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
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
In our catechetical journey on old age, today we meditate on the dialogue between the risen Jesus and Peter at the end of John’s Gospel (21:15-23). It is a moving dialogue, from which shines all the love of Jesus for his disciples, and also the sublime humanity of his relationship with them, in particular with Peter: a tender relationship, but not melancholic; direct, strong, free, and open. A relationship between men and in truth. Thus, John’s Gospel, so spiritual, so lofty, closes with a poignant request and offer of love between Jesus and Peter, which is intertwined, quite naturally, with a discussion between them. The Evangelist alerts us: he is bearing witness to the truth of the facts (cf. Jn 21:24). And it is in the facts that the truth is to be sought.
We can ask ourselves: are we capable of preserving the tenor of this relationship of Jesus with the disciples, according to his style that is so open, so frank, so direct, so humanly real? How is our relationship with Jesus? Is it like this, like that of the Apostles with Him? Are we not, instead, very often tempted to enclose the testimony of the Gospel in the cocoon of a ‘sugar-coated’ revelation, to which is added our own circumstantial veneration? This attitude, which seems respectful, actually distances us from the real Jesus, and even becomes the occasion for a very abstract, very self-referential, very worldly journey of faith, which is not the path of Jesus. Jesus is the Word of God made man, and He comports Himself as man, He speaks to us as man, God-man. With this tenderness, with this friendship, with this closeness. Jesus is not like the sugar-sweet image of the picture cards, no: Jesus is close to hand, he is near us.
In the course of Jesus’ discussion with Peter, we find two passages that deal precisely with old age and the passage of time: the time of testimony, the time of life. The first passage is Jesus’ warning to Peter: when you were young you were self-sufficient, when you are old you will no longer be so much the master of yourself and your life. Tell me I have to go in a wheelchair, eh? But that’s how it is, that’s life. With old age you get all these illnesses and we have to accept them as they come, don’t we. We don’t have the strength of youth! And your witness will also be accompanied by this weakness. You have to be a witness to Jesus even in weakness, illness and death. There is a beautiful passage from St Ignatius of Loyola that says: “Just as in life, so also in death we must bear witness as disciples of Jesus.” The end of life must be an end of life of disciples: of disciples of Jesus, whom the Lord always speaks to us according to our age. The Evangelist adds his commentary, explaining that Jesus was alluding to the extreme witness, that of martyrdom and death.
But we can understand more generally the meaning of this admonition: your sequela [following in my footsteps] will have to learn to allow itself to be instructed and moulded by your frailty, your helplessness, your dependence on others, even in getting dressed, in walking. But you: “Follow me” (v. 19). The following of Jesus is always going forward, in good health, in not so good health; self-sufficient, without physical self-sufficiency. But the following of Jesus is important: to follow Jesus always, on your feet, running, going slowly, in a wheelchair… but always following Him. The wisdom of the following of Jesus must find the way to abide in its profession of faith – thus Peter responds: “Lord, you know that I love you” (vv. 15.16.17) – even in the limited conditions of weakness and old age. I like talking to the elderly, looking into their eyes: they have those bright eyes, those eyes that speak to you more than words, the witness of a life. And this is beautiful, we must preserve it until the end. Thus to follow Jesus: full of life.
This conversation between Jesus and Peter contains a valuable teaching for all disciples, for all of us believers, and also for all the elderly. From our frailty we learn to express the consistency of our witness of life in the conditions of a life largely entrusted to others, largely dependent on the initiative of others. With sickness, with old age, dependence grows and we are no longer as self-dependent as before; this grows and there too faith matures, there too Jesus is with us, there too that richness of the faith well lived on the road of life springs forth.
But again we must ask ourselves: do we have a spirituality truly capable of interpreting the season – now long and widespread – of this time of our weakness entrusted to others, that is greater than to the power of our autonomy? How do we remain faithful to the lived act of following Jesus, to the promised love, to the justice sought in the time of our capacity for initiative, in the time of the fragility, in the time of dependence, of farewell, in the time of moving away from being the protagonist of our lives? It’s not easy, is it? To move away from being the protagonist. It’s not easy.
This new time is also certainly a time of trial – beginning with the temptation – very human, undoubtedly, but also very insidious – to preserve our protagonism. And at times the protagonist has to diminish, has to lower himself, to accept that old age reduces you as protagonist. But you will have another way of expressing yourself, another way of participating in the family, in society, in the group of friends.
And it is curiosity that comes to Peter: “What about him?” says Peter, seeing the beloved disciple following them (cf. vv. 20-21). Sticking your nose in other people’s lives. But no: Jesus says: “Shut up!”. Does he have to part of “my” following [of Jesus]? Does he have to occupy “my” space? Will he be my successor? These are questions that do no good, that don’t help. Must he outlive me and take my place? Jesus’ answer is frank and even rude: “What does it matter to you? You worry about your own life, about your present situation, and don’t stick your nose into the lives of others. What does it matter to you? You follow me” (v. 22).
This is important: the following of Jesus, to follow Jesus in life and in death, in health and in sickness, in life when it is prosperous with many successes, and in life when it is difficult, in many bad moments of failing. And when we want to insert ourselves into other people’s lives, Jesus answers, “What does it matter to you? You follow me.” Beautiful.
We old people should not be envious of young people who take their path, who occupy our place, who outlive us. The honour of our faithfulness to sworn love, fidelity to the following of the faith we have believed, even in the conditions that bring them nearer to the end of their life, is our claim to admiration of the generations to come and of grateful recognition from the Lord. Learning to take leave: this is the wisdom of the elderly. But to say farewell well, carefully, with a smile, to take one’s leave in society, to take one’s leave with others. The life of the elderly is a farewell, slow, slow, but a joyful farewell: I have lived live, I have kept my faith. This is beautiful, when an elderly person can say, “I have lived life, this is my family; I have lived life, I was a sinner but I have also done good.” And this peace that comes, this is the farewell of the elder.
Even the forcibly inactive following of Jesus, made up of enthusiastic contemplation and rapt listening to the word of the Lord – like that of Mary, the sister of Lazarus – will become the best part of their lives, of the lives of us elderly persons. May this part never be taken from us again, never (cf. Lk 10:42). Let us look to the elderly, let us look upon them, and let us help them so that they may live and express their wisdom of life, that they may give us what is beautiful and good in them. Let us look at them, let us listen to them. And we elders, let us look at the young, and always with a smile, at the young: they will follow the path, they will carry forward what we have sown, even what we have not sown because we have not had the courage or the opportunity: they will carry it forward. But always this relationship.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
Today in Italy and in other countries, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is celebrated. Instituted during the Last Supper, the Eucharist was like the destination of a journey along which Jesus had prefigured it through several signs, above all the multiplication of the loaves narrated in the Gospel of today’s Liturgy (cf. Lk. 9:11b-17). Jesus takes care of the huge crowd that had followed him to listen to his word and to be freed from various evils. He blesses five loaves and two fish, breaks them, the disciples distribute them, and “they all ate and were satisfied” (Lk. 9:17), the Gospel says. In the Eucharist, everyone can experience this loving and concrete attention of the Lord. Those who receive the Body and Blood of Christ with faith not only eat, but are satisfied. To eat and to be satisfied: these are two basic necessities that are satisfied in the Eucharist.
To eat. “They all ate”, writes Saint Luke. As evening fell, the disciples council Jesus to dismiss the crowd so they can go in search of food. But the Teacher wants to provide for that too – he also wants to feed those who had listened to him. The miracle of the loaves and fish does not happen in a spectacular way, but almost secretly, like the wedding at Cana – the bread increases as it passes from hand to hand. And as the crowd eats, they realize that Jesus is taking care of everything. This is the Lord present in the Eucharist. He calls us to be citizens of Heaven, but at the same time he takes into account the journey we have to face here on earth. If I have hardly any bread in my sack, He knows and takes care of it himself.
Sometimes there is the risk of confining the Eucharist to a vague, distant dimension, perhaps bright and perfumed with incense, but rather distant from the straits of everyday life. In reality, the Lord takes all our needs to heart, beginning with the most basic. And he wants to give an example to his disciples, saying, “You give them something to eat” (v. 13), to those people whom he had listened to during the day. We can evaluate our Eucharistic adoration when we take care of our neighbour like Jesus does. There is hunger for food around us, but also of companionship; there is hunger for consolation, friendship, good humour; there is hunger for attention, there is hunger to be evangelized. We find this in the Eucharistic Bread – the attention of Christ to our needs and the invitation to do the same toward those who are beside us. We need to eat and feed others.
In addition to eating, however, we cannot forget being satisfied. The crowd is satisfied because of the abundance of food and also because of the joy and amazement of having received it from Jesus! We certainly need to nourish ourselves, but we also need to be satisfied, to know that the nourishment is given to us out of love. In the Body and Blood of Christ, we find his presence, his life given for each of us. He not only gives us help to go forward, but he gives us himself – he makes himself our traveling companion, he enters into our affairs, he visits us when we are lonely, giving us back a sense of enthusiasm. This satisfies us, when the Lord gives meaning to our life, our obscurities, our doubts; he sees the meaning, and this meaning that the Lord gives satisfies us. This gives us that “more” that everyone is looking for – namely, the presence of the Lord! For in the warmth of his presence, our lives change. Without him, everything would truly be grey. Adoring the Body and Blood of Christ, let us ask him with our heart: “Lord, give me that daily bread to go forward, Lord, satisfy me with your presence!”
May the Virgin Mary teach us how to adore Jesus, living in the Eucharist and to share him with our brothers and sisters.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
We have listened to the simple and touching account of the healing of the mother-in-law of Simon – who is not yet called Peter – in Mark’s version of the Gospel. The brief episode is related, with slight yet evocative variations, also in the other two synoptic Gospels. “Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever”, writes Mark. We do not know if it is a mild ailment, but in old age even a simple fever can be dangerous. When you are old, you are no longer in control of your body. One has to learn to choose what to do and what not to do. The vigour of the body fails and abandons us, even though our heart does not stop yearning. One must then learn to purify desire: be patient, choose what to ask of the body and of life. When we are old, we cannot do the same things we did when we were young: the body has another pace, and we must listen to the body and accept its limits. We all have them. I too have to use a walking stick now.
Illness weighs on the elderly in a new and different way compared to when one is young or an adult. It is like a hard blow that falls in an already difficult time. In the elderly, illness seems to hasten death and, in any case, diminish that time we have to live, which we already consider short. The doubt lurks that we will not recover, that “this time it will be the last time I get sick...”, and so on: these ideas come. One cannot dream of hope in a future that now appears non-existent. A renowned Italian writer, Italo Calvino, noted the bitterness of the old who suffer the loss of the things of the past, more than they enjoy the coming of the new. But the Gospel scene we have heard helps us to hope and already offers us a first lesson: Jesus does not visit that sick old woman by himself: he goes there together with the disciples. And this makes us think a bit.
It is precisely the Christian community that must take care of the elderly: relatives and friends, but the community. Visiting the elderly must be done by many, together and often. We should never forget these three lines of the Gospel, especially now that the number of elderly people has grown considerably, also in relation to the young, since we are in this demographic winter, we have fewer children, and there are many old people and few young ones. We must feel a responsibility to visit the elderly who are often alone, and present them to the Lord with our prayers. Jesus himself will teach us how to love them. “A society truly welcomes life when it recognizes that it is also precious in old age, in disability, in serious illness and even when it is fading”. Life is always precious. Jesus, when he sees the sick elderly woman, takes her by the hand and heals her. The same gesture that he uses to revive that young girl who was dead: he takes her by the hand and heals her, putting her back on her feet. Jesus, with this tender gesture of love, gives the first lesson to the disciples: namely, salvation is announced or, better, communicated through attention to that sick person; and the woman’s faith shines in gratitude for the tenderness of God who stooped to her. I return to a theme I have repeated in these catecheses: this throwaway culture seems to cancel out the elderly. Yes, it does not kill them, but socially it eliminates them, as if they were a burden to carry: it is better to conceal them. This is a betrayal of our own humanity, this is the worst thing, this is choosing life according to utility, according to young and not with life as it is, with the wisdom of the elderly, with the limits of the elderly. The elderly have much to give us: there is the wisdom of life. There is much to teach us: this is why we must teach children that their grandparents are to be cared for and visited. The dialogue between young people and grandparents, children and grandparents, is fundamental for society, it is fundamental for the Church, it is fundamental for the health of life. Where there is no dialogue between the young and the old, something is lacking and a generation grows up without past, that is, without roots.
If the first lesson was given by Jesus, the second is given to us by the elderly woman, who arose and “served them”. Even in old age one can, or rather one must serve the community. It is good for the elderly to cultivate the responsibility to serve, overcoming the temptation to stand aside. The Lord does not reject them; on the contrary, he restores to them the strength to serve. . The elderly who retain the disposition for healing, consolation, intercession for their brothers and sisters – be they disciples, centurions, people disturbed by evil spirits, those who are rejected – are perhaps the highest testimony to the purity of this gratitude that accompanies faith. If the elderly, instead of being rejected and dismissed from the scene of the events that mark the life of the community, were placed at the centre of collective attention, they would be encouraged to exercise the valuable ministry of gratitude towards God, who forgets no-one. The gratitude of elderly people for the gifts received from God during their life, as Peter’s mother-in-law teaches us, restores to the community the joy of living together, and confers to the faith of the disciples the essential feature of its destination.
But we must learn well that the spirit of intercession and service, which Jesus prescribes to all his disciples, is not simply a matter for women: there is no trace of this limitation in Jesus’ words and gestures. The evangelical service of gratitude for God’s tenderness is not in any way written according to the grammar of the man who is master and the woman who serves. However, this does not detract from the fact that women, in the gratitude and tenderness of faith, can teach men things they find more difficult to understand. Peter’s mother-in-law, before the Apostles arrived, along the path of following Jesus, showed the way to them too. And the special gentleness of Jesus, who “took her by the hand” and “lifted her up”, clearly shows, from the very beginning, his special sensibility towards the weak and the sick, which the Son of God had certainly learned from his Mother. Please, let us make sure that the elderly, grandparents, are close to children, to the young, to hand down this memory of life, to pass on this experience of life, this wisdom of life. To the extent to which we ensure that the young and the old are connected, to this extent there will be more hope for the future of our society.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
Today is the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, and in the Gospel of the celebration Jesus presents the other two divine Persons, the Father and the Holy Spirit. He says of the Spirit: “He will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come”. And then, regarding the Father, he says: “All that the Father has is mine” (Jn 16:14-15). We notice that the Holy Spirit speaks, but not of himself: he announces Jesus and reveals the Father. And we also notice that the Father, who possesses everything because he is the origin of all things, gives to the Son everything he possesses: he keeps nothing for himself and he gives himself fully to the Son. Or rather, the Holy Spirit speaks not of himself; he speaks about Jesus, he speaks about others. And the Father does not give himself, he gives the Son. It is open generosity, one open to the other.
And now let us look at ourselves, at what we talk about and what we possess. When we speak, we always want to say something good about ourselves, and often, we only speak about ourselves and what we do. How often! “I have done this and that…”, “I had this problem…”. We always speak like this. How different this is from the Holy Spirit, who speaks by announcing others, and the Father the Son! And, how jealous we are of what we possess. How hard it is for us to share what we possess with others, even those who lack the basic necessities! It is easy to talk about it, but difficult to practice it.
