” Instead, he went to look. Let us then reflect on our relationships: do I pray for those who do not believe, who have drifted away, who are bitter? Do we attract those who are distant through the style of God, which is closeness, compassion and tenderness? The Father asks us to be attentive to the children he misses the most. Let us think of someone we know, who is close to us and has perhaps never heard anyone say, “You know, you are important to God”. “But I am in an irregular situation, I have done this bad thing, that one…”. “You are important to God”, say to him. “You are not searching for him, but he is searching for you”.

Let us – men and women with restless hearts – be troubled by these questions, and pray to Our Lady, mother who never tires of searching for and taking care of us, her children.

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Pope Francis General Audience 07.09.22

Do you know how to listen to your heart?

Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

We are continuing our reflection on discernment and for this it can help us to refer to a specific witness.

One of the most instructive examples is offered to us by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, with a decisive episode in his life. Ignatius is at home convalescing, after injuring a leg in battle. To dispel the boredom, he asks for something to read. He loves tales of chivalry, but unfortunately only the lives of saints can be found at home. Somewhat reluctantly he adapts, but in the course of reading he begins to discover another world, a world that conquers him and seems to compete with that of knights. He is fascinated by the figures of Saint Francis and Saint Dominic, and feels the desire to imitate them. But the world of chivalry also continues to exert its fascination on him. And so, within himself he feels within himself this alternation of thoughts – those of chivalry and those of the saints – which seem to equate to one another.

Ignatius, however, also begins to perceive some differences. In his Autobiography - in the third person - he writes: “When he thought of worldly things” – and of chivalrous things, one understands – “it gave him great pleasure, but afterward he found himself dry and sad. But when he thought of journeying to Jerusalem, and of living only on herbs and practicing austerities, he found pleasure not only while thinking of them, but also when he had ceased” (Chapter 8); they left him a trace of joy.

In this experience we note two aspects, above all. The first is time: that is, the thoughts of the world are attractive at the beginning, but then they lose their lustre and leave emptiness and discontent; they leave you that way, empty. Thoughts of God, on the contrary, rouse first a certain resistance – “But I’m not going to read this boring ting about saints” – but when they are welcomed, they bring an unknown peace that lasts for a long time.

Here, then, is the other aspect: the end point of thoughts. At first the situation does not seem so clear. There is a development of discernment: for example, we understand what is good for us not in an abstract, general way, but in the journey of our life. In the rules for discernment, the fruit of this fundamental experience, Ignatius lays down an important premise, which helps to understand this process: “In the persons who go from mortal sin to mortal sin, the enemy is commonly used to propose to them apparent pleasures” – to reassure them that everything is fine – “making them imagine sensual delights and pleasures in order to hold them more and make them grow in their vices and sins. In these persons the good spirit uses the opposite method, pricking them and biting their consciences through the process of reason” (Spiritual Exercises, 314). But this will not do.

There is a history that precedes one who discerns, a history that it is indispensable to know, because discernment is not a sort of oracle or fatalism, or something from a laboratory, like casting one’s lot on two possibilities. The great questions arise when we have already travelled a stretch of the road in life, and it is to that journey we must return to understand what we are looking for. If in life we make a little progress, then: “But why am I walking in this direction, what am I looking for?”, and that is where discernment takes place. Ignatius, when he found himself wounded in his father’s house, was not thinking of God at all, or of how to reform his own life, no. He had his first experience of God by listening to his own heart, which presented him with a curious reversal: things that were attractive at first sight left him disillusioned, whereas in others, less dazzling, he found lasting peace. We too have this experience; very often we begin to think about something, and we stay there, and then we end up disappointed. Instead, if we carry out a work of charity, do something good and feel something of happiness, a good thought comes to us, and happiness comes to us, something of joy, and it is an experience that is entirely our own. He, Ignatius, had his first experience of God by listening to his own heart, that showed him a curious reversal. This is what we must learn: to listen to our own heart, to know what is happening, what decision to make, to make a judgement on a situation, one must listen to one’s own heart. We listen to the television, the radio, the mobile phone; we are experts at listening, but I ask you: do you know how to listen to your heart? Do you stop to ask: “But how is my heart? Is it satisfied, is it sad, is it searching for something?”. To make good decisions, you need to listen to your heart.

