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
We have just heard the word of God, which has inspired this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Those words are forceful, so forceful in fact, that they might seem out of place as we celebrate the joy of coming together as brothers and sisters in Christ to celebrate a solemn liturgy in his praise. In these days so full of tragic and troubling news reports, we could perhaps easily dispense with such biblical condemnations of the sins of society! Yet if we are sensitive to the profound unease of the times in which we are living, we should be all the more concerned for what causes suffering to the Lord for whom we live. And since we have gathered in his name, we cannot fail to put his word at the centre of things. That word is prophetic: God, speaking in the voice of Isaiah, admonishes us and urges us to change. Admonishment and change are the two words on which I would like to reflect with you this evening.
1. Admonishment. Let us hear something of what God has to say: “When you come to appear before me…, bringing offerings is futile… When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen” (Is 1:12.13.15). What arouses the Lord’s indignation to the point that he rebukes so severely the people whom he loves so greatly? The text reveals two motives. First, he condemns the fact that in his Temple, in his name, one fails to do what he desires: not incense and offerings, but that the poor receive assistance, that justice be rendered to the orphan, that the cause of the widow be upheld (cf. v. 17). In the days of the prophet, and not only then, it was generally thought that the rich, who made great offerings and looked down upon the poor, were blessed in God’s eyes. Yet this was, and is, completely to misunderstand the Lord. It is the poor that Jesus proclaims blessed (cf. Lk 6:20), and in the parable of the final judgment he identifies himself with those who hunger and thirst, the stranger, the needy, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:35-36). This, then, is the first cause of his indignation: God suffers when we, who call ourselves his faithful ones, put our own ways of seeing things before his, when we follow the judgments of the world rather than those of heaven, when we are content with exterior rituals yet remain indifferent to those for whom he cares the most. God is grieved, we might say, by our indifference and lack of understanding.
In addition to this, there is a second and more serious motive that offends the Most High. It is sacrilegious violence. He tells us: “I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity… Your hands are full of blood… Remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes” (Is 1:13.15.16). The Lord is “moved to wrath”, because of the violence done to the temple of God which is man, even while he is being glorified in the material temples we erect! We can imagine with what suffering he must witness wars and acts of violence perpetrated by those who call themselves Christians. We are reminded of the story of the holy man who protested the brutality of a king by offering him meat during the Lenten season. When the king in the name of piety indignantly refused to accept the gift, the man of God asked him why he had scruples about eating the flesh of animals, while not hesitating to sacrifice the flesh of the children of God.
Brothers and sisters, this admonition of the Lord gives us much food for thought, as individual Christians and as Christian confessions. I would like to state once again that “today, with our developed spirituality and theology, we have no excuses. Still, there are those who appear to feel encouraged or at least permitted by their faith to support varieties of narrow and violent nationalism, xenophobia and contempt, and even the mistreatment of those who are different. Faith, and the humanism it inspires, must maintain a critical sense in the face of these tendencies, and prompt an immediate response whenever they rear their head” (Fratelli Tutti, 86). If, following the example of the Apostle Paul, we desire that the grace of God in us not be in vain (cf. 1 Cor 15:10), we must be opposed to war, to violence and to injustice wherever they begin to appear. The theme of this Week of Prayer was chosen by a group of Christians from Minnesota, conscious of the injustices perpetrated in the past against native peoples and in our own day against African-Americans. Before the various forms of contempt and racism, before indifference, lack of understanding and sacrilegious violence, the word of God admonishes us: “learn to do good, seek justice” (Is 1:17). It is not enough to denounce, we need also to renounce evil, to pass from evil to good. In other words, admonishment is meant to change us.
2. Change. After diagnosing our wrongs, the Lord asks us to remedy them and, through the prophet, tells us: “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; cease to do evil” (v. 16). Yet knowing that we are overwhelmed and, as it were, paralyzed by our many sins, he promises that he himself will wash away our sins. “Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (v. 18). Dear friends, due to our failure to understand God and the violence that lurks within us, we are incapable of setting ourselves free. Without God, without his grace, we are not healed of our sin. God’s grace is the source of our change. We see this in the life of the Apostle Paul, whom we commemorate today. By ourselves, we cannot succeed, but with God, all is possible. By ourselves, we do not succeed, but together, it is possible. For the Lord asks his disciples to be converted together. Conversion – a word that is repeated often but not always easily understood – is demanded of the people; it is communitarian and ecclesial in nature. Consequently, we also believe that our ecumenical conversion grows to the extent that we recognize our need for God’s grace, our need for his mercy. In acknowledging that we are dependent on God for everything, we will truly, with his aid, feel and “be one” (Jn 17:21). This is important, brothers and sisters.
What a beautiful thing it is to be open, together, in the grace of the Spirit, to this change of perspective. To rediscover that “all the faithful throughout the world are in communion with each other in the Holy Spirit, so that - as Saint John Chrysostom wrote – ‘those who dwell in Rome knows those in India to be part of the same body’” (Lumen Gentium, 13; In Io. Hom., 65,1). On this journey of fellowship, I am grateful that so many Christians, of various communities and traditions, are accompanying with participation and interest the synodal journey of the Catholic Church, which I trust will become increasingly ecumenical. Let us not forget that journeying together and acknowledging that we are in communion with one another in the Holy Spirit entails a change, the growth that can only take place, as Benedict XVI wrote, “on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend” (Deus Caritas Est, 18).
May the Apostle Paul help us to change, to be converted; may he obtain for us something of his own indomitable courage. Since in the course of our journey, it is easy to work for our own group rather than for the kingdom of God, to grow impatient, to give up on the hope of that day when “all Christians will be gathered, in a common celebration of the Eucharist, into that unity of the one Church, which Christ bestowed on his Church from the beginning” (Unitatis Redintegratio, 4). Precisely in view of that day, we place our trust in Jesus, our Pasch and our peace: while we pray and worship him, he is ever at work. And we are comforted by the words of Saint Paul, which we can feel addressed to each one of us: “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor 12:9).
Dear friends, in a fraternal spirit I wanted to share these thoughts that the word of God has awakened in me, so that, admonished by God, by his grace we can change and grow through praying, serving, engaging in dialogue and working together towards the full unity that Christ desires. Now I would like to offer you my heartfelt thanks. All together may we journey along on the path that the Lord has placed before us, the path of unity.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
Last Wednesday we reflected on Jesus model of proclamation, on his pastoral heart always reaching out to others. Today we look to Him as a teacher of proclamation. Model of proclamation. Today, the teacher of proclamation Let us be guided by the episode in which He preaches in the synagogue of His village, Nazareth. Jesus reads a passage from the prophet Isaiah (cf. 61:1-2) and then surprises everyone with a very short “sermon” of just one sentence, just one sentence. And He speaks thus, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lk. 4:21). This was Jesus’ sermon: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. This means that for Jesus that prophetic passage contains the essence of what He wants to say about Himself. So, whenever we talk about Jesus, we should go back to that first announcement of His. Let us see, then, what it consists of. Five essential elements can be identified.
The first element is joy. Jesus proclaims, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor” (v. 18), that is, a proclamation of gladness, of joy. Good news: one cannot speak of Jesus without joy, because faith is a wonderful love story to be shared. Bearing witness to Jesus, doing something for others in His name, to have received “between the lines” of one’s life, so beautiful a gift that no words suffice to express it. Instead, when joy is lacking, the Gospel does not come through, because – it’s the very meaning of the word – is good news, and “Gospel” means “good news,” a proclamation of joy. A sad Christian can talk about beautiful things, but it is all in vain if the news he conveys is not joyful. A thinker once said, “A Christian who is sad is a sad Christian.” Don’t forget this.
We come to the second aspect: deliverance. Jesus says He was sent “release to the captives” (ibid.). This means that one who proclaims God cannot proselytize, no, cannot pressure others, no, but relieve them: not impose burdens, but take them away; bearing peace, not bearing guilt. Of course, following Jesus involves asceticism, involves sacrifices; after all, if every good thing requires these things, how much more the decisive reality of life! However, those who witness to Christ show the beauty of the goal rather than the toil of the journey. We may have happened to tell someone about a beautiful trip we took: for example, we would have spoken about the beauty of the places, what we saw and experienced, not about the time to get there and the queues at the airport, no! So, any announcement worthy of the Redeemer must communicate liberation. Like that of Jesus. Today there is joy, because I have come to liberate.
The third aspect: light. Jesus says He came to bring “sight to the blind”. It is striking that throughout the Bible, before Christ, the healing of a blind man never appears, never. It was indeed a promised sign that would come with the Messiah. But here it is not just about physical sight, but a light that makes one see the life of a new world, and also life in a new way. There is a “coming into the light,” a rebirth that happens only with Jesus. If we think about it, that is how Christian life began for us: with Baptism, which in ancient times was called precisely “enlightenment.” And what light does Jesus give us? He brings us the light of sonship: He is the beloved Son of the Father, living forever; with Him we too are children of God loved forever, despite our mistakes and faults. So life is no longer a blind advance toward nothingness, no; it is not a matter of fate or luck, no. It is not something that depends on chance or the stars, no, or even on health or finances, no. Life depends on love, on the love of the Father, Who cares for us, His beloved children. How wonderful to share this light with others! Has it occurred to you that the life of each of us – my life, your life, our life – is an act of love? And an invitation to love? This is wonderful! But so many times we forget this, in the face of difficulties, in the face of bad news, even in the face of – and this is bad – worldliness, the worldly way of life.
The fourth aspect of the proclamation: healing. Jesus says He came “to set at liberty those who are oppressed”. The oppressed are those in life who feel crushed by something that happens: sickness, labors, burdens on the heart, guilt, mistakes, vices, sins... Oppressed by this. We think of the sense of guilt, for example. How many of us have suffered this? We think a little bit about the sense of guilt for this or that.... What is oppressing us above all is precisely that evil that no medicine or human remedy can heal: sin. And if someone has a sense of guilt, it is for something they have done, and that feels bad. But the good news is that with Jesus, this ancient evil, sin, which seems invincible, no longer has the last word.
I can sin because I am weak. Each of us can do it, but that is not the last word. The last word is Jesus’ outstretched hand that lifts you up from sin. “And Father, when do you do this? Once?” No. “Twice?” No. “Three time?” No. Always. Whenever you are sick, the Lord always has His hand outstretched. Only He wants us (to) hold on and let Him carry you. The good news is that with Jesus this ancient evil no longer has the last word: the last word is Jesus' outstretched hand that carries you forward.
Jesus heals us from sin, always. And how much do I have to pay for this healing? Nothing. He heals us always and gratuitously. He invites those who “labour and are heavy laden” -- He says it in the Gospel – invites them to come to Him (cf. Mt 11:28). And so to accompany someone to an encounter with Jesus is to bring them to the doctor of the heart, Who lifts up life. That is to say, “Brother, sister, I don't have answers to so many of your problems, but Jesus knows you, Jesus loves you and can heal and soothe your heart. Go and leave them with Jesus.”
Those who carry burdens need a caress for the past. So many times we hear, “But I would need to heal my past...I need a caress for that past that weighs so heavily on me...” He needs forgiveness. And those who believe in Jesus have just that to give to others: the power of forgiveness, which frees the soul from all debt. Brothers, sisters, do not forget: God forgets everything. How so? Yes, He forgets all our sins. That He forgets. That’s why He has no memory. God forgives everything because He forgets our sins. Only He wants us to draw near to the Lord and He forgives us everything. “But Father, I do the same things always...” And He will always do His same thing! Forgiving you, embracing you. Please, let us not distrust this. This is the way to love the Lord. Those who carry burdens and need a caress for the past need forgiveness, and Jesus does that. And that's what Jesus gives: to free the soul from all debt. In the Bible it talks about a year when one was freed from the burden of debt: the Jubilee, the year of grace. As if it were the ultimate point of the proclamation. Christ is the Jubilee of every day, every hour, drawing you near, to caress you, to forgive you.
And the proclamation of Jesus must always bring the amazement of grace. This amazement… “No, I can’t believe it! I have been forgiven.” But this is how great our God is. Because it is not we who do great things, but rather the grace of the Lord who, even through us, accomplishes unexpected things. And these are the surprises of God. God is the master of surprises. He always surprises us, is always waiting, waits for us. We arrive, and He has been expecting us. Always. The Gospel comes with a sense of wonder and newness that has a name: Jesus.
May He help us to proclaim it as He desires, communicating joy, deliverance, light, healing, and wonder. This is how one communicates about Jesus.
The last thing: This good news, which the Gospel says is addressed “to the poor” (v. 18). We often forget about them, yet they are the recipients explicitly mentioned, because they are God’s beloved. Let us remember them, and let us remember that, in order to welcome the Lord, each of us must make him- or herself “poor within.” With that poverty… “Lord, I am in need, I am in need of forgiveness, I am in need of help, I am in need of strength. This poverty that we all have: making oneself poor interiorly. You have to overcome any pretence of self-sufficiency in order to understand oneself to be in need of grace, and to always be in need of Him. Is someone tells me, “Father, what is the shortest way to encounter Jesus?” Be needy. Be needy for grace, needy for forgiveness, be needy for joy. And he will draw near to you. Thank you.
Excerpt below, for the full message click on the picture link above
After having reflected in past years on the verbs “to go and see” and “to listen” as conditions for good communication, with this Message for the LVII World Day of Social Communications, I would like to focus on “speaking with the heart”. It is the heart that spurred us to go, to see and to listen, and it is the heart that moves us towards an open and welcoming way of communicating.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
The Gospel from today’s liturgy (Mt 4:12-23) narrates the call of the first disciples who, along the lake of Galilee leave everything to follow Jesus. He had already met some of them, thanks to John the Baptist, and God had placed the seed of faith within them (cf. Jn 1:35-39). So now, Jesus goes back to look for them where they live and work. The Lord always looks for us. The Lord always draws near to us, always. This time, he extends a direct call to them: “Follow me!” (Mt 4:19). And “immediately they left their nets and followed him” (v. 20). Let’s take a moment to reflect on this scene. This is the moment of a decisive encounter with Jesus, one they would remember their entire lives and would be included in the Gospel. From then on, they follow Jesus. And in order to follow him, they leave.
To leave so as to follow. And it is always like this with Jesus. It can begin in some way with a sense of attraction, perhaps due to others. Then the awareness can become more personal and can kindle a light in the heart. It becomes something beautiful to share: “You know, that passage from the Gospel struck me…. That service opportunity I had struck me…” – something that touches your heart. This is what happened with the first disciples (cf. Jn 1:40-42). But sooner or later, the moment comes in which it is necessary to leave so as to follow (cf. Lk 11:27-28). That is when it is necessary to make a decision: Shall I leave behind some certainties and embark on a new adventure, or shall I remain like I am? This is a decisive moment for every Christian because the meaning of everything else is at stake here. If someone does not find the courage to set out on the journey, the risk is to remain a spectator of one’s own existence and to live the faith halfway.
To stay with Jesus, therefore, requires the courage to leave, to set out on the journey. What must we leave behind? Our vices and our sins, certainly, which are like anchors that hold us at bay and prevent us from setting sail. To begin to leave, it is only right that we begin by asking forgiveness – forgiveness for the things that are not beautiful. I leave these things behind to move forward. But it is also necessary to leave behind what holds us back from living fully, for example, fear, selfish calculations, the guarantees that come from staying safe, just getting by. It also means giving up the time wasted on so many useless things. How beautiful it would be to leave all this in order to experience, for example, the tiring but rewarding risk of service, or to dedicate time to prayer so as to grow in friendship with the Lord. I am also thinking of a young family who leaves behind a quiet life to open themselves up to the unpredictable and beautiful adventure of motherhood and fatherhood. It is a sacrifice, but all it takes is one look at a child to understand that it was the right choice to leave behind certain rhythms and comforts to have this joy. I am also thinking, of certain professionals, for example, doctors or healthcare workers, who give up a lot of free time to study and prepare themselves, and who do good, dedicating many hours day and night, and spend so much physical and mental energy for the sick. I think of workers who leave behind convenience, who let go of doing nothing so as to put food on the table. In short, to live life, we need to accept the challenge to leave. Today, Jesus extends this invitation to each of us.