This is why celebrating the Most Holy Trinity is not so much a theological exercise, but a revolution in our way of life. God, in whom each Person lives for the other in a continual relationship, in continual rapport, not for himself, provokes us to live with others and for others. Open. Today we can ask ourselves if our life reflects the God we believe in: do I, who profess faith in God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, truly believe that I need others in order to live, I need to give myself to others, I need to serve others? Do I affirm this in words or do I affirm it with my life?
The One and Triune God, dear brothers and sisters, must be manifested in this way – with deeds rather than words. God, who is the author of life, is transmitted not so much through books as through witness of life. He who, as the evangelist John writes, “is love” (1 Jn 4:16), reveals himself through love. Think about the good, generous, gentle people we have met; recalling their way of thinking and acting, we can have a small reflection of God-Love. And what does it mean to love? Not only to wish them well and to be good to them, but first and foremost, at the root, to welcome others, to be open to others, to make room for others, to make space to others. This is what it means to love, at the root.
To understand this better, let us think of the names of the divine Persons, which we pronounce every time we make the Sign of the Cross: each name contains the presence of the other. The Father, for example, would not be such without the Son; likewise, the Son cannot be considered alone, but always as the Son of the Father. And the Holy Spirit, in turn, is the Spirit of the Father and the Son. In short, the Trinity teaches us that one can never be without the other. We are not islands, we are in the world to live in God’s image: open, in need of others and in need of helping others. And so, let us ask ourselves this last question: in everyday life, am I too a reflection of the Trinity? Is the sign of the cross I make every day – the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit – that Sign of the Cross we make every day, a gesture for its own sake, or does it inspire my way of speaking, of encountering, of responding, of judging, of forgiving?
May Our Lady, daughter of the Father, mother of the Son and spouse of the Spirit, help us to welcome and bear witness in life to the mystery of God-Love.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
Among the most relevant elderly characters in the Gospels is Nicodemus – one of the Jewish leaders – who, wanting to know Jesus, went to him at night, although in secret (cf. Jn 3:1-21). In the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, the core of Jesus’s revelation and his redemptive mission emerge when he 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” .
Jesus says to Nicodemus that to “see the kingdom of God”, one needs “to be born again from above” (cf. v. 3). This does not mean starting over from birth, of repeating our coming into the world, hoping that a new reincarnation will open up the chance of having a better life. Repeating that makes no sense. It would, rather, empty all meaning out of the life we have lived, erasing it as if it were a failed experiment, a value that has expired, a wasted void. No, that’s not what this is, this being born again that Jesus speaks of. It is something else. This life is precious in God’s eyes – it identifies us as beings who are loved tenderly by God. This “birth from above” that allows us to “enter” the kingdom of God is a generation in the Spirit, a passage through the waters toward the promised land of a creation reconciled with the love of God. It is a rebirth from above with the grace of God. It is not being reborn physically another time.
Nicodemus misunderstands this birth and calls it into question.
Our epoch and our culture, which demonstrates a worrisome tendency to consider the birth of a child as the simple matter of the production and biological reproduction of the human being, cultivate the myth of eternal youth as the desperate obsession with an incorruptible body. Why is old age not appreciated in so many ways? Because it bears the undeniable evidence of the end of this myth.
Technology is fascinated by this myth in every way. While awaiting the defeat of death, we can keep the body alive with medicine and cosmetics which slow down, hide, erase old age. Naturally, well-being is one thing, the myth that feeds it is another. There is no denying, however, that the confusion between the two is creating a certain mental confusion in us. To confuse well-being with feeding the myth of eternal youth. Everything is done to always have this youth – so much make-up, so many surgical interventions to appear young. The words of a wise Italian actress, [Anna] Magnani, come to mind, when they told her she had to remove her wrinkles and she said, “No, don’t touch them! It took so many years to have them – don’t touch them!” This is what wrinkles are: a sign of experience, a sign of life, a sign of maturity, a sign of having made a journey. Do not touch them to become young, that your face might look young. What matters is the entire personality; it’s the heart that matters, and the heart remains with the youth of good wine – the more it ages the better it is.
Life in our mortal flesh is a beautiful “unfinished” reality, like certain works of art that exert a unique fascination precisely due to their incompleteness. For life down here is an “initiation”, not the fulfilment. We come into the world just like this, like real people, like people who advance in age but who are always real. But life in our mortal flesh is too small a space and time to keep it intact and to bring to fulfilment in the world’s time the most precious part of our existence. Jesus says that faith, that welcomes the evangelical proclamation of the kingdom of God to which we are destined, contains an extraordinary primary effect. It enables us to “see” the kingdom of God. We become capable of truly seeing the many signs of the approximation of our hope of the fulfillment, of that which bears in our life the sign of being destined for eternity in God.
The signs are those of evangelical love illuminated by Jesus in many ways. And if we can “see” them, we can also “enter” into the kingdom through the passage of the Spirit through the waters that regenerate.
Old age is the condition granted to many of us in which the miracle of this birth from above can be intimately assimilated and rendered credible for the human community. It does not communicate a nostalgia for a birth in time, but of a love for our final destination. In this perspective, old age has a unique beauty – we are journeying toward the Eternal. No one can re-enter their mother’s womb, not even using its technological and consumeristic substitute. This is not wisdom; this is not a journey that has been accomplished; this is artificial. That would be sad, even if it were possible. The elderly person moves ahead; the elderly person journeys toward the final destination, towards God’s heaven; the elderly person journeys with the wisdom of lived experience. Old age, therefore, is a special time of disassociating the future from the technocratic illusion of a biological and robotic survival, especially because it opens one to the tenderness of the creative and generative womb of God. I would like to emphasize this word here – the tenderness of the elderly. Watch how a grandfather or a grandmother look at their grandchildren, how they embrace their grandchildren – that tenderness, free of any human distress, that has conquered the trials of life and is able to give love freely, the loving nearness of one person to others. This tenderness opens the door toward understanding God’s tenderness. This is what God is like, he knows how to embrace. And old age helps us understand this aspect of God who is tenderness. Old age is the special time of disassociating the future from the technocratic illusion, it is the time of God’s tenderness that creates, creates a path for all of us.
May the Spirit grant us the re-opening of this spiritual – and cultural – mission of old age that reconciles us with the birth from above. When we think of old age like this, we can say – why has this throw-away culture decided to throw out the elderly, considering them useless? The elderly are the messengers of the future, the elderly are the messengers of tenderness, the elderly are the messengers of the wisdom of lived experience. Let us move forward and watch the elderly.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
Happy feast day because today we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost. We celebrate the effusion of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, which took place fifty days after Easter. Jesus had promised it several times. In today’s Liturgy, the Gospel recounts one of these promises, when Jesus said to the disciples: “He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (Jn 14:26). This is what the Spirit does: he teaches and reminds us of what Christ said. Let us reflect on these two actions, to teach and to remind, because it is in this way the he makes the Gospel of Jesus enter into our hearts.
First of all, the Holy Spirit teaches. In this way he helps us to overcome an obstacle that presents itself to us in the experience of faith: that of distance. Indeed, the doubt may arise that between the Gospel and everyday life there is a great distance: Jesus lived two thousand years ago, they were other times, other situations, and therefore the Gospel seems to be outdated, it seems unable to speak to our current moment, with its demands and its problems. The question also comes to us: what does the Gospel have to say in the age of the internet, in the age of globalization? What impact can its word have?
We can say that the Holy Spirit is a specialist in bridging distances, he knows how to bridge distances; he teaches us how to overcome them. It is he who connects the teaching of Jesus with every time and every person. With him Christ’s words are not a memory, no: Christ’s words, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, come alive today! The Spirit makes them alive for us: through Scripture he speaks to us and directs us in the present. The Holy Spirit does not fear the passing of the centuries; rather, He makes believers attentive to the problems and events of their time. Indeed, for when the Holy Spirit teaches, he actualizes: he keeps faith ever young. We risk making faith a museum piece: it is a risk! He, on the other hand, brings it up to date, always up to date, the faith up to date: this is his job. For the Holy Spirit does not bind himself to passing epochs or fashions, but brings into today the relevance of Jesus, risen and living.
And how does the Spirit do this? By making us remember. To remind means to restore to the heart, ri-cordare: the Spirit restores the Gospel to our heart. It happens as it did for the Apostles: they had listened to Jesus many times, yet they had understood little. The same thing happens to us. But from Pentecost forth, with the Holy Spirit, they remember and they understand. They welcome his words as made specially for them, and they pass from an outward knowledge, an awareness of memory, to a living relationship, a convinced, joyful relationship with the Lord. It is the Spirit who does this, who moves from “hearsay” to personal knowledge of Jesus, who enters the heart. Thus, the Spirit changes our lives: he makes Jesus’ thoughts become our thoughts. And he does this by reminding us of his words, bringing Jesus’ words to our heart, today.
Brothers and sisters, without the Spirit reminding us of Jesus, faith becomes forgetful. Very often, faith becomes a recollection without memory; instead, memory is living and living memory is brought by the Spirit. And we – let us try to ask ourselves – are we forgetful Christians? Maybe all it takes is a setback, a struggle, a crisis to forget Jesus’ love and fall into doubt and fear? Woe to us, should we become forgetful Christians! The remedy is to invoke the Holy Spirit. Let us do this often, especially in important moments, before difficult decisions and in difficult situations. Let us take the Gospel in our hands and invoke the Spirit. We can say, “Come, Holy Spirit, remind me of Jesus, enlighten my heart”. This is a beautiful prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit, remind me of Jesus, enlighten my heart”. Then, let us open the Gospel and read a small passage slowly. And the Spirit will make it speak to our lives.
May the Virgin Mary, filled with of the Holy Spirit, kindle in us the desire to pray to him and receive the Word of God.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
In the final words of the Gospel we have just heard, Jesus says something that can offer us hope and make us think. He tells his disciples: “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all I have said to you (Jn 14:26). “Everything”, “all” – these words are striking; they make us wonder: how does the Spirit give this new and full understanding to those who receive him? It is not about quantity, or an academic question: God does not want to make us encyclopaedias or polymaths. No. It is a question of quality, perspective, perception. The Spirit makes us see everything in a new way, with the eyes of Jesus. I would put it this way: in the great journey of life, the Spirit teaches us where to begin, what paths to take, and how to walk.
First, where to begin. The Spirit points out to us the starting point of the spiritual life. What is it? Jesus speaks of it in the first verse of the Gospel, when he says: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (v. 15). If you love me, you will keep…. This is the “logic” of the Spirit. We tend to think the exact opposite: if we keep the commandments, we will love Jesus. We tend to think that love comes from our keeping, our fidelity and our devotion. Yet the Spirit reminds us that without love as our basis, all the rest is in vain. And that love comes not so much from our abilities, but as his gift. He teaches us to love and we have to ask for this gift. The Spirit of love pours love into our hearts, he makes us feel loved and he teaches us how to love. He is the “motor” of our spiritual lives. He set it in motion within us. But if we do not begin from the Spirit, or with the Spirit or through the Spirit, we will get nowhere.
The Spirit himself reminds us of this, because he is the memory of God, the one who brings to our minds all that Jesus has said (cf. v. 26). The Holy Spirit is an active memory; he constantly rekindles the love of God in our hearts. We have experienced his presence in the forgiveness of our sins, in moments when we are filled with his peace, his freedom and his consolation. It is essential to cherish this spiritual memory. We always remember the things that go wrong; we listen to the voice within us that reminds us of our failures and failings, the voice that keeps saying: “Look, yet another failure, yet another disappointment. You will never succeed; you cannot do it”. This is a terrible thing to be told. Yet the Holy Spirit tells us something completely different. He reminds us: “Have you fallen? You are a son or daughter of God. You are a unique, elect, precious and beloved child. Even when you lose confidence in yourself, God has confidence in you!” This is the “memory” of the Spirit, what the Spirit constantly reminds us: God knows you. You may forget about God, but he does not forget about you. He remembers you always.
You, however, may well object: these are nice words, but I have problems, hurts and worries that cannot be removed by facile words of comfort! Yet that is precisely where the Holy Spirit asks you to let him in. Because he, the Consoler, is the Spirit of healing, of resurrection, who can transform the hurts burning within you. He teaches us not to harbour the memory of all those people and situations that have hurt us, but to let him purify those memories by his presence. That is what he did with the apostles and their failures. They had deserted Jesus before the Passion; Peter had denied him; Paul had persecuted Christians. We too think of our own mistakes. How many of them, and so much guilt! Left to themselves, they had no way out. Left to themselves, no. But with the Comforter, yes. Because the Spirit heals memories. How? By putting at the top of the list the thing that really matters: the memory of God’s love, his loving gaze. In this way, he sets our lives in order. He teaches us to accept one another, to forgive one another and to forgive ourselves; he teaches us to be reconciled with the past. And to set out anew.
In addition to reminding us where to begin, the Spirit teaches us what paths to take. We see this in the second reading, where Saint Paul explains that those “led by the Spirit of God” (Rom 8:14) “walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (v. 4). The Spirit, at every crossroads in our lives, suggests to us the best path to follow. It is important, then, to be able to distinguish his voice from the voice of the spirit of evil. Both speak to us: we need to learn to distinguish the voice of the Spirit, to be able to recognize that voice and follow its lead, to follow the things he tells us.
Let us consider some examples. The Holy Spirit will never tell you that on your journey everything is going just fine. He will never tell you this, because it isn’t true. No, he corrects you; he makes you weep for your sins; he pushes you to change, to fight against your lies and deceptions, even when that calls for hard work, interior struggle and sacrifice. The evil spirit, on the contrary, pushes you to do always what you want, what you find pleasing. He makes you think that you have the right to use your freedom any way you want. Then, once you are left feeling empty inside – and how many of us have known that terrible feeling of emptiness! – then he blames you and casts you down. The evil spirit blames you, he becomes the accuser. He casts you down and destroys you. The Holy Spirit, correcting you along the way, never leaves you lying on the ground: He takes you by the hand, comforts you and constantly encourages you.
Then again, whenever you feel troubled by bitterness, pessimism and negativity – how many times have we fallen into this! – then it is good to remember that these things never come from the Holy Spirit. Bitterness, pessimism, sad thoughts, these never come from the Holy Spirit. They come from evil, which is at home with negativity. It often uses this strategy: it stokes impatience and self-pity, and with self-pity the need to blame others for all our problems. It makes us edgy, suspicious, querulous. Complaining is the language of the evil spirit; he wants to make you complain, to be gloomy, to put on a funeral face. The Holy Spirit on the other hand urges us never to lose heart and always to start over again. He always encourages you to get up. He takes you by the hand and says: “Get up!” How do we do that? By jumping right in, without waiting for someone else. And by spreading hope and joy, not complaints; never envying others. Never! Envy is the door through which the evil spirit enters. The Bible tells us this: by the envy of the devil, evil entered the world. So never be envious! The Holy Spirit brings you goodness; he leads you to rejoice in the success of others.
