Read the Gospel
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
In the prayer at the beginning of the Mass we asked the Lord for two graces: “To listen to Your beloved Son”, so that our faith might be nourished by the Word of God, and another grace — “to purify the eyes of our spirit, so that we might one day enjoy the vision of glory”. To listen, the grace to listen, and the grace to purify our eyes. This is directly related to the Gospel we heard. When the Lord is transfigured before Peter, James and John, they hear the voice of God the Father say: “This is my beloved Son! listen to him!”. The grace to listen to Jesus. Why? To nourish our faith with the Word of God. And this is the duty of the Christian.
What are the duties of the Christian? Perhaps you will say to me: to go to Mass on Sundays; to fast and abstain during Holy Week; to do this.... Yet the first duty of the Christian is to listen to the Word of God, to listen to Jesus, because he speaks to us and he saves us by his word. And by this word he makes our faith even stronger and more robust. Listen to Jesus! “But, Father, I do listen to Jesus, I listen a lot!”. “Yes? What do you listen to?”. “I listen to the radio, I listen to the television, I listen to people gossip”.
We listen to so many things throughout the day, so many things.... But I ask you a question: do we take a little time each day to listen to Jesus, to listen to Jesus’ word? Do we have the Gospels at home? And do we listen to Jesus each day in the Gospel, do we read a passage from the Gospel? Or are we afraid of this, or unaccustomed to reading it? To listen to Jesus’ word in order to nourish ourselves! This means that Jesus’ word is the most nourishing food for the soul: it nourishes our souls, it nourishes our faith! I suggest that each day you take a few minutes and read a nice passage of the Gospel and hear what happens there.
Hearing Jesus, and each day Jesus’ word enters our hearts and makes us stronger in faith. I also suggest that you have a little Gospel, very little, to carry in your pocket, in your purse, and when we have a little time, perhaps on the bus ... when it’s possible on the bus, because on the bus it’s often a bit difficult to keep our balance and guard our pockets, isn’t it?.... But when you are seated, here or there, you can also read during the day. Take the Gospel and read two little words. Having the Gospel with us always! It was said that several of the early martyrs — St Cecilia for example — always carried the Gospel with them: they carried the Gospel; she, Cecilia, carried the Gospel. Because it is truly our basic meal, it is Jesus’ word, which nourishes our faith.
And then the second grace we requested was the grace of purifying our eyes, the eyes of our spirit, to prepare the eyes of the spirit for eternal life. Purifying the eyes! I am invited to listen to Jesus, and Jesus manifests himself, and by his Transfiguration he invites us to gaze at him. And looking at Jesus purifies our eyes and prepares them for eternal life, for the vision of heaven. Perhaps our eyes are a little sick because we see so many things that are not of Jesus, things that are even against Jesus: worldly things, things that do not benefit the light of the soul. And in this way, this light is slowly extinguished, and without knowing it, we end up in interior darkness, in spiritual darkness, in a darkened faith: darkness, because we are unaccustomed to looking and imagining the things of Jesus.
This is what we asked today of the Father, who teaches us to listen to Jesus and to gaze at Jesus. To listen to his word, and think about what I was telling you about the Gospel: it is very important! And to see, when I read the Gospel imagining and looking at what Jesus was like, how he did things. And thus our minds, our hearts go forward on the journey of hope on which the Lord places us, as we heard he did to our father Abraham. Always remember: to listen to Jesus, to make our faith stronger; to gaze at Jesus, to prepare our eyes for the beautiful vision of his Face, where we all — may the Lord grant us the grace — will be at a Mass without end. So be it.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today the Gospel presents the Transfiguration. It is the second stage of the Lenten journey: the first was the temptation in the desert, last Sunday; the second, the Transfiguration. Jesus “took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart” (Mt 17:1). The mountain in the Bible represents a place close to God and an intimate encounter with Him, a place of prayer where one stands in the presence of the Lord. There up on the mount, Jesus is revealed to the three disciples as transfigured, luminescent and most beautiful. And then Moses and Elijah appear and converse with Him. His face is so resplendent and his robes so white that Peter, awe-struck, wishes to stay there, as if to stop time. Suddenly from on high the voice of the Father resounds proclaiming Jesus to be his most beloved Son, saying “listen to him” (v. 5). This word is important! Our Father said this to these Apostles, and says it to us as well: “listen to Jesus, because he is my beloved Son”. This week let us keep this word in our minds and in our hearts: “listen to Jesus!”. And the Pope is not saying this, God the Father says it to everyone: to me, to you, to everyone, all people! It is like an aid for going forward on the path of Lent. “Listen to Jesus!”. Don’t forget.
This invitation from the Father is very important. We, the disciples of Jesus, are called to be people who listen to his voice and take his words seriously. To listen to Jesus, we must be close to him, to follow him, like the crowd in the Gospel who chase him through the streets of Palestine. Jesus did not have a teaching post or a fixed pulpit, he was an itinerant teacher, who proposed his teachings, teachings given to him by the Father, along the streets, covering distances that were not always predictable or easy. Follow Jesus in order to listen to him. But also let us listen to Jesus in his written Word, in the Gospel. I pose a question to you: do you read a passage of the Gospel everyday? Yes, no… yes, no… half of the time … some yes, some no. It is important! Do you read the Gospel? It is so good; it is a good thing to have a small book of the Gospel, a little one, and to carry in our pocket or in our purse and read a little passage in whatever moment presents itself during the day. In any given moment of the day I take the Gospel from my pocket and I read something, a short passage. Jesus is there and he speaks to us in the Gospel! Ponder this. It’s not difficult, nor is it necessary to have all four books: one of the Gospels, a small one, with us. Let the Gospel be with us always, because it is the Word of Jesus in order for us to be able to listen to him.
From the event of the Transfiguration I would like to take two significant elements that can be summed up in two words: ascent and descent. We all need to go apart, to ascend the mountain in a space of silence, to find ourselves and better perceive the voice of the Lord. This we do in prayer. But we cannot stay there! Encounter with God in prayer inspires us anew to “descend the mountain” and return to the plain where we meet many brothers weighed down by fatigue, sickness, injustice, ignorance, poverty both material and spiritual. To these brothers in difficulty, we are called to bear the fruit of that experience with God, by sharing the grace we have received. And this is curious. When we hear the Word of Jesus, when we listen to the Word of Jesus and carry it in our heart, this Word grows. Do you know how it grows? By giving it to the other! The Word of Christ grows in us when we proclaim it, when we give it to others! And this is what Christian life is. It is a mission for the whole Church, for all the baptized, for us all: listen to Jesus and offer him to others. Do not forget: this week listen to Jesus! And think about the matter of the Gospel: will you? Will you do this? Then next Sunday you tell me if you have done this: that you have a little book of the Gospel in your pocket or in your purse to read in little stages throughout the day.