So, I leave you with a question about this. First of all: Can I remember a “strong moment” in which I have already encountered Jesus? Each of us can recall our own story – in my life, has there been a significant moment when I encountered Jesus? And, is there something beautiful and significant that happened in my life because of which I left other less important things? And today, is there something Jesus asks me to give up? What are the material things, ways of thinking, attitudes I need to leave behind so as to truly say “yes”? May Mary help us to respond with a total “yes” to God, like she did, to know what to leave behind so as to follow him better. Do not be afraid to leave if it is to follow Jesus. We will always find that we are better.
Dear brothers and sisters!
This Third Sunday of Ordinary Time is dedicated in a special way to the Word of God. Let us rediscover with awe the fact that God speaks to us, especially through the Sacred Scriptures. Let us read them, study them, meditate on them, pray over them. Let us read a passage from the Bible every day, especially from the Gospel. Jesus speaks to us there, he enlightens us, he guides us. And I remind you of something I have said other times: Let’s have a small Gospel, a pocket-size Gospel, to take in your bag, always with us. And when there is a moment during the day, read something from the Gospel. It is Jesus who accompanies us. So, a small pocket-size Gospel always with us.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
Jesus leaves the quiet and hidden life of Nazareth and moves to Capernaum, a port city located along the Sea of Galilee, at the crossroads of different peoples and cultures. The urgency that impels him is the proclamation of the Word of God, which must be brought to everyone. Indeed, we see in the Gospel that the Lord invites all to conversion and calls the first disciples so that they may also spread the light of the Word to others (cf. Mt 4:12-23). Let us appreciate this dynamism, which will help us live out the Sunday of the Word of God: the Word is for everyone, the Word calls everyone to conversion, the Word makes us heralds.
The Word of God is for everyone. The Gospel presents us with Jesus always on the move, on his way to others. On no occasion in his public life does he give us the idea that he is a stationary teacher, a professor seated on a chair; on the contrary, we see him as an itinerant, we see him as a pilgrim, travelling through towns and villages, encountering faces and their stories. His feet are those of the messenger announcing the good news of God’s love (cf. Is 52:7-8). In Galilee of the Gentiles, on the sea route, beyond the Jordan, where Jesus preaches, there was – the text notes – a people plunged into darkness: foreigners, pagans, women and men from various regions and cultures (cf. Mt 4:15-16). Now they too can see the light. And so Jesus “enlarges the boundaries”: the Word of God, which heals and raises up, is not only destined for the righteous of Israel, but for all; he wants to reach those far away, he wants to heal the sick, he wants to save sinners, he wants to gather the lost sheep and lift up those whose hearts are weary and oppressed. In short, Jesus ‘reaches out’ to tell us that God’s mercy is for everyone. Let us not forget this: God’s mercy is for everyone, for each one of us. Each person can say, “God’s mercy is for me”.
This aspect is fundamental also for us. It reminds us that the Word is a gift addressed to everyone; therefore we can never restrict its field of action, for beyond all our calculations, it springs forth in a spontaneous, unforeseen and unpredictable way (cf. Mk 4:26-28), in the ways and times that the Holy Spirit knows. Moreover, if salvation is destined for all, even the most distant and lost, then the proclamation of the Word must become the main priority of the ecclesial community, as it was for Jesus. May it not happen that we profess a God with an expansive heart, yet become a Church with a closed heart – this, I dare say, would be a curse; may it not happen that we preach salvation for all, yet make the way to receive it impractical; may it not happen that we recognize we are called to proclaim the Kingdom, yet neglect the Word, losing ourselves in so many secondary activities or discussions. Let us learn from Jesus to put the Word at the centre, to enlarge our boundaries, to open ourselves up to people, and to foster experiences of encounter with the Lord, realizing that the Word of God “is not encased in abstract or static formulas, but has a dynamic power in history which is made up of persons and events, words and actions, developments and tensions”.
Let us now come to the second aspect: the Word of God, which is addressed to all, calls everyone to conversion. In fact, Jesus repeats in his preaching: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 4:17). This means that God’s nearness is not inconsequential, his presence does not leave things as they are, it does not advocate a quiet life. On the contrary, his Word shakes us, disturbs us, incites us to change, to conversion. It throws us into crisis because it “is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). Like a sword, the Word penetrates life, enabling us to discern the feelings and thoughts of the heart, that is, making us see where the light of goodness is to be afforded room and where, instead, the thick darkness of vices and sins is to be resisted. When it enters us, the Word transforms our hearts and minds; it changes us and leads us to direct our lives to the Lord.
Here is Jesus’ invitation: God has come close to you; recognize his presence, make room for his Word, and you will change your outlook on life. I can also put it like this: place your life under the Word of God. This is the path the Church shows us. All of us, even the pastors of the Church, are under the authority of the Word of God. Not under our own tastes, tendencies and preferences, but under the one Word of God that moulds us, converts us and calls us to be united in the one Church of Christ. So, brothers and sisters, we can ask ourselves: Where does my life find direction, from where does it draw its orientation? From the many “words” I hear, from ideologies, or from the Word of God that guides and purifies me? What are the aspects in me that require change and conversion?
Finally – the third step – the Word of God, which is addressed to everyone and calls us to conversion, makes us heralds. Indeed, Jesus walks along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and calls Simon and Andrew, two brothers who were fishermen. With his Word he invites them to follow him, telling them that he will make them “fishers of men” (Mt. 4,19): no longer just experts in boats, nets and fish, but experts in seeking others. And just as in sailing and fishing they had learned to leave the shore and cast their nets into the deep, in the same way they would become apostles capable of sailing upon the open seas of the world, of going out to meet their brothers and sisters and proclaiming the joy of the Gospel. This is the dynamism of the Word: it draws us into the “net” of the Father’s love and makes us apostles moved by an unquenchable desire to bring all those we encounter into the barque of the Kingdom. This is not proselytism because it is the Word of God that calls us, not our own word.
Today let us also hear the invitation to be fishers of men: let us feel that we are called by Jesus in person to proclaim his Word, to bear witness to it in everyday life, to live it in justice and charity, called to “give it flesh” by tenderly caring for those who suffer. This is our mission: to become seekers of the lost, oppressed and discouraged, not to bring them ourselves, but the consolation of the Word, the disruptive proclamation of God that transforms life, to bring the joy of knowing that He is our Father and addresses each one of us, to bring the beauty of saying, “Brother, sister, God has come close to you, listen and you will find in his Word an amazing gift!”
Brothers and sisters, I would like to conclude by simply thanking those who work to make sure that the Word of God is shared, proclaimed and put at the centre of our lives. Thank you to those who study and delve into the riches of the Word. Thank you to the pastoral workers and to all Christians engaged in the work of listening to and spreading the Word, especially lectors and catechists. Today I will confer these ministries on some of you. Thank you to those who have accepted the many invitations I have made to take the Gospel with them everywhere and to read it every day. And finally, I especially thank our deacons and priests. Thank you dear brothers, for you do not let God’s holy people be deprived of the nourishment of the Word. Thank you for committing yourselves to meditating on it, living it and proclaiming it. Thank you for your service and your sacrifices. May the sweet joy of proclaiming the Word of salvation be a consolation and reward for all of us.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
Last Wednesday we began a cycle of catechesis on the passion of evangelization, on that apostolic zeal that should enliven the Church and every Christian. Today, let us look at the unsurpassable model of evangelization: Jesus. The Christmas Gospel defines him as the “Word of God” (cf. Jn 1:1). The fact that he is the Logos, that is, the Word, highlights an essential aspect of Jesus: He is always in relation, outgoing, never isolated, always in relation, outgoing. The word, in fact, exists to be transmitted, communicated. So it is with Jesus, the Eternal Word of the Father, reaching out to us, communicated to us. Christ not only has words of life, but makes his life a Word, a message: that is, he lives always turned toward the Father and toward us. He is always looking at his Father who sent him and looking at us to whom he was sent.
Indeed, if we look at his days as described in the Gospels, we see that intimacy with his Father – prayer – occupies first place. This is why Jesus gets up early, when it is still dark, and goes into deserted areas to pray (cf. Mk 1:35; Lk 4:42), to speak with his Father. He makes all of his decisions and most important choices after having prayed (cf. Lk 6:12; 9:18). Specifically, within this relationship, in prayer which connects him to the Father in the Spirit, Jesus discovers the meaning of his being human, of his existence in the world because he is on a mission to us, sent by the Father to us.
It is thus interesting to note the first public act that he accomplishes after the years of his hidden life in Nazareth. Jesus does not work a great wonder, he does not send an effective message, but he mingles with the people who were going to be baptized by John. In this way, he offers us the key by which he acts in the world: spending himself for sinners, he puts himself in solidarity with us without distance, in a total sharing of life. In fact, speaking about his mission, he will say that he did not come “to be served, but to serve and give his own life” (cf. Mk 10:45). Every day after praying, Jesus dedicates his entire day to the proclamation of the Kingdom of God and dedicates it to people, above all to the poorest and weakness, to the sinners and to the sick (cf. Mk 1:32-39). So, Jesus is in contact with the Father in prayer and then he is in contact with all the people through his mission, through catechesis, by teaching the path to the Kingdom of God.
Now, should we want to represent his style of life with an image, it would not be difficult for us to find it: Jesus himself offers it, we have heard it, speaking of himself as the Good Shepherd, the one, he says, who “lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn 10:11). This is Jesus. In reality, to be a shepherd was not just a job, but it required time and a lot of dedication. It was a true and proper way of life: twenty-four hours a day, living with the flock, accompanying them to pasture, sleeping among the sheep, taking care of those who were weakest. In other words, Jesus does not do something for us, but he gives everything, he gives his life for us. He has a pastoral heart (cf. Ez 34:15). He is a shepherd for all of us.
Indeed, to sum up the action of the Church in one word, the specific term “pastoral” is used. And to evaluate our “pastoralness” we need to confront ourselves with the model, confront ourselves with Jesus the Good Shepherd. Above all, we can ask ourselves: do we imitate him, drinking from the wells of prayer so that our heart might be in harmony with his? Intimacy with Him is, as a beautiful volume by Abate Chautard suggested, “the soul of every apostolate”. Jesus himself clearly said to his disciples, “Without me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). By staying with Jesus, we discover that his pastoral heart always beats for the person who is confused, lost, far away. And ours? How many times do we express our attitude about people who are a bit difficult or with whom we have a bit of difficulty: “But it’s their problem, let them work it out….” But Jesus never said this, never. He himself always went to meet all the marginalized, sinners. He was accused of this – of being with sinners so that he might bring God’s salvation precisely to them.
We have heard the parable of the lost sheep found in chapter 15 of the Gospel of Luke (cf. vv. 4-7). Jesus speaks about the lost coin as well as about the prodigal son there. If we want to train our apostolic zeal, we should always have chapter 15 of Luke before our eyes. Read it often. We can understand there what apostolic zeal is. There we discover that God does not remain contemplating the sheep pen, nor does he threaten them so they won’t leave. Rather, if one leaves and gets lost, he does not abandon that sheep, but goes in search of it. He does not say, “You got up and left – it’s your fault – that’s your business!” His pastoral heart reacts in another way: the pastoral heart suffers and the pastoral heart takes risks. It suffers: yes, God suffers for those who leave and, while he mourns over them, he loves even more. The Lord suffers when we distance ourselves from his heart. He suffers for all who do not know the beauty of his love and the warmth of his embrace. But, in response to this suffering, he does not withdraw, rather he takes a risk. He leaves the ninety-nine sheep who are safe and ventures out for the lost one, thus doing something both risky and unreasonable, but consonant with his pastoral heart which misses the one who left, the longing for someone who has gone away – this is something consistent in Jesus. And when we hear that someone has left the Church, what do we want to say? “Let them work it out?” No. Jesus teaches us to have nostalgia for those who have left. Jesus does not feel anger or resentment but pure longing for us. Jesus feels nostalgic for us and this is God’s zeal.
And I wonder – we, do we have similar sentiments? Perhaps we see those who have left the flock as adversaries or enemies. “And this person? Hasn’t he gone to the other side? She lost her faith…. They are going to hell…” and we are serene. When we meet them at school, at work, on the streets of our city, why don’t we think instead that we have a beautiful opportunity to witness to them the joy of a Father who loves them and has never forgotten them? Not to proselytize, no! But that the Word of the Father might reach them so we can walk together. To evangelize is not to proselytize. To proselytize is something pagan, it is neither religious nor evangelical. There is a good word for those who have left the flock and we have the honour and the burden of being the ones to speak that word. Because the Word, Jesus, asks this of us – to always draw near to everyone with an open heart because he is like that. Perhaps we have been following and loving Jesus for some time and have never wondered if we share his feelings, if we suffer and we take risks in harmony with Jesus’s heart, with this pastoral heart, close to Jesus’s pastoral heart! This is not about proselytism, as I said, so that others become “one of us” – no, this is not Christian. It is about loving so that they might be happy children of God. In prayer, let us ask the grace of a pastoral heart, an open heart that draws near to everyone, so as to bear the Lord’s message as well as to feel Christ’s longing for them. For without this love that suffers and takes risks, our lives do not go well. If we Christians do not have this love that suffers and takes risks, we risk pasturing only ourselves. Shepherds who are shepherds of themselves, instead of being shepherds of the flock, are people who comb “exquisite” sheep. We do not need to be shepherds of ourselves, but shepherds for everyone.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
The Gospel of today’s liturgy (cf. Jn 1:29-34) relates the testimony of John the Baptist on Jesus, after having baptized him in the river Jordan. He says: “After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me” (vv. 29-30).
This declaration, this witness, reveals John’s spirit of service. He was sent to prepare the way for the Messiah, and had done so without sparing himself. Humanly speaking, one would think that he would be given a “prize”, a prominent place in Jesus’ public life. But no. John, having accomplished his mission, knows how to step aside, he withdraws from the scene to make way for Jesus. He has seen the Spirit descend upon him (cf. vv. 33-34), he has indicated him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and now he in turn humbly listens. He goes from prophet to disciple. He preached to the people, gathered disciples and trained them for a long time. Yet he does not bind anyone to himself. And this is difficult, but it is the sign of the true educator: not binding people to himself. John does this: he sets his disciples in Jesus’ footsteps. He is not interested in having a following for himself, in gaining prestige and success, but he bears witness and then takes a step back, so that many would have the joy of meeting Jesus. We can say: he opens the door, then he leaves.
With this spirit of service, with his capacity to give way to Jesus, John the Baptist teaches us an important thing: freedom from attachments. Yes, because it is easy to become attached to roles and positions, to the need to be esteemed, recognized and rewarded. And this, although natural, is not a good thing, because service involves gratuitousness, taking care of others without benefit for oneself, without ulterior motives, without expecting something in return. It is good for us, too, to cultivate, like John, the virtue of setting ourselves aside at the right moment, bearing witness that the point of reference of life is Jesus. To step aside, to learn to take one’s leave: I have completed this mission, I have had this meeting, I will step aside and leave room to the Lord. To learn to step aside, not to take something for ourselves in recompense.
Let us think of how important this is for a priest, who is required to preach and celebrate, not out of self-importance or interest, but to accompany others to Jesus. Think of how important this is for parents, to raise their children with many sacrifices, but then they have to leave them free to take their own path in work, in marriage, in life. It is good and right that parents continue to assure their presence, saying to their children, “We will not leave you by yourselves”, but with discretion, without intrusiveness. The freedom to grow. And the same applies to other spheres, such as friendships, life as a couple, community life. Freeing oneself from attachments to one’s own ego and knowing how to step aside come at a cost, but are very important: this is the decisive step in order to grow in the spirit of service, without looking for something in return.
Brothers, sisters, let is try to ask ourselves: are we capable of making space for others? Of listening to them, of leaving them free, of not binding them to ourselves, demanding recognition? And also, of letting them speak, at times. Do not say, “But you know nothing!”. Let them speak, make space for others. Do we attract others to Jesus, or to ourselves? And furthermore, following the example of John: do we know how to rejoice in the fact that people take their own path and follow their calling, even if this entails some detachment from us? Do we rejoice in their achievements, with sincerity and without envy? This is letting others grow.