This is why Ignatius will go on to suggest reading the lives of the saints, because they show the style of God in the life of people not very different to us, because the saints were made of flesh and blood like us, in a narrative, comprehensible way. Their actions speak to ours, and they help us to understand their meaning.

In that famous episode of the two feelings that Ignatius had, one when he read about knights and the other when he read about the life of the saints, we can recognize another important aspect of discernment, which we already mentioned last time. There is an apparent randomness in the events of life: everything seems to arise from a banal mishap – there were no books about knights, only lives of saints. A mishap that nonetheless holds a possible turning point. Only after some time will Ignatius realize this, at which point he will devote all his attention to it. Listen carefully: God works through unplannable events that happen by chance, but by chance this happened to me, and by chance I met this person, by chance I saw this film. It was not planned but God works through unplannable events, and also through mishaps: “But I was supposed to go for a walk and I had a problem with my foot, I can’t…”. Mishap: what is God saying to you? What is life telling you there? We have also seen this in a passage from the Gospel of Matthew: a man ploughing a field accidentally comes across buried treasure. A totally unexpected situation. But what is important is that he recognizes it as the lucky break of his life and decides accordingly: he sells everything and buys that field (cf. 13:44). I will give you a piece of advice: beware of the unexpected. He who says to you: “But I wasn’t expecting this”. Is it life speaking to you, is it the Lord speaking to you, or is it the devil? Someone. But there is something to discern, how I react when faced with the unexpected. But I was quiet at home and “Boom!” – my mother-in-law arrives; and how do you react to your mother-in-law? Is it love or something else inside? And you must discern. I was working well in the office, and a companion comes along to tell me he needs money: how do you react? See what happens when we experience things we were not expecting, and there we can learn to know out heart as it moves.

Discernment is the aid in recognizing the signals with which the Lord makes himself known in unexpected, even unpleasant situations, as the leg wound was for Ignatius. A life-changing encounter can arise from them, forever, as in the case of Ignatius. Something can arise that that makes you better along the way, or worse, I don’t know, but be careful; the most beautiful thread is given to us by the unexpected: “How do I act in view of this?” May the Lord help us to hear our hearts and see when it is He who acts and when it is not, and it is something else.

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Pope Francis Angelus 04.09.22

Beatification of the Servant of God, Pope John Paul I

Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Before concluding this celebration, I extend my greeting to all of you and thank you for your participation.

And now we turn in prayer to the Virgin Mary, so that she might obtain the gift of peace throughout the world, especially for war-torn Ukraine. May she, the first and perfect disciple of the Lord, help us follow the example and holiness of life of John Paul I.

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Pope Francis Holy Mass 04.09.22

beatification of the Servant of God, Pope John Paul I

Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above

Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem, and today’s Gospel tells us that “large crowds were travelling with him” (Lk 24:25). To travel with Jesus means to follow him, to become his disciples. Yet, the Lord’s message to those people was not exactly appealing; in fact, it was quite demanding: whoever does not love him more than his or her own family, whoever does not carry the cross, whoever remains attached to earthly goods, cannot be his disciple (cf. vv. 26-27.33). Why does Jesus say these things to the crowds? What do these admonitions mean? Let us try to answer these questions.

First, we see a great crowd of people following Jesus. We can imagine that many were attracted by his words, astonished at the things he did, and saw him as a source of hope for the future. What would any teacher of that time or, for that matter, what would any astute leader do, seeing that his or her words and charisma attract crowds and increase his or her popularity? The same thing happens today, at times of personal or societal crisis, when we are especially prey to feelings of anger or we fear things that threaten our future. We become more susceptible and thus, on the tide of emotion, we look to those who can shrewdly take advantage of the situation, profiting from society’s fears and promising to be the “saviour” who can solve all its problems, whereas in reality they are looking for wider approval and for greater power, based on the impression they make, their ability to have things in hand.