And now let us turn to our Mother Mary, and entrust ourselves to her guidance in pursuing with faith and generosity this path of Lent, learning a little more how to “ascend” with prayer and listen to Jesus and to “descend” with brotherly love, proclaiming Jesus.
In the first reading, St Paul reminds the Corinthians what his message was like, how he had proclaimed the Gospel: “I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom”. Paul continues by saying that he did not present himself in order to convince his interlocutors with arguments, with words, even with images. The Apostle chose instead another mode, another style, and that is a demonstration of the Spirit and power, that — these are Paul’s words — “your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God”.
In effect the Apostle recalled that the Word of God is something different, something which is unequalled by a human word, a wise word, a scientific word, a philosophical word. The Word of God, indeed, is something else, it comes in another way: it is different because it is how God speaks.
Luke confirms this in the Gospel passage which tells of Jesus in the Synagogue of Nazareth, where he grew up and where everyone knew him as a child. In that context, he began to speak and the people listened to him, commenting: “Oh, how interesting!”. Then they bore witness: they were amazed with the words he spoke. And among them they observed: “Look at him, this one! How good, this boy whom we know, how good he has become! But where must he have studied?”.
However, Jesus stopped them and said to them: “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country”. Thus, to those who listened to him in the Synagogue at first it seemed a good thing and they accepted that manner of conversation and reception. But when Jesus began to give the Word of God they became furious and they wanted to kill him. Thus they passed from one side to the other, because the Word of God is different from the word of man, even from the loftiest word of man, the most philosophical word of man.
And so, what is the Word of God like? The Letter to the Hebrews, began by saying that, since ancient times, God had spoken, and he spoke to our fathers through the prophets. But in these times, at the end of that world, he spoke through the Son. In other words, the Word of God is Jesus, Jesus himself. That is what Paul was preaching, when he said: “When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Christ crucified”.
This is the Word of God, the only Word of God. And Jesus Christ is a reason for scandal: the Cross of Christ scandalizes. That is the strength of the Word of God: Jesus Christ, the Lord.
It becomes so important, to ask ourselves: “How do we receive the Word of God?”. The response is clear: “As one receives Jesus Christ. The Church tells us that Jesus is present in the Scripture, in His Word”. This is why, I have advised you many times to always carry a small Gospel with you — moreover, it costs little to buy it, to keep it in your purse, in your pocket, and read a passage from the Gospel during the day. Some practical advice, not so much to learn something, but mostly to find Jesus, because Jesus actually is in His Word, in His Gospel. Every time I read the Gospel, I find Jesus.
And what is the right attitude to receive this Word? It must be received as one receives Jesus, that is, with an open heart, with a humble heart, with the spirit of the Beatitudes. Because this is how Jesus came, in humility: he came in poverty, he came anointed by the Holy Spirit. Such that he himself began his discourse in the Synagogue of Nazareth with these words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord”.
Thus, he is strength, he is the Word of God, because he was anointed by the Holy Spirit. In this way, , we too, if we want to hear and receive the Word of God, we must pray to the Holy Spirit and ask for this anointing of the heart, which is the unction of the Beatitudes. Thus, to have a heart like the heart of the Beatitudes.
As Jesus is present in the Word of God, and He speaks to us in the Word of God, it will do us good during the day today to ask ourselves: How do I receive the Word of God?
In the First Reading we heard that the Lord takes care of his children like a parent: He takes care to provide his children with nourishing food. God says through the Prophet: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?” (Is 55:2). God, like a good father and a good mother, wants to give good things to his children. And what is this nourishing food that God gives us? It is his Word: his Word makes us grow, it enables us to bear good fruit in life, just as the rain and snow imbue the earth, making it fruitful (cf. Is 55:10-11). Likewise you, parents, and you too, godmothers and godfathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, will help these children grow if you give them the Word of God, the Gospel of Jesus. And give it also by your example! Every day, make it a habit to read a passage of the Gospel, a small one, and always carry a little Gospel with you in your pocket, in your purse, so you can read it. And this will set the example for your children, seeing dad, mom, their godparents, grandpa, grandma, aunts and uncles, reading the Word of God.
You, mothers, give milk to your children — even now, if they are crying with hunger, feed them, don’t worry. Let us thank the Lord for the gift of milk, and let us pray for those mothers — there are so many, unfortunately — who are unable to breast-feed their children. Let us pray and let us try to help these mothers. Thus, what milk does for the body, the Word of God does for the spirit: the Word of God makes faith grow. And thanks to faith we have been begotten by God. This is what happens at Baptism. We have heard the Apostle John: “Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God” (1 Jn 5:1). Your children are baptized in this faith. Today it is your faith, dear parents, godfathers and godmothers. It is the faith of the Church, in which these little ones receive Baptism. But tomorrow, by the grace of God, it will be their faith, their personal “yes” to Jesus Christ, which gives us the Father’s love.
I said: it is the faith of the Church. This is very important. Baptism integrates us into the body of the Church, into the holy People of God. And in this body, in this people journeying on, faith is passed down from generation to generation: it is the faith of the Church. It is the faith of Mary, our Mother, the faith of St Joseph, of St Peter, of St Andrew, of St John, the faith of the Apostles and of the Martyrs, which has come down to us, through Baptism: the chain of transmission of the faith. This is really beautiful! It is a passing of the flame of faith from hand to hand: we too will soon express it with the act of lighting candles from the great Paschal candle. The large wax candle represents the Risen Christ, living in our midst. You, families, take the light of faith from Him in order to pass it on to your children. You receive this light in the Church, in the Body of Christ, in the People of God who are journeying through every time and in every place. Teach your children that one cannot be a Christian outside of the Church, one cannot follow Jesus Christ without the Church, for the Church is Mother, who makes us grow in the love of Jesus Christ.