May Mary, the servant of the Lord, help us to be free from attachments, to make way for the Lord and to give space to others.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
Today we begin a new cycle of catechesis, dedicated to an urgent and decisive theme for Christian life: the passion for evangelisation, that is, apostolic zeal. It is a vital dimension for the Church: the community of Jesus' disciples is in fact born apostolic, born missionary, not proselytizing. And from the start we have to distinguish: being missionary, being apostolic, evangelizing, is not the same as proselytizing, they have nothing to do with one another. It concerns a vital dimension for the Church. The community of the disciples of Jesus is born apostolic and missionary. The Holy Spirit moulds it outwardly – the Church moves out, that goes out – so that it is not closed in on itself, but turned outward, a contagious witness of Jesus – the faith is also contagious – reaching out to radiate His light to the ends of the earth. It can happen, however, that the apostolic ardour, the desire to reach others with the good news of the Gospel, diminishes, becomes tepid. Sometimes it seems to be eclipsed; there are “closed-off” Christians, they don’t think of others. But when Christian life loses sight of the horizon of evangelization, horizon of proclamation, it grows sick: it closes in on itself, becomes self-referential, it becomes atrophied. Without apostolic zeal, faith withers. Mission, on the other hand, is the oxygen of Christian life: it invigorates and purifies it. Let us embark, then, on a process of rediscovering the evangelising passion, starting with the Scriptures and the Church's teaching, to draw apostolic zeal from its sources. Then we will approach some living sources, some witnesses who have rekindled within the Church the passion for the Gospel, so that they may help us to rekindle the fire that the Holy Spirit wants to keep burning within us.
And today I would like to begin with a somewhat emblematic Gospel episode; we just heard it, the call of the Apostle Matthew. And he himself tells the story in his Gospel, which we have heard (cf. 9:9-13).
It all begins with Jesus, who, the text says, “sees a man.” Few people saw Matthew as he was: they knew him as the one who was “sitting at the tax booth” (v. 9). He was, in fact, a tax collector: that is, someone who collected taxes on behalf of the Roman empire that occupied Palestine. In other words, he was a collaborator, a traitor to the people. We can imagine the contempt the people felt for him: he was a “publican,” as they were called. But in the eyes of Jesus, Matthew is a man, with both his miseries and his greatness. Be aware of this: Jesus does not stop at the adjective – Jesus always seeks out the noun. “This person is a sinner, he’s that kind of person…” these are adjectives: Jesus goes to the person, to the heart, “This is a person, this is a man, this is a woman.” Jesus goes to the subject, the noun, never the adjective, He leaves aside the adjectives. And while there is distance between Matthew and his people – because they see the adjective, “publican” – Jesus draws near to Him, because every man is loved by God. “Even this wretch?” Yes, even this wretch. Indeed, the Gospel says He came for this very wretch: “I have come for sinners, not for the righteous.” This gaze of Jesus is really beautiful. It sees the other, whoever he may be, as the recipient of love, is the beginning of the evangelising passion. Everything starts from this gaze, which we learn from Jesus.
We can ask ourselves: how do we look upon others? How often do we see their faults and not their needs; how often do we label people according to what they do or what they think! Even as Christians we say to ourselves: is he one of us or not? This is not the gaze of Jesus: He always looks at each person with mercy and indeed with predilection. And Christians are called to do as Christ did, looking like Him especially at the so-called “distant ones.” Indeed, Matthew's account of the call ends with Jesus saying, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (v. 13). And if any one of us considers themselves righteous, Jesus is far away. He draws near to our limitations, to our miseries, to heal them.
It all starts, then, with the gaze of Jesus. “He sees a man,” Matthew. This is followed - second step - by a movement. First the gaze: Jesus sees. Second, movement. Matthew was sitting at the tax office; Jesus said to him: “Follow me.” And “ he rose and followed Him” (v. 9). We note that the text emphasises that “he rose.” Why is this detail so important? Because in those days he who was seated had authority over the others, who stood before him to listen to him or, as in that case, to pay tribute. He who sat, in short, had power. The first thing Jesus does is to detach Matthew from power: from sitting to receive others, He sets him in motion towards others, not receiving, no: he goes out to others. He makes him leave a position of supremacy in order to put him on an equal footing with his brothers and sisters and open to him the horizons of service. This is what Christ does, and this is fundamental for Christians: do we disciples of Jesus, we Church, sit around waiting for people to come, or do we know how to get up, to set out with others, to seek others? Saying, “But let them come to me, I am here, let them come,” is a non-Christian position. No, you go to seek them out, you take the first step.
A look – Jesus sees; a movement – “he rose”; and third, a destination. After getting up and following Jesus, where will Matthew go? We might imagine that, having changed the man’s life, the Master would lead him to new encounters, new spiritual experiences. No, or at least not immediately. First, Jesus goes to his home; there Matthew prepares “a great feast” for Him, in which “a large crowd of tax collectors” – that is, people like him – takes part (Lk 5:29). Matthew returns to his environment, but he returns there changed and with Jesus. His apostolic zeal does not begin in a new, pure, place, an ideal place, far away, but instead he begins there where he lives, with the people he knows. Here is the message for us: we do not have to wait until we are perfect and have come a long way following Jesus to bear witness to Him, no. Our proclamation begins today, there where we live. And it does not begin by trying to convince others, no, not to convince: by bearing every day to the beauty of the Love that has looked upon us and lifted us up. And it is this beauty, communicating this beauty that will convince people – not communicating ourselves but the Lord Himself. We are the ones who proclaim the Lord, we don’t proclaim ourselves, we don’t proclaim a political party, an ideology. No: we proclaim Jesus. We need to put Jesus in contact with the people, without convincing them but allowing the Lord do the convincing. For as Pope Benedict taught us, “The Church does not engage in proselytism. Instead, she grows by ‘attraction’” (Homily at the Mass for the Inauguration of the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, Aparecida, 13 May 2007). Don’t forget this: when you see Christians proselytising, making a list of people to come... these are not Christians, they are pagans disguised as Christians, but the heart is pagan. The Church grows not by proselytism, it grows by attraction.
I remember once, in a hospital in Buenos Aires, the women religious who worked there left because they were too few, and they couldn’t run the hospital. And a community of sisters from Korea came. And they arrived, let's say on a Monday for example (I don't remember the day). They took possession of the sisters’ house in the hospital and on Tuesday they came down to visit the sick in the hospital, but they didn't speak a word of Spanish. They only spoke Korean and the patients were happy, because they commented: “Well done! These nuns, bravo, bravo!” “But what did the sister say to you?” “Nothing, but with her gaze she spoke to me, they communicated Jesus,” not themselves, with their gaze, with their gestures. To communicate Jesus, not ourselves: This is attraction, the opposite of proselytism.
This attractive witness, this joyful witness is the goal to which Jesus leads us with His loving gaze and with the outgoing movement that His Spirit raises up in our hearts. And we can consider whether our gaze resembles that of Jesus, to attract the people, to bring them closer to the Church. Let’s think about that.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, and the Gospel presents us with an astonishing scene: it is the first time that Jesus appears in public after his hidden birth in Nazareth; he arrives on the bank of the River Jordan to be baptized by John (Mt 3:13-17). It is a rite by which the people repented and committed to converting; a liturgical hymn says that the people went to be baptized “bare of soul and barefoot” – an open, naked soul, without covering anything – that is, with humility and with a transparent heart. But, seeing Jesus mingling with the sinners, we are surprised and ask ourselves: why did Jesus make that choice? He, the Saint of God, the Son of God without sin, why did he make that choice? We find the answer in Jesus’ words to John: “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness” (v. 15). Fulfil all righteousness: what does it mean?
By having himself baptized, Jesus reveals God’s justice, that justice He came to bring into the world. Very often we have a limited idea of justice, and think that it means: those who do wrong pay, and in this way compensate for the wrong they have done. But God’s justice, as the Scripture teaches, is much greater: it does not have as its end the condemnation of the guilty, but their salvation and rebirth, making them righteous: from unjust to just. It is a justice that comes from love, from the depths of compassion and mercy that are the very heart of God, the Father who is moved when we are oppressed by evil and fall under the weight of sins and fragility. God’s justice, then, is not intended to distribute penalties and punishments but rather, as the Apostle Paul affirms, it consists of making us, his children, righteous (cf. Rm 3:22-31), freeing us from the snares of evil, healing us, raising us up again. The Lord is always there, not ready to punish us, but with his hand outstretched to help us rise up. And so, we understand that, on the banks of the Jordan, Jesus reveals to us the meaning of his mission: He came to fulfil divine justice, which is that of saving sinners; he came to take on his own shoulders the sin of the world and to descend into the waters of the abyss, death, so as to rescue us from drowning. He shows us today that the true justice of God is the mercy that saves. We are afraid to think that God is mercy, but God is mercy, because his justice is indeed the mercy that saves, it is the love that shares our human condition, that makes itself close, in solidarity with our suffering, entering into our darkness to restore light.
Benedict XVI affirmed that “God desired to save us by going to the bottom of this abyss himself so that every person, even those who have fallen so low that they can no longer perceive Heaven, may find God’s hand to cling to and rise from the darkness to see again the light for which he or she was made” (Homily, 13 January 2008).
Brothers and sisters, we are afraid to think of such a merciful justice. Let us go ahead: God is merciful. His justice is merciful. Let us allow ourselves to be taken by the hand by Him. We too, disciples of Jesus, are required to exercise justice in this way, in relationships with others, in the Church, in society: not with the harshness of those who judge and condemn, dividing people into good and bad, but with the mercy of those who welcome by sharing the wounds and frailties of their sisters and brothers, so as to lift them up. I would like to put it like this: not dividing, but sharing. Not dividing, but sharing. Let us do as Jesus did: let us share, let us carry each other’s burdens instead of gossiping and destroying, let us look at each other with compassion, let us help each other. Let us ask ourselves: am I a person who divides or shares? Think a little: am I a disciple of Jesus’ love or a disciple of gossip, that divides. Gossip is a lethal weapon: it kills, it kills love, it kills society, it kills fraternity. Let us ask ourselves: am I a person who divides or a person who shares? And now let us pray to Our Lady, who gave life to Jesus, immersing him in our frailty so that we might receive life again.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
Good afternoon and Happy Feast Day!
Today, the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the Gospel speaks to us about the Magi who, arriving in Bethlehem, open their treasures and offer gold, incense and myrrh to Jesus (cf. Mt 2:11). These wise men from the East are famous because of the gifts they offered. Considering their story, however, we could say that, above all, they receive three gifts. They received three gifts, three precious gifts that regard us as well. They give gold, incense and myrrh, but what are the three gifts they received?
The first gift is the gift of the call. The Magi were not alerted because they had read the Scriptures or because they had seen a vision of angels, but they sensed it while they were studying the stars. This tells us something important – God calls us through our aspirations and our greatest desires. The Magi allowed themselves to be amazed and discomfited by the novelty of the star and they set out on a journey toward the unknown. Wise and educated, they were fascinated more by what they did not know than by what they already knew. They were open to what they did not know. They felt called to go beyond. They did not feel happy remaining there. No, they were called to go beyond. This is important for us as well – we are called not to be satisfied, to seek the Lord by stepping out of our comfort zone, journeying toward him with others, immersing ourselves in reality. For God calls every day, here and now. God calls us, each one of us, every day. He calls us here and he calls us now. He calls us in our world.
But the Magi speak to us about a second gift: discernment. Seeing they are looking for a king, they go to Jerusalem to speak with King Herod, who, however, is a man hungry for power and wants to use them to eliminate the baby Messiah. But the Magi are not stupid, they do not allow themselves to be taken in by Herod. They know how to distinguish between the goal of their journey and the temptations they find on the way. They could have remained there in Herod’s court, serene. No, they move ahead. They leave Herod’s palace and, attentive to the sign from God, do not pass that way again, but return by another route (cf. v. 12). Brothers and sisters, how important it is to know how to distinguish life’s goal from the temptations along the way! Our goal in life is one thing, the temptations on the way are another. To know how to renounce what seduces, but leads down the wrong road, to understand and to choose God’s ways! Discernment is a great gift and we should never tire of asking for it in prayer. Let us ask for this grace! Lord, grant us the ability to discern what is good from what is evil, what is better from what is not better.
Finally, the Magi speak to us about a third gift: the surprise. After a long journey, what do these high-ranking men in society find? A baby with his mother (cf. v. 11) – certainly, a tender scene, but not astonishing! They do not see angels like the shepherds did, but they meet God in poverty. Perhaps they were expecting a powerful and prodigious Messiah – and they find a baby. And still, they do not think they made a mistake, they know how to recognize him. They welcome God’s surprise and experience their encounter with him with amazement, adoring him – in his littleness, they recognize God’s face. Humanly, we are all inclined to seek greatness, but it is a gift to know how to truly find it – to know how to find greatness in the littleness that God loves. For the Lord is encountered like this: in humility, in silence, in adoration, in the smallest and in the poor.
Brothers and sisters, we are all called – the first gift, the call – we are all called by Jesus, we can all discern – the second gift, discernment – discern his presence, we can all experience his surprises – the third gift, the surprise. Today, it would be beautiful to remember these gifts: the call, discernment and the surprise, these gifts that we have already received – to think back to when we sensed God’s call in our life; or even when, perhaps after quite a struggle, we succeeded in discerning his voice; or even still, of an unforgettable surprise he gave us, astounding us. May Our Lady help us remember and treasure the gifts received.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
Like a rising star (cf. Num 24:17), Jesus comes to enlighten all peoples and to brighten the nights of humanity. Today, with the Magi, let us lift our eyes to heaven and ask: “Where is the child who has been born?” (Mt 2:2). Where can we find and encounter our Lord?
From the experience of the Magi, we learn that the first “place” where he loves to be sought is in restless questioning. The exciting adventure of these Wise Men from the East teaches us that faith is not born of our own merits, thoughts and theories. Rather, it is God’s gift. His grace helps us to shake off our apathy and opens our minds to ask the important questions in life. Questions that challenge us to leave behind our presumption that everything is fine, questions that open us to what is beyond us. For the Magi, that was the beginning: the restlessness of those willing to ask questions. Filled with yearning for the infinite, they scan the heavens, find themselves marvelling at the brilliance of a star, and experience the quest for the transcendent that inspires the progress of civilizations and the tireless seeking of the human heart. The star left them with a question: Where is the child who has been born?
Brothers and sisters, the journey of faith begins whenever, by God’s grace, we make room for the restlessness that keeps us awake and alert. It begins when we are willing to ask questions, when we are dissatisfied with our daily routine and take seriously the challenges of each new day. When we step out of our comfort zone and decide to confront the uncomfortable aspects of life: our relationships with others, unexpected events, projects needing to be undertaken, dreams to be realized, fears to be faced, physical and mental sufferings. At such times, deep in our hearts, we find ourselves before the irrepressible questions that lead us to seek the Lord: Where do I find happiness? Where do I find that fullness of life to which I aspire? Where do I find a love that does not fade away, a love that endures even in the face of frailty, failure and betrayal? What hidden opportunities are present in the midst of my crises and my sufferings?
Yet each day the very air we breathe is full of “tranquilizers of the soul”, surrogates meant to sedate our inner restlessness and to suppress those very questions: new items to consume, empty promises of pleasure and non-stop media controversies, the idolatry of fitness. Everything seems to tell us: Don’t overthink things; let go and enjoy life! Often we try to soothe our hearts with creature comforts. If the Magi had done that, they would never have encountered the Lord. The danger is that we sedate our hearts, sedate our souls in order to quell our inner restlessness. God, however, is always there, there within our restless questioning. In that questioning, we “seek him as the night seeks the dawn… He is present in the silence that troubles us in the face of death and the end of all human grandeur. He is present in the longing for justice and love deep within our hearts. He is the holy mystery that responds to our yearning for the Totally Other; a yearning for perfect and consummate justice, reconciliation and peace”. That, then, is the first place where we can encounter the Lord: in restless questioning. Do not be afraid to enter into this restless questioning, for that is the path that lead us to Jesus.