The Holy Spirit is practical, he is not an idealist. He wants us to concentrate on the here and now, because the time and place in which we find ourselves are themselves grace-filled. These are they concrete times and places of grace, here and now. That is where the Holy Spirit is leading us. The spirit of evil, however, would pull us away from the here and now, and put us somewhere else. Often he anchors us to the past: to our regrets, our nostalgia, our disappointments. Or else he points us to the future, fueling our fears, illusions and false hopes . But not the Holy Spirit. The Spirit leads us to love, concretely, here and now, not an ideal world or an ideal Church, an ideal religious congregation, but the real ones, as they are, seen in broad light of day, with transparency and simplicity. How very different from the evil one, who instigates gossip and idle chatter. Idle chatter is a nasty habit; it destroys a person’s identity.
The Holy Spirit wants us to be together; he makes us Church and today – here is the third and final aspect – he teaches the Church how to walk. The disciples were cowering in the Upper Room; the Spirit then came down and made them go forth. Without the Spirit, they were alone, by themselves, huddled together. With the Spirit, they were open to all. In every age, the Spirit overturns our preconceived notions and opens us to his newness. God, the Spirit, is always new! He constantly teaches the Church the vital importance of going forth, impelled to proclaim the Gospel. The importance of our being, not a secure sheepfold, but an open pasture where all can graze on God’s beauty. He teaches us to be an open house without walls of division. The worldly spirit drives us to concentrate on our own problems and interests, on our need to appear relevant, on our strenuous defence of the nation or group to which we belong. That is not the way of the Holy Spirit. He invites to forget ourselves and to open our hearts to all. In that way, he makes the Church grow young. We need to remember this: the Spirit rejuvenates the Church. Not us and our efforts to dress her up a bit. For the Church cannot be “programmed” and every effort at “modernization” is not enough. The Spirit liberates us from obsession with emergencies. He beckons us to walk his paths, ever ancient and ever new, the paths of witness, poverty and mission, and in this way, he sets us free from ourselves and sends us forth into the world.
Brothers and sisters, let us sit at the school of the Holy Spirit, so that he can teach us all things. Let us invoke him each day, so that he can remind us to make God’s gaze upon us our starting point, to make decisions by listening to his voice, and to journey together as Church, docile to him and open to the world. Amen.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
The beautiful prayer of the elderly man that we find in Psalm 71, which we have listened to, encourages us to meditate on the strong tension that dwells in the condition of old age, when the memory of labours overcome and blessings received is put to the test of faith and hope.
The test already presents itself with the weakness that accompanies the passage through the fragility and vulnerability of advanced age. And the Psalmist – an elderly man who addresses the Lord – explicitly mentions the fact that this process becomes an opportunity for abandonment, deception, and for prevarication and arrogance, which at times prey upon the elderly. It is true! In this throwaway society, this throwaway culture, elderly people are cast aside and suffer these things. A form of cowardice in which we specialize in this society of ours. Indeed, there is no lack of those who take advantage of the elderly, to cheat them and to intimidate them in myriad ways. Often, we read in the newspapers or hear news of elderly people who are unscrupulously tricked out of their savings, or are left without protection or abandoned without care; or offended by forms of contempt and intimidated into renouncing their rights. Such cruelty also occurs within families – and this is serious, but it happens in families too. The elderly who are rejected, abandoned in rest homes, without their children coming to visit them, or they go a few times a year. The elderly person is placed in the corner of existence. And this happens: it happens today, it happens in families, it happens all the time. We must reflect on this.
The whole of society must hasten to take care of its elderly – they are its treasure! – who are increasingly numerous and often also the most abandoned. When we hear of elderly people who are dispossessed of their autonomy, of their security, even their home, we understand that the ambivalence of today’s society with regard to old age is not a problem of occasional emergencies, but a feature of that throwaway culture that poisons the world we live in. The elder of the Psalm confides his discouragement to God: “My enemies speak concerning me”, he says. “Those who watch for my life consult together / and say, ‘God has forsaken him; / pursue and seize him / for there is none to deliver him’” (vv. 10-11).
The consequences are fatal. Old age not only loses its dignity, but it even doubts that it deserves to continue. In this way, we are all tempted to hide our vulnerability, to hide our illness, our age and our seniority, because we fear that they are the precursor to our loss of dignity. Let us ask ourselves: is it human to induce this feeling? How is it that modern civilization, so advanced and efficient, is so uncomfortable with sickness and old age? How is it that it hides illness, it hides old age? And how is it that politics, which is so committed to defining the limits of a dignified survival, is at the same time insensitive to the dignity of a loving coexistence with the old and the sick?
The elder of the Psalm we have heard, this elderly man who sees his old age as a defeat, rediscovers trust in the Lord. He feels the need to be helped. And he turns to God. Saint Augustine, commenting on this Psalm, exhorts the elderly: “Fear not, that you be cast away in that weakness, in that old age. … Why do you fear lest He should forsake you, lest He cast you away for the time of old age, when your strength shall have failed? Yea at that time in you will be the strength of Him, when your strength shall have failed” (Expositions on the Psalms 36, 881-882), this is what Augustine says. And the elderly Psalmist invokes: “Deliver me and rescue me, /incline thy ear to me, and save me. / Be thou to me a rock of refuge, / a strong fortress, to save me, / for thou art my rock and my fortress” (vv. 2-3). The invocation testifies to God’s faithfulness and summons his ability to rouse consciences that have been diverted by insensibility to the span of mortal life, which must be protected in its entirety. He again prays thus: “O God, be not far from me; / O my God, make haste to help me! / May my accusers be put to shame and consumed; / with scorn and disgrace may they be covered / who seek my hurt” (vv. 12-13).
Indeed, shame should fall on those who take advantage of the weakness of illness and old age. Prayer renews in the heart of the elder the promise of God’s faithfulness and His blessing. The elderly man rediscovers prayer and bears witness to its strength. Jesus, in the Gospels, never rejects the prayer of those who are in need of help. The elderly, by virtue of their weakness, can teach those who are living in other ages of life that we all need to abandon ourselves to the Lord, to invoke his help. In this sense, we must all learn from old age: yes, there is a gift in being elderly, understood as abandoning oneself to the care of others, starting with God himself.
There is then a “magisterium of frailty”, do not hide frailties, no. It is true, there is a reality and there is a magisterium of frailty, which old age is able to remind us of in a credible way for the whole span of human life. Do not hide old age, do not hide the fragility of old age. This is a teaching for all of us. This teaching opens up a decisive horizon for the reform of our own civilization. A reform that is now indispensable for the benefit of the coexistence of all. The marginalization of the elderly – both conceptual and practical – corrupts all seasons of life, not just that of old age. Every one of us can think today of the elderly people in the family: how do I relate to them, do I remember them, to I go to visit them? Do I try to make sure they lack nothing? Do I respect them? The elderly who are in my family: think of your mother, father, grandfather, grandmother, aunts and uncles, friends … Have I cancelled them from my life? Or do I go to them to obtain wisdom, the wisdom of life? Remember that you too will become elderly. Old age comes for everyone. And treat the elderly today as you would wish to be treated in your old age. They are the memory of the family, the memory of humanity, the memory of the country. Protect the elderly, who are wisdom. May the Lord grant the elderly who are part of the Church the generosity of this invocation and of this provocation. May this trust in the Lord spread to us. And this, for the good of all, for them.
O Mary, Mother of God and Queen of Peace, during the pandemic we gathered around you to ask for your intercession. We asked you to help the sick and give strength to the medical staff; We implored mercy for the dying and to dry the tears of those who suffered in silence and solitude.
This evening, at the end of the month especially consecrated to You, here we are again before You, Queen of Peace, to plead with You: grant the great gift of peace, bring a quick end to war which has been raging for decades now in various parts of the world, and which has now invaded the European continent as well.
We are aware that peace alone cannot be the result of negotiations or the consequence of political agreements: peace is above all an Easter gift of the Holy Spirit.
We are confident that with the weapons of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and the gift of your grace, the hearts of men and the fortunes of the whole world can be changed.
Today we raise our hearts to You, Queen of Peace: intercede for us with your Son, reconcile the hearts filled with violence and revenge, correct thoughts blinded by the desire for easy enrichment, let your peace reign permanently over the whole earth.
O God our Lord, always grant your faithful
health in mind and body,
in the mighty intercession
of Mary Most Holy, Queen of Peace,
deliver us from the evils that now oppress
us and lead us to eternal joy.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
Today in Italy and in many countries the Ascension of the Lord, that is, his return to the Father, is celebrated. In the Liturgy, the Gospel according to Luke narrates the final apparition of the Risen Christ to the disciples (cf. 24:46-53). The earthly life of Jesus culminates precisely with the Ascension, which we also profess in the Creed: “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father”. What does this event mean? How should we interpret it? To answer this question, let us focus on two actions that Jesus performs before ascending into Heaven: first, he announces the gift of the Spirit – he announces the gift of the Spirit – and then he blesses the disciples. He announces the gift of the Spirit, and he blesses.
First of all, Jesus says to his friends: “I send the promise of my Father upon you” (v. 49). He is talking about the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, he who will accompany them, guide them, support then in their mission, defend them in spiritual battles. And so, we understand something important: Jesus is not abandoning the disciples. He ascends to Heaven, but he does not leave them alone. Rather, precisely by ascending towards the Father, he ensures the effusion of the Holy Spirit, of his Spirit. On another occasion he had said: “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counsellor – that is, the Spirit – will not come to you” (Jn 16:7). In this too, we see Jesus’ love for us: his is a presence that does not want to limit our freedom. On the contrary, he leaves space to us, because true love always generates a closeness that does not stifle, is not possessive, is close but not possessive; on the contrary, true love which makes us protagonists. And in this way, Christ reassures, “I will go to the Father, and you will be clothed with power from on high: I will send you my Spirit and with his strength, you will continue my work in the world!” (cf. Lk 24:49). And so, ascending to Heaven, instead of remaining beside a few people with his body, Jesus becomes close to all with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit makes Jesus present in us, beyond the barriers of time and space, to make us his witnesses in the world.
Straight afterwards – it is the second action – Christ raises his hands and blesses the apostles (cf. v. 50). It is a priestly gesture. God, since the times of Aaron, had entrusted to priests the task of blessing the people (cf. Nm 6:36). The Gospel wants to tell us that Jesus is the great priest of our life. Jesus ascends to the Father to intercede on our behalf, to present our humanity to him. Thus, before the eyes of the Father, with the humanity of Jesus, there are and always will be our lives, our hopes, our wounds. So, as he makes his “exodus” to Heaven, Christ “makes way” for us, he goes to prepare a place for us and, from this time forth, he intercedes for us, so that we may always be accompanied and blessed by the Father.
Brothers and sisters, let us think today of the gift of the Spirit we have received from Jesus to be witnesses of the Gospel. Let us ask ourselves if we really are; and also, if we are capable of loving others, leaving them free and making room for them. And then: do we know how to make ourselves intercessors for others, that is, do we know how to pray for them and bless their lives? Or do we serve others for our own interests? Let us learn this: intercessory prayer, interceding for the hopes and sufferings of the world, interceding for peace. And let us bless with our eyes and our words those we meet every day!
Now let us pray to Our Lady, blessed among women, who, filled with the Holy Spirit, always prays and intercedes for us.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
In our reflection on old age – we are continuing to reflect on old age – today we are dealing with the Book of Qoheleth, or Ecclesiastes, another jewel set in the Bible. On a first reading, this short book is striking and leaves one bewildered by its famous refrain: “Everything is vanity”, everything is vanity: the refrain that goes on and on, everything is vanity, everything is “fog”, everything is “smoke”, everything is “emptiness”. It is surprising to find in Holy Scripture these expressions that question the meaning of existence. In reality, Qoheleth’s continuous vacillation between sense and non-sense is the ironic representation of an awareness of life that is detached from the passion for justice, of which God’s judgement is the guarantor. And the Book’s conclusion points the way out of the trial: “Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13). This is the advice to resolve this problem.
Faced with a reality that at certain times seems to us to accommodate every opposite, attributing the same destiny to all of them – which is to end up in nothingness – the path of indifference may also appear to us as the only remedy to a painful disillusionment. Questions like these arise in us: Have our efforts changed the world? Is anyone capable of validating the difference between the just and the unjust? It seems that all this is useless… Why make so much effort?
There is a kind of negative intuition that can manifest itself in any season of life, but there is no doubt that old age makes this encounter with disenchantment almost inevitable. Disenchantment comes in old age. And so the resistance of old age to the demoralising effects of this disenchantment is decisive: if the elderly, who have seen it all by that time, keep intact their passion for justice, then there is hope for love, and also for faith. And for the contemporary world, the passage through this crisis, a healthy crisis, has become crucial. Why? Because a culture that presumes to measure everything and manipulate everything also ends up producing a collective demoralisation of meaning, a demoralization of love, a demoralization of goodness.
This demoralisation takes away our will to act. A supposed “truth” that limits itself to observing the world, also notes its indifference to opposites and consigns them, without redemption, to the flow of time and the fate of nothingness. In this form – cloaked in the trappings of science, but also very insensitive and very amoral – the modern quest for truth has been tempted to take leave of its passion for justice altogether. It no longer believes in its destiny, its promise, its redemption.
For our modern culture, which would like, in practice, to consign everything to the exact knowledge of things, the appearance of this new cynical reason – that combines knowledge and irresponsibility – is a harsh repercussion. Indeed, the knowledge that exempts us from morality seems at first to be a source of freedom, of energy, but soon turns into a paralysis of the soul.
With its irony, Qoheleth has already unmasked this deadly temptation of an omnipotence of knowledge – a “delirium of omniscience” – that generates an impotence of the will. The monks of the most ancient Christian tradition had precisely identified this illness of the soul, which suddenly discovers the vanity of knowledge without faith and without morality, the illusion of truth without justice. They called it “acedia”. And this is a temptation for everyone, even the elderly… But it is a temptation for everyone. It is not simply laziness; no, it’s more than that. It is not simply depression. No. Rather, acedia it is the surrender to knowledge of the world devoid of any passion for justice and consequent action.
The emptiness of meaning and lack of strength opened up by this knowledge, which rejects any ethical responsibility and any affection for the real good, is not harmless. It not only takes away the strength for the desire for the good: by counterreaction, it opens the door to the aggressiveness of the forces of evil. These are the forces of reason gone mad, made cynical by an excess of ideology. In fact, with all our progress, with all our prosperity, we have really become a “society of weariness”. Think about it: we are the society of weariness. We were supposed to have produced widespread well-being and we tolerate a market that is scientifically selective with regard to health. We were supposed to have put an insuperable threshold for peace, and we see more and more ruthless wars against defenceless people. Science advances, of course, and that is good. But the wisdom of life is something else entirely, and it seems to be stalled.