One last feature emerges powerfully from today’s Bible Readings: in Baptism we are consecrated by the Holy Spirit. This is what the word “Christian” means, it means consecrated like Jesus, in the same Spirit in which Jesus was immersed throughout his earthly existence. He is the “Christ”, the Anointed One, the Consecrated One; we, the baptized, are “Christian”, meaning consecrated, anointed. Therefore, dear parents, dear godfathers and godmothers, if you want your children to become true Christians, help them to grow up “immersed” in the Holy Spirit, that is to say, in the warmth of the love of God, in the light of his Word. For this reason, do not forget to invoke the Holy Spirit often, every day. “Do you pray, Ma’am?” — “Yes” — “Whom do you pray to?”. — “I pray to God”. But “God” does not exist like this: God is one person, and as a Person the Father, Son and Holy Spirit exist. “Whom do you pray to?”. — “The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit”. We usually pray to Jesus. When we pray the “Our Father”, we pray to the Father. But we do not often pray to the Holy Spirit. It is very important to pray to the Holy Spirit, because He teaches us how to bring up the family, the children, so that these children may grow up in the atmosphere of the Holy Trinity. It is precisely the Spirit who leads them forward. For this reason, do not forget to invoke the Holy Spirit often, every day. You can do so, for example, with this simple prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love”. You can say this prayer for your children, as well as, naturally, for yourselves!
When you recite this prayer, you feel the maternal presence of the Virgin Mary. She teaches us to pray to the Holy Spirit, and to live in accordance with the Spirit, like Jesus. May Our Lady, our Mother, always accompany the journey of your children and of your families. Amen.
Hebrews 12:1-4; the author of the Letter to the Hebrews refers to the memory of the first days after conversion, after the encounter with Jesus, and also refers to the memory of our fathers: “how much they suffered when they were on the journey”. The author, looking to these fathers says: we too ‘are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses’. Thus, it is the testimony of our ancestors that he recalls. And he also recalls our experience, when we were so happy in the first encounter with Jesus. This is the memory, which we spoke about as a point of reference for Christian life.
But today, the author of the letter speaks about another point of reference, namely, hope. And he tells us that we must have the courage to go forward: let us persevere in running the race that lies before us. Then he says what is the very core of hope: ‘keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus’”. This is the point: if we don’t keep our eyes fixed on Jesus it is difficult for us to have hope. We can perhaps be optimistic, be positive, but hope?
After all, hope is learned only by looking to Jesus, contemplating Jesus; we learn through contemplative prayer. I can ask you: how do you pray? Someone, he said, might respond: “Father, I say the prayers I learned as a child”. Okay, this is good. Someone else might add: “I pray the rosary too, every day!” It’s good to pray the rosary every day. And finally, one might say: “I also talk with the Lord, when I have a problem, or with Our Lady or with the saints...”. And “this is good” too.
Do you pray in contemplation? The question might throw us a curve, and someone might ask: “What is this, Father? What is this prayer? Where can we buy it? How do we do it?”. It can be done only with the Gospel in hand. Basically, you pick up the Gospel, select a passage, read it once, read it twice; imagine, as if you see what is happening, and contemplate Jesus.
Mark 5:21-43 teaches us many beautiful things. How do I contemplate with today’s Gospel? I see that Jesus was in the midst of the crowd, there was a great crowd around Him. The word ‘crowd’ is used five times this passage. But doesn’t Jesus rest? I can imagine: always with the crowd! Most of Jesus’ life is spent on the street, with the crowd. Doesn’t He rest? Yes, once: the Gospel says that He slept on the boat, but the storm came and the disciples woke Him. Jesus was constantly among the people.
For this reason, we look to Jesus this way, I contemplate Jesus this way, I imagine Jesus this way. And I say to Jesus whatever comes to my mind to say to Him.
Then, in the midst of the crowd, there was that sick woman, and Jesus was aware. But how did Jesus, in the middle of so many people, realize that a woman had touched Him? And, indeed, He asked directly: “Who touched me?”. The disciples, in return, pointed out to Jesus: “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’”. The question, is that Jesus not only understands the crowd, feels the crowd, but He hears the beating of each one of our hearts, of each one of us: He cares for all and for each one, always!
The same situation happens again when the ruler of the Synagogue approaches Jesus to tell Him about his gravely ill little daughter. And He leaves everything to tend to this one: Jesus in the great and in the small, always! Then, we can go on and see that He arrives at the house, He sees that tumult, those women who were called to mourn over the dead body, wailing, weeping. But Jesus says: “Don’t worry: she’s sleeping!”. And in response to these words, some even begin to scoff at Him. However, He stays quiet and with his patience he manages to bear this situation, to avoid responding to those who mock Him.
The Gospel account culminates with the little girl’s resurrection. And Jesus, rather than saying: ‘Praised be God!’, says to them: ‘Please, give her something to eat’. For Jesus always has the fine details in front of Him.
What I did with this Gospel is contemplative prayer: to pick up the Gospel, read and imagine myself in the scene, to imagine what’s happening and speak with Jesus about what comes from my heart. And with this, we allow hope to grow, because we have our eyes fixed on Jesus. pray in contemplation. And even if we have many commitments, we can always find the time, even 15 minutes at home: Pick up the Gospel, a short passage, imagine what is happening and talk to Jesus about it. This way your eyes will be fixed on Jesus, and not so much on soap operas, for example: your ears will be fixed on the words of Jesus and not so much on the neighbours’ gossip.
Contemplative prayer helps us to hope and teaches us to live from the substance of the Gospel. And this is why we must always pray: say prayers, pray the rosary, speak with the Lord, but also carry out this contemplative prayer in order to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. From here comes hope. And also this way, our Christian life moves within that framework, between memory and hope: the memory of the entire past journey, the memory of so many graces received from the Lord; and hope, looking to the Lord, who is the only One who can give me hope. And to look to the Lord, to know the Lord, we pick up the Gospel and we pray in contemplation.
Today for example find 10 minutes, 15 minutes and no more: read the Gospel, imagine and speak with Jesus. And nothing more. And in this way, your knowledge of Jesus will be greater and your hope will grow. Don’t forget, keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus. This is why we call it “contemplative prayer”.
This is what Jesus’ life was like: he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons” (Mk 1:39). Jesus who preaches and Jesus who heals. The whole day was like this: preaching to the people, teaching the Law, teaching the Gospel. And the people look for Him to listen to Him and also because He heals the sick.
That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.... And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons” (Mk 1:32, 34).
And we are before Jesus in this celebration: Jesus is the One who presides at this celebration. We are priests in the name of Jesus, but He is the President, He is the true Priest, who offers the sacrifice to the Father. We could ask ourselves whether we let Jesus preach to us. Each one of us: “Do I let Jesus preach to me, or I know know all? Do I listen to Jesus or do I prefer to listen to something else, perhaps people’s gossip, or stories...”. Listening to Jesus.