The second place is in the risk of journeying. Questioning, including spiritual questioning, can lead to frustrations and desolations unless we embark upon a journey, unless we turn ourselves, in the depths of our being, to the face of God and the beauty of his word. Benedict XVI said of the Magi: “Their outward pilgrimage was the expression of their inward journey, the inner pilgrimage of their hearts” (Homily for Epiphany, 6 January 2013). The Magi in fact did not simply study the heavens and contemplate the light of the star; they set out on a journey full of risks, without safe roads and clear maps. They wanted to discover this King of the Jews, to learn where he was born, where they could find him. And so, they asked Herod, who in turn summoned the leaders of the people and the scribes who pore over the Scriptures. The Magi were on a journey; most of the verbs used to describe them are verbs of movement.
The same is true of our faith: without a continuous journey in constant dialogue with the Lord, without attentive listening to his word, without perseverance, faith cannot grow. It is not enough to entertain some vague idea about God, to say some prayer that salves our consciences. We need to become disciples, following Jesus and his Gospel, bringing everything to him in prayer, seeking him in the events of our daily lives and in the faces of our brothers and sisters. From Abraham, who set out for an unknown land, to the Magi, who set out behind the star, faith has always been a journey, a pilgrimage, a history of starts and restarts. Let us never forget that faith is a journey, a pilgrimage, a history of starts and restarts. Let us remind ourselves that a static faith does not grow; we cannot enclose faith in some personal devotion or confine it within the four walls of our churches; we need to bring it outside and to live it in a constant journey towards God and towards our brothers and sisters. Today, let us ask ourselves: Am I journeying towards the Lord of life, to make him the Lord of my life? Jesus, who are you for me? Where are you calling me to go, and what are you asking of my life? What decisions are you inviting me to make for the sake of others?
Finally, after restless questioning and the risk of journeying, the third place where we encounter the Lord is in the wonder of worship. At the end of their long journey and tiring quest, the Magi entered the house, where “they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage” (v. 11). This is what really matters: our restlessness, our questioning, our spiritual journeys and the practice of our faith must all converge in worship of the Lord. There they find their centre and source, for there everything begins, for the Lord himself enables us to feel and act. Everything starts and ends there, because the purpose of everything is not to achieve a personal goal or to receive glory for ourselves, but to encounter God. To let ourselves be enveloped by his love, which is the basis of our hope, which sets us free from evil, opens our hearts to love others, and makes us a people capable of building a more just and fraternal world. Our pastoral activities will be fruitless unless we put Jesus at their centre and fall down in worship before him. The wonder of worship. Then we will learn to stand before God, not to ask for something or to do something, but simply to halt in silence and abandon ourselves to his love, letting him take us by the hand and restoring us by his mercy. We pray often, asking for things or in reflection… but usually we forget the prayer of adoration. We have lost the sense of worship because we have lost our restless questioning and have lost the courage to continue on our journey with all its risks. Today, the Lord calls us to imitate the Magi. Like the Magi, let us fall down and entrust ourselves to God in the wonder of worship. Let us worship God, not ourselves; let us worship God and not the false idols that seduce by the allure of prestige or power, or the allure of false news; let us love God and not bow down before passing things and evil thoughts, seductive yet hollow and empty.
Brothers and sisters, let us open our hearts to restlessness, let us ask for the courage to continue our journey, and let us finish in worship! Let us not be afraid, for this is the path of the Magi, the path of all the saints throughout history: to welcome our restlessness, to set out and to worship. Brothers and sisters, may we never stop our restless questioning; may we never interrupt our journey by yielding to apathy or convenience; and in our encounter with the Lord, may we abandon ourselves to the wonder of worship. Then we will discover that a light shines even in the darkest nights: the light of Jesus, the radiant morning star, the sun of justice the merciful splendour of God, who loves every man and woman, and all the peoples of the earth.
Full transcript below
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” ( Lk 23:46). These were the final words spoken by the Lord on the cross; his last breath, as it were, which summed up what had been his entire life: a ceaseless self-entrustment into the hands of his Father. His were hands of forgiveness and compassion, healing and mercy, anointing and blessing, which led him also to entrust himself into the hands of his brothers and sisters. The Lord, open to the individuals and their stories that he encountered along the way, allowed himself to be shaped by the Father’s will. He shouldered all the consequences and hardships entailed by the Gospel, even to seeing his hands pierced for love. “See my hands”, he says to Thomas ( Jn 20:27), and to each of us: “See my hands”. Pierced hands that constantly reach out to us, inviting us to recognize the love that God has for us and to believe in it (cf. 1 Jn 4:16).
“Father into your hands I commend my spirit”. This is the invitation and the programme of life that he quietly inspires in us. Like a potter (cf. Is 29:16), he wishes to shape the heart of every pastor, until it is attuned to the heart of Christ Jesus (cf. Phil 2:5). Attuned in grateful devotion, in service to the Lord and to his people, a service born of thanksgiving for a completely gracious gift: “You belong to me… you belong to them”, the Lord whispers, “you are under the protection of my hands. You are under the protection of my heart. Stay in my hands and give me yours”. Here we see the “condescension” and closeness of God, who is ready to entrust himself to the frail hands of his disciples, so that they can feed his people and say with him: Take and eat, take and drink, for this is my body which is given up for you (cf. Lk 22:19). The total synkatabasis of God.
Attuned in prayerful devotion, a devotion silently shaped and refined amid the challenges and resistance that every pastor must face (cf. 1 Pet 1:6-7) in trusting obedience to the Lord’s command to feed his flock (cf. Jn 21:17 ). Like the Master, a shepherd bears the burden of interceding and the strain of anointing his people, especially in situations where goodness must struggle to prevail and the dignity of our brothers and sisters is threatened (cf. Heb 5:7-9). In the course of this intercession, the Lord quietly bestows the spirit of meekness that is ready to understand, accept, hope and risk, notwithstanding any misunderstandings that might result. It is the source of an unseen and elusive fruitfulness, born of his knowing the One in whom he has placed his trust (cf. 2 Tim 1:12). A trust itself born of prayer and adoration, capable of discerning what is expected of a pastor and shaping his heart and his decisions in accord with God’s good time (cf. Jn 21:18): “Feeding means loving, and loving also means being ready to suffer. Loving means giving the sheep what is truly good, the nourishment of God’s truth, of God’s word, the nourishment of his presence”.
Attuned also in devotion sustained by the consolation of the Spirit, who always precedes the pastor in his mission. In his passionate effort to communicate the beauty and the joy of the Gospel (cf. Gaudete et Exsultate, 57). In the fruitful witness of all those who, like Mary, in so many ways stand at the foot of the cross. In the painful yet steadfast serenity that neither attacks nor coerces. In the stubborn but patient hope that the Lord will be faithful to his promise, the promise he made to our fathers and to their descendants forever (cf. Lk 1:54-55).
Holding fast to the Lord’s last words and to the witness of his entire life, we too, as an ecclesial community, want to follow in his steps and to commend our brother into the hands of the Father. May those merciful hands find his lamp alight with the oil of the Gospel that he spread and testified to for his entire life (cf. Mt 25:6-7).
At the end of his Pastoral Rule, Saint Gregory the Great urged a friend to offer him this spiritual accompaniment: “Amid the shipwreck of the present life, sustain me, I beseech you, by the plank of your prayer, that, since my own weight sinks me down, the hand of your merit will raise me up”. Here we see the awareness of a pastor who cannot carry alone what in truth he could never carry alone, and can thus commend himself to the prayers and the care of the people entrusted to him. God’s faithful people, gathered here, now accompanies and entrusts to him the life of the one who was their pastor. Like the women at the tomb, we too have come with the fragrance of gratitude and the balm of hope, in order to show him once more the love that is undying. We want to do this with the same wisdom, tenderness and devotion that he bestowed upon us over the years. Together, we want to say: “Father, into your hands we commend his spirit”.
Benedict, faithful friend of the Bridegroom, may your joy be complete as you hear his voice, now and forever!
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
Before beginning this catechesis, I would like us to join with those here beside us who are paying their respects to Benedict XVI, and to turn my thoughts to him, a great master of catechesis. His acute and gentle thought was not self-referential, but ecclesial, because he always wanted to accompany us in the encounter with Jesus. Jesus, Crucified and Risen, the Living One and the Lord, was the destination to which Pope Benedict led us, taking us by the hand. May he help us rediscover in Christ the joy of believing and the hope of living.
With today’s catechesis, we will conclude the cycle dedicated to the theme of discernment, and we will do so completing the discourse on aids that can and must support it: support the discernment process. One of these is spiritual accompaniment, important first and foremost for self-knowledge, which as we have seen is an indispensable condition for discernment. Looking at oneself in the mirror, alone, does not always help, as one can adjust the image. Instead, looking at oneself in the mirror with the help of another, this helps a great deal because the other tells you the truth – when he or she is truthful – and in this way helps you.
God’s grace in us always works on our nature. Thinking of a Gospel parable, we can always compare grace to the good seed and nature to the soil (cf. Mk 4:3-9). First of all, it is important to make ourselves known, without fear of sharing the most fragile aspects, where we find ourselves to be more sensitive, weak, or afraid of being judged. Making oneself known, manifesting oneself to a person who accompanies us on the journey of life. Not who decides for us, no: but who accompanies us. Because fragility is, in reality, our true richness: we are rich in fragility, all of us, the true richness which we must learn to respect and welcome, because when it is offered to God, it makes us capable of tenderness, mercy, and love. Woe to those people who do not feel fragile: they are harsh, dictatorial. Instead, people who humbly recognize their own frailties are more understanding with others. Fragility, I dare say, makes us human. Not by chance, the first of Jesus’ three temptations in the desert – the one linked to hunger – tries to rob us of fragility, presenting it as an evil to be rid of, an impediment to being like God. And yet it is our most valuable treasure: indeed God, to make us like him, wished to share our own fragility to the utmost. Look at the crucifix: God who descended into fragility. Look at the Nativity scene, where he arrives in great human fragility. He shared our fragility.
And spiritual accompaniment, if it is docile to the Holy Spirit, helps to unmask misunderstandings, even grave ones, in our consideration of ourselves and our relationship with the Lord. The Gospel presents various examples of clarifying and liberating conversations with Jesus. Think, for example, of those with the Samaritan woman, which we read and read, and there is always this wisdom and tenderness of Jesus; think of the one with Zacchaeus, think of the sinful woman, think of Nicodemus, and the disciples of Emmaus: the Lord’s way of approaching. The people who had a true encounter with Jesus were not afraid to open their hearts, to present their own vulnerability, their own inadequacy, their own fragility. In this way, their self-sharing becomes and experience of salvation, of forgiveness freely received.
Recounting what we have lived or are searching for, in front of another person, helps to bring clarity to ourselves, bringing to light the many thoughts that dwell within us, and which often unsettle us with their insistent refrains. How many times, in bleak moments, thoughts like this come to us: “I have done everything wrong, I am worthless, no-one understands me, I will never succeed, I am destined for failure”, how many times it comes to us to think these things. False and poisonous thoughts, that the exchange with another helps to unmask, so we can feel we are loved and valued by the Lord for what we are, capable of doing good things for him. We discover with surprise different ways of seeing things, signs of goodness that have always been present in us. It is true, we can share our frailties with the other, with the one who accompanies us in life, in the spiritual life, the teacher of spiritual life, be they a layperson, a priest, and say: “Look what is happening to me: I am a wretch, these things are happening to me”. And the one who accompanies answers, “Yes, we all have these things”. This helps us to clarify them well, to see where the roots lie and thereby overcome them.
He or she who accompanies does not substitute the Lord, does not do the work in the place of the person accompanied, but walks alongside him or her, encouraging them to interpret what is stirring in their heart, the quintessential place where the Lord speaks. The spiritual accompanier, whom we call spiritual director – I don’t like this term, I prefer spiritual accompanier, it is better – they say: “Fine, but look here, look here”, they draw your attention to things that perhaps pass you by; they help you understand better the signs of the times, the voice of the Lord, the voice of the tempter, the voice of the difficulties that you are unable to overcome. Therefore, it is very important not to journey alone. There is a wise African saying – because they have that tribal mysticism – which says: “If you want to arrive quickly, go alone; if you want to arrive safely, go with others”, go in company, go with your people. This is important. In the spiritual life it is better to be accompanied by someone who knows about us and helps us. And this is spiritual accompaniment.
This accompaniment can be fruitful if, on both sides, one has experienced filiality and spiritual kinship. We discover we are children of God at the moment that we discover we are brothers and sisters, children of the same Father. This is why it is essential to be part of a journeying community. We are not alone, we belong to a people, a nation, a city that is on the move, a Church, a parish, this group… a community on the move. One does not go by oneself to the Lord: this will not do. We must understand this clearly. As in the Gospel account of the paralytic, we are often sustained and healed by the faith of someone else (cr. Mk 2:1-5) who helps us go forward, because we all at times have inner paralyses and it takes someone who helps us to overcome that conflict, with help. One does not go to the Lord by oneself, let us remember this clearly; other times we are the ones who take on this commitment on behalf of another brother or sister, and we are accompaniers who help that other person. Without the experience of filiality and kinship, accompaniment can give rise to unrealistic expectations, misunderstandings, in the forms of dependence that leave the person in an infantile state. Accompaniment, but as children of God and brothers and sisters among ourselves.
The Virgin Mary is a great teacher of discernment: she speaks little, listens a lot, and cherishes in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19). The three attitudes of Our Lady: she speaks little, listens a lot, and cherishes in her heart. And the few times she speaks, she leaves a mark. For example, in the Gospel of John there is a very short phrase uttered by Mary which is a mandate for Christians of all times: “Do whatever he tells you” (cf. 2:5). It is curious: once I heard a very good, very pious elderly woman, who had not studied theology, she was very simple. And she said to me, “Do you know what Our Lady always does?” I don’t know, she embraces you, she calls you… “No, the gesture Our Lady does is this” [points with his finger]. I didn’t understand, and I asked, “What does it mean?”. And the old lady replied, “She always points to Jesus”. This is beautiful: Our Lady takes nothing for herself, she points to Jesus. Do whatever Jesus tells you: that is what Our Lady is like. Mary knows that the Lord speaks to the heart of each person, and asks for these words to be translated into actions and choices. She knew how to do this more than any other person, and indeed she is present in the fundamental moments of Jesus’ life, especially in the supreme moment of death on the Cross.
Dear brothers and sisters, we are ending this series of catecheses on discernment: discernment is an art, an art that can be learned and which has its own rules. If learned well, it enables spiritual experience to be lived in an ever more beautiful and orderly manner. Above all, discernment is a gift from God, which must always be asked for, without ever presuming to be expert and self-sufficient. Lord, give me the grace to discern in the moments of life, what I must do, what I must understand. Give me the grace to discern, and give me the person who will help me to discern.
The voice of the Lord can always be recognized; it has a unique style it is a voice that pacifies, encourages and reassures in difficulties. The Gospel reminds us of this continually: “Do not be afraid” (Lk 1:30), how beautiful is the Angel’s word to Mary after the resurrection of Jesus; “Do not be afraid”, “Do not be afraid”, it is the style of the Lord, “Do not be afraid”. “Do not be afraid!” the Lord repeats to us today too, “Do not be afraid”: if we trust in his word, we will play the game of life well, and we will be able to help others. As the Psalm says, his Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (cf. 119, 105).
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
The beginning of the new year is entrusted to Mary Most Holy whom we celebrate today as Mother of God. At this time, let us invoke her intercession especially for Pope emeritus Benedict XVI who left this world yesterday morning. Let us all join together, with one heart and one soul, in thanking God for the gift of this faithful servant of the Gospel and of the Church.
As we contemplate Mary in the stable where Jesus was born, we can ask ourselves: What languages does the Holy Virgin use to speak to us? How does Mary speak? What can we learn from her for this year that is dawning? We can say, “Our Lady, teach us what we need to do this year”.
In reality, if we observe the scene that today’s Liturgy presents to us, we note that Mary does not speak. She welcomes the mystery she is experiencing with awe, she cherishes everything in her heart and, above all, she is concerned about the Child whom, as the Gospel says, was “laid in a manger” (cf. Lk 2:16). This verb “to lay” means to carefully place, and this tells us that the language proper to Mary is maternal: she tenderly takes care of the Child. This is Mary’s greatness. As the angels celebrate, the shepherds come running and everyone praises God with a loud voice for what has happened, Mary does not speak, she does not entertain her guests explaining everything that had happened to her, she does not steal the show – to us who like to steal the show! – she does not steal the show. On the contrary, she puts the Child in the centre, she lovingly takes care of him. A poet once wrote that Mary “even knew how to be solemnly mute, because she did not want to lose sight of her God”.