The Gospel tells us that this is not Jesus’ way. God’s style is different. It is important to understand God’s style, how he acts. God acts according to a style, and God’s style is different from that of certain people, since he does not exploit our needs or use our vulnerability for his own aggrandizement. He does not want to seduce us with deceptive promises or to distribute cheap favours; he is not interested in huge crowds. He is not obsessed with numbers; he does not seek approval; he does not idolize personal success. On the contrary, he seems to be worried when people follow him with giddy excitement and enthusiasm. As a result, instead of yielding to the allure of popularity – for popularity is alluring – he asks each person to discern carefully their reason for following him and the consequences that it will entail. For many in those crowds might have been following Jesus because they hoped he would be a leader who could set them free from their enemies, someone who, once in power, could share that power with them, or someone who by performing miracles could make hunger and disease disappear. We can follow the Lord for any number of reasons. Some of these, it must be acknowledged, are worldly. A perfect religious exterior can serve to hide the mere satisfaction of one’s own needs, the quest of personal prestige, the desire for a certain social status or to keep things under control, the thirst for power and privilege, the desire for recognition and so on. This happens even nowadays among Christians. Yet that is not the style of Jesus. That cannot be the style of his disciples and of his Church. If anyone follows Jesus with this kind of self-interest, he or she has taken the wrong path.

The Lord demands a different attitude. To follow him does not mean to become part of a court or a triumphal procession, or even to receive a lifetime insurance policy. On the contrary, it means “carrying one’s cross” (Lk 14:27): shouldering, like him, one’s own burdens and those of others, making one’s life a gift, not a possession, spending it in imitation of his own generous and merciful love for us. These are decisions that engage the totality of our lives. For this reason, Jesus desires that his disciples prefer nothing to this love, even their deepest affections and greatest treasures.

To do this, we need to look to him more than to ourselves, to learn how to love, and to learn this from the Crucified One. In him, we see the love that bestows itself to the very end, without measure and without limits. The measure of love is to love without measure. In the words of Pope John Paul, “we are the objects of undying love on the part of God” (Angelus, 10 September 1978). An undying love: it never sinks beneath the horizon of our lives; it shines upon us and illumines even our darkest nights. When we gaze upon the Crucified Lord, we are called to the heights of that love, to be purified of our distorted ideas of God and of our self-absorption, and to love God and others, in Church and society, including those who do not see things as we do, to love even our enemies.

To love even at the cost of sacrifice, silence, misunderstanding, solitude, resistance and persecution. To love in this way, even at this price, because, as Blessed John Paul I also said, if you want to kiss Jesus crucified, “you cannot help bending over the cross and letting yourself be pricked by a few thorns of the crown on the Lord’s head” (General Audience, 27 September 1978). A love that perseveres to the end, thorns and all: no leaving things half done, no cutting corners, no fleeing difficulties. If we fail to aim high, if we refuse to take risks, if we content ourselves with a watered-down faith, we are, as Jesus says, like those who want to build a tower but do not estimate the cost; they “lay the foundations”, but then are “not able to finish the work” (v. 29). If the fear of losing ourselves makes us stop giving ourselves, we leave things undone: our relationships and work, our responsibilities and commitments, our dreams and even our faith. And then we end up living life halfway – and how many people live life halfway, and we also frequently are tempted to live life halfway – without ever taking the decisive step – this is what it means to live life halfway – without ever taking flight, without ever taking risks for the good, and without ever truly committing ourselves to helping others. Jesus asks us precisely this: live the Gospel and you will live your life, not halfway but to the full. Live the Gospel, live life, with no compromises.

Dear brothers and sisters, our new Blessed lived that way: in the joy of the Gospel, without compromises, loving to the very end. He embodied the poverty of the disciple, which is not only detachment from material goods, but also victory over the temptation to put oneself at the centre, to seek one’s own glory. On the contrary, following the example of Jesus, he was a meek and humble pastor. He thought of himself as dust on which God deigned to write. That is why he could say: “The Lord recommended it so much: be humble. Even if you have done great things, say: ‘We are useless servants’” (General Audience, 6 September 1978).

With a smile, Pope John Paul managed to communicate the goodness of the Lord. How beautiful is a Church with a happy, serene and smiling face, a Church that never closes doors, never hardens hearts, never complains or harbours resentment, does not grow angry or impatient, does not look dour or suffer nostalgia for the past, falling into an attitude of going backwards. Let us pray to him, our father and our brother, and ask him to obtain for us “the smile of the soul”, a transparent smile that does not deceive, the smile of the soul. Let us pray, in his own words: “Lord take me as I am, with my defects, with my shortcomings, but make me become what you want me to be” (General Audience, 13 September 1978). Amen

04.09.22 me