Finally, this an-affective and irresponsible reason also takes away meaning and energy from the knowledge of truth. It is no coincidence that ours is the age of fake news, collective superstitions, and pseudo-scientific truths. It’s curious: in this culture of knowledge, of knowing everything, even of the precision of knowledge, a lot of witchcraft has spread, but cultured witchcraft. It is witchcraft with a certain culture but that leads you to a life of superstition: on the one hand, to go forward with intelligence in knowing things down to the roots; on the other hand, the soul that needs something else and takes the path of superstitions, and ends up in witchcraft. From the wry wisdom of Qoheleth, old age can learn the art of bringing to light the deception hidden in the delirium of a truth of the mind devoid of affection for justice. Elderly people rich in wisdom and humour do so much good for the young! They save them from the temptation of a knowledge of the world that is dreary and devoid of the wisdom of life. And these elderly people also bring the young back to Jesus’ promise: "“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Mt 5:6). They will be the ones to sow the hunger and thirst for justice in the young. Take courage, all of us older people! Take courage and go forward! We have a very great mission in the world. But, please, we must not seek refuge in this somewhat non-concrete, unreal, rootless idealism – let us speak clearly – in the witchcraft of life.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
In the Gospel of today’s Liturgy, bidding his disciples goodbye during the Last Supper, Jesus says almost as a sort of testament: “Peace I leave with you”. And he adds immediately, “My peace I give to you” (Jn 14:27). Let us reflect on these short phrases.
First of all, peace I leave with you. Jesus bids farewell with words expressing affection and serenity. But he does so in a moment that is anything but serene. Judas has left to betray him, Peter is about to deny him, and almost everyone else to abandon him. The Lord knows this, and yet, he does not rebuke, he does not use severe words, he does not give harsh speeches. Rather than demonstrate agitation, he remains kind till the end. There is a proverb that says you die the way you have lived. In effect, the last hours of Jesus’ life are like the essence of his entire life. He feels fear and pain, but does not give way to resentment or protesting. He does not allow himself to become bitter, he does not vent, he is not impatient. He is at peace, a peace that comes from his meek heart accustomed to trust. This is the source of the peace Jesus gives us. For no one can leave others peace if they do not have it within themselves. No one can give peace unless that person is at peace.
Peace I leave with you: Jesus demonstrates that meekness is possible. He incarnated it specifically in the most difficult moment, and he wants us to behave that way too, since we too are heirs of his peace. He wants us to be meek, open, available to listen, capable of defusing tensions and weaving harmony. This is witnessing to Jesus and is worth more than a thousand words and many sermons. The witness of peace. As disciples of Jesus, let us ask ourselves if we behave like this where we live – do we ease tensions, and defuse conflicts? Are we too at odds with someone, always ready to react, explode, or do we know how to respond non-violently, do we know how to respond with peaceful actions? How do I react? Everyone can ask themselves this.
Certainly, this meekness is not easy. How difficult it is, at every level, to defuse conflicts! Jesus’ second phrase comes to our aid here: my peace I give you. Jesus knows that on our own we are not able to cultivate peace, that we need help, that we need a gift. Peace, which is our obligation, is first of all a gift of God. In fact, Jesus says: “My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you” (v. 27). What is this peace that the world does not know and the Lord gives us? This peace is the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit of Jesus. It is the presence of God in us, it is God’s “power of peace”. It is He, the Holy Spirit, who disarms the heart and fills it with serenity. It is He, the Holy Spirit, who loosens rigidity and extinguishes the temptations to attack others. It is He, the Holy Spirit, who reminds us that there are brothers and sisters beside us, not obstacles or adversaries. It is He, the Holy Spirit, who gives us the strength to forgive, to begin again, to set out anew because we cannot do this with our own strength. And it is with Him, with the Holy Spirit, that we become men and women of peace.
Dear brothers and sisters, no sin, no failure, no grudge should discourage us from insistently asking for this gift from the Holy Spirit who gives us peace. The more we feel our hearts are agitated, the more we sense we are nervous, impatient, angry inside, the more we need to ask the Lord for the Spirit of peace. Let us learn to say every day: “Lord, give me your peace, give me your Holy Spirit”. This is a beautiful prayer. Shall we say it together? “Lord, give me your peace, give me your Holy Spirit”. And let us also ask this for those who live next to us, for those we meet each day, and for the leaders of nations.
May Our Lady help us welcome the Holy Spirit so we can be peacemakers.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
The biblical passage we have just heard concludes the Book of Job, a universal literary classic. On our catechetical itinerary, we meet Job when he was an old man. We encounter him as a witness of a faith that does not accept a “caricature” of God, but protests loudly in the face of evil until God responds and reveals his face. And in the end, God responds, as always, in a surprising way – He shows Job His glory without crushing him, or better still, with sovereign tenderness, tenderly, just like God always does. The pages of this book need to be read well, without prejudices, without stereotypes, to understand the power of Job’s cry. It would be good for us to put ourselves in his school to overcome the temptation of moralism due to the exasperation and bitterness of the pain of having lost everything.
Job loses everything in his life, he loses his wealth, he loses his family, he loses his son and he even loses his health, and that’s where he is, plagued, in dialogue with three friends, then a fourth, who come to greet him: this is the story – and in this passage today, the concluding passage of the book, when God finally takes the floor (and this dialogue between Job and his friends is like the path leading to the moment in which God speaks his word), Job is praised because he understood the mystery of God’s tenderness hidden behind his silence. God rebukes Job’s friends who presumed they knew everything, to know about God and about suffering, and, having come to comfort Job, ended up judging him with their preconceived paradigms. God preserve us from this hypocritical and presumptuous religiosity! God preserve us from this moralistic religiosity and that religiosity of precepts that gives us a certain presumption and leads you to phariseeism and hypocrisy.
This is how the Lord expresses himself in their regard. Thus says the Lord: “My wrath is kindled against you […] for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has”, this is what the Lord says to Job’s friends. “My servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (42:7-8). God’s declaration surprises us because we have read pages on fire with Job’s protest which have left us dismayed. And yet, the Lord says Job spoke well, even when he was angry, and even angry at God, but he spoke well because he refused to accept that God was a “Persecutor”. God is something else. And what is that? Job was seeking that. And as a reward, God gives back to Job double of all his possessions, after asking him to pray for those bad friends of his.
The turning point in the conversation of faith comes right at the height of Job’s venting, where he says, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then from my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (19:25-27). This passage is really beautiful. We could interpret it like this: “My God, I know You are not a Persecutor. My God will come and do me justice”. It is the simple faith in the resurrection of God, the simple faith in Jesus Christ, the simple faith that the Lord is always waiting for us and will come.
The parable of the Book of Job dramatically represents in an exemplary way what truly happens in life – that really heavy trials fall on a person, on a family, on a people, disproportionate trials in comparison to human lowliness and frailty. It often happens in life that “when it rains it pours”, as the saying goes. And some people are overcome by an accumulation of evil that truly seems excessive and unjust. It is like this with many people.
We have all known people like this. We have been impressed by their cry, but we have also stood in admiration at the firmness of their faith and love in their silence. I am thinking of parents of children with serious disabilities, have you thought of the parents of children with serious disabilities? Their entire life.… I am thinking also of those who live with a permanent illness, or those who assist a member of their family…. These situations are often aggravated by the scarcity of economic resources. At certain junctures in history, the accumulation of burdens gives the impression that they were given a group appointment. This is what has happened in these years with the Covid-19 pandemic, and is happening now with the war in Ukraine.
Can we justify these “excesses” to the higher intelligence of nature and history? Can we religiously bless them as justified responses to the sins of the victims, as if they deserve it? No, we cannot. There is kind of right that victims have to protest vis-à-vis the mystery of iniquity, a right that God grants to everyone, that indeed, He himself, inspires, after all. Sometimes I meet people who approach me and say: “But, Father, I protested against God because I have this and that problem….” But, you know, friend, that protesting is a way to pray when it is done like that. When children, when young people object against their parents, it is a way of attracting their attention and of asking that they take care of them. If you have some wound in your heart, some pain, and you want to object, object even to God. God will listen to you. God is a Father. God is not afraid of our prayer of protest, no! God understands. But be free, be free in your prayer. Don’t imprison your prayer within preconceived paradigms! No! Prayer should be like this: spontaneous, like that of a child with his father, who say everything that comes out of his mouth because he knows his faither understands him. In the first moment of the drama, God’s “silence” signifies this. God does not shy away from the confrontation, but, from the beginning, allows Job to give vent to his protest, and God listens. At times, perhaps we need to learn this respect and tenderness from God. And God does not like that encyclopaedia – let’s call it this – of explanations, of reflections that Job’s friends do. These are things that come off the tip of their tongues which are not right – that type of religiosity that explains everything, but the heart remains cold. God does not like this. He likes Job’s protest and silence more.
Job’s profession of faith – which emerges precisely from his incessant appeal to God, to a supreme justice – concludes in the end with an almost mystical experience that makes him say, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you” (42:5). How many people, how many of us after an experience that is a bit ugly, a bit dark, take a step and know God better than before! And we can say like Job: “I knew you because I had heard about you, but now I have seen you because I have encountered you”. This testimony is particularly believable if it is picked up in old age, in its progressive frailty and loss. Those who are old have witnessed so many of these experiences in life! And they have also seen the inconsistency of human promises. Lawyers, scientists, even men of religion, who confuse the persecutor with the victim, insinuating that they are fully responsible for their own suffering. They are mistaken!
The elderly who find the path of this testimony, who turn their resentment for their loss into a tenacity for awaiting God’s promises – there is a change from resentment because of the loss toward the tenacity of seeking God’s promises – these older people are an irreplaceable garrison for the community regarding the excesses of evil. The believer whose gaze is turned toward the Crucifix learns just that. May we learn this as well, from the many grandfathers and grandmothers, who like Mary, unite their sometimes heartbreaking prayers, to that of the Son of God who abandons himself to the Father on the cross. Let us look at old people, let us watch elderly men and women, the elderly. Let us watch them with love. Let us see their personal experiences. They have suffered so much in life, they have learned so much in life, they have gone through so much, but in the end they have this peace, a peace, I would say, that is almost mystical, that is, the peace from an encounter with God to the point they can say, "I knew you because I had heard about you, but now I have seen you with my own eyes." These elderly people resemble the peace of the Son of God on the cross who is abandoned to the Father.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
We have heard what Jesus told his disciples before leaving this world and returning to the Father. He told us what it means to be a Christian: “Even as I have loved you, so you must love one another” (Jn 13:34). This is the legacy that Christ bequeathed to us, the ultimate criterion for discerning whether or not we are truly his disciples. It is the commandment of love. Let us stop to consider two essential elements of this commandment: Jesus’ love for us – “as I have loved you” – and the love he asks us to show to others – “so you must love one another”.
First, the words “as I have loved you”. How did Jesus love us? To the very end, to the total gift of himself. It is striking to think that he spoke these words on that night of darkness, when the atmosphere in the Upper Room was one of deep emotion and anxiety: deep emotion, because the Master was about to bid farewell to his disciples; anxiety because he had said that one of them would betray him. We can imagine the sorrow that filled the heart of Jesus, the dark clouds that were gathering in the hearts of the apostles, and their bitterness at seeing Judas who, after receiving the morsel dipped for him by the Master, left the room to enter into the night of betrayal. Yet at the very hour of his betrayal, Jesus reaffirmed his love for his own. For amid the darkness and tempests of life, that is the most important thing of all: God loves us.
Brothers and sisters, may this message be the core of our own faith and all the ways in which we express it: “…not that we loved God but that he loved us” (1 Jn 4:10). Let us never forget this. Our abilities and our merits are not the central thing, but rather the unconditional, free and unmerited love of God. Our Christian lives begin not with doctrine and good works, but with the amazement born of realizing that we are loved, prior to any response on our part. While the world frequently tries to convince us that we are valued only for what we can produce, the Gospel reminds us of the real truth of life: we are loved. He loved us first; he waits for us; he keeps loving us. This is our identity: we are God’s loved ones. This is our strength: we are loved by God.
Acknowledging this truth requires a conversion in the way we often think of holiness. At times, by over-emphasizing our efforts to do good works, we have created an ideal of holiness excessively based on ourselves, our personal heroics, our capacity for renunciation, our readiness for self-sacrifice to achieve a reward. We have turned holiness into an unattainable goal. We have separated it from everyday life, instead of looking for it and embracing it in our daily routines, in the dust of the streets, in the trials of real life and, in the words of Teresa of Avila to her Sisters, “among the pots and pans”. Being disciples of Jesus and advancing on the path of holiness means first and foremost letting ourselves be transfigured by the power of God’s love. Let us never forget the primacy of God over self, of the Spirit over the flesh, of grace over works. For we at times give more importance to self, flesh and works. No, the primacy is that of God over self, of the Spirit over the flesh, of grace over works.
The love that we receive from the Lord is the force that transforms our lives. It opens our hearts and enables us to love. For this reason, Jesus says – here is the second element – “as I have loved you, so must you love one another”. That word “as” is not simply an invitation to imitate Jesus’ love; it tells us that we are able to love only because he has loved us, because he pours into our hearts his own Spirit, the Spirit of holiness, love that heals and transforms. As a result, we can make decisions and perform works of love in every situation and for every brother and sister whom we meet, because we ourselves are loved and we have the power to love. As I myself am loved, so I can love others. The love I give is united to Jesus’ love for me. “As” he loved me, so I can love others. The Christian life is just that simple. Let’s not make it more complicated with so many things. It is just that simple.
In practice, what does it mean to live this love? Before giving us this commandment, Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet; then, after giving it, he gave himself up to the wood of the cross. To love means this: to serve and to give one’s life. To serve, that is, not to put our own interests first: to clear our systems of the poison of greed and competitiveness; to fight the cancer of indifference and the worm of self-referentiality; to share the charisms and gifts that God has given us. Specifically, we should ask ourselves, “What do I do for others?” That is what it means to love, to go about our daily lives in a spirit of service, with unassuming love and without seeking any recompense.
Then, to give one’s life. This is about more than simply offering something of ours to others; it is about giving them our very selves. I like to ask people who seek my counsel whether they give alms. And if they do, whether they touch the hand of the recipient or simply, antiseptically, throw down the alms. Those people usually blush and say no. And I ask whether, in giving alms, they look the person in the eye, or look the other way. They say no. Touching and looking, touching and looking at the flesh of Christ who suffers in our brothers and sisters. This is very important; it is what it means to give one’s life.
Holiness does not consist of a few heroic gestures, but of many small acts of daily love. “Are you called to the consecrated life? So many of you are here today! Then be holy by living out your commitment with joy. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by labouring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters, by fighting for justice for your comrades, so that they do not remain without work, so that they always receive a just wage. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus. Tell me, are you in a position of authority? So many people in authority are here today! Then be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 14). This is the path of holiness, and it is so simple! To see Jesus always in others.