This is typically maternal language: the tenderness of taking care of. In fact, after having borne the gift of a mysterious prodigy in their wombs for nine months, mothers constantly put their babies at the centre of their attention: they feed them, they hold them in their arms, they tenderly lay them down in the crib. To take care of – this is the language of the Mother of God, a language of mothers: to take care of.
Brothers and sisters, like all mothers, Mary bore life in her womb and thus, she talks to us about our future. But at the same time, she reminds us that, if we truly want the New Year to be good, if we want to reconstruct hope, we need to abandon the language, those actions and those choices inspired by egoism and learn the language of love, which is to take care of. To take care of is a new language that counters these languages of egoism. This is the commitment: to take care of our lives – each one of us needs to take care of our own life – to take care of our time, of our souls; to take care of creation and the environment we live in; and even more, to take care of our neighbour, of those whom the Lord has placed alongside us, as well as our brothers and sisters who are in need and who call for our attention and our compassion. Looking at Our Lady with the Child, there taking care of her Child, let us learn to take care of others, even of ourselves, caring for our interior health, our spiritual life, charity.
Celebrating today the World Day of Peace, let us regain awareness of the responsibility that has been entrusted to us to construct the future – in the face of the personal and social crises we are living, in the face of the tragedy of the war, “we are called to confront the challenges of our world in a spirit of responsibility and compassion” (Message for the 56th World Day of Peace, 5). And we can do this if we take care of each other and if, all of us together, take care of our common home.
Let us implore Mary Most Holy, the Mother of God, so that in this epoch, polluted by diffidence and indifference, she might make us capable of being compassionate and providing care – capable of being compassionate and providing care – capable of “looking more closely and sympathetically at others whenever necessary” .
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
Holy Mother of God! This was the joyful acclamation of the holy People of God echoing in the streets of Ephesus in the year 431, when the Council Fathers proclaimed Mary the Mother of God. This truth is a fundamental datum of faith, but above all, it is a marvellous fact. God has a Mother and is thus bound forever to our humanity, like a child to its mother, to the point that our humanity is his humanity. It is an amazing and consoling truth, so much so that the most recent Council, which met here in Saint Peter’s, stated that, “by his incarnation, the Son of God has in a certain way united himself with each individual. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind, he acted with a human will, and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, he truly became one of us, like us in all things except sin”. That is what God did by being born of Mary: he showed his concrete love for our humanity, embracing it truly and fully. Brothers and sisters, God does not love us in words but in deeds; not from “on high”, but “up close”, precisely from “within” our flesh, because in Mary the Word became flesh, because Christ continues to have a heart of flesh that beats for each and every of us!
Holy Mother of God! Many books and weighty tomes have been written about this title of Our Lady. Yet these words have mostly entered the minds and hearts of the holy People of God through the simple and familiar prayer that accompanies the rhythm of our days, our moments of weariness and our greatest aspirations: the Hail Mary. After a few phrases drawn from the word of God, the second part of the prayer continues: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners…” This invocation, often repeated throughout the day, has allowed God to draw near, through Mary, to our lives and our history. Mother of God, pray for us sinners… It is recited in the most diverse languages, on the beads of a rosary and at times of need, in the presence of a holy image or walking along the way. To this invocation the Mother of God always responds; she hears our petitions; holding her Son in her arms, she blesses us and brings us the tender love of God made flesh. In a word, Mary gives us hope. At the beginning of this year, we need hope, just as the earth needs rain. This year that opens with the celebration of God’s Mother and our own, tells us that the key to hope is Mary and that the antiphon of hope is the invocation, Holy Mother of God. And today, we entrust beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to our Most Holy Mother, that she will accompany him on his journey from this world to God.
Let us pray to our Mother in a special way for her sons and daughters who are suffering and no longer have the strength to pray, and for our many brothers and sisters throughout the world who are victims of war, passing these holidays in darkness and cold, in poverty and fear, immersed in violence and indifference! For all those who have no peace, let us invoke Mary, the woman who brought into the world the Prince of peace (cf. Is 9:6; Gal 4:4). In her, the Queen of Peace, was fulfilled the blessing we heard in the first reading: “May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num 6:26). At the hands of a Mother, God’s peace wants to enter into our homes, our hearts and our world. Yet what must we do to receive that peace?
Let us be guided by the people we meet in today’s Gospel, who were the first to see the Mother and Child: the shepherds of Bethlehem. They were poor people and perhaps somewhat uncouth, and that night they were working. Yet they, not the learned or the powerful, were the first to recognize God among us, the God who became poor and loves to be with the poor. The Gospel emphasizes two very simple things that the shepherds did: things simple but not always easy. They went and saw. Two actions: Going and seeing.
First, going. The Gospel tells us that the shepherds “went with haste” (Lk 2:16). They did not wait around. It was night, they had their flocks to keep, and naturally they were weary: they could easily have waited for dawn, held off until sunrise in order to go and see the Child lying in the manger. Instead, they went with haste, because where important things are concerned, we need to react promptly and not wait, for “the grace of the Spirit brooks no delay”. And so they encountered the Messiah, the one awaited for centuries, the one that so many others had long sought.
Brothers and sisters, if we are to welcome God and his peace, we cannot stand around complacently, waiting for things to get better. We need to get up, recognize the moments of grace, set out and take a risk. We need to take a risk! Today, at the beginning of the year, rather than standing around, thinking and hoping that things will change, we should instead ask ourselves: “This year, where do I want to go? Who is it that I can help?” So many people, in the Church and in society, are waiting for the good that you and you alone can do, they are waiting for your help. Today, amid the lethargy that dulls our senses, the indifference that paralyzes our hearts, and the temptation to waste time glued to a keyboard in front of a computer screen, the shepherds are summoning us to set out and get involved in our world, to dirty our hands and to do some good. They are inviting us to set aside many of our routines and our comforts in order to open ourselves to the new things of God, which are found in the humility of service, in the courage of caring for others. Brothers and sisters, let us imitate the shepherds: let us set out with haste!
When they arrived, the Gospel tells us, the shepherds “found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger” (v. 16). It then says that “after having seen” the Child (cf. v. 17), they set out, filled with wonder, to tell others about Jesus, glorifying and praising God for everything that they had heard and seen (cf. vv. 17-18, 20). The important thing was that they had seen him. What is important is to see, to look around and, like the shepherds, to halt before the Child resting in his mother’s arms. To say nothing, to ask nothing, to do nothing. Simply to look on in silence, to adore and to contemplate the tender and comforting love of God made man, and his, and our, Mother. At the beginning of this year, among all the other things that we would like to do and experience, let us devote some time to seeing, to opening our eyes and to keeping them open before what really matters: God and our brothers and sisters. Let us have the courage to experience the wonder of encounter, which is God’s style. That is something very different from the world’s seductions, which seem to calm us. The wonder of God and of encounter gives us peace; the world can only anesthetize us and give peace of mind.
How many times, in our busy lives, do we fail to stop, even for a moment, to be close to the Lord and to hear his word, to say a prayer, to adore and praise him. We do the same thing with others: caught up in our own affairs or in getting ahead, we have no time to listen to our wife, our husband, to talk with our children, to ask them about how they really are, and not simply about their studies or their health. And how good it is for us to take time and listen to the elderly, to our grandfathers and grandmothers, in order to remember the deeper meaning of our lives and to recover our roots. Let us ask ourselves too, whether we are capable of seeing the people next door, the people who live in the same building, the people we meet each day on the street. Brothers and sisters, let us imitate the shepherds: let us learn to see! To understand by seeing with our hearts. Let us learn to see.
Going and seeing. Today the Lord has come among us and the Holy Mother of God sets him before our eyes. Let us rediscover in the enthusiasm of going and the wonder of seeing the secret that can make this year truly “new”, and thus overcome the weariness of being stuck or the false peace of seduction.
And now, brothers and sisters, I invite all of you to look to the Virgin Mary. Let us invoke her three times, as the people of Ephesus did: Holy Mother of God! Holy Mother of God! Holy Mother of God!
Excerpt below, for the full message click on the picture link above
No one can be saved alone.
Combatting Covid-19 together, embarking together on paths of peace
When tragic events seem to overwhelm our lives, and we feel plunged into a dark and difficult maelstrom of injustice and suffering, we are likewise called to keep our hearts open to hope and to trust in God, who makes himself present, accompanies us with tenderness, sustains us in our weariness and, above all, guides our path.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
When, in the fullness of time, God became man, he did not come swooping down into the world from heaven on high. He was born of Mary. He was not born to a woman but of a woman. This is essentially different – it means that God wanted to take on flesh from her. He did not use her, but asked for her “yes”, for her consent. And so, with her began the slow journey of the gestation of a humanity free from sin and filled with grace and truth, filled with love and faithfulness. A beautiful, good and true humanity, made in the image and likeness of God, but at the same time, woven with our flesh offered by Mary…never without her…always with her consent…in freedom, gratuitously, respectfully, in love.
And this is the way God chose to enter into the world and to enter into history. This is the way. And this way is essential, as essential as the very fact that he came. The divine motherhood of Mary – virginal motherhood, fruitful virginity – is the way that reveals God’s utmost respect for our freedom. He who created us without us did not want to save us without us.
The way he chose to come to save us is the way on which he also invites us to follow him so as to continue to weave humanity – new, free, reconciled – together with him. This is the word: reconciled humanity. It is a style, a way of relating to us, from which derives the multiplicity of human virtues of good and dignified living together. One of these virtues is kindness, as a way of life that fosters fraternity and social friendship.
And speaking of kindness, at this moment, my thought naturally goes to dear Pope emeritus Benedict XVI who left us this morning. We are moved as we recall him as such a noble person, so kind. And we feel such gratitude in our hearts: gratitude to God for having given him to the Church and to the world; gratitude to him for all the good he accomplished, and above all, for his witness of faith and prayer, especially in these last years of his recollected life. Only God knows the value and the power of his intercession, of the sacrifices he offered for the good of the Church.
And this evening, I would like to repropose kindness also as a civic virtue, thinking in particular of our diocese of Rome.
Kindness is an important aspect of the culture of dialogue, and dialogue is indispensable to live in peace, to live as brothers and sisters, who do not always agree – this is normal – but who nevertheless speak to each other, listen to each other and try to understand each other and to move toward one another. We only need to think of what the “world would be like without the patient dialogue of the many generous persons who keep families and communities together. Unlike disagreement and conflict, persistent and courageous dialogue does not make headlines, but quietly helps the world to live better”. Kindness, then, is a part of dialogue. It is not only an issue of “good manners”; it is not a question of “etiquette”, of courteous behaviour…. No. This is not what we mean when speaking of kindness. Instead, it is a virtue to be retrieved and practiced every day in order to go against the tide and to humanize our societies.
The harm of consumeristic individualism is before everyone’s eyes. And the most serious damage is that others, the people who surround us, are perceived as obstacles to our tranquillity, to our well-being. Others “inconvenience” us, “disturb” us, rob us of the time and resources to do as we please. Our individualistic and consumeristic society tend to be aggressive, since others are competitors with whom to compete. And yet, within these very societies of ours, and even in the most difficult situations we face, there are individuals who demonstrate how it is possible to “cultivate kindness” and thus, by their style of life, they “become stars shining in the midst of darkness”.
Saint Paul, in the same Letter to the Galatians from which the Reading for this liturgy is taken, speaks of the fruit of the Holy Spirit among which one is mentioned using the Greek word chrestotes. This is the one that we can understand as “kindness”: a benevolent attitude that sustains and comforts others and avoids any form of roughness and harshness. It is a way of treating one’s neighbour taking care not to be hurtful through words or actions; trying to lighten others’ burdens, to encourage, to comfort, to console, without ever humiliating, mortifying or despising.
Kindness is an antidote against several pathologies of our societies: an antidote against cruelty, which can unfortunately creep in like poison seeps into the heart, intoxicating relationships; an antidote against anxiety and distracted frenzy that makes us focus on ourselves, closing others off. These “illnesses” of our everyday lives make us aggressive, make us incapable of asking “may I”, or even saying “sorry”, or of simply saying “thank you”. These three extremely human words for living together: may I, sorry, thank you. With these three words, we move forward in peace, in human friendship. They are the words of kindness: may I, sorry, thank you. It will do us good to think about whether we use them often in our lives: may I, sorry, thank you. And so, when we meet a kind person on the street, or in a store, or in the office, we are amazed, it seems to be a small miracle because, unfortunately, kindness is no longer common. But, thanks be to God, there are still kind people who know how to put their own concerns aside to pay attention to others, to offer the gift of a smile, to give an encouraging word, to listen to someone who needs to confide something, and to vent.
Dear brothers and sisters, I think that retrieving kindness as a personal and civic virtue might help a great deal to improve life within families, communities and cities. For this reason, as we look to the new year as the City of Rome, my wish for all of us who live here is that we might grow in this virtue: kindness. Experience teaches that kindness, if it becomes a style of life, can create a healthy living together, it can humanize social relationships, diffusing aggression and indifference.
Let us look on the icon of the Virgin Mary. Today and tomorrow, here in Saint Peter’s Basilica, we can venerate her through the image of Our Lady of Carmine of Avigliano, near Potenza. Let us not take her divine motherhood for granted! Let us allow ourselves to be amazed by God’s choice who could have come into the world in a thousand ways manifesting his power and, instead, willed to be conceived in full freedom in Mary’s womb, wanted to be formed for nine months like every baby and, in the end, to be born of her, to be born of a woman. Let us not pass over this quickly. Let us pause to contemplate and meditate because there is an essential characteristic of the mystery of salvation here. And let us try to learn God’s “method”, his infinite respect, his “kindness” so to speak, because the way for a more human world is found in the divine motherhood of the Virgin.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
The liturgical season invites us to pause and reflect on the mystery of Christmas. And since today – today – marks the fourth centenary of the death of St Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, we can take a cue from some of his thoughts. He wrote a great deal about Christmas. In this regard, today I am pleased to announce that the Apostolic Letter commemorating this anniversary is being published today. The title is Everything pertains to love, taking up a characteristic expression of the Saint Francis de Sales. In fact, this is what he wrote in his Treatise on the Love of God; he wrote: “In Holy Church, everything pertains to love, lives in love, is done for love and comes from love” (Italian original from: Ed. Paoline, Milan 1989, p. 80). And may we all go down this path of love, which is so beautiful.
Let us then try to delve a little deeper into the mystery of Jesus’ birth, “in the company” of St Francis de Sales, thus uniting the two commemorations.
Saint Francis de Sales, in one of his many letters addressed to Saint Jeanne Frances de Chantal, he writes as follows: “I imagine I see Solomon on his ivory throne, all beautifully gilded and carved, which, as the Scripture tells us, had no equal in all the kingdoms of the earth (1 Kings 10:18-20) neither was there any king that could be compared, for glory and magnificence, with the king that sat upon it (1 Kings 10:23). And yet, I would a hundred times rather see the dear Jesus in his Crib, than all the kings of the world on their thrones.” What he says is beautiful. Jesus, the King of the universe, never sat on a throne, never: He was born in a stable wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger; and finally He died on a cross and, wrapped in a sheet, was laid in the tomb. Indeed, the evangelist Luke, in recounting the birth of Jesus, insists a great deal on the detail of the manger. This means that it is very important not only as a logistical detail. But how to understand it as a symbolic element? In order to understand what kind of Messiah is He who was born in Bethlehem; what kind of King He is, Who Jesus is. Seeing the manger, gazing upon the cross, looking at His life, a life of simplicity, we can understand who Jesus is. Jesus is the Son of God Who saves us by becoming man, like us; stripping Himself of His glory and humbling Himself (cf. Phil 2:7-8). We see this mystery concretely in the focal point of the crib, namely in the Child lying in a manger. The throne of Jesus is the manger or the street, during His life, preaching; or the Cross at the end of His life. This is the throne of our King.