Listening to Jesus’ preaching. “How can I do this, Father? On which TV channel does Jesus speak?”. He speaks to you in the Gospel! And this is an attitude that we still do not have: to go to seek the word of Jesus in the Gospel. To always carry a Gospel with us, a small one, or to have one at our fingertips. Five minutes, 10 minutes.
When I am travelling or when I have to wait..., I take the Gospel from my pocket, or from my bag and I read something; or at home. And Jesus speaks to me, Jesus preaches to me there. It is the Word of Jesus. And we have to get accustomed to this: to hear the Word of Jesus, to listen to the Word of Jesus in the Gospel. To read a passage, think a bit about what it says, what it is saying to me. If I don’t feel it is speaking to me, I move to another.
But to have this daily contact with the Gospel, to pray with the Gospel; because this way Jesus preaches to me, He says with the Gospel what He wants to tell me. I know people who always carry it and when they have a little time they open it, and this way they always find the right word for the moment they are living in. This is the first thing I wanted to say to you: let the Lord preach to you. Listen to the Lord.
And Jesus heals: let yourselves be healed by Jesus.
We all have wounds, everyone: spiritual wounds, sins, hostility, jealousy; perhaps we don’t say hello to someone: “Ah, he did this to me, I won’t acknowledge him anymore”. But this needs to be healed!
“How do I do it?”. Pray and ask that Jesus heal it”.
It’s sad in a family when siblings don’t speak to each other for a small matter; something stupid*1, because the devil takes a small matter, something stupid and makes a world of it. Then hostilities go on, and multiply for many years, and that family is destroyed. Parents suffer because their children don’t speak to each other, or one son’s wife doesn’t speak to the other, and thus, with jealousy, envy.... The devil sows this. The devil is the "father of hate", the "father of lies" who seeks disunity. But God wants unity. If in your heart you feel jealousy, this is the beginning of war. Jealousies are not of God. *1
And the only One who casts out demons is Jesus. The only One who heals these matters is Jesus.
For this reason I say to each one of you: let yourself be healed by Jesus. Each one knows where his wounds are. Each one of us has them; we don’t have only one: two, three, four, 20. Each one knows! May Jesus heal those wounds. But for this I must open my heart, in order that He may come. How do I open my heart? By praying. “But Lord, I can’t with those people over there. I hate them. They did this, this and this...”. “Heal this wound, Lord”. If we ask Jesus for this grace, He will do it. Let yourself be healed by Jesus. Let Jesus heal you. Let Jesus preach to you and let Him heal you. This way I can even preach to others, to teach the words of Jesus, because I let Him preach to me; and I can also help heal many wounds, the many wounds that there are. But first I have to do it: let Him preach to me and heal me.
When the bishop comes to make a visit to the parishes, we do many things. We can also make a nice proposal, a small one: the proposal to read a passage of the Gospel every day, a short passage, in order to let Jesus preach to me. And the other proposal: to pray that I let myself be healed of the wounds I have. Agreed? Shall we sign? Okay? Let’s do it, because this will be good for everyone. Thank you.
*1 Vatican Radio 02.09.15
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Last Wednesday, with the rite of Ashes, Lent began, and today is the First Sunday of this Liturgical Season which refers to the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert, after his Baptism in the River Jordan. St Mark writes in today’s Gospel: “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him” (1:12-13). With these simple words the Evangelist describes the trials willingly faced by Jesus before he began his messianic mission. It is a trial from which the Lord leaves victorious and which prepares him to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. In these 40 days of solitude, he confronts Satan “body to body”, He unmasks his temptations and conquers him. And through Him, we have all conquered, but we must protect this victory in our daily lives.
The Church reminds us of that mystery at the beginning of Lent, so that it may give us the perspective and the meaning of this Time, which is a time of combat. Lent is a time of combat! A spiritual combat against the spirit of evil (cf. Collective Prayer for Ash Wednesday). And while we cross the Lenten “desert”, we keep our gazed fixed upon Easter, which is the definitive victory of Jesus against the Evil One, against sin and against death. This is the meaning of this First Sunday of Lent: to place ourselves decisively on the path of Jesus, the road that leads to life. To look at Jesus. Look at what Jesus has done and go with Him.
This path of Jesus passes through the desert. The desert is the place where the voice of God and the voice of the tempter can be heard. In the noise, in the confusion, this cannot be done; only superficial voices can be heard. Instead we can go deeper in the desert, where our destiny is truly played out, life or death. And how do we hear the voice of God? We hear it in his Word. For this reason, it is important to know Scripture, because otherwise we do not know how to react to the snares of the Evil One. And here I would like to return to my advice of reading the Gospel every day. Read the Gospel every day! Meditate on it for a little while, for 10 minutes. And also to carry it with you in your pocket or your purse.... But always have the Gospel at hand. The Lenten desert helps us to say ‘no’ to worldliness, to the “idols”, it helps us to make courageous choices in accordance with the Gospel and to strengthen solidarity with the brothers.
Now let us enter into the desert without fear, because we are not alone: we are with Jesus, with the Father and with the Holy Spirit. In fact, as it was for Jesus, it is the Holy Spirit who guides us on the Lenten journey; that same Spirit that descended upon Jesus and that has been given to us in Baptism.
Lent, therefore is an appropriate time that should lead us to be ever more aware of how much the Holy Spirit, received in Baptism, has worked and can work in us. And at the end of the Lenten itinerary, at the Easter Vigil, we can renew with greater awareness the Baptismal covenant and the commitments that flow from it.
May the Blessed Virgin, model of docility to the Spirit, help us to let ourselves be led by Him, who wishes to make each of us a “new creature”.
To her I entrust, in particular, the week of Spiritual Exercises, that will begin this afternoon, and in which I shall participate with my collaborators of the Roman Curia. I ask that you pray for us, that in this “desert” of the Spiritual Exercises, we may listen to the voice of Jesus, and also correct the many defects that we have. And also to confront the temptations that attack us every day. I ask you therefore to accompany us with your prayers.
Dear brothers and sisters, Good morning!
Today’s Gospel is composed of two very brief parables: that of the seed that sprouts and grows on its own, and that of the mustard seed (cf. Mk 4:26-34). Through these images taken from the rural world, Jesus presents the efficacy of the Word of God and the requirements of his Kingdom, showing the reasons for our hope and our commitment in history.