To serve the Gospel and our brothers and sisters, to offer our lives without expecting anything in return, any worldly glory: this is a secret and it is our calling. That was how our fellow travellers canonized today lived their holiness. By embracing with enthusiasm their vocation – as a priest, as a consecrated women, as a lay person – they devoted their lives to the Gospel. They discovered an incomparable joy and they became brilliant reflections of the Lord of history. For that is what a saint is: a luminous reflection of the Lord of history. May we strive to do the same. The path of holiness is not barred; it is universal and it starts with Baptism. Let us strive to follow it, for each of us is called to holiness, to a form of holiness all our own. Holiness is always “original”, as Blessed Carlo Cutis used to say: it is not a photocopy, but an “original”, mine, yours, all of ours. It is uniquely our own. Truly, the Lord has a plan of love for everyone. He has a dream for your life, for my life, for the life of each of us. What else can I say? Pursue that dream with joy.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
Today we will talk about Judith, a biblical heroine. The conclusion of the book that bears her name summarizes the final part of the life of this woman, who defended Israel from its enemies. Judith is a young and virtuous Jewish widow who, thanks to her faith, beauty and cunning, saved the city of Bethulia and the people of Judah from the siege of Holofernes, general of Nebuchadnezzar king of Assyria, an overbearing and contemptuous enemy of God. And so, with her astute way of acting, she was able to behead the dictator who came against the country. She was brave, this woman, but she had faith…
After her great adventure, Judith returned to live in her town, Bethulia, where she lived beautifully her old age, until she was one hundred and five. As it arrives for many people: sometimes after an intense life of work, sometimes after an adventurous existence, or one of great dedication. Heroism does not consist only of the great events that fall under the spotlight, such as that of Judith, who killed the dictator; it is often found, this heroism, in the tenacity of love poured out in a difficult family and on behalf of a threatened community.
Judith lived more than a hundred years, a particular blessing. But it is not uncommon today to live many years after retirement. How do we interpret, how do we make the most of this time we have? I will retire today, and will have many years ahead of me, and what can I do, in these years? How can I grow – in age, that takes care of itself; but how can I grow in authority, in holiness, in wisdom?
The prospect of retirement coincides for many people with that of a deserved and long-awaited rest from demanding and wearisome activities. But it also happens that the end of work can be a source for worry, and is accompanied with some trepidation. “What will I do, now that my life will be emptied of what filled it for so long?”: this is the question. Daily work also means a set of relationships, the satisfaction of earning a living, the experience of having a role, well-deserved recognition, a full-time job that goes beyond working hours alone.
Certainly, there is the task, joyful and tiring, of looking after grandchildren, and today grandparents have a very important role in the family in helping to raise grandchildren; but we know that ever fewer children are born nowadays, and parents are often farther away, more subject to displacement, with unfavourable work and housing conditions. At times they are also more reluctant to leave space to grandparents for education, granting only what is strictly linked to the need for assistance. But someone said to me, with an ironic smile, “Nowadays, in this socio-economic situation, grandparents have become more important because they have a pension”. They think in this way. There are new demands, also within the area of educational and family relations, that require us to reshape the traditional connection between the generations.
But, let us ask ourselves: are we making this effort to “reshape”? Or do we simply suffer the inertia of material and economic conditions? The co-presence of generations is, in fact, lengthening. Are we all trying together to make these conditions more human, more loving, more just, according to the new conditions of modern societies? For grandparents, an important part of their vocation is to support their sons and daughters in the upbringing of their children. The little ones learn the power of tenderness and respect for frailty: irreplaceable lessons that, are easier to impart and receive with grandparents. For their part, grandparents learn that tenderness and frailty are not solely signs of decline: for young people, they are conditions that humanize the future.
Judith was soon widowed and had no children, but, as an old woman, she was able to live a season of fullness and serenity, in the knowledge that she had lived to the fullest the mission the Lord had entrusted to her. It was time for her to leave the good legacy of wisdom, tenderness, and gifts for her family and her community: a legacy of goodness and not only of goods. When we think of a legacy, at times we think of goods, and not of the goodness that is done in old age, and that has been sown, that goodness that is the best legacy we can leave.
It was precisely in her old age that Judith “granted freedom to her favourite handmaid.” This is a sign of an attentive and humane approach to those who had been close to her. This maid had accompanied her at the moment of that adventure, to win over the dictator and to cut his throat. When we are old, we lose some of our sight, but our inner gaze becomes more penetrating – one sees with the heart. We become capable of seeing things that previously escaped us. The elderly know how to look, and they know how to see… It is true: the Lord does not entrust his talents only to the young and the strong. He has talents for everyone, made to fit each person, the elderly too. The life of our communities must know how to benefit from the talents and charisms of so many elderly people who are already retired, but who are a wealth to be treasured. On the part of the elderly themselves, this requires a creative attention, a new attention, a generous availability. The previous skills of active life lose their constraint and become resources to be given away: teaching, advising, building, caring, listening...preferably in favour of the most disadvantaged who cannot afford any learning or who are abandoned in their loneliness.
Judith freed her maid and showered everyone with attention. As a young woman, she had won the esteem of the community with her courage. As an old woman, she garnered esteem because of the tenderness with which she enriched their freedom and affections. Judith is not a pensioner who lives the emptiness it brings melancholically: she is a passionate mature woman who fills the time God gives her with gifts. Remember: one of these days, take the Bible and look at the Book of Judith: it is very short, you can read it … it is ten pages long, no more. Read this story of a courageous woman who ends up this way, with tenderness, generosity, a worthy woman. And this is how I would like all our grandmothers to be: courageous, wise, and who bequeath to us not money, but the legacy of wisdom, sown in their grandchildren. Thank you.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
The Gospel for today’s Liturgy speaks to us about the bond that exists between the Lord and each one of us (cf. Jn 10:27-30). In doing so, Jesus uses a tender image, a beautiful image of the shepherd who stays with the sheep. And he explains it with three verbs: “My sheep”, Jesus says, “hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (v. 27). Three verbs: hear, know, follow. Let us take a look at these three verbs.
First of all, the sheep hear the voice of the shepherd. The initiative always comes from the Lord. Everything comes from his grace: it is he who calls us to communion with him. But this communion comes about if we open ourselves to listen. If we are deaf, he cannot grant us this communion. Open ourselves to listening, because listening implies availability, it implies docility, it implies time dedicated to dialogue. Today, we are inundated with words and by the urgency to always have something to say or do. How often two people are talking and the one does not wait for the other to finish his or her thought, but cuts the other off mid-sentence, and responds…. But if we do not allow another to speak, there is no listening. This is an ailment of our time. Today, we are inundated with words, by the urgency to always have something to say or do. We are afraid of silence. How hard it is to listen to each other! To listen till the end, to let the other express him or herself, to listen in our families, to listen at school, to listen at work, and even in the Church! But for the Lord, it is first of all necessary to listen. He is the Word of the Father, and the Christian is a listening child, called to live with the Word of God at hand. Let us ask ourselves today if we are listening children, if we find time for the Word of God, if we give space and attention to our brothers and sisters, if we know how to listen until the other has finished speaking, without cutting off what the other is saying. Those who listen to others know how listen to the Lord, too, and vice versa. And they experience something very beautiful, that is, that the Lord himself listens – he listens to us when we pray to him, when we confide in him, when we call on him.
Listening to Jesus thus becomes the way for us to discover that he knows us. This is the second verb that concerns the good shepherd. He knows his sheep. But this does not only mean that he knows many things about us. To know in the biblical sense also means to love. It means that the Lord, “while he reads our inner beings,” loves us, he does not condemn us. If we listen to him, we discover this – that the Lord loves us. The way to discover the Lord’s love is to listen to him. Thus, our relationship with him will no longer be impersonal, cold or a front. Jesus is looking for a warm friendship, trust, intimacy. He wants to give us a new and marvelous awareness – that of knowing we are always loved by him and, therefore, that we are never left alone by ourselves. Being with the good shepherd allows us to live the experience what the Psalm speaks about: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me” (Ps 23:4). He sustains us above all in our sufferings, in our difficulties, in our crises – which are dark – by going through them us. And so, it is specifically in difficult situations, that we can discover that we are known and loved by the Lord. So, let us ask ourselves: Do I let the Lord know me? Do I make room for him in my life? Do I bring what I am living to him? And what idea do I have of him after the many times I have experienced his closeness, his compassion, his tenderness? That the Lord is near, that the Lord is the good shepherd?
Lastly, the third verb: the sheep who hear, and who discover they are known, follow: they listen, they experience they are known by the Lord and they follow the Lord who is their shepherd. What do those who follow Christ do? They go where he goes, along the same path, in the same direction. They go to seek those who are lost (cf. Lk 15:4), are interested in those who are far-off, take to heart the situation of those who suffer, know how to weep with those who weep, they reach out their hands to their neighbour, placing him or her on their shoulders. And me? Do I let Jesus love me, and by allowing him to love me, do I pass from loving him to imitating him? May the Holy Virgin help us listen to Christ, know him always more and follow him on the way of service. Hearing him, knowing him, following him.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
On the path of these catecheses on old age, today we meet a biblical figure – and old man – named Eleazar, who lived at the time of the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes. He is a wonderful character. His character gives us a testimony of the special relationship that exists between the fidelity of old age and the honour of faith. I would like to speak precisely about the honour of faith, not only about faith’s consistency, proclamation, and resistance. The honour of faith periodically comes under pressure, even violent pressure, from the culture of the rulers, who seek to debase it by treating it as an archaeological find, or an old superstition, an anachronistic fetish, and so on.
The biblical story – we have heard a short passage, but it is good to read it all – tells of the episode of the Jews being forced by a king’s decree to eat meat sacrificed to idols. When it’s the turn of Eleazar, an elderly man highly respected by everyone, in his 90s; highly respected by everyone – an authority – the king’s officials advised him to resort to a pretence, that is, to pretend to eat the meat without actually doing so. Hypocrisy. Religious hypocrisy. There is so much! There is so much religious hypocrisy, clerical hypocrisy, there is so much. These people tell him, “Be a little bit of a hypocrite, no one will notice. In this way Eleazar would be saved, and – they said – in the name of friendship he would accept their gesture of compassion and affection. A hypocritical way out. After all, they insisted, it was a small gesture, pretending to eat but not eating, an insignificant gesture.
It is a little thing, but Eleazar’s calm and firm response is based on an argument that strikes us. The central point is this: dishonouring the faith in old age, in order to gain a handful of days, cannot be compared with the legacy it must leave to the young, for entire generations to come. But well-done Eleazar! An old man who has lived in the coherence of his faith for a whole lifetime, and who now adapts himself to feigning repudiation of it, condemns the new generation to thinking that the whole faith has been a sham, an outer covering that can be abandoned, imagining that it can be preserved interiorly. And it is not so, says Eleazar. Such behaviour does not honour faith, not even before God. And the effect of this external trivialization will be devastating for the inner life of young people. But the consistency of this man who considers the young! He considers his future legacy, he thinks of his people.
It is precisely old age – and this is beautiful for all you old people, isn’t it! – that appears here as the decisive place, the irreplaceable place for this testimony. An elderly person who, because of his vulnerability, accepts that the practice of the faith is irrelevant, would make young people believe that faith has no real relationship with life. It would appear to them, from the outset, as a set of behaviours which, if necessary, can be faked or concealed, because none of them is particularly important for life.
The ancient heterodox “gnosis,” which was a very powerful and very seductive trap for early Christianity, theorised precisely about this, this is an old thing: that faith is a spirituality, not a practice; a strength of the mind, not a form of life. Faithfulness and the honour of faith, according to this heresy, have nothing to do with the behaviours of life, the institutions of the community, the symbols of the body. Nothing to do with it. The seduction of this perspective is strong, because it interprets, in its own way, an indisputable truth: that faith can never be reduced to a set of dietary rules or social practices. Faith is something else. The trouble is that the Gnostic radicalisation of this truth nullifies the realism of the Christian faith, because the Christian faith is realistic. The Christian faith is not just saying the creed: it is thinking about the Creed and understanding the Creed and doing the Creed. Working with our hands.
The practice of faith for these gnostics, who were already around at the time of Jesus, is regarded as a useless and even harmful external, as an antiquated residue, as a disguised superstition. In short, something for old men. The pressure that this indiscriminate criticism exerts on the younger generations is strong. Of course, we know that the practice of faith can become a soulless external practice. The practice of faith is not the symbol of our weakness, no, but rather the sign of its strength.
Faith deserves respect and honour to the very end: it has changed our lives, it has purified our minds, it has taught us the worship of God and the love of our neighbour. It is a blessing for all! But the faith as a whole, not just a part of it. Like Eleazar, we will not barter our faith for a handful of quiet days. We will show, in all humility and firmness, precisely in our old age, that believing is not something “for the old.” No. It’s a matter of life. Believing in the Holy Spirit, who makes all things new, and He will gladly help us.
Dear elderly brothers and sisters – not to say old, we are in the same group – please look at the young people: they are watching us. They are watching us. Don't forget that. Young people are watching us and our consistency can open up a beautiful path of life for them. Hypocrisy, on the other hand, will do so much harm. Let us pray for one another. May God bless all of us old people. Thank you.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
The Gospel of today's Liturgy (Jn 21:1-19) recounts the third appearance of the Risen Jesus to the Apostles. It is a meeting that takes place by the Lake of Galilee, and above all involves Simon Peter. It all begins with him saying to the other disciples: “I am going fishing” (v. 3). There was nothing strange about this, since he was a fisherman, but he had abandoned this work from the time he had left his nets on the shore of that very lake in order to follow Jesus. And now, while the Risen One is waiting, Peter, perhaps a little disheartened, proposes to the others that he return to his former life. And the others accept: “We will go with you”. But “that night they caught nothing”. (v. 3).
This can happen to us, out of tiredness, disappointment, perhaps out of laziness, to forget the Lord and to neglect the great choices we have made, to content ourselves with something else. For example, not to dedicate time to talking together in the family, preferring personal pastimes; we forget prayer, letting ourselves get wrapped up in our own needs; we neglect charity, with the excuse of daily urgencies. But, in doing so, we find ourselves disappointed: it is that very disappointment that Peter felt, with empty nets, like him. It is a road that takes you backwards, and does not satisfy you.
And what does Jesus do with Peter? He returns again to the shore of the lake where he had chosen him, Andrew, James and John. He does not reproach them – Jesus does not reproach, he touches the heart, always – but calls the disciples tenderly: “Children” (v. 5). Then he invites them, as before, to cast their nets again courageously. And this time the nets are filled to overflowing. Brothers and sisters, when our nets are empty in life, it is not the time to feel sorry for ourselves, to have fun, to return to old pastimes. It is time to begin again with Jesus, it is time to find the courage to begin again, it is time to put out to sea again with him. Always, faced with a disappointment, or a life that has lost its meaning somewhat – “today I feel as if I have gone backwards” – set out again with Jesus, start again, put out into the deep! He is waiting for you. And he is thinking only of you, me, each one of us.
Peter needed that “shock”. When he hears John cry: “It is the Lord!” (v. 7), he immediately dives into the water and swims towards Jesus. It is a gesture of love, because love goes beyond usefulness, convenience or duty; love generates wonder, it inspires creative, freely-given zeal. In this way, while John, the youngest, recognizes the Lord, it is Peter, the eldest, who dives towards him. In that dive there is all the new-found enthusiasm of Simon Peter.
Dear brothers and sisters, today the Risen Christ invites us to a new impetus – everyone, each one of us – he invites us to dive into the good without the fear of losing something, without calculating too much, without waiting for others to begin. Why? Do not wait for others, because in order to go out to meet Jesus, we need to be put off balance. We need to be put off balance with courage, restore ourselves, but restore ourselves unbalanced, taking risks. Let us ask ourselves: am I capable of an outburst of generosity, or do I restrain the impulses of my heart and close myself off in routine, in fear? Jump in, dive in. This is today’s word from Jesus.