This sign shows us the “style” of God. And what is the style of God? Don’t forget, never forget: the style of God is closeness, compassion, and tenderness. Our God is close, compassionate, and tender. This style of God is seen in Jesus. With this style of His, God draws us to Himself. He does not take us by force, He does not impose His truth and justice on us. He does not proselytize us, no! He wants to draw us with love, with tenderness, with compassion. In another letter, St Francis de Sales writes: “The magnet attracts iron, amber attracts straws. Whether, then, we are iron in our hardness, or straws in our lightness and worthlessness, we must unite ourselves to this little Infant.” Our strengths, our weaknesses, only resolve themselves before the crib, before Jesus, or before the Cross. God has found the means to attract us however we are: with love. Not a possessive and selfish love, as unfortunately human love so often is. His love is pure gift, pure grace, it is all and only for us, for our good. And so He draws us in, with this unarmed and even disarming love. Because when we see this simplicity of Jesus, we too cast aside the weapons of pride and go, humbly, to ask for salvation, to ask for forgiveness, to ask for light for our lives, in order to be able to move forward.
Another aspect that stands out in the crib is poverty – truly, there is poverty there – understood as the renunciation of all worldly vanity. When we see the money that is spent on vanity… so much money [spent] on worldly vanity; so much effort, so much seeking after vanity; while Jesus makes us see with humility. St Francis de Sales writes: “My God! my daughter, how many holy affections does this birth make rise within our hearts, above all of the perfect renunciation of the goods, the pomps, … of this world. I do not know whether I find any mystery which so sweetly mingles tenderness with austereness, love with rigour, sweetness with severity.” We see all this in the Nativity scene. Yes, let us be careful not to slip into the worldly caricature of Christmas. And this is a problem, because this is Christmas. But today we see that, even if there is “another Christmas,” in quotation marks, it is the worldly caricature of Christmas, that reduces Christmas to a sappy, consumerist celebration. We want to celebrate, we want to, but this is not Christmas, Christmas is something else. God's love is not sugar sweet; Jesus’ manger shows us that. It is not a hypocritical goodness that hides the pursuit of pleasures and comforts. Our elders, who knew war and also hunger, knew this well: Christmas is joy and celebration, certainly, but in simplicity and austerity.
And let us conclude with a thought of St Francis de Sales that I have also taken up in the Apostolic Letter. And he said: “Do you see the baby Jesus in the crib? He accepts all the discomforts of that season, the bitter cold and everything that the Father lets happen to him. He does not refuse the small consolations that his Mother gives him; we are not told that he ever reached out for his Mother’s breast, but left everything to her care and concern. So too, we ourselves should neither desire nor refuse anything, but accept all that God sends us, the bitter cold and the discomforts of the season,” everything. And here, dear brothers and sisters, is a great teaching, which comes to us from the Child Jesus through the wisdom of St Francis de Sales: to desire nothing and reject nothing, to accept everything that God sends us. But be careful! Always and only out of love, always and only out of love, because God loves us and only ever wants our good.
Let us look to the manger, which is the throne of Jesus; let us gaze upon Jesus in the streets of Judea, of Galilee, preaching the message of the Father; and let us look upon Jesus on the other throne, on the Cross. This is what Jesus offers us: the street, but this is the path of happiness.
To all of you and your families, a happy Christmas season and a happy New Year!
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
Yesterday we celebrated the Nativity of the Lord and the liturgy, to help us to welcome it better, extends the duration of the feast until 1 January: for eight days. Surprisingly, however, these same days commemorate some dramatic figures of martyr saints. Today, for example, Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr; the day after tomorrow, the Holy Innocents, the children killed by King Herod for fear that Jesus would take away his throne (cf. Mt 2:1-18). In short, the liturgy really seems to want to steer us away from the world of lights, lunches and gifts in which we might indulge somewhat in these days. Why?
Because Christmas is not the fairytale of the birth of a king, but it is the coming of the Saviour, who frees us from evil by taking upon himself our evil: selfishness, sin, death. This is our evil: the selfishness we carry within us, sin, because we are all sinners, and death. And the martyrs are those most similar to Jesus. Indeed, the word martyr means witness: the martyrs are witnesses, that is, brothers and sisters who, through their lives, show us Jesus, who conquered evil with mercy. And even in our day, martyrs are numerous, more so than in the early times. Today let us pray for these persecuted martyr brothers and sisters, who bear witness to Christ. But it will do us good to ask ourselves: do I bear witness to Christ? And how can we improve in this? We can indeed be helped by the figure of Saint Stephen.
First and foremost, the Acts of the Apostles tell us that he was one of the seven deacons that the community of Jerusalem had consecrated for table service, that is, for charity (cf. 6:1-6). This means that his first witness was not given in words, but through the love with which he served those most in need. But Stephen did not limit himself to this work of assistance. He spoke of Jesus to those he met: he shared faith in the light of the Word of God and the teaching of the Apostles (cf. Acts 7:1-53, 56). This is the second dimension of his witness: welcoming the Word and communicating its beauty, telling how the encounter with Jesus changes life. This was so important for Stephen that he did not let himself be intimidated even by the threats of his persecutors, even when he saw that things were going badly for him (cf. 54). Charity and proclamation, this was Stephen. However, his greatest testimony is yet another: that he knew how to unite charity and proclamation. He left it to us at the point of his death when, following the example of Jesus, he forgave his killers (cf. 60; Lk 23, 34).
Here, then, is our answer to the question: we can improve our witness through charity towards our brothers and sisters, fidelity to the Word of God, and forgiveness. Charity, Word, forgiveness. It is forgiveness that tells whether we truly practice charity towards others, and if we live the Word of God. Forgiveness in Italian perdono, is indeed as the word itself suggests, a greater gift, dono, a gift we give to others because we belong to Jesus, forgiven by him. I forgive because I have been forgiven: let us not forget this… Let us think, let each one of us think of his or her own capacity to forgive: how is my capacity to forgive, in these days in which perhaps we encounter, among the many, some people with whom we have not got along, who have hurt us, with whom we have never patched up our relationship. Let us ask the newborn Jesus for the newness of a heart capable of forgiveness: we all need a forgiving heart! Let us ask the Lord for this grace: Lord, may I learn to forgive. Let us ask for the strength to pray for those who have hurt us, to pray for those who have harmed us, and to take steps of openness and reconciliation. May the Lord give us today this grace.
May Mary, Queen of martyrs, help us to grow in charity, in love of the Word and in forgiveness.
Full transcript below
Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, happy Christmas!
May the Lord Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, bring to all of you the love of God, wellspring of confidence and hope, together with the gift of the peace proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds of Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to those whom he favours” (Lk 2:14).
On this festive day, we turn our gaze to Bethlehem. The Lord comes to the world in a stable and is laid in a manger for animals, since his parents could find no room in the inn, even though the time had come for Mary to give birth. He comes among us in silence and in the dark of night, because the word of God needs no spotlights or loud human voices. He is himself the Word that gives life its meaning, he is the Light that brightens our path. “The true light, which enlightens everyone” – the Gospel tells us – “was coming into the world” (Jn 1:9).
Jesus is born in our midst; he is God with us. He comes to accompany our daily lives, to share with us in all things: our joys and sorrows, our hopes and fears. He comes as a helpless child. He is born in the cold night, poor among the poor. In need of everything, he knocks at the door of our heart to find warmth and shelter.
Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, surrounded by light, may we set out to see the sign that God has given us. May we overcome our spiritual drowsiness and the shallow holiday glitter that makes us forget the One whose birth we are celebrating. Let us leave behind the hue and din that deadens our hearts and makes us spend more time in preparing decorations and gifts than in contemplating the great event: the Son of God born for us.
Brothers and sisters, let us turn our eyes to Bethlehem, and listen to the first faint cries of the Prince of Peace. For truly Jesus is our peace. The peace that the world cannot give, the peace that God the Father has bestowed on humanity by sending his Son into the world. Saint Leo the Great summed up the message of this day in a concise Latin phrase: Natalis Domini, natalis est pacis: “the Lord’s birth is the birth of peace” (Serm. 26, 5).
Jesus Christ is also the way of peace. By his incarnation, passion, death and resurrection, he has opened the way that leads from a world closed in on itself and oppressed by the dark shadows of enmity and war, to a world that is open and free to live in fraternity and peace. Brothers and sisters, let us follow that road! Yet in order to do so, to be able to walk behind Jesus, we must divest ourselves of the burdens that weigh us down and block our way.
What are those burdens? What is that dead weight? The same negative forces that prevented King Herod and his court from acknowledging and welcoming the birth of Jesus: attachment to power and money, pride, hypocrisy, falsehood. These forces hold us back from going to Bethlehem; they exclude us from the grace of Christmas and they block the entrance to the path of peace. Indeed, we must acknowledge with sorrow that, even as the Prince of Peace is given to us, the icy winds of war continue to buffet humanity.
If we want it to be Christmas, the Birth of Jesus and of peace, let us look to Bethlehem and contemplate the face of the Child who is born for us! And in that small and innocent face, let us see the faces of all those children who, everywhere in the world, long for peace.
Let us also see the faces of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters who are experiencing this Christmas in the dark and cold, far from their homes due to the devastation caused by ten months of war. May the Lord inspire us to offer concrete gestures of solidarity to assist all those who are suffering, and may he enlighten the minds of those who have the power to silence the thunder of weapons and put an immediate end to this senseless war! Tragically, we prefer to heed other counsels, dictated by worldly ways of thinking. Yet who is listening to the voice of the Child?
Our time is experiencing a grave famine of peace also in other regions and other theatres of this third world war. Let us think of Syria, still scarred by a conflict that has receded into the background but has not ended. Let us think too of the Holy Land, where in recent months violence and confrontations have increased, bringing death and injury in their wake. Let us beseech the Lord that there, in the land that witnessed his birth, dialogue and efforts to build mutual trust between Palestinians and Israelis may resume. May the Child Jesus sustain the Christian communities living in the Middle East, so that each of those countries can experience the beauty of fraternal coexistence between individuals of different faiths. May the Christ Child help Lebanon in particular, so that it can finally rebound with the help of the international community and with the strength born of fraternity and solidarity. May the light of Christ illumine the region of the Sahel, where peaceful coexistence between peoples and traditions is disrupted by conflict and acts of violence. May that light lead to a lasting truce in Yemen and to reconciliation in Myanmar and Iran, and an end to all bloodshed. May it inspire the political authorities and all people of good will in the Americas to attempt to calm the political and social tensions experienced by various countries; I think in particular of the people of Haiti wo have been suffering for a long time.
On this day, as we sit around a well-spread table, may we not avert our gaze from Bethlehem, a town whose name means “house of bread, but think of all those, especially children, who go hungry while huge amounts of food daily go to waste and resources are being spent on weapons. The war in Ukraine has further aggravated this situation, putting entire peoples at risk of famine, especially in Afghanistan and in the countries of the Horn of Africa. We know that every war causes hunger and exploits food as a weapon, hindering its distribution to people already suffering. On this day, let us learn from the Prince of Peace and, starting with those who hold political responsibilities, commit ourselves to making food solely an instrument of peace. And as we enjoy gathering with our loved ones, let us think of families that experience great hardship and those that, in this time of economic crisis, are struggling as a result of unemployment and lacking in the necessities of life.
Dear brothers and sisters, today as then, Jesus, the true light, comes into a world severely sick with indifference, a world that does not welcome him (cf. Jn 1:11) and indeed rejects him, as it does with many foreigners, or ignores him, as we all too often do with the poor. Today may we not forget the many displaced persons and refugees who knock at our door in search of some comfort, warmth and food. Let us not forget the marginalized, those living alone, the orphans, the elderly – who are wisdom for their people – who risk being set aside, and prisoners, whom we regard solely for the mistakes they have made and not as our fellow men and women.
Brothers and sisters, Bethlehem shows us the simplicity of God, who reveals himself not to the wise and the intelligent but to the little ones, to those with a pure and open heart (cf. Mt 11:25). Like the shepherds, let us too set out in haste and allow ourselves to be amazed by the unthinkable event of God who becomes man for our salvation. He, the source of all good, makes himself poor,  asking as alms our own poor humanity. Let us allow ourselves to be deeply moved by the love of God. And let us follow Jesus, who stripped himself of his glory in order to give us a share in his fullness. 
 Cf. SAINT GREGORY NAZIANZEN , Or. 45.
 Cf. ibid.
Full transcript below
What does this night still have to say to our lives? Two thousand years after the birth of Jesus, after so many Christmases celebrated among decorations and gifts, after so much consumerism that has veiled the mystery we celebrate, there is a danger: we know many things about Christmas, but we forget its real meaning. So, how can we rediscover the meaning of Christmas? And above all, where can we go to find it? The Gospel of Jesus' birth seems to be written precisely for this: to take us by the hand and bring us back to where God wants us to be. Let us follow the gospel.
In fact, it starts with a situation similar to ours: everyone is busy with an important, the great census, which required a lot of preparation. In this sense, the atmosphere back then was similar to that which surrounds us today at Christmas. But the Gospel account has little to do with that worldly scenario: it soon shifts our gaze to something else, which it considers more important. It focuses on a small, and apparently insignificant detail, which it mentions three times and always in relation to the central figures int the narative: first Mary, who places Jesus "in a manger" (Lk 2:7); then the angels, tell the shepherds about "a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger" (v. 12); Then the shepherds, who find "the child lying in the manger" (v. 16). The manger: to rediscover the meaning of Christmas you have to look there. But why is the manger so important? Because it is the sign, and not by chance, of Christ's coming into the world. It is the manifesto with which he presents himself, the way in which God is born in history so that history itself can be reborn. So what does he want to tell us through the manger? He wants to tell us at least three things: closeness, poverty and concreteness.
1. Closeness. The manger is used to bring food close to the mouth and to be able to consume it more quickly. In this way it can symbolize an aspect of humanity: our insatiability for consumption. Because, while the animals feed in the stable, men and women in the world, hungry for power and money, also consume their neighbors, their brothers. How many wars! And in how many places, even today, dignity and freedom are trampled underfoot! And always the main victims of human greed are the weak and the vulnerable. This Christmas too, a humanity insatiably striving for money, power and pleasure makes no room, as it was for Jesus (cf. v. 7), for the little ones, for so many unborn, poor, and forgotten. I am thinking above all of children devoured by war, poverty and injustice. But Jesus comes right there, a child in the manger of exclusion and rejection. In him, the child of Bethlehem, there is every child. And there is the invitation to look at life, politics and history through the eyes of children.
In the manger of rejection and inhospitableness, Jesus lies down: he comes there, because there is the problem of humanity, the indifference produced by the voracious rush to possess and consume. Christ is born there and in that manger we discover his closeness. He comes to a feeding trough to become our food. God is not a Father who devours his children, but the Father who in Jesus makes us his children and nourishes us with tenderness. He comes to touch our hearts and tell us that the only force that changes the course of history is love. He does not remain distant, he does not remain powerful, but he becomes close and humble; He, who sat in heaven, allows himself to lie in a manger.
Brothers and sisters, God is close to you tonight because He cares about you. From the manger, as food for your life, he tells you: "If you feel consumed by events, if your guilt and inadequacy devour you, if you hunger for justice, I, God, am with you. I know what you are experiencing, for I experienced it myself in that manger. I know your miseries and your history. I was born to tell you that I am and I will always be close to you". The Christmas manger, the first message of an infant God, tells us that he is with us, loves us, seeks us. Courage, do not let yourself be overcome by fear, resignation, discouragement. God is born in a manger so that you may be reborn where you thought you had hit rock bottom. There is no evil, there is no sin from which Jesus does not want and cannot save you. Christmas means that God is near: may trust be reborn!
2. The manger in Bethlehem, in addition to being close, also speaks to us of poverty. Around a manger, in fact, there is not much: staw and some animals and little else. People were staying warm in the inn, not in the cold stable. But Jesus is born there and the manger reminds us that he had nothing else around him except those who loved him: Mary, Joseph and the shepherds; All poor people, united by affection and amazement, not by riches and great possibilities. The poor manger thus brings out the true riches of life: not money and power, but relationships and people.