In the first parable, attention is placed on the fact that the seed scattered on the ground (v. 26) takes root and develops on its own, regardless of whether the farmer sleeps or keeps watch. He is confident in the inner power of the seed itself and in the fertility of the soil. In the language of the Gospel, the seed is the symbol of the Word of God, whose fruitfulness is recalled in this parable. As the humble seed grows in the earth, so too does the Word by the power of God work in the hearts of those who listen to it. God has entrusted his Word to our earth, that is to each one of us with our concrete humanity. We can be confident because the Word of God is a creative word, destined to become the “full grain in the ear” (v. 28). This Word, if accepted, certainly bears fruit, for God Himself makes it sprout and grow in ways that we cannot always verify or understand. (cf. v. 27). All this tells us that it is always God, it is always God who makes his Kingdom grow. That is why we fervently pray “thy Kingdom come”. It is He who makes it grow. Man is his humble collaborator, who contemplates and rejoices in divine creative action and waits patiently for its fruits.
The Word of God makes things grow, it gives life. And here, I would like to remind you once again, of the importance of having the Gospel, the Bible, close at hand. A small Gospel in your purse, in your pocket and to nourish yourselves every day with this living Word of God. Read a passage from the Gospel every day, a passage from the Bible. Please don’t ever forget this. Because this is the power that makes the life of the Kingdom of God sprout within us.
The second parable uses the image of the mustard seed. Despite being the smallest of all the seeds, it is full of life and grows until it becomes “the greatest of all shrubs” (Mk 4:32). And thus is the Kingdom of God: a humanly small and seemingly irrelevant reality. To become a part of it, one must be poor of heart; not trusting in their own abilities, but in the power of the love of God; not acting to be important in the eyes of the world, but precious in the eyes of God, who prefers the simple and the humble. When we live like this, the strength of Christ bursts through us and transforms what is small and modest into a reality that leavens the entire mass of the world and of history.
An important lesson comes to us from these two parables: God’s Kingdom requires our cooperation, but it is above all the initiative and gift of the Lord. Our weak effort, seemingly small before the complexity of the problems of the world, when integrated with God’s effort, fears no difficulty. The victory of the Lord is certain: his love will make every seed of goodness present on the ground sprout and grow. This opens us up to trust and hope, despite the tragedies, the injustices, the sufferings that we encounter. The seed of goodness and peace sprouts and develops, because the merciful love of God makes it ripen.
May the Holy Virgin, who like “fertile ground” received the seed of the divine Word, sustain us in this hope which never disappoints.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In this First Sunday of Lent, the Gospel introduces us to the journey toward Easter, revealing Jesus as he remains in the desert for 40 days, subjected to the temptations of the devil (cf. Mt 4:1-11). This episode takes place at a precise moment in Jesus’ life: immediately after his Baptism in the River Jordan and prior to his public ministry. He has just received the solemn investiture: the Spirit of God has descended upon him, the heavenly Father has declared him “my beloved Son” (Mt 3:17). Jesus is now ready to begin his mission; and as this mission has a declared enemy, namely, Satan, He confronts him straight away, “up close”. The devil plays precisely on the title “Son of God” in order to deter Jesus from the fulfilment of his mission: “If you are the Son of God” (4:3, 6); and proposes that He perform miraculous acts — to be a “magician” — such as transforming stones into bread so as to satiate his hunger, and throwing himself down from the temple wall so as to be saved by the angels. These two temptations are followed by the third: to worship him, the devil, so as to have dominion over the world (cf. v. 9).
Through this three-fold temptation, Satan wants to divert Jesus from the way of obedience and humiliation — because he knows that in this way, on this path, evil will be conquered — and to lead Him down the false shortcut to success and glory. But the devil’s poisonous arrows are “blocked” by Jesus with the shield of God’s Word (vv. 4, 10), which expresses the will of the Father. Jesus does not speak a word of his own: He responds only with the Word of God. Thus the Son, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, comes out of the desert victorious.
During the 40 days of Lent, as Christians we are invited to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and face the spiritual battle with the Evil One with the strength of the Word of God. Not with our words: they are worthless. The Word of God: this has the strength to defeat Satan. For this reason, it is important to be familiar with the Bible: read it often, meditate on it, assimilate it. The Bible contains the Word of God, which is always timely and effective. Someone has asked: what would happen were we to treat the Bible as we treat our mobile phone?; were we to always carry it with us, or at least a small, pocket-sized Gospel, what would happen?; were we to turn back when we forget it: you forget your mobile phone — ‘oh! I don’t have it, I’m going back to look for it’; were we to open it several times a day; were we to read God’s messages contained in the Bible as we read telephone messages, what would happen? Clearly the comparison is paradoxical, but it calls for reflection. Indeed, if we had God’s Word always in our heart, no temptation could separate us from God, and no obstacle could divert us from the path of good; we would know how to defeat the daily temptations of the evil that is within us and outside us; we would be more capable of living a life renewed according to the Spirit, welcoming and loving our brothers and sisters, especially the weakest and neediest, and also our enemies.
May the Virgin Mary, perfect icon of obedience to God and of unconditional trust in his will, sustain us on the Lenten journey, that we may set ourselves to listen docilely to the Word of God in order to achieve a true conversion of heart.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
In today's Gospel (cf. Lk 12: 32-42), Jesus calls his disciples to constant vigilance. Why? To capture the presence of God in their lives, because God constantly passes through our lives. And Jesus points out the ways to live this vigilance well: "be ready, gird your loins and light your lamps" (v. 35). This is the way. First of all "gird your loins", this is an image that recalls the attitude of the pilgrim, ready to set out on a journey. It's not a question of putting down roots in comfortable and reassuring places, but of abandoning oneself with simplicity and trust to the will of God in our lives, to God's will, which guides us to our next destination. The Lord always walks with us and many times takes us by the hand to guide us, and lead us and make sure that we don't fall along this difficult journey. In fact, those who trust in God know that a life of faith is not something static, but is dynamic! The life of faith is a continuous journey going towards ever new stages, that the Lord Himself indicates day after day. Because he is Lord of the surprises, the Lord of novelty, but the real, true novelties.
First He tells us to gird our loins and then we are asked to make sure that we keep our lamps lit. Light your lamps to be able to light up the darkness of the night. We are invited to live an authentic and mature faith, capable of illuminating the many nights of life. We know, we've all had days that were true spiritual nights. The lamp of faith needs to be nourished continuously, with a heart to heart encounter with Jesus in prayer and in listening to His word. I want to repeat something I've told you many times: always carry a small Gospel with you, in your pocket, in your purse, in your bag, to take out and read at anytime. It is an encounter with Jesus, with Jesus ' words. This is the lamp of the encounter with Jesus in prayer and in his word. It is entrusted to us for the good of everyone: no-one can withdraw intimately into the certainty of their own salvation, being disinterested in others. It is an illusion to believe that we can illuminate ourselves within. No, this is a fantasy. True faith opens the heart to ones neighbour and spurs us on towards concrete communion with our brothers and sisters, especially those who live in need.
