Open door Church
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
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
The Book of the Acts of the Apostles tells us that St. Paul, after that transforming encounter with Jesus, is taken into the Church of Jerusalem through the mediation of Barnabas and begins to announce Christ. However, due to the hostility of some, he is forced to move to Tarsus, his hometown, where Barnabas joins him to involve him in the long journey of the Word of God. The Book of the Acts of the Apostles, which we are commenting on in these catechesis's can be said to be the book of the long voyage of the Word of God: the Word of God must be announced, and announced everywhere. This journey begins after a strong persecution (cf. Acts 11:19); but this, instead of causing a setback for evangelization, becomes an opportunity to enlarge the field where the good seed of the Word is spread. Christians are not afraid. They must flee, but they flee with the Word, and they spread the Word everywhere.
Paul and Barnabas first arrive in Antioch of Syria, where they stop for a whole year to teach and help the community to put down roots (cf. Acts 11:26). They were telling the Jewish community, about the Jews. Antioch thus becomes the centre of missionary propulsion, thanks to the preaching with which the two evangelizers – Paul and Barnabas – influence the hearts of the believers, who here, in Antioch, are called for the first time "Christians" (cf. Acts 11:26).
The nature of the Church emerges from the Book of Acts, it is not a fortress, but a tent capable of enlarging its space (cf. Is 54:2) so that all can enter. The Church is "outgoing" or it is not Church, it is either on the path, enlarging itself always, or is not Church. "It is a Church with its doors open" (Exorc. Evangelii gaudium,46),always with the doors open. When I see some little church here, in this city, or when I see it in another diocese where I go, with the its doors closed, that's a bad sign. Churches must always have their doors open because this is a symbol of what a church is: always open. The Church is called to always be the open house of the Father. So that, if someone wants to follow a movement of the Spirit and approaches looking for God, they will not find themselves coming face to face with the coldness of a closed door(ibid., 47).
But now here come the problems, this newness of the open doors open to the pagans? To the pagans, because the Apostles preached to the Jews, but the pagans also came to knock on the door of the Church; and this novelty of the doors open to pagans unchains a very animated controversy. Some Jews affirm the necessity of circumcision for being saved, and then to receive baptism. They say, "If you do not let yourself be circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved"(Acts 15:1), that is, you cannot receive baptism later. First the Jewish rite and then the baptism: this was their position. And to resolve the issue, Paul and Barnabas consult the council of the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem, and what is considered to be the first council in the history of the Church, the council or assembly of Jerusalem, referred to by Paul in the Letter to Galatians (2:1-10).
A very delicate theological, spiritual and disciplinary question is addressed: that is, the relationship between faith in Christ and the observance of the Law of Moses. Decisive in the course of the assembly were the speeches of Peter and James, "pillars" of the Mother Church (cf. Acts 15.7-21; Gal 2.9). They invite them not to impose circumcision on the pagans, but to ask them only to reject idolatry in all of its expressions. From this comes a common path, and this decision is ratified by the apostolic letter sent to Antioch.
The Jerusalem Assembly offers us an important light on how to deal with differences and how to seek "truth in charity"(Ef 4.15). It reminds us that the Church's method for conflict resolution is based on dialogue of attentive and patient listening and discernment in the light of the Spirit. It is the Spirit, in fact, that helps to overcome closures and tensions and works in our hearts so that we may reach, in truth and good, unity. This text helps us to understand the synodality. It is interesting as the Letter writes: they begin, the Apostles, saying: "The Holy Spirit and we think that ...". It is precisely synodality, the presence of the Holy Spirit, otherwise it is not synodality, it is talk, it is a parliament, an other thing ...
Let us ask the Lord to strengthen in all Christians, especially in bishops and priests, the desire and responsibility of communion. May He help us to live the dialogue, the listening and the encounter with our brothers and sisters in faith and with those far from it, in order to taste and manifest the fruitfulness of the Church, called to be in every time the "joyful mother" of many children (cf. Psalm 113.9).
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good afternoon!
With the narrative of the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, in today's Gospel passage (cf. Mt 22:1-14), Jesus outlines the plan that God envisaged for humanity. The king who “who gave a marriage feast for his son” (v. 2) is the image of the Father who prepared for the entire human family a wonderful celebration of love and communion around his only begotten Son. Two times the king sends his servants to call the invited guests, but they refuse; they do not want to go to the feast because they have other things to think about: fields and business. So often we too put our interests and material things ahead of the Lord who calls us – and he calls us to a feast. But the king in the parable does not want the hall to remain empty, because he wants to offer the treasures of his kingdom. So he tells his servants: “Go therefore to the thoroughfares, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find” (v. 9). This is how God reacts: when he is rejected, rather than giving up, he starts over and asks that all those found at the thoroughfares be called, excluding no one. No one is excluded from the house of God.
The original term that Matthew the Evangelist uses refers to the limits of the roads, or those points at which the city streets end and the paths begin that lead to the area of the countryside, outside the residential area, where life is precarious. It is to this humanity of the thoroughfares that the king in the parable sends his servants, in the certainty of finding people willing to sit at the table. Thus the banquet hall is filled with the “excluded”, those who are “outside” those who never seemed worthy to partake in a feast, in a wedding banquet. In fact, the master, the king, tells the messengers: “Call everyone, both good and bad. Everyone!”. God even calls those who are bad. “No, I am bad; I have done many [bad things]...”. He calls you: “Come, come, come!”. And Jesus went to lunch with the tax collectors, who were public sinners; they were the bad guys. God is not afraid of our spirits wounded by many cruelties, because he loves us; he invites us. And the Church is called to reach the daily thoroughfares, that is, the geographic and existential peripheries of humanity, those places at the margins, those situations in which those who have set up camp are found where and hopeless remnants of humanity live. It is a matter of not settling for comforts and the customary ways of evangelization and witnessing to charity, but of opening the doors of our hearts and our communities to everyone, because the Gospel is not reserved to a select few. Even those on the margins, even those who are rejected and scorned by society, are considered by God to be worthy of his love. He prepares his banquet for everyone: the just and sinners, good and bad, intelligent and uneducated.
Yesterday evening, I was able to make a phone call to an elderly Italian priest, a missionary in Brazil since youth, but always working with the excluded, with the poor. And he lives his old age in peace: he burned his life up with the poor. This is our Mother Church; this is God's messenger who goes to the crossroads.
However, the Lord places one condition: to wear a wedding garment. Let us return to the parable. When the hall is full, the king arrives and greets the latest guests, but he sees one of them without a wedding garment, that kind of little cape that each guest would receive as a gift at the entrance. The people went as they were dressed, as they were able to be dressed; they were not wearing gala attire. But at the entrance they were give a type of capelet, a gift. That man, having rejected the free gift, excluded himself: the king could do nothing but throw him out. This man accepted the invitation but then decided that it meant nothing to him: he was a self-sufficient person; he had no desire to change or to allow the Lord to change him. The wedding garment – this capelet - symbolizes the mercy that God freely gives us, namely, grace. Without grace we cannot take a step forward in Christian life. Everything is grace. It is not enough to accept the invitation to follow the Lord; one must be open to a journey of conversion, which changes the heart. The garment of mercy, which God offers us unceasingly, is the free gift of his love; it is precisely grace. And it demands to be welcomed with astonishment and joy: “Thank you, Lord, for having given me this gift”.