And the first person, the first wealth, is Jesus himself. But do we want to stand by his side? Do we draw near to him, do we love his poverty? Or do we prefer to remain comfortable in our interests? Above all, do we visit Him where He is, that is, in the poor mangers of our world? There He is present. And we are called to be a Church that adores the poor Jesus and serves Jesus in the poor. As a holy bishop said: "The Church supports and blesses efforts to transform structures of injustice and sets only one condition: that social, economic and political changes truly benefit the poor" (O.A. Romero, Pastoral Message for the New Year, 1 January 1980). Of course, it is not easy to leave the comfortable warmth of worldliness to embrace the barren beauty of the cave of Bethlehem, but let us remember that it is not truly Christmas without the poor. Without them we can celebrate Christmas, but not that of Jesus. Brothers and sisters, God is poor at Christmas: may charity be reborn!
3. This brings us to the last point: the manger speaks to us of concreteness. In fact, a baby in a manger represents a striking scene, even cruel. It reminds us that God was truly made flesh. And so theories, beautiful thoughts and pious feelings are no longer enough about Him. Jesus, who is born poor, will live poor and die poor, did not make many speeches about poverty, but lived it to the end for us. From the manger to the cross, his love for us was tangible, concrete: from birth to death the carpenter's son embraced the roughness of wood, the roughness of our existence. He didn't love us in words, he loved us with utter seriousness!
And so, he is not satisfied with appearances. He does not only want good intentions, He who became flesh. He who was born in the manger, seeks a concrete faith, made of adoration and charity, not of gossip and appearances. He, who lays himself naked in the manger and lays himself naked on the cross, asks us for truth, to go to the naked reality of things, to put excuses, justifications and hypocrisies at the foot of the manger. He, who was tenderly wrapped in swaddling clothes by Mary, wants us to clothe ourselves in love. God does not want appearance, but concreteness. Let us not let this Christmas, brothers and sisters, pass without doing something good. Since it is his celebration, his birthday, let us give him gifts pleasing to him! At Christmas God is concrete: in his name let us revive a little hope in those who have lost it!
Jesus, we look to You, lying in the manger. We see you so close, close to us forever: thank you, Lord. We see you poor, teaching us that true wealth is not in things, but in people, especially in the poor: sorry, if we have not recognized and served you in them. We see you concrete, because your love for us is concrete: Jesus, help us to give flesh and life to our faith. Amen.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
Let us continue – we are concluding – the catechesis on discernment. Anyone who has been following these catecheses until now might think: what a complicated practice discernment is! In reality, it is life that is complicated and, if we do not learn how to read it, as complicated as it is, we risk wasting our lives, using strategies that end up disheartening us.
During our first meeting, we saw that every day, whether we want to or not, we always perform acts of discernment concerning what we eat, read, at work, in our relationships, everything. Life always presents choices to us, and if we do not make conscious choices, in the end it is life that chooses for us, taking us where we do not want to go.
Discernment, however, is not done alone. Today, let us look more specifically at several aids in this regard that can facilitate this indispensable exercise of discernment in the spiritual life, even if in some ways we have already encountered them in the course of this catechesis. But a summary will help us a lot.
One of the first indispensable aids is evaluating with the Word of God and the doctrine of the Church. They help us read what is stirring in our hearts, learning to recognize God’s voice and to distinguish it from other voices that seem to vie for our attention, but leave us confused in the end. The Bible warns us that God’s voice resounds in stillness, in attention, in silence. Let us recall the experience of the Prophet Elijah: the Lord does not speak to him in the wind that smashes the rocks, nor in the fire or the earthquake, but He speaks to him in a light breeze (cf. 1 Kings 19:11-12). This is a very beautiful image that helps us understand how God speaks. God’s voice does not impose itself; God’s voice is discreet, respectful – allow me to say, God’s voice is humble – and, for that reason, produces peace. And it is only in peace that we can enter profoundly into ourselves and recognize the authentic desires the Lord has placed in our hearts. Many times it is not easy to enter into that peace of heart because we are so busy with this, that and the other, the entire day… But, please, calm yourself down a little bit, enter into yourself, within yourself. Stop for two minutes. Witness what your heart is feeling. Let’s do this, brothers and sisters, it will help us so much because at that moment of calm, the Lord’s voice immediately tells, “Well, look here, look at that, what you are doing is good…”. When we allow ourselves to be calm, God’s voice comes immediately. He is waiting for us to do this.
For the believer, the Word of God is not simply a text to read. The Word of God is a living presence, it is a work of the Holy Spirit that comforts, instructs, gives light, strength, refreshment, and a zest for life. To read the Bible, to read a piece, one or two passages of the Bible, is like a short telegram from God that immediately goes to the heart. The Word of God is a bit – and I am not exaggerating here – it is a little, real foretaste of heaven. A great saint and pastor, Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, understood this well, when he wrote: “When I read Sacred Scripture, God returns and walks in the earthly paradise” (Letters, 49.3). With the Bible, we open the door to God who is taking a walk. Interesting.
This affective relationship with the Bible, with Scripture, with the Gospel, leads us to experience an affective relationship with the Lord Jesus. Let’s not be afraid of this! Heart speaks to heart. And this is another indispensable aid that is not to be taken for granted. We can often have a distorted idea about God, thinking of him as a sullen judge, a harsh judge, ready to catch us in the act. On the contrary, Jesus reveals a God who is full of compassion and tenderness for us, ready to sacrifice himself so he can come to us, just like the father in the parable of the prodigal son (cf. Lk 15:11-32). One time, someone asked – I don’t know if it was a mother or a grandmother who told me this – “What do I need to do in this moment?” – “Well, listen to God, he will tell you what you should do. Open your heart to God”. This is good advice. I remember one time, there was a pilgrimage of young people done once a year to the Shrine of [Our Lady of] Lujan, 70 km away from Buenos Aires. It takes the whole day to travel there. I used to hear confessions during the night. A young man, who was about 22 years old, came completely covered with tattoos… “My God”, I thought, “who is this person?” And he said to me, “You know, I came because I have a serious problem, and I told my mother, and my mother told me, ‘Go to Our Lady. Make a pilgrimage and Our Lady will tell you’. And I came. I was in touch with the Bible here. I listened to the Word of God and it touched my heart and I need to do this, this, this, this”. The Word of God touches the heart and changes your life. And I have witnessed this many times. Because the Lord does not want to destroy us. God wants us to be stronger, better, every day.
Anyone who remains in front of the Crucifix senses newfound peace, learns not to be afraid of God because on the cross, Jesus does not frighten anyone. It is the image of complete weakness, and, at the same time, of total love, capable of facing any trial for us. The saints always gravitated toward Jesus Crucified. The account of Jesus’ Passion is the surest way to face evil without being overwhelmed by it. There is no judgement there, not even resignation, because it is shot through with the greatest light, the light of Easter, that allows us to see in those terrible deeds a greater plan that no impediment, obstacle or failure can thwart. The Word of God always makes us look at another side – that is, the cross is here, this is awful, but there is something else, hope, resurrection. The Word of God opens every door because He is the door, He is the Lord. Let us pick up the Gospel, take the Bible in our hands – 5 minutes a day, no more. Carry a pocket-size Gospel with you, in your purse, and when you are traveling, read it a bit. Read a small passage during the day. Allow the Word of God to draw near to your heart. Do this and you will see how your lives will change, with the proximity of the Word of God. “Yes, Father, but I am used to reading the lives of the saints”. This is good. But do not neglect the Word of God. Take the Gospel with you. One minute every day….
It is very beautiful to think of our life with the Lord as a relationship with a friend which grows day by day. Friendship with God. Have you ever thought about this? Yet, this is the way! Let’s think about God who gives us…doesn’t God gives us so much? God loves us, He wants us to be his friends. Friendship with God is able to change the heart. Piety is one of the great gifts of the Holy Spirit, which gives us the ability to recognize God’s fatherhood. We have a tender Father, an affectionate Father, a Father who loves us, who has always loved us. When we experience this, our hearts melt and doubts, fears, feelings of unworthiness are dissolved. Nothing can hinder this love that comes from being in contact with the Lord.
And this love reminds us of another great help, the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is present in us and who instructs us, makes the Word of God that we read come alive, suggests new meanings, opens doors that seem closed, indicates paths in life where there seem to be only darkness and confusion. I ask you – Do you pray to the Holy Spirit? But who is he? The Great Unknown One. Sure, we pray to the Father with the Our Father. We pray to Jesus. But we forget the Spirit! One time when I was doing catechesis with children, I asked the question, “Which one of you knows who the Holy Spirit is?” And one of them said, “I know!” – “And who is he?” – “The paralytic”, he answered me! He had heard, “the Paraclete”, but thought that it was “paralytic”. How often – this made me think – the Holy Spirit is over there like a Person who doesn’t count. The Holy Spirit is the one who gives life to the soul! Let him enter. Speak with the Holy Spirit just like you speak with the Father, like you speak with the Son. Speak with the Holy Spirit – who is anything but paralyzed, right? He is the Church’s strength, he is the one who will lead you forward. The Holy Spirit is discernment in act, the presence of God in us. He is the gift, the greatest gift the Father assures to those who ask (cf. Lk 11:13). And what did Jesus call him? “The gift” – “Remain here in Jerusalem and wait for the gift of God”, which is the Holy Spirit. It is interesting to live our lives in friendship with the Holy Spirit. He changes you. He makes you grow.
The Liturgy of the Hours opens the main moments of daily prayer with this invocation: “O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me”. “Lord, help me!” because by myself I cannot move ahead, I cannot love, I cannot live…. This invocation for salvation is the uncontainable request that flows from the depths of our being. The goal of discernment is to recognize the salvation God is working in my life. It reminds me that I am never alone and that, if I am struggling, it is because the stakes of the game are high. The Holy Spirit is always with us. “Oh, Father, I’ve done something really bad. I need to go to confession. I cannot do anything…”. Okay, you’ve done something awful? Talk to the Spirit who is with you and tell him, “Help me, I did this really awful thing…” Never abandon this dialogue with the Holy Spirit. “Father, I am in mortal sin” – that does not matter. Speak with Him so that he will help you and forgive you. Never abandon this dialogue with the Holy Spirit. And with these aids the Lord gives to us, there is no need to be afraid. Keep going forward, courageously and joyfully!
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Today, the fourth and final Sunday of Advent, the liturgy presents the figure of Saint Joseph to us (cf. Mt 1:18-24). He is a just man who is about to get married. We can imagine what his dreams for the future are – a beautiful family, with an affectionate wife and many wonderful children, and a dignified job – simple and good dreams, the dreams of simple and good people. But all of a sudden, these dreams come up against a disconcerting discovery. Mary, his betrothed, is expecting a child, and the child is not his! What would Joseph have felt? Shock, pain, confusion, perhaps even irritation and disappointment…. But… He experienced his world was falling apart all around him! And what was he supposed to do?
The Law gives him two options. The first is to accuse Mary and make her pay the price for her alleged infidelity. The second is to secretly annul their engagement without exposing Mary to scandal and to harsh consequences, taking upon himself, however, the burden of shame. So, Joseph chooses this second option, which is the way of mercy. And behold, at the height of his crisis, right when he is thinking and evaluating all this, God gives him a new light in his heart – he declares to him in a dream that Mary’s motherhood did not come about because of a betrayal, but was the work of the Holy Spirit, and the baby to be born would be the Saviour (cf. vv. 20-21), and Mary would be the Mother of the Messiah, and he would be His guardian. On waking up, Joseph understands that the greatest dream of every devout Israelite – to be the father of the Messiah – was being fulfilled for him in a completely unexpected way.
To accomplish this, in fact, it was not enough to belong to David’s lineage and to be a faithful observer of the law, but he would need to entrust himself above and beyond all else to God, welcome Mary and her Son in a completely different way than was expected, differently than had ever been done. In other words, Joseph would have to renounce all reassuring certainties, his perfect plans, his legitimate expectations, and open himself to a future that was completely to be discovered. And before God, who disrupts his plans and asks that he trust Him, Joseph says “yes”. Joseph’s courage is heroic and is exercised in silence – his courage is to trust, he welcomes, he is willing, he asks for no further guarantees.
Brothers and sisters, what does Joseph say to us today? We too have our dreams, and perhaps we think of them more, we talk about them together at Christmas. Perhaps we lament over some dreams that have been shattered and we see that our best expectations often need to be put together with unexpected, disconcerting situations. And when this happens, Joseph shows us the way. We do not need to give in to negative feelings, like anger or isolation – this is the wrong way! Instead, we need to attentively welcome surprises, the surprises in life, even crises. When we find ourselves in crisis, we should not make decisions quickly or instinctively, but let them pass through the sieve, like Joseph did who “considered everything” (cf. v. 20), and base ourselves on the underlying certainty of God’s mercy. When someone experiences a crisis without giving in to isolation, anger, and fear, but keeps the door open for God, He can intervene. He is an expert in transforming crises into dreams – yes, God opens crises into new horizons we never would have imagined before, perhaps not as we would expect, but in the way He knows how. And these, brothers and sisters, are God’s horizons – surprising – but infinitely more grand and beautiful than ours! May the Virgin Mary help us live open to God’s surprises.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
We are now entering the final phase of this journey of catechesis on discernment. We started out from the example of Saint Ignatius of Loyola; we then considered the elements of discernment, namely, prayer, self-knowledge, desire and the “book of life”; we focused on desolation and consolation, which form its “matter”; and then we reached the confirmation of the choice made.
I consider it necessary to include at this point a reminder of an attitude essential if all the work done to discern for the best and take the good decision is not to be lost, and this would be the attitude of vigilance. We have done discernment, consolation and desolation; we have chosen something … everything is going well, but now, vigilance: the attitude of vigilance. Because in effect there is a risk, and it is that the “spoilsport”, that is, the Evil One, can ruin everything, making us go back to the beginning, indeed, in an even worse condition. And this happens, so we must be attentive and vigilant. This is why it is indispensable to be vigilant. Therefore, today it seemed appropriate to emphasize this attitude, which we all need for the discernment process to be successful and stay that way.
Indeed, in his preaching Jesus insists a great deal on the fact that the good disciple is vigilant, does not slumber, does not let himself become too self-assured when things go well, but remains alert and ready to do his duty.
For example, in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says: “Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes” (12:35-37).
Keeping watch to safeguard our heart and to understand what is happening inside it.
This is the frame of mind of the Christians who await the final coming of the Lord; but it can be understood also as the normal attitude to have in the conduct of life, so that our good choices, taken at times after challenging discernment, may proceed in a persevering and consistent manner, and bear fruit.
If vigilance is lacking, there is, as we were saying, a very high risk that all will be lost. It is a danger not of a psychological order, no, but of a spiritual order, a real snare of the evil spirit. Indeed, he awaits precisely the moment in which we are too sure of ourselves, and this is the danger: “But I am sure of myself, I have won, now I am fine…” – this is the moment he is waiting for, when everything is going well, when things are going “swimmingly” and we “have the wind in ours sails”. Indeed, in the short Gospel parable we heard, it is said that the unclean spirit, when it returns to the house from where it left, “finds it empty, swept, and put in order” (Mt 12:44), he finds it nicely prepared, doesn’t he? Everything is in its place, everything is in order, but where is the master of the house? He is not there. There is no-one keeping watch over it and guarding it. This is the problem. The master of the house is not home, he left, he was distracted, I don’t know; or he is at home but has fallen asleep, and therefore it is as though he were not there. He is not vigilant, he is not alert, because he is too sure of himself and has lost the humility to safeguard his own heart. We must always safeguard our home, our heart and not be distracted and go away… because the problem is here, like the Parable said.
So, the evil spirit can take advantage of this and return to that house. The Gospel says, however, that he does not return alone, but along with “seven other spirits more evil than himself” (v. 45). A company of evil-doers, a gang of delinquents. But how is it possible, we wonder, for them to enter undisturbed? How come the master does not notice? Was he not so good at discerning and banishing them? Did he not receive compliments from his friends and neighbours for that house, so beautiful and elegant, so tidy and clean? The house of the heart, isn’t it? Yes, but perhaps precisely because of this he had fallen too much in love with the house, that is, with himself, and had stopped waiting for the Lord, waiting for the coming of the Bridegroom; perhaps for fear of ruining that order he no longer welcomed anyone, he did not invite the poor, the homeless, those who disturbed... One thing is certain: here bad pride is involved, the presumption of being right, of being good, of being in order. Very often we hear someone say: “Yes, I was bad before, I converted and now, now my house is in order thanks to God, you can rest assured…”. When we trust too much in ourselves and not in God’s grace, then the Evil One finds the door open. So, he organizes the expedition and takes possession of that house. And Jesus concludes: “The last state of that man becomes worse than the first” (v. 45).