To help us understand this attitude, Jesus tells the parable of the servants who await the return of the master when he returns from the wedding (verses 36-40), providing another aspect of vigilance: being ready for the final and definitive encounter with the Lord. Each of us will find ouselves facing that encounter one day. We all have that date and day awaiting us for that definitive encounter with the Lord. The Lord says: "blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival; ... And, should he come in the middle of the night or before dawn, and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants!" (verses 37-38). With these words, the Lord reminds us that life is a journey to eternity; Which is why, we are called to make all our talents bear fruit, without ever forgetting that here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come (Heb 13:14). In a sense, every moment becomes precious, and so we must live and act on this earth with a longing for heaven in our hearts: our feet on the Earth, walking on the Earth, working on the Earth, doing good things on the Earth, but with a longing for heaven in our hearts.
We can't really understand what this supreme joy consists of, however, Jesus helps us to understand it with the image of the master who finding his servants awake on his return: Jesus tells us "he will gird himself, have them recline at table and proceed to wait on them (v. 37). The eternal joy of paradise manifests itself in this way: the situation will be reversed, upside down, and it will no longer be the servants, namely us, who serve the Lord, but God himself will put himself at our service. And Jesus already does this now: Jesus prays for us, Jesus watches us and prays to the Father for us, Jesus is already serving us, He is our servant. As we wait the definitive joy of heaven. The thought of the final encounter with the Father, who is rich in mercy, fills us with hope, and stimulates us to the constant commitment to holiness and to building a more just and fraternal world.
May the Virgin Mary, through her maternal intercession, sustain this commitment of ours.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In this Sunday's Gospel passage (cf. Mt 13:1-23), Jesus tells a great crowd the Parable - which we all know well - of the Sower, who casts seed over four different types of terrain. The Word of God, symbolized by the seeds is not an abstract Word, but is Christ himself, the Word of the Father who became flesh in Mary's womb. Therefore, embracing the Word of God means embracing the personage of Christ; of Christ Himself.
There are many ways to receive the Word of God. We may do so like a path, where birds immediately come and eat the seeds. This would be distraction, a great danger of our time. Beset by lots of small talk, by many ideologies, by continuous opportunities to be distracted inside and outside the home, we can lose our zest for silence, for reflection, for dialogue with the Lord, such that we risk losing our faith, not receiving the Word of God, as we are seeing everything, distracted by everything, by worldly things.
Another possibility: we may receive the Word of God like rocky ground, with little soil. There the seeds spring up quickly, but they soon wither away, because they are unable to sink roots to any depth. This is the image of those who receive the Word of God with momentary enthusiasm, though it remains superficial; it does not assimilate the Word of God. In this way, at the first difficulty, such as a discomfort or disturbance of life, that still-feeble faith dissolves, as the seed withers that falls among the rocks.
Again - a third possibility that of which Jesus speaks in the parable - we may receive the Word of God like ground where thorny bushes grow. And the thorns are the deceit of wealth, of success, of worldly concerns... There, the word grows a little, but becomes choked, it is not strong, and it dies or does not bear fruit.
Lastly - the fourth possibility - we may receive it like good soil. Here, and only here the seed takes root and bears fruit. The seed fallen upon this fertile soil represents those who hear the Word, embrace it, safeguard it in their heart and put it into practice in everyday life.
This Parable of the Sower is somewhat the 'mother' of all parables, because it speaks about listening to the Word. It reminds us that the Word of God is a seed which in itself is fruitful and effective; and God scatters it everywhere, paying no mind to waste. Such is the heart of God! Each one of us is ground on which the seed of the Word falls; no one is excluded! The Word is given to each one of us. We can ask ourselves: what type of terrain am I? Do I resemble the path, the rocky ground, the bramble bush? But, if we want, we can become good soil, ploughed and carefully cultivated, to help ripen the seed of the Word. It is already present in our heart, but making it fruitful depends on us; it depends on the embrace that we reserve for this seed.
Often one is distracted by too many interests, by too many enticements, and it is difficult to distinguish, among the many voices and many words, that of the Lord, the only one that makes us free. This is why it is important to accustom oneself to listening to the Word of God, to reading it. And I return once more to that advice: always keep with you a handy copy of the Gospel, a pocket edition of the Gospel, in your pocket, in your purse… and so, every day, read a short passage, so that you become used to reading the Word of God, understanding well the seed that God offers you, and thinking about the earth that receives it.
May the Virgin Mary, perfect model of good and fertile soil, help us, with her prayer, to become willing soil without thorns or rocks, so that we may bear good fruit for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters.
Dear brothers and sisters, good day!
This Sunday’s Gospel (see Mt 15:21-28) describes the meeting between Jesus and the Canaanite woman. Jesus is to the north of Galilee, in foreign territory. The woman was not Jewish, she was Canaanite. Jesus is there to spend some time with His disciples away from the crowds, from the crowds whose numbers are always growing. And behold, a woman approached Him seeking help for her sick daughter: “Have mercy on me, Lord!” (v. 22). It is the cry that is born out of a life marked by suffering, from the sense of the helplessness of a mamma who sees her daughter tormented by evil who cannot be healed; she cannot heal her. Jesus initially ignores her, but this mother insists; she insists, even when the Master says to the disciples that His mission is directed only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (v. 24) and not to the pagans. She continues to beg Him, and at that point, He puts her to the test, citing a proverb. It’s a bit…this seems almost a bit cruel, but he puts her to the test: “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs” (v. 26). And right away, the woman, quick, anguished, responds: “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table” (v. 27).
And with these words, that mother shows that she has perceived the goodness of the Most High God present in Jesus who is open to any of His creatures necessities. And this wisdom, filled with trust, touches Jesus’s heart and provokes words of admiration: “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish” (v. 28). What type of faith is great? Great faith is that which brings its own story, marked even by wounds, and brings it to the Lord’s feet asking Him to heal it, to give it meaning.