Then, at the end of this episode, Jesus asks Peter, three times, the question: “Do you love me?” (vv. 15-16). The Risen Lord asks us too today: Do you love me? Because at Easter, Jesus wants our hearts to rise too; because faith is not a question of knowledge, but of love. Do you love me? Jesus asks you, me, us, who have empty nets and are afraid to start out again; who do not have the courage to dive in and have perhaps lost our momentum. Do you love me? Jesus asks. From then on, Peter stopped fishing forever and dedicated himself to the service of God and to his brothers and sisters to the point of giving his life here, where we are now. And what about us, do we want to love Jesus?
May Our Lady, who readily said “yes” to the Lord, help us to rediscover the impulse to do good.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
Today we will continue to reflect on the elderly, on grandparents, on old age – the word seems ugly but no, the elderly are great, they are beautiful! And today we will let ourselves be inspired by the splendid book of Ruth, a jewel of the Bible. The parable of Ruth sheds light on the beauty of family bonds: generated by the relationship of a couple, but which go beyond it. Bonds of love capable of being equally strong, in which the perfection of that polyhedron of fundamental affections that make up the family grammar of love shines. This grammar brings vital lymph and generative wisdom to the set of relationships that build up the community. the Book of Ruth is like the other panel in the diptych of nuptial love. Just as important, just as essential, it indeed celebrates the power and the poetry that must inhabit the bonds of generation, kinship, devotion and fidelity that involve the entire family constellation. And which even become capable, in the dramatic conjunctures in the life of a couple, of bringing an unimaginable power of love, able to relaunch hope and the future.
We know that clichés about the bonds of kinship created by marriage, especially that of the mother-in-law, the relationship between mother- and daughter-in-law, speak against this perspective. But, precisely for this reason, the word of God becomes precious. The inspiration of faith can open up a horizon of witness that counters the most common prejudices, a horizon that is precious for the entire human community. I invite you to rediscover the book of Ruth! Especially in the meditation on love and in catechesis on the family.
This short book also contains valuable teaching on the alliance of the generations: where youth reveals itself to be capable of restoring enthusiasm to mature age – this is essential: when youth restores enthusiasm to the elderly – and where old age discovers it is capable of reopening the future to wounded youth. At the beginning, the elderly Naomi, although moved by the affection of her daughters-in-law, widowed by her two sons, is pessimistic with regard to their destiny within a population that is not their own. She therefore affectionately encourages the young women to return to their families to rebuild their lives – these widows were young. She says, “I can do nothing for you”. This already appears to be an act of love: the elderly woman, without a husband and without her sons, insists that her daughters-in-law abandon her. However, it is also a sort of resignation: there is no possible future for the foreign widows, without the protection of a husband. Ruth knows this, and resists this generous offer – she does not want to go home. The bond established between mother- and daughter-in-law was blessed by God: Naomi cannot ask to be abandoned. At first, Naomi appears more resigned than happy about this offer: perhaps she thinks that this strange bond will aggravate the risk for both of them. In some cases, the tendency of the elderly towards pessimism needs to be countered by the affectionate pressure of the young.
Indeed, Naomi, moved by Ruth’s devotion, will emerge from her pessimism and even take the initiative, opening up a new future for Ruth. She instructs and encourages Ruth, her son’s widow, to win a new husband in Israel. Boaz, the candidate, shows his nobility, defending Ruth from the men in his employ.
Ruth’s new marriage is celebrated and the worlds are again pacified. The women of Israel tell Naomi that Ruth, the foreigner, is worth “more than seven sons” and that the marriage will be a “blessing of the Lord”. Naomi, who was full of bitterness and even said that her name was bitterness, in her old age, will know the joy of having a part in the generation of a new birth. Look how many “miracles” accompany the conversion of this elderly woman! She converts to the commitment of making herself available, with love, for the future of a generation wounded by loss and at risk of abandonment. The mother-in-law overcomes her jealousy for her own son, loving Ruth’s new bond; the women of Israel overcome their distrust of the foreigner; the vulnerability of the lone girl, faced with male power, is reconciled with a bond full of love and respect.
And all this because the young Ruth is obstinate in her fidelity to a bond exposed to ethnic and religious prejudice. Today the mother-in-law is a mythical figure: I won’t say that we think of the mother-in-law as the devil but she is always thought of as an unpleasant figure. But the mother-in-law is the mother of your husband, she is the mother of your wife. Let us think today about this rather widespread feeling that the farther away the mother-in-law is, the better. No! She is a mother, she is elderly. One of the most beautiful things about grandmothers is seeing the grandchildren – when their children have children of their own, they come alive again. Look closely at the relationship you have with your mothers-in-law: at times they are a bit special, but they have been the mother to your spouse, they have given you everything. We should at least make them happy, so that they go forth into their old age with joy. And if they have some fault, we should help them to correct it. And to you, mothers-in-law, I say: be careful with your tongue, because its misuse is one of the worst sins of mothers-in-law.
And Ruth, in this book, accepts her mother-in-law and makes her come alive again, and the elderly Naomi takes the initiative of reopening the future for Ruth, instead of limiting herself to enjoying her support. If the young open themselves to gratitude for what they have received, and the elderly take the initiative of relaunching their future, nothing can stop the flourishing of God’s blessings among peoples! Do not forget, may young people speak with their grandparents, may the young speak with the old, may the old speak with the young. This bridge must be rebuilt in a strong way – there is a current of salvation, of happiness there. May the Lord help us, doing this, to grow in harmony with families, that constructive harmony that goes from the oldest to the youngest, that beautiful bridge that we must protect and safeguard.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
Today, the last day of the Octave of Easter, the Gospel recounts the first and second apparition of the Risen One to the disciples. Jesus comes at Passover, while the Apostles are shut in the Upper Room, out of fear, but since Thomas, one of the Twelve, is not present, Jesus returns eight days later (cf. Jn 20:19-29). Let’s focus on the two main characters, Thomas and Jesus, looking first at the disciple, and then at the Master. There is a good dialogue between these two.
The Apostle Thomas, first of all. He represents all of us, who were not present in the Upper Room when the Lord appeared, and did not have other physical signs or apparitions from him. We too struggle at times like that disciple: how can we believe that Jesus is risen, that he accompanies us and is the Lord of our life without having seen him, without having touched him? How can one believe in this? Why does the Lord not give us some clearer sign of his presence and love? Some sign that I can see better… Here, we too are like Thomas, with the same doubts, the same reasoning.
But we do not need to be ashamed of this. By telling us the story of Thomas, in fact, the Gospel tells us that the Lord is not looking for perfect Christians. I tell you: I am afraid when I see a Christian, some associations of Christians who believe themselves to be perfect. The Lord is not looking for perfect Christians; the Lord is not looking for Christians who never doubt and always flaunt a steadfast faith. When a Christian is like that, something isn’t right. No, the adventure of faith, as for Thomas, consists of lights and shadows. Otherwise, what kind of faith would that be? It knows times of comfort, zeal and enthusiasm, but also of weariness, confusion, doubt and darkness. The Gospel shows us Thomas’ “crisis” to tell us that we should not fear the crises of life and faith. Crises are not sins, they are part of the journey, we should not fear them. Many times, they make us humble because they strip us of the idea that we are fine, that we are better than others. Crises help us to recognize that we are needy: they rekindle the need for God and thus enable us to return to the Lord, to touch his wounds, to experience his love anew as if it were the first time. Dear brothers and sisters, is better to have an imperfect but humble faith that always returns to Jesus, than a strong but presumptuous faith that makes us proud and arrogant. Woe to those, woe to them!
And, faced with Thomas’ absence and his journey, which is often also our own, what does Jesus do? The Gospel says twice that he “came” (vv. 19, 26). First once, then a second time, eight days later. Jesus does not give up, he does not get tired of us, he is not afraid of our crises, our weaknesses. He always comes back: when the doors are closed, he comes back; when we are doubt, he comes back; when, like Thomas, we need to encounter him and to touch him up close, he comes back. Jesus always comes back, he always knocks on the door, and he does not come back with powerful signs that would make us feel small and inadequate, even ashamed, but with his wounds; he comes back showing us his wounds, signs of his love that has espoused our frailties.
Brothers and sisters, especially when we experience moments of weariness and crisis, the Risen Jesus wishes to return to stay with us. He only waits for us to seek him, to call on him, or even, like Thomas, to protest, bringing him our needs and our unbelief. He always comes back. Why? Because he is patient and merciful. He comes to open the upper rooms of our fears and unbelief because he always wants to give us another chance. Jesus is the Lord of “other chances”: he always gives us another one, always. So let us think about the last time – let’s try to remember a little – that, during a difficult moment or a period of crisis, we closed in on ourselves, barricading ourselves in our problems and shutting Jesus out of the house. And let us promise ourselves, the next time, in our fatigue, to seek Jesus, to return to him, to his forgiveness – he always forgives, always! – to return to those wounds that have healed us. In this way, we will also become capable of compassion, of approaching the wounds of others without inflexibility and without prejudice.
May Our Lady, Mother of Mercy – I like to think of her as the Mother of Mercy on the Monday after Mercy Sunday – accompany us on the journey of faith and love.
Today the risen Lord appears to the disciples. To those who had abandoned him he offers his mercy and shows his wounds. The words he speaks to them are punctuated with a greeting that we hear three times in the Gospel: “Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19.21.26). Peace be with you! These are the words of the risen Jesus as he encounters every human weakness and error. Let us reflect on the three times Jesus says those words. In them, we will discover three aspects of God’s mercy towards us. Those words first give joy, then grant forgiveness and finally offer comfort in every difficulty.
First, God’s mercy gives joy, a special joy, the joy of knowing that we have been freely forgiven. When, on the evening of Easter, the disciples see Jesus and hear him say for the first time, “Peace be with you”, they rejoice (v. 20). They were locked behind closed doors out of fear; but they were also closed in on themselves, burdened by a sense of failure. They were disciples who had abandoned their Master; at the moment of his arrest, they had run away. Peter even denied him three times, and one of their number – one from among them! – had betrayed him. They had good reason to feel not only afraid, but useless; they had failed. In the past, certainly, they had made courageous choices. They had followed the Master with enthusiasm, commitment and generosity. Yet in the end, everything had happened so fast. Fear prevailed and they committed the great sin: they left Jesus alone at his most tragic hour. Before Easter, they had thought that they were destined for greatness; they argued about who would be the greatest among them… Now they have hit rock bottom.
In this climate, they hear for the first time, “Peace be with you!” The disciples ought to have felt shame, yet they rejoice. Why? Because seeing his face and hearing his greeting turned their attention away from themselves and towards Jesus. As the Gospel tells us, “the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord” (v. 20). They were distracted from themselves and their failures and attracted by his gaze, that brimmed not with severity but with mercy. Christ did not reproach them for what they had done, but showed them his usual kindness. And this revives them, fills their hearts with the peace they had lost and makes them new persons, purified by a forgiveness that is utterly unmerited.
That is the joy Jesus brings. It is the joy that we too feel whenever we experience his forgiveness. We ourselves know what those disciples were feeling on Easter, because of our own lapses, sins and failures. At such times, we may think that nothing can be done. Yet that is precisely when the Lord does everything. He gives us his peace, through a good Confession, through the words of someone who draws near to us, through an interior consolation of the Spirit, or through some unexpected and surprising event… In any number of ways, God shows that he wants to make us feel the embrace of his mercy, the joy born of receiving “pardon and peace”. The joy God gives is indeed born of forgiveness. It bestows peace. It is a joy that raises us up without humiliating us. It is as if the Lord does not understand what is happening. Brothers and sisters, let us think of all those times when we received the pardon and peace of Jesus. Each one of us has received them; each one of us has had that experience. It is good for us to remember those moments. Let us put the memory of God’s warm embrace before the memory of our own mistakes and failings. In this way, we will grow in joy. For nothing will ever be the same for anyone who has experienced God’s joy! It is a joy that transforms us.
Peace be with you! The Lord says these words a second time and adds, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (v. 22). He then gives the disciples the Holy Spirit to make them agents of reconciliation: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them” (v. 23). Not only do the disciples receive mercy; they become dispensers of the mercy that they themselves received. They receive this power not on account of their merits or studies, but as a pure gift of grace, based however on their experience of having been themselves forgiven.
I am now speaking to you, missionaries of mercy: if you do not feel forgiven, do not carry out your service as a missionary of mercy until you feel that forgiveness. The mercy that we have received enables us to dispense a great deal of mercy and forgiveness. Today and every day, in the Church forgiveness must be received in this same way, through the humble goodness of a merciful confessor who sees himself not as the holder of some power but as a channel of mercy, who pours out upon others the forgiveness that he himself first received. From this arises the ability to forgive everything because God always forgives everything. We are the ones who tire of asking forgiveness but he always forgives. You must be channels of that forgiveness through your own experience of being forgiven. There is no need to torment the faithful when they come to Confession. It is necessary to understand their situation, to listen, to forgive and to offer good counsel so that they can move forward. God forgives everything and we must not close that door to people.
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them”. These words stand at the origin of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but not only this as Jesus has made the entire Church a community that dispenses mercy, a sign and instrument of reconciliation for all humanity. Brothers and sisters, each of us, in baptism, received the gift of the Holy Spirit to be a man or woman of reconciliation. Whenever we experience the joy of being set free from the burden of our sins and failings; whenever we know at firsthand what it means to be reborn after a situation that appeared hopeless, we feel the need to share with those around us the bread of mercy. Let us feel called to this. And let us ask ourselves: at home, in my family, at work, in my community, do I foster fellowship, am I a weaver of reconciliation? Do I commit myself to defusing conflict, to bringing forgiveness in place of hatred, and peace in place of resentment? Do I avoid hurting others by not gossiping? Jesus wants us to be his witnesses before the world with those words: Peace be with you!
Peace be with you! The Lord says these words a third time when, eight days later, he appears to the disciples and strengthens the flagging faith of Thomas. Thomas wants to see and touch. The Lord is not offended by Thomas’s disbelief, but comes to his aid: “Put your finger here and see my hands” (v. 27). These are not words of defiance but of mercy. Jesus understands Thomas’s difficulty. He does not treat Thomas with harshness, and the apostle is deeply moved by this kindness. From a disbeliever, he becomes a believer, and makes the simplest and finest confession of faith: “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28). These are beautiful words. We can make them our own and repeat them throughout the day, especially when, like Thomas, we experience doubts and difficulties.
For the story of Thomas is in fact the story of every believer. There are times of difficulty when life seems to belie faith, moments of crisis when we need to touch and see. Like Thomas, it is precisely in those moments that we rediscover the heart of Christ, the Lord’s mercy. In those situations, Jesus does not approach us in triumph and with overwhelming proofs. He does not perform earth-shattering miracles, but instead offers us heart-warming signs of his mercy. He comforts us in the same way he did in today’s Gospel: he offers us his wounds. We must not forget this fact. In response to our sin, the Lord is always present offering us his wounds. In our ministry as confessors, we must let the people see that in the midst of their sin, the Lord offers his wounds to them. The wounds of the Lord are stronger than sin.