But doesn't the master notice? No, because these are polite demons: they come in without you noticing, they knock on the door, they are polite. “No okay, go, go, come in...” and then eventually they take command of your soul. Beware of these little devils, these demons... the devil is polite, when he pretends to be a great gentleman, isn’t he? For he enters with ours to come out with his. Safeguard the house from this deception, that of polite demons. And spiritual worldliness takes this route, always.
Dear brothers and sisters, it seems impossible but it is so. Many times we lose, many times we are defeated in battles, because of this lack of vigilance. Very often, perhaps, the Lord has given so many graces, many graces, and in the end, we are unable to persevere in this grace and we lose everything, because we lack vigilance: we have not guarded the doors. And then we have been deceived by someone who comes along, polite, he goes in and, hello… The devil has these things. Anyone can also verify this by thinking back to their own personal history. It is not enough to carry out good discernment and to make a good choice. No, it is not enough: we must remain vigilant, safeguard this grace that God has given us, but keep watch, because you can say to me: “But when I see some disorder, I realize straight away that it is the devil, that it is temptation…”. Yes, but this time he comes disguised as an angel: the devil knows how to dress up as an angel, he enters with courteous words, and he convinces you, and in the end, it is worse than at the beginning… We need to stay vigilant, keep watch over the heart. If I were to ask each one of you today, and also myself, “What is happening in your heart?”, perhaps we would not know how to say everything; we would say one or two things, but not everything. Keep watch over the heart, because vigilance is a sign of wisdom, it is above all a sign of humility, because we are afraid to fall, and humility is the high road of Christian life. Thank you.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
The Gospel of this third Sunday of Advent speaks to us about John the Baptist who, while in prison, sends his disciples to ask Jesus: “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Mt 11:4). Indeed, John, hearing of Jesus’ works, is seized with doubt as to whether He is really the Messiah or not. In fact, he imagined a stern Messiah who would come and do justice with power by chastising sinners. Now, on the contrary, Jesus has words and gestures of compassion towards all; at the centre of His action is the mercy that forgives, whereby “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (v. 6). It does us good, however, to look more closely at this crisis of John the Baptist, as it can tell us something important too.
The text emphasizes that John is in prison, and this, as well as being a physical place, makes us think of the inner situation he is experiencing: in prison there is darkness, there is no possibility of seeing clearly and seeing beyond it. In effect, the Baptist is no longer able to recognize Jesus as the awaited Messiah. He is assailed by doubt, and he sends the disciples to check: “Go and see if he is the Messiah or not”. It surprises us that this should happen to John, the one who had baptized Jesus in the Jordan and had indicated him to his disciples as the Lamb of God (cf. Jn 1:29). But this means that even the greatest believer goes through the tunnel of doubt. And this is not a bad thing; on the contrary, sometimes it is essential for spiritual growth: it helps us understand that God is always greater than we imagine Him to be. His works are surprising compared to our calculations; His actions are different, always, they exceed our needs and expectations; and therefore, we must never stop seeking Him and converting to His true face. A great theologian used to say that God “needs to be rediscovered in stages... sometimes believing that we are losing Him” (H. DE LUBAC, Sur les chemins de Dieu). This is what the Baptist does: in doubt, he still seeks Him, questions Him, “argues” with Him and finally rediscovers Him. John, defined by Jesus as the greatest among those born of women (cf. Mt 11:11), teaches us, in short, not to close God within our own mindsets. This is always the danger, the temptation: to make ourselves a God to our measure, a God to use. And God is something else.
Brothers and sisters, we too at times find ourselves in his situation, in an inner jail, unable to recognize the newness of the Lord, whom we perhaps hold captive in the presumption that we already know everything about Him. Dear brothers and sisters, one never knows everything about God, never! Perhaps we have in mind a powerful God who does what He wants, instead of the God of humble meekness, the God of mercy and love, who always intervenes respecting our freedom and our choices. Perhaps we even find ourselves saying to Him: “Are you really you, so humble, the God who is coming to save us?”. And something similar can happen to us with our brothers and sisters too: we have our ideas, our prejudices and we attach rigid labels to others, especially those we feel are different to us. Advent, then is a time for overturning our perspectives, for letting ourselves be surprised by God’s mercy. Astonishment: God always astonishes. God is always the One who stirs wonder in you. A time – Advent – in which, preparing the Nativity display for the Infant Jesus, we learn again who our Lord is; a time to leave behind certain preconceptions and prejudices about God and our brothers and sisters. Advent is a time in which, instead of thinking about gifts for ourselves, we can give words and gestures of consolation to those who are wounded, as Jesus did with the blind, the deaf and the lame.
May Our Lady take us by the hand, like a mother, may she take us by the hand in these days of preparation for Christmas, and help us recognize in the smallness of the Infant the greatness of God who is coming.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
The Gospel of today’s Solemnity introduces us into the home of Mary to recount the Annunciation (cf. Lk 1:26-38). The angel Gabriel greets the Virgin like this: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (v. 28). He does not call her by her name, Mary, but with a new name, that she did not know: full of grace. Full of grace, and therefore free from sin, is the name God gives her and that we celebrate today.
But let us think of Mary’s wonder: only then did she discover her truest identity. Indeed, by calling her by that name, God reveals her greatest secret to her, which was previously unknown to her. Something similar can also happen to us. In what sense? In the sense that we sinners have also received an initial gift that has filled our lives, a good greater than anything else: we have received an original grace. We talk a lot about original sin, but we have also received an original grace, of which often we are unaware.
What is it, this original grace? It is what we received on the day of our Baptism, which is why it is good for us to remember, and even celebrate it! I will ask you a question: this grace received on the day of Baptism, it is important. But how many of you remember the date of your Baptism, what is the date of your own Baptism? Think about it. And if you do not remember, when you go home, ask your godfather, your godmother, your father or mother: “When was I baptized?”, because that day is the day of the great grace, of a new life beginning, of an original grace that we have. God descended into our lives that day, and we became his beloved children forever. This is our original beauty, for which to be joyful! Today, Mary, surprised by the grace that made her beautiful from the first instant of her life, leads us to marvel at our beauty. We can grasp this through the image of the white Baptismal garment; it reminds us that, beyond the evil we have stained ourselves with over the years, there is a good in us greater than all the evils that have befallen. Let us listen to the echo, let us hear God saying to us: “Son, daughter, I love you and I am with you always, you are important to me, your life is precious”. That is God’s message to us. When things do not go well and we are discouraged, when we are downcast and risk feeling useless or wrong, let us think about this, about this original grace. And God is with us, God is with me from that day. Let us think about it again.
Today the Word of God teaches us another important thing: that to safeguard our beauty demands a cost, it demands a struggle. Indeed, the Gospel shows us the courage of Mary who said “Yes” to God, who chose the risk of God; and the passage from Genesis, on original sin, speaks to us of a battle against the tempter and his temptations (cf. Gen 3:15). But we know this from experience too, all of us: it takes effort to choose good, it costs us; it takes effort to safeguard the good that is in us. Think of how many times we have squandered it by giving in to the lure of evil, being crafty for our own interests or doing something that would defile our hearts; or even wasting time in useless or harmful things, putting off prayer, for example, and saying “Today I can’t”, or saying “I can’t” to those who have needed us, when instead we could have.
But today, faced with all this, we have good news: Mary, the only human being in history without sin, is with us in the battle, she is our sister and, above all, our Mother. And we, who struggle to choose good, can entrust ourselves to her. By entrusting ourselves, consecrating ourselves to Mary, we say to her: “Take me by the hand, Mother, guide me: with you I will have more strength in the battle against evil; with you I will rediscover my original beauty”. Let us entrust ourselves to Mary today, let us entrust ourselves to Mary every day, repeating to her: “Mary, I entrust my life to you, I entrust my family, my work, I entrust my heart and my struggles. I consecrate myself to you”. May Mary Immaculate help us to safeguard our beauty from evil.
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
In the process of discernment, it is also important to remain attentive to the stage that immediately follows the decision taken, in order to either catch the signs that confirm it or those that disprove it. I have to make a decision, [so] I make the discernment, pro or con, my feelings, I pray... then this process ends and I make the decision and then comes that part where we have to be careful, see. Because in life some decisions are not good and there are signs that disprove them, while on the other hand, good ones are confirmed.
Indeed, we have seen how time is a fundamental criterion for recognizing God’s voice amidst so many other voices. He alone is Lord of time: it is a hallmark of His originality, which differentiates Him from imitations that speak in His name without actually doing so. One of the distinctive signs of the good spirit is the fact that it communicates a peace that lasts in time. If you consider more profoundly, then make the decision and this gives you a peace that lasts through time, this is a good sign and indicates that the path was good. A peace that brings harmony, unity, fervour, zeal. You come out of the “deepening” process better than when you entered it.
For example, if I make the decision to devote an extra half hour to prayer, and then I find that I live the other moments of the day better, that I am more serene, less anxious, I do my work with more care and zest, that even relations with some difficult people become smoother... These are all important signs in favour of the goodness of the decision taken. Spiritual life is circular: the goodness of a choice benefits all areas of our lives. For it is participation in God’s creativity.
We can recognize some important aspects that help us read the time after the decision as a possible confirmation of its goodness, because the subsequent period confirms the goodness of the decision. In some ways we have already encountered these important aspects in the course of these catecheses but now they find their further application.
A first aspect is whether the decision is seen as a possible sign of response to the Lord’s love and generosity toward me. It is not born out of fear, not born of emotional blackmail or compulsion, but born out of gratitude for the good received, which moves the heart to live liberally in relationship with the Lord.
Another important element is having a sense of one’s place in life – that tranquillity, “I am in my place” – and feeling that you are part of a larger plan, to which one wishes to make a contribution. In St. Peter’s Square there are two precise points – the focal points of the ellipse – from which one can see Bernini’s columns perfectly aligned. Similarly, a man can recognize that he has found what he is looking for when his day becomes more orderly, when he feels a growing integration among his many interests, when he establishes a proper hierarchy of importance, and when he is able to experience this with ease, facing the difficulties that arise with renewed energy and fortitude. These are signs that you have made a good decision.
Another good sign of confirmation, for example, is the fact of remaining free with regard to what has been decided, being willing to question it, even to give it up in the face of possible denials, trying to find in them a possible teaching from the Lord. This is not because He wants to deprive us of what we hold dear, but in order to live it with freedom, without attachment. Only God knows what is truly good for us. Possessiveness is the enemy of goodness and kills affection. Be attentive to this: possessiveness is the enemy of good, it kills affection. The many cases of violence in the domestic sphere, of which we unfortunately have frequent news, almost always arise from the claim of possession of the affection of the other, from the search for absolute security that kills freedom and stifles life, making it hell.
We can only love in freedom, which is why the Lord created us free, free even to say no to Him. Offering Him what we hold most dear is in our best interest, enabling us to live it in the best possible way and in truth, as a gift He has given us, as a sign of His gratuitous goodness, knowing that our lives, as well as the whole of history, are in His benevolent hands. It is what the Bible calls the fear of God, that is, respect for God – not that God frightens me, but a respect, an indispensable condition for accepting the gift of Wisdom (cf. Sir 1:1-18). It is the fear that casts out all other fears, because it is oriented to Him who is Lord of all things. In His presence, nothing can disquiet us. It is the wondrous experience of St. Paul, which he expressed in this way: “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:12-13). This is the free man, who blesses the Lord both when good things come and when not-so-good things come: May he be blessed, and let us go forward!
Recognizing this is critical to good decision-making, and it reassures us about what we cannot control or predict: health, the future, loved ones, our plans. What matters is that our trust is placed in the Lord of the universe, who loves us immensely and knows that we can build with Him something wonderful, something eternal. The lives of the saints show us this in the most beautiful way. Let us go forward, always trying to make decisions in this way, in prayer and feeling what’s going on in our hearts, and going forward slowly. Have courage!
Excerpt below, for the full transcript click on the picture link above
Today, the Second Sunday of Advent, the Gospel for the Liturgy presents the figure of John the Baptist. The text says that John “wore a garment of camel’s hair”, that “his food was locusts and wild honey” (Mt 3:4), and that he was inviting everyone to conversion. And he was saying this: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (v. 2) And he was preaching the nearness of the Kingdom. In short, he was an austere and radical man, who at first sight might appear to be harsh and could instil a certain fear. But then again, we can ask ourselves why the Church proposes him each year as our primary traveling companion during this Season of Advent. What is hidden underneath his severity, behind his apparent harshness? What is John’s secret? What is the message the Church gives us today with John?
In reality, the Baptist, more than being a harsh man, is a man who is allergic to duplicity. Listen well to this: allergic to duplicity. For example, when the Pharisees and Sadducees, who were known for their hypocrisy, approach him, his “allergic reaction” is quite strong! In fact, some of them probably went to him out of curiosity or to gain something because John had become quite popular. These Pharisees and Sadducees believed they had it all together and, faced with the Baptist’s blunt appeal, justified themselves, saying: “We have Abraham as our father” (v. 9). Thus, due to duplicity and presumption, they did not welcome the moment of grace, the opportunity to begin a new life. They were closed in the presumption of being right. So, John tells them, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance!” (v. 8) This is a cry of love, like the cry of a father who sees his son ruining himself and says to him, “Don’t throw your life away!” In essence, dear brothers and sisters, hypocrisy is the greatest danger because it can even ruin the most sacred realities. Hypocrisy is a serious danger. This is why the Baptist – as Jesus would be later – is harsh with hypocrites. We can read, for example, the 23rd chapter of Matthew where Jesus speaks really strongly to the hypocrites of that time. And why do the Baptist as well as Jesus do this? To shake them up. Instead, those who sensed they were sinners went “out to him [John], and they were baptized by him, confessing their sins” (v. 5). Therefore, bravura is not important to welcome God, humility is. This is the path to welcome God. Not bravura – “We’re strong, We are great people!” No, no. Humility. I am a sinner. But not in the abstract, no – “because of this and this and this”. Each of us needs to confess our own sins, our own failings, our own hypocrisy. It requires getting off the pedestal and being immersed in the water of repentance.
Dear brothers and sisters, John and his “allergic reactions” make us think. Are we not at times a bit like those Pharisees? Perhaps we look at others from top to bottom, thinking that we are better than them, that we have our lives under control, that we don’t need God, or the Church, or our brothers or sisters on a daily basis. We forget that in one case is it legitimate to look down on someone else: when it is necessary to help them get up. This is the only case; the others are not legitimate. Advent is a moment of grace to take off our masks – every one of us has them – and line up with those who are humble, to be liberated from the presumption of the belief of being self-sufficient, to go to confess our sins, the hidden ones, and to welcome God’s pardon, to ask forgiveness from those whom we have offended. This is how to begin a new life. There is only one way, the way of humility – to be purified from the sense of superiority, from formalism and hypocrisy, to see ourselves, along with our brothers and sisters, as sinners, and to see Jesus as the Saviour who comes for us, not for the others, for us, just as we are, with our poverty, misery and failings, above all with our need to be raised up, forgiven and saved.
And let us remember one thing: with Jesus, there is always the possibility of beginning again. It’s never too late. There is always the possibility to begin again. Be courageous. He is near to us and this is the time of conversion. Everyone might think: “I have this situation inside, this problem that I am ashamed of”. But Jesus is next to you. Begin again. There is always the possibility of taking a step forward. He is waiting for us and never gets tired of us. He never gets tired! And we are annoying, but he never gets tired! Let us listen to John the Baptist’s appeal to return to God. And let us not let this Advent go by like days on the calendar because this is a moment of grace, a grace for us too, here and now! May Mary, the humble servant of the Lord, help us to meet Him, Jesus, and our brothers and sisters on the way of humility, which is the only one that will help us go ahead.