Each one of us has our own story and it is not always a story “for export”, it is not always a clean story. Many times it is a difficult story, with a lot of pain, many misfortunes and many sins. What do I do with my story? Do I hide it? No! We must bring it before the Lord. “Lord, if You will it, you can heal me!” This is what this woman teaches us, this wonderful mother: the courage to bring our own painful story before God, before Jesus, to touch God’s tenderness, Jesus’s tenderness. Let’s try this story, this prayer: let each one of us think of his or her own story. There are always ugly things in a story, always. Let us go to Jesus, knock on Jesus’s heart and say to Him: “Lord, if You will it, you can heal me!” And we can do this if we always have the face of Jesus before us, if we understand what Christ’s heart is like, what Jesus’s heart is like: a heart that feels compassion, that bears our pains, that bears our sins, our mistakes, our failures. But it is a heart that love us like that, as we are, without make-up: He loves us like that. “Lord, if You will it, you can heal me!”
This is why it is necessary to understand Jesus, to be familiar with Jesus. I always go back to the advice that I give you: always carry a small pocket-size Gospel and read a passage every day. There you will find Jesus as He is, as He presents Himself; you will find Jesus who loves us, who loves us a lot, who tremendously wants our well-being. Let us remember the prayer: “Lord, if You will it, you can heal me!” A beautiful prayer. Carry the Gospel: in your purse, in your pocket and even on your mobile phone, to look at. May the Lord help us, all of us, to pray this beautiful prayer, that a pagan woman teaches us: not a Christian woman, not a Jewish woman, a pagan woman.
May the Virgin Mary intercede with her prayer so that the joy of faith might grow in every baptized person as well as the desire to communicate it through a consistent witness of life, that she give us the courage to approach Jesus and to say to Him: “Lord, if You will it, you can heal me!”
On this Sunday of the Word, let us listen to Jesus as he proclaims the Kingdom of God. Let us consider what he says and to whom he says it.
What does he say? Jesus begins his preaching with these words: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk 1:15). God is near, that is the first message. His kingdom has come down to earth. God is not, as we are often tempted to think, distant, up in heaven, detached from the human condition. No, he is in our midst. The time of his distance ended when, in Jesus, he became man. Ever since then, God has been very close to us; he will never retire from our human condition or tire of it. This closeness is the very first message of the Gospel; today’s reading tells us that Jesus “was saying” (v. 15) those words: he kept repeating them. “God is near” was the leitmotif of his preaching, the heart of his message. If this was the opening theme and the refrain of all Jesus’ preaching, it must necessarily be the one constant of the Christian life and message. Before all else, we must believe and proclaim that God has drawn near to us, that we have been forgiven and shown mercy. Prior to every word of ours about God, there is his word to us, his Word who continues to tell us: “Do not be afraid, I am with you. I am at your side and I will always be there”.
The word of God enables us to touch this closeness, since – as the Book of Deuteronomy tells us – it is not far from us, it is near to our hearts (cf. 30:14). It is the antidote to our fear of having to face life alone. Indeed, by his word the Lord consoles us, that is, he stands “with” (con-) those who are “alone” (soli). In speaking to us, he reminds us that he has taken us to heart, that we are precious in his eyes, and that he holds us in the palm of his hand. God’s word infuses this peace, but it does not leave us in peace. It is a word of consolation but also a call to conversion. “Repent”, says Jesus, immediately after proclaiming God’s closeness. For, thanks to his closeness, we can no longer distance ourselves from God and from others. The time when we could live thinking only of ourselves is now over. To do so is not Christian, for those who experience God’s closeness cannot ignore their neighbours or treat them with indifference. Those who hear God’s word are constantly reminded that life is not about shielding ourselves from others, but about encountering them in the name of God who is near. The word sown in the soil of our hearts, leads us in turn to sow hope through closeness to others. Even as God has done with us.
Let us now consider to whom Jesus speaks. His first words are to Galilean fishermen, simple folk who lived by harsh manual labour, by day and night. They were no experts in Scripture or people of great knowledge and culture. They lived in a region made up of various peoples, ethnic groups and cults: one that could not have been further from the religious purity of Jerusalem, the heart of the country. Yet that is where Jesus began, not from the centre but from the periphery, and he did so in order to tell us too that no one is far from God’s heart. Everyone can receive his word and encounter him in person. The Gospel offers a nice detail in this regard, when it tells us that Jesus’ preaching came “after” that of John (Mk 1:14). That word after is decisive: it points to a difference. John received people in the desert, where only those able to leave their homes could go. Jesus, on the other hand, speaks of God in the heart of society, to everyone, wherever they find themselves. He does not speak at fixed times or places, but “walking along the shore”, to fishermen who were “casting their nets” (v. 16). He speaks to people in the most ordinary times and places. Here we see the universal power of the word of God to reach everyone and every area of life.
Yet the word of God also has particular power, that is, it can touch each person directly. The disciples would never forget the words they heard that day on the shore of the lake, by their boats, in the company of their family members and fellow workers: words that marked their lives forever. Jesus said to them: “Follow me, I will make you become fishers of men” (v. 17). He did not appeal to them using lofty words and ideas, but spoke to their lives. He told fishermen that they were to be fishers of men. If he had told them: “Follow me, I will make you Apostles, you will be sent into the world to preach the Gospel in the power of the Spirit; you will be killed, but you will become saints”, we can be sure that Peter and Andrew would have answered: “Thanks, but we’ll stick to our nets and our boats!” But Jesus spoke to them in terms of their own livelihood: “You are fishermen, and you will become fishers of men”. Struck by those words, they come to realize that lowering their nets for fish was too little, whereas putting out into the deep in response to the word of Jesus was the secret of true joy. The Lord does the same with us: he looks for us where we are, he loves us as we are, and he patiently walks by our side. As he did with those fishermen, he waits for us on the shore of our life. With his word, he wants to change us, to invite us to live fuller lives and to put out into the deep together with him.
So dear brothers and sisters, let us not ignore God’s word. It is a love letter, written to us by the One who knows us best. In reading it, we again hear his voice, see his face and receive his Spirit. That word brings us close to God. Let us not keep it at arm’s length, but carry it with us always, in our pocket, on our phone. Let us give it a worthy place in our homes. Let us set the Gospel in a place where we can remember to open it daily, perhaps at the beginning and at the end of the day, so that amid all those words that ring in our ears, there may also be a few verses of the word of God that can touch our hearts. To be able to do this, let us ask the Lord for the strength to turn off the television and open the Bible, to turn off our cell phone and open the Gospel. During this liturgical year, we are reading Saint Mark, the simplest and the shortest of the Gospels. Why not read it at home too, even a brief passage each day. It will make us feel God’s closeness to us and fill us with courage as we make our way through life.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today’s Gospel passage (cf. Mk 1:21-28) tells of a typical day in Jesus’ ministry; in particular, it is the Sabbath, a day dedicated to repose and prayer: people went to the synagogue. In the synagogue of Capernaum, Jesus reads and comments on the Scriptures. Those present are attracted by His manner of speaking; their astonishment is great because He demonstrates an authority different to that of the scribes (v. 22). Furthermore, Jesus shows Himself to be powerful also in His deeds. Indeed, a man of the synagogue turns to Him, addressing Him as God’s Envoy: He recognises the evil spirit, orders him to leave that man, and so drives him out (vv. 23-26).