Jesus makes us see the wounds of our brothers and sisters. In the midst of our own crises and our difficulties, divine mercy often makes us aware of the sufferings of our neighbour. We think that we are experiencing unbearable pain and situations of suffering, and we suddenly discover that others around us are silently enduring even worse things. If we care for the wounds of our neighbour and pour upon them the balm of mercy, we find being reborn within us a hope that comforts us in our weariness. Let us ask ourselves whether of late we have helped someone suffering in mind or body; whether we have brought peace to someone suffering physically or spiritually; whether we have spent some time simply listening, being present, or bringing comfort to another person. For whenever we do these things, we encounter Jesus. From the eyes of all those who are weighed down by the trials of life, he looks out at us with mercy and says: Peace be with you! In this regard, I think of Our Lady’s presence with the Apostles. I also recall that we commemorate her as Mother of the Church on the day following Pentecost and as Mother of Mercy on the Monday following Divine Mercy Sunday. May she help us move forward in our ministry.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
Today, with the help of the Word of God that we have heard, we open a passage through the fragility of old age, marked in a special way by the experiences of confusion and despondency, of loss and abandonment, of disillusionment and doubt. Of course, the experiences of our frailty in the face of life's dramatic - sometimes tragic - situations can occur at any stage of life. However, in old age they can produce less of an impression and induce in others a kind of habituation, even annoyance. How many times have we heard or thought: ‘Old people are a nuisance'’ – ‘But, these old people are always a nuisance’: don’t deny it, that’s the way it is... We’ve said it, we’ve thought it… The more serious wounds of childhood and youth rightly provoke a sense of injustice and rebellion, a strength to react and fight. On the other hand, the wounds, even serious ones, of old age are inevitably accompanied by the feeling that, in any case, life is not contradicting itself, because it has already been lived. And so the elderly are somewhat removed from our experience: we want to keep them at a distance.
In the common human experience, love - as is said - descends: it does not return to the life behind with the same force that it pours out on the life that is still before us. The gratuitousness of love also appears in this: parents have always known this, the old soon learn it. Nevertheless, revelation opens a way for reciprocating love in a different way: that of honouring those who have gone before us, the way of honouring the people who came before us, of honouring the elderly.
This special love that paves the way in the form of honour – that is, tenderness and respect at the same time – intended for the elderly is sealed by God's commandment. "Honour thy father and mother" is a solemn commitment, the first of the "second tablet" of the Ten Commandments. It is not just about one's own father and mother. It is about their generation and the generations before, whose leave-taking can also be slow and prolonged, creating a time and space of long-lasting coexistence with the other ages of life. In other words, it is about the old age of life, old age…
Honour is a good word to frame this aspect of returning love that concerns old age. That is, we have received the love of parents, of grandparents, and now we return this love to them, to the elderly, to our grandparents. Today we have rediscovered the term 'dignity', to indicate the value of respecting and caring for the age [life] of everyone. Dignity, here, is essentially equivalent to honour: honouring father and mother, honouring the elderly, and recognizing the dignity they possess.
Let us think carefully about this beautiful expression of love which is honour. Even care for the sick, the support of those who are not self-sufficient, the guarantee of sustenance, can be lacking honour. Honour is lacking when an excess of confidence, instead of being expressed as delicacy and affection, tenderness and respect, is transformed into roughness and abuse. This occurs when weakness is reproached, and even punished, as if it were a fault, and when bewilderment and confusion become an opening for derision and aggression. It can happen even in the home, in nursing homes, as well as in offices or in the open spaces of the city. Encouraging in young people, even indirectly, an attitude of condescension - and even contempt - for the elderly, for their weaknesses and their precariousness, produces horrible things. It opens the way to unimaginable excesses. The young people who set fire to a homeless persons blanket – we’ve seen this, haven’t we? – because they see him as a human reject, and we often think that the old are the refuse, or we put them in the trash; these young people who have set fire to a homeless persons blanket are the tip of the iceberg, that is, of the contempt for a life that, far from the attractions and impulses of youth, already seems to be a life to be cast aside. ‘Refuse’ is the word, isn’t it? To despise the elderly and cast them from life, to put them aside, to put them down.
This contempt, which dishonours the elderly, actually dishonours all of us. If I dishonour the elderly, I dishonour myself. The passage from the Book of Sirach, which we heard at the beginning, is rightly harsh on this dishonour, which cries out for vengeance in the sight of God.
In spite of all the material provisions that richer and more organised societies make available for old age - of which we can certainly be proud - the struggle for the restoration of that special form of love which is honour still seems fragile and immature. We must do all we can to support and encourage it.
And on this point, allow me to offer some advice to parents: please, bring your children, young children, closer to the elderly, always bring them closer. And when the elderly person is ill, a bit out of their mind, always approach them: let them know that this is our flesh, that this is what has made it possible for us to be here. Please don't push the elderly away. And if there is no other option than to send them to a nursing home, please visit them and bring the children to see them: they are the honour of our civilisation, the old people who opened the doors. And many times, the children forget this.
I'll tell you something personal: I used to love visiting nursing homes in Buenos Aires. I went often. I went often, I visited each one... And I remember once I asked a lady: ‘And how many children do you have?’ – ‘I have four, all married, with grandchildren ...,’ and she started talking to me about the family. ‘And do they come [to visit]?’ – ‘Yes, [she said,] ‘they always come!’ When I left the room, the nurse, who had heard, said to me: ‘Father, she told a lie to cover up for her children. Nobody has come for six months!’ This is discarding the old, it is thinking that the old are refuse. Please: it is a grave sin. This is the first great commandment, and the only one that says the reward: ‘Honour your father and your mother, and you will have long life on earth.’ This commandment to honour the elderly gives us a blessing, which is expressed in this way: ‘You will have long life.’ Please cherish the elderly. And even if their mind goes, cherish the old. Because they are the presence of history, the presence of my family, and thanks to them I am here, we can all say: thanks to you, grandfather and grandmother, I am alive. Please don't leave them alone. And this, looking after the elderly, is not a question of cosmetics and plastic surgery, no. Rather, it is a question of honour, which must transform how we educate the young about life and its stages. Love for the human person that is common to us, including honouring a life lived, is not a matter for the old. Rather it is an ambition that will bring radiance to the youth who inherit its best qualities. May the wisdom of God's Spirit grant us to open the horizon of this true cultural revolution with the necessary energy. Thank you.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
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.
Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Easter!
Jesus, the Crucified One, is risen! He stands in the midst of those who mourned him, locked behind closed doors and full of fear and anguish. He comes to them and says: “Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19). He shows the wounds in his hands and feet, and the wound in his side. He is no ghost; it is truly Jesus, the same Jesus who died on the cross and was laid in the tomb. Before the incredulous eyes of the disciples, he repeats: “Peace be with you!” (v. 21).
Our eyes, too, are incredulous on this Easter of war. We have seen all too much blood, all too much violence. Our hearts, too, have been filled with fear and anguish, as so many of our brothers and sisters have had to lock themselves away in order to be safe from bombing. We struggle to believe that Jesus is truly risen, that he has truly triumphed over death. Could it be an illusion? A figment of our imagination?
No, it is not an illusion! Today, more than ever, we hear echoing the Easter proclamation so dear to the Christian: “Christ is risen! He is truly risen!” Today, more than ever, we need him, at the end of a Lent that has seemed endless. We emerged from two years of pandemic, which took a heavy toll. It was time to come out of the tunnel together, hand in hand, pooling our strengths and resources... Instead, we are showing that we do not yet have within us the spirit of Jesus but the spirit of Cain, who saw Abel not as a brother, but as a rival, and thought about how to eliminate him. We need the crucified and risen Lord so that we can believe in the victory of love, and hope for reconciliation. Today, more than ever, we need him to stand in our midst and repeat to us: “Peace be with you!”
Only he can do it. Today, he alone has the right to speak to us of peace. Jesus alone, for he bears wounds… our wounds. His wounds are indeed ours, for two reasons. They are ours because we inflicted them upon him by our sins, by our hardness of heart, by our fratricidal hatred. They are also ours because he bore them for our sake; he did not cancel them from his glorified body; he chose to keep them forever. They are the indelible seal of his love for us, a perennial act of intercession, so that the heavenly Father, in seeing them, will have mercy upon us and upon the whole world. The wounds on the body of the risen Jesus are the sign of the battle he fought and won for us, won with the weapons of love, so that we might have peace and remain in peace.
As we contemplate those glorious wounds, our incredulous eyes open wide; our hardened hearts break open and we welcome the Easter message: “Peace be with you!”
Brothers and sisters, let us allow the peace of Christ to enter our lives, our homes, our countries!
May there be peace for war-torn Ukraine, so sorely tried by the violence and destruction of the cruel and senseless war into which it was dragged. In this terrible night of suffering and death, may a new dawn of hope soon appear! Let there be a decision for peace. May there be an end to the flexing of muscles while people are suffering. Please, please, let us not get used to war! Let us all commit ourselves to imploring peace, from our balconies and in our streets! Peace! May the leaders of nations hear people’s plea for peace. May they listen to that troubling question posed by scientists almost seventy years ago: “Shall we put an end to the human race, or shall mankind renounce war?”
I hold in my heart all the many Ukrainian victims, the millions of refugees and internally displaced persons, the divided families, the elderly left to themselves, the lives broken and the cities razed to the ground. I see the faces of the orphaned children fleeing from the war. As we look at them, we cannot help but hear their cry of pain, along with that of all those other children who suffer throughout our world: those dying of hunger or lack of medical care, those who are victims of abuse and violence, and those denied the right to be born.
Amid the pain of the war, there are also encouraging signs, such as the open doors of all those families and communities that are welcoming migrants and refugees throughout Europe. May these numerous acts of charity become a blessing for our societies, at times debased by selfishness and individualism, and help to make them welcoming to all.
May the conflict in Europe also make us more concerned about other situations of conflict, suffering and sorrow, situations that affect all too many areas of our world, situations that we cannot overlook and do not want to forget.
May there be peace for the Middle East, racked by years of conflict and division. On this glorious day, let us ask for peace upon Jerusalem and peace upon all those who love her (cf. Ps 121 ), Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. May Israelis, Palestinians and all who dwell in the Holy City, together with the pilgrims, experience the beauty of peace, dwell in fraternity and enjoy free access to the Holy Places in mutual respect for the rights of each.
May there be peace and reconciliation for the peoples of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, and in particular for all the Christian communities of the Middle East.
May there be peace also for Libya, so that it may find stability after years of tensions, and for Yemen, which suffers from a conflict forgotten by all, with continuous victims: may the truce signed in recent days restore hope to its people.
We ask the risen Lord for the gift of reconciliation for Myanmar, where a dramatic scenario of hatred and violence persists, and for Afghanistan, where dangerous social tensions are not easing and a tragic humanitarian crisis is bringing great suffering to its people.
May there be peace for the entire African continent, so that the exploitation it suffers and the hemorrhaging caused by terrorist attacks – particularly in the Sahel region – may cease, and that it may find concrete support in the fraternity of the peoples. May the path of dialogue and reconciliation be undertaken anew in Ethiopia, affected by a serious humanitarian crisis, and may there be an end to violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. May prayer and solidarity not be lacking for the people in the eastern part of South Africa, struck by devastating floods.
May the risen Christ accompany and assist the people of Latin America, who in some cases have seen their social conditions worsen in these difficult times of pandemic, exacerbated as well by instances of crime, violence, corruption and drug trafficking.
Let us ask the risen Lord to accompany the journey of reconciliation that the Catholic Church in Canada is making with the indigenous peoples. May the Spirit of the risen Christ heal the wounds of the past and dispose hearts to seek truth and fraternity.
Dear brothers and sisters, every war brings in its wake consequences that affect the entire human family: from grief and mourning to the drama of refugees, and to the economic and food crisis, the signs of which we are already seeing. Faced with the continuing signs of war, as well as the many painful setbacks to life, Jesus Christ, the victor over sin, fear and death, exhorts us not to surrender to evil and violence. Brothers and sisters, may we be won over by the peace of Christ! Peace is possible; peace is a duty; peace is everyone’s primary responsibility!
Many writers have evoked the beauty of starlit nights. The nights of war, however, are riven by streams of light that portend death. On this night, brothers and sisters, let us allow the women of the Gospel to lead us by the hand, so that, with them, we may glimpse the first rays of the dawn of God’s life rising in the darkness of our world. As the shadows of night were dispelled before the quiet coming of the light, the women set out for the tomb, to anoint the body of Jesus. There they had a disconcerting experience. First, they discovered that the tomb was empty; then they saw two figures in dazzling garments who told them that Jesus was risen. Immediately they ran back to proclaim the news to the other disciples (cf. Lk 24:1-10). They saw, they heard, they proclaimed. With these three verbs, may we too enter into the passover of the Lord from death to life.
The women saw. The first proclamation of the resurrection was not a statement to be unpacked, but a sign to be contemplated. In a burial ground, near a grave, in a place where everything should be orderly and peaceful, the women “found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they went in, they did not find the body” (vv. 2-3). Easter begins by upsetting our expectations. It comes with the gift of a hope that surprises and amazes us. Yet it is not easy to welcome that gift. At times – we must admit – this hope does not find a place in our hearts. Like the women in the Gospel, we are overtaken by questions and doubts, and our first reaction before the unexpected sign is one of fear: “They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground” (v. 5).
All too often we look at life and reality with downcast eyes; we fix our gaze only on this passing day, disenchanted by the future, concerned only with ourselves and our needs, settled into the prison of our apathy, even as we keep complaining that things will never change. In this way, we halt before the tomb of resignation and fatalism, and we bury the joy of living. Yet tonight the Lord wants to give us different eyes, alive with hope that fear, pain and death will not have the last word over us. Thanks to Jesus’ paschal mystery, we can make the leap from nothingness to life. “Death will no longer be able to rob our life” (K. RAHNER), for that life is now completely and eternally embraced by the boundless love of God. True, death can fill us with dread; it can paralyze us. But the Lord is risen! Let us lift up our gaze, remove the veil of sadness and sorrow from our eyes, and open our hearts to the hope that God brings!
In the second place, the women heard. After they had seen the empty tomb, the two men in dazzling garments said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen” (vv. 5-6). We do well to listen to those words and to repeat them: He is not here! Whenever we think we have understood everything there is to know about God, and can pigeonhole him in our own ideas and categories, let us repeat to ourselves: He is not here! Whenever we seek him only in times of emotion, so often passing, and moments of need, only to set him aside and forget about him in the rest of our daily life and decisions, let us repeat: He is not here! And whenever we think we can imprison him in our words, in our formulas, and in our customary ways of thinking and acting, and neglect to seek him in the darkest corners of life, where there are people who weep, who struggle, suffer and hope, let us repeat: He is not here!
May we too hear the question asked of the women: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” We cannot celebrate Easter if we continue to be dead; if we remain prisoners of the past; if in our lives we lack the courage to let ourselves be forgiven by God who forgives everything, the courage to change, to break with the works of evil, to decide for Jesus and his love. If we continue to reduce faith to a talisman, making God a lovely memory from times past, instead of encountering him today as the living God who desires to change us and to change our world. A Christianity that seeks the Lord among the ruins of the past and encloses him in the tomb of habit is a Christianity without Easter. Yet the Lord is risen! Let us not tarry among the tombs, but run to find him, the Living One! Nor may we be afraid to seek him also in the faces of our brothers and sisters, in the stories of those who hope and dream, in the pain of those who we suffer: God is there!
Finally, the women proclaimed. What did they proclaim? The joy of the resurrection. Easter did not occur simply to console those who mourned the death of Jesus, but to open hearts to the extraordinary message of God’s triumph over evil and death. The light of the resurrection was not meant to let the women bask in a transport of joy, but to generate missionary disciples who “return from the tomb” (v. 9) in order to bring to all the Gospel of the risen Christ. That is why, after seeing and hearing, the women ran to proclaim to the disciples the joy of the resurrection. They knew that the others might think they were mad; indeed, the Gospel says that the women’s words “seemed to them an idle tale” (v. 11). Yet those women were not concerned for their reputation, for preserving their image; they did not contain their emotions or measure their words. They had only the fire in their hearts with which to bear the news, the proclamation: “The Lord is risen!”
And how beautiful is a Church that can run this way through the streets of our world! Without fear, without schemes and stratagems, but solely with the desire to lead everyone to the joy of the Gospel. That is what we are called to do: to experience the risen Christ and to share the experience with others; to roll away the stone from the tomb where we may have enclosed the Lord, in order to spread his joy in the world. Let us make Jesus, the Living One, rise again from all those tombs in which we have sealed him. Let us set him free from the narrow cells in which we have so often imprisoned him. Let us awaken from our peaceful slumber and let him disturb and inconvenience us. Let us bring him into our everyday lives: through gestures of peace in these days marked by the horrors of war, through acts of reconciliation amid broken relationships, acts of compassion towards those in need, acts of justice amid situations of inequality and of truth in the midst of lies. And above all, through works of love and fraternity.
Brothers and sisters our hope has a name: the name of Jesus. He entered the tomb of our sin; he descended to those depths where we feel most lost; he wove his way through the tangles of our fears, bore the weight of our burdens and from the dark abyss of death restored us to life and turned our mourning into joy. Let us celebrate Easter with Christ! He is alive! Today, too, he walks in our midst, changes us and sets us free. Thanks to him, evil has been robbed of its power; failure can no longer hold us back from starting anew; and death has become a passage to the stirrings of new life. For with Jesus, the Risen Lord, no night will last forever; and even in the darkest night, in that darkness, the morning star continues to shine.
In this darkness that you are living, Mr. Mayor, Parliamentarians, the thick darkness of war, of cruelty, we are all praying, praying with you and for you this night. We are praying for all the suffering. We can only give you our company, our prayer and say to you: “Courage! We are accompanying you!” And also to say to you the greatest thing we are celebrating today: Christòs voskrés! Christ is risen!
Lord, turn our rebellious hearts to your own heart, so that we may learn to pursue plans of peace. Inspire adversaries to shake hands, and taste mutual forgiveness. Disarm the hand of brother raised against brother, so that where there is hatred, concord may flourish. Grant that we never act as enemies of the cross of Christ, so that we may share in the glory of his resurrection. Amen.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
In the reading from the Prophet Isaiah that we have heard, the Lord makes a promise full of hope, one that concerns us at first hand: “You shall be called priests of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God… I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them” (61:6.8). Being priests, dear brothers, is a grace, a very great grace, yet it is not primarily a grace for us, but for our people.  The fact that the Lord chooses, from among his flock, some who devote themselves exclusively to the care of his flock as fathers and shepherds is a great gift for our people.
The reading from the Book of Revelation tells us what the Lord’s recompense is. It is his love and the unconditional forgiveness of our sins at the price of his blood shed on the Cross: “He loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father” (1:5-6). There is no recompense greater than friendship with Jesus, do not forget this. There is no peace greater than his forgiveness, and we all know that. There is no greater price than his precious Blood, and we must not allow it to be devalued by unworthy conduct.
If we think about it, dear brother priests, the Lord is inviting us to be faithful to him, to be faithful to his covenant, and to let ourselves be loved and forgiven by him. They are invitations addressed to us, so that in this way we can serve, with a clear conscience, the holy and faithful people of God. Our people deserve this and they need it. The ultimate grace, at the return of the risen Lord, will be that of immediate recognition. We will see him and his wounds. We will recognize who he is, and who we are, as poor sinners.
“Fixing our eyes on Jesus” is a grace that we, as priests, need to cultivate. At the end of the day, we do well to gaze upon the Lord, and to let him gaze upon our hearts and the hearts of all those whom we have encountered. Not as an accounting of our sins, but as a loving act of contemplation, in which we review our day with the eyes of Jesus, seeing its graces and gifts, and giving thanks for all that he has done for us. But also to set before him our temptations, so as to acknowledge them and reject them. As we can see, this requires knowing what is pleasing to the Lord and what it is that he is asking of us here and now, at this point in our lives.
And perhaps, if we meet his gracious gaze, he will also help us to show him our idols. The idols that, like Rachel, we have hidden under the folds of our cloak (cf. Gen 31: 34-35). Allowing the Lord to see those hidden idols - we all have them; all of us! - and to strengthens us against them and takes away their power.
The Lord’s gaze makes us see that, through them we are really glorifying ourselves , for there, in those spaces we mark out as exclusively ours, the devil insinuates himself with his poison. He not only makes us self-complacent, giving free rein to one passion or nurturing another, but he also leads us to replace with those idols the presence of the divine Persons, the Father, the Son and the Spirit who dwell within us. This happens. Even though we might tell ourselves that we know perfectly well the difference between God and an idol, in practice we take space away from the Trinity in order to give it to the devil, in a kind of oblique worship. The worship of one who quietly yet constantly listens to his talk and consumes his products, so that in the end not even a little corner remains for God. He is like that, he works quietly and slowly. In another context I spoke about “educated” demons, those that Jesus said are worse than the one who was cast out. They are “polite”, they ring the bell, they enter and gradually take over the house. We must be careful, these are our idols.
There is something about idols that is personal. When we fail to unmask them, when we do not let Jesus show us that in them we are wrongly and unnecessarily seeking ourselves, we make room for the Evil One. We need to remember that the devil demands that we do his will and that we serve him, but he does not always ask us to serve him and worship him constantly; but beware, he is a great diplomat. Receiving our worship from time to time is enough for him to prove that he is our real master and that he can feel like a god in our life and in our heart.
Having said that, in this Chrism Mass, I want to share with you three spaces of hidden idolatry in which the Evil One uses our idols to weaken us in our vocation as shepherds and, little by little, separate us from the benevolent and loving presence of Jesus, the Spirit and the Father.
One space of hidden idolatry opens up wherever there is spiritual worldliness, which is “a proposal of life, a culture, a culture of the ephemeral, of appearances, of the cosmetic”.  Its criterion is triumphalism, a triumphalism without the cross. Jesus prayed that the Father would defend us against this culture of worldliness. This temptation of glory without the cross runs contrary to the very person of the Lord, it runs contrary to Jesus, who humbled himself in the incarnation and, as a sign of contradiction, is our sole remedy against every idol. Being poor with Christ who was poor and “chose to be poor”: this is the mindset of Love; nothing else. In today’s Gospel, we see how the Lord chose a simple synagogue in the small village where he spent most of his life, to proclaim the same message he will proclaim at the end of time, when he will come in his glory, surrounded by angels. Our eyes must be fixed on Christ, on the concrete reality of his history with me, now, even as they will be then. The worldly attitude of seeking our own glory robs us of the presence of Jesus, humble and humiliated, the Lord who draws near to everyone, the Christ who suffers with all who suffer, who is worshiped by our people, who know who his true friends are. A worldly priest is nothing more than a clericalized pagan.
A second space of hidden idolatry opens up with the kind of pragmatism where numbers become the most important thing. Those who cherish this hidden idol can be recognized by their love for statistics, numbers that can depersonalize every discussion and appeal to the majority as the definitive criterion for discernment; this is not good. This cannot be the sole method or criterion for the Church of Christ. Persons cannot be “numbered”, and God does not “measure out” his gift of the Spirit (cf. Jn 3:34). In this fascination with and love of numbers, we are really seeking ourselves, pleased with the control offered us by this way of thinking, unconcerned with individual faces and far from love. One feature of the great saints is that they know how to step back in order to leave room completely for God. This stepping back, this forgetting of ourselves and wanting to be forgotten by everyone else, is the mark of the Spirit, who is in some sense “faceless”, simply because he is completely Love, illuminating the image of the Son and, in him, that of the Father. The idolatry of numbers tries to replace the person of the Holy Spirit, who loves to keep hidden - because he is “faceless” - it tries to make everything “apparent”, albeit in a way abstract and reduced to numbers, without a real incarnation.
A third space of hidden idolatry, related to the second, comes from functionalism. This can be alluring; many people “are more enthusiastic about the roadmap than about the road”. The functionalist mindset has short shrift for mystery; it aims at efficiency. Little by little, this idol replaces the Father’s presence within us. The first idol replaces the Son's presence, the second one the Spirit's, and the third one the Father's. Our Father is the creator, but not simply a creator who makes things “function”. He “creates” us, as our Father, with tender love, caring for his creatures and working to make men and women ever more free. “Functionaries” take no delight in the graces that the Spirit pours out on his people, from which they too can “be nourished” like the worker who earns his wage. The priest with a functionalist mindset has his own nourishment, which is his ego. In functionalism, we set aside the worship of the Father in the small and great matters of our life and take pleasure in the efficiency of our own programmes. As David did when, tempted by Satan, he insisted on carrying out the census (cf. 1 Chron 21:1). These are the lovers of the route plan and the itinerary, and not of the journey itself.
In these last two spaces of hidden idolatry (the pragmatism of numbers and functionalism), we replace hope, which is the space of encounter with God, with empirical results. This shows an attitude of vainglory on the part of the shepherd, an attitude that weakens the union of his people with God and forges a new idol based on numbers and programmes. Concealing these idols (as Rachel did), and not knowing how to unmask them in our daily lives, detracts from our fidelity to our priestly covenant and makes our personal relationship with the Lord become lukewarm.
Dear brothers, Jesus is the only “way” to avoid being mistaken in knowing what we feel and where our heart is leading us. He is the only way that leads to proper discernment, as we measure ourselves against him each day. Jesus Christ, I repeat, forces these idols to show themselves, so that we can see their presence, their roots and the ways they operate, and allow the Lord to destroy them. This is the proposal: allow the Lord to destroy those hidden idols. We should keep these things in mind and be attentive, lest the weeds of these idols that we were able to hide in the folds of our hearts may spring up anew.
I want to end by asking Saint Joseph, as the chaste father, free of hidden idols, to liberate us from every form of possessiveness, for possessiveness is the fertile soil in which these idols grow. May he also obtain for us the grace to persevere in the arduous task of discerning those idols that we all too often conceal or that conceal themselves. Let us ask too, whenever we wonder if we might do things better, that he intercede for us, so that the Spirit may enlighten our judgement, even as he did when Joseph was tempted to set Mary aside “quietly” ( lathra). In this way, with nobility of heart, we may be able to subordinate to charity what we have learned by law.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
We are in the middle of Holy Week, which lasts from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. Both these Sundays are characterized by the feast that takes place around Jesus. But they are two different feasts.
Last Sunday, we saw Christ solemnly entering Jerusalem, as though for a feast, welcomed as the Messiah: cloaks (cf. Lk 19:36) and branches cut from trees (cf Mt 21:8) were laid before him on the ground. The exultant crowd loudly blesses “the King who comes”, and acclaims “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Lk 19: 38). Those people there celebrate because they see Jesus’ entry as the arrival of a new king, who would bring peace and glory. That was the peace those people were waiting for: a glorious peace, the fruit of royal intervention, that of a powerful messiah who would have liberated Jerusalem from the Roman occupation. Others probably dreamed of the re-establishment of a social peace and saw Jesus as the ideal king, who would feed the crowd with bread, as he had done already, and would work great miracles, thus bringing more justice into the world.
But Jesus never speaks of this. He has a different Passover ahead of him, not a triumphal Passover. The only thing that he is concerned about in the preparation of his entry into Jerusalem is to ride “a colt tied, on which no-one has ever yet sat” (v. 30). This is how Christ brings peace into the world: through meekness and mildness, symbolized by that tethered colt, on which no-one had ever sat. No-one, because God’s way of doing things is different to that of the world. Indeed, just before Passover, Jesus explains to the disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (Jn 14:27). They are two different approaches: the way the world gives us peace, and the way God gives us peace.
The peace Jesus gives to us at Easter is not the peace that follows the strategies of the world, which believes it can obtain it through force, by conquest and with various forms of imposition. This peace, in reality, is only an interval between wars: we are well aware of this. The peace of the Lord follows the way of meekness and the cross: it is taking responsibility for others. Indeed, Christ took on himself our evil, sin and death. He took all of this upon himself. In this way he freed us. He paid for us. His peace is not the fruit of some compromise, but rather is born of self-giving. This meek and courageous peace, though, is difficult to accept. In fact, the crowd who exalted Jesus is the same that a few days later will shout, “Crucify him!” and, fearful and disappointed, will not lift a finger for him.
In this regard, a great story by Dostoevsky, the so-called Legend of The Grand Inquisitor, is always relevant. It tells of Jesus who, after several centuries, returns to Earth. He is immediately welcomed by the rejoicing crowd, which recognizes and acclaims him. “Ah, you have returned! Come, come with us!”. But then he is arrested by the Inquisitor, who represents worldly logic. The latter interrogates him and criticizes him fiercely. The final reason for the rebuke is that Christ, although he could, never wanted to become Caesar, the greatest king of this world, preferring to leave humanity free rather than subjugate it and solve its problems by force. He could have established peace in the world, bending the free but precarious heart of man by force of a higher power, but he chose not to: he respected our freedom. The deception that is repeated throughout history, the temptation of a false peace, based on power, which then leads to hatred and betrayal of God, and much bitterness in the soul.
Jesus’ peace does not overpower others; it is not an armed peace, never! The weapons of the Gospel are prayer, tenderness, forgiveness and freely-given love for one’s neighbour, love for every neighbour. This is how God’s peace is brought into the world. This is why the armed aggression of these days, like every war, represents an outrage against God, a blasphemous betrayal of the Lord of Passover, a preference for the face of the false god of this world over his meek one. War is always a human act, to bring about the idolatry of power.
Before his final Passover, Jesus says to his disciples: “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (Jn 14:27). Yes, because while worldly power leaves only destruction and death in its wake – we have seen this in recent days – his peace builds up history, starting from the heart of every person who welcomes us. Easter is therefore the true feast of God and humanity, because the peace that Christ gained on the cross in giving himself is distributed to us. Therefore, the Risen Christ, on Easter Day, appears to the disciples, and how does he greet them? “Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19-21). This is the greeting of Christ victorious, the Risen Christ.
Brothers, sisters, Easter means “passage”. This year above all, it is a blessed occasion to pass from the worldly god to the Christian God, from the greed that we carry within us to the charity that sets us free, from the expectation of a peace brought by force to the commitment to bear real witness to the peace of Jesus. Brothers and sisters, let us place ourselves before the Crucified One, the wellspring of our peace, and ask him for peace of heart and peace in the world.