Two characteristic elements of Jesus’ work can be seen here: preaching, and the therapeutic action of healing: He preaches and heals. Both of these aspects stand out in the passage of the evangelist Mark, but preaching is emphasised the most; exorcism is presented as a confirmation of His singular “authority” and His teaching. Jesus preaches with His own authority, as someone who possesses a doctrine derived from Himself, and not like the scribes who repeated previous traditions and laws. They repeated words, words, words, only words: as the great singer Mina sang, [“Parole, parole, parole”]; that is how they were. Just words. Instead Jesus, His word has authority, Jesus is authoritative. And this touches the heart. Jesus' teaching has the same authority as God who speaks; for with a single command He easily frees the possessed man from the evil one, and heals him. Why? Because his word does what He says. Because He is the definitive prophet. But why do I say this, that He is the definitive prophet? Remember Moses’ promise: Moses says, “After me, long after, a prophet like me will come - like me! - who will teach you”. Moses proclaimed Jesus as the definitive prophet. The teaching of Jesus has the same authority as God who speaks, because he has the power to be the definitive prophet, that is, the Son of God who saves us, who heals us all.
The second aspect, healing, shows that Christ’s preaching is intended to defeat the evil present in humankind and the world. His word is pointedly directed at the kingdom of Satan: it puts him in crisis and makes him recoil, obliging him to leave the world. Touched by the Lord’s command, this possessed, obsessed man is freed and transformed into a new person. In addition, Jesus’ preaching conforms to a logic contrary to that of the world and of the evil one: His words reveal the upheaval of a mistaken ordering of things. In fact, the demon present in the possessed the man cries out as Jesus approaches: “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” (v. 24). These expressions indicate the total extraneousness between Jesus and Satan: they are on completely different planes; there is nothing in common between them; they are the opposite of each other. Jesus, authoritative, who attracts people by his authority, and also the prophet who liberates, the promised prophet who is the Son of God who heals. Let us listen to the words of Jesus, which are authoritative: always, do not forget! Carry a small copy of the Gospel in your pocket or in your bag, in order to read it during the day, to listen to that authoritative word of Jesus. And then, we all have our problems, we all have our sins, we all have spiritual malaises; ask Jesus: “Jesus, you are the prophet, the Son of God, He who was promised to us to heal us. Heal me!” Ask Jesus for healing, from our sins, from our ills.
The Virgin Mary always kept Jesus’ words and deeds in her heart, and followed Him with complete availability and faithfulness. May she help us too to listen to Him and follow Him, to experience the signs of His salvation in our lives.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
In today’s liturgy, the Gospel presents a scribe who approaches Jesus and asks him: “Which commandment is the first of all?” (Mk 12:28). Jesus responds by citing Scripture and confirms that the first commandment is to love God; from this one then derives the second, as a natural consequence: to love one’s neighbour as oneself (cf. vv. 29-31). Hearing this response, the scribe not only recognises that he is right, but in doing so, in recognising that he is right, he repeats the same words Jesus had said: “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that…to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself is more than a whole burnt offering and sacrifices” (vv. 32-33).
But, we can ask ourselves, in giving his assent, why did that scribe feel the need to repeat Jesus’ same words? This repetition seems to be more surprising if we think that this is the Gospel of Mark, who has a very concise style. So, what could this repetition mean? This repetition is a teaching for all of us who are listening. For the Word of the Lord cannot be received as any other type of news. The Word of the Lord must be repeated, made one’s own, safeguarded. The monastic tradition, of the monks, uses an audacious but very concrete term. It goes thus: the Word of God must be “ruminated”. “To ruminate” the Word of God. We could say that it is so nutritious that it must be ruminated in every aspect of life: to involve, as Jesus says today, the entire heart, the entire soul, the entire mind, all of our strength (cf. v. 30). The Word of the Lord must resound, echo and re-echo within us. When there is this interior echo that repeats itself, it means that the Lord dwells in the heart. And he says to us, just as he did to that excellent scribe in the Gospel: “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (v. 34).
Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord is not so much looking for skilled Scripture commentators, as he is looking for docile hearts which, welcoming his Word, allow themselves to be changed inside. This is why it is so important to be familiar with the Gospel, to always have it at hand – even a pocket-size Gospel in our pockets, in our purses to read and reread, to be passionate about it. When we do this, Jesus, the Word of the Father, enters into our hearts, he becomes intimate with us and we bear fruit in Him. Let’s take for example today’s Gospel: it is not enough to read it and understand that we need to love God and our neighbour. It is necessary that this commandment, which is the “great commandment”, resound in us, that it be assimilated, that it become the voice of our conscience. This way, it does not remain a dead letter, in the drawer of the heart, because the Holy Spirit makes the seed of that Word germinate in us. And the Word of God works, it is always in motion, it is alive and effective (cf. Heb 4:12). So each one of us can become a living, different and original “translation”, not a repetition but a living, different and original “translation” of the one Word of love that God gives us. This is what we see in the lives of the Saints for example. None of them is the same as another, they are all different, but with the same Word of God.
Today, therefore, let us take the example of this scribe. Let us repeat Jesus’ words, making them resound in us: “To love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength and my neighbour as myself”. And let us ask ourselves: does this commandment truly orient my life? Does this commandment resonate in my daily life? It would be good this evening, before going to sleep, to make an examination of conscience on this Word, to see if we have loved the Lord today and if we have done a little good to those we happened to meet. May every encounter bring about a little bit of good, a little bit of love that comes from this Word. May the Virgin Mary, in whom the Word of God was made flesh, teach us to welcome the living word of the Gospel in our hearts.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
In the Gospel of today's liturgy, we see Jesus beginning his preaching (cf. Lk 4:14-21): it is Jesus’ first sermon. He goes to Nazareth, where he grew up, and participates in prayer in the synagogue. He gets up to read and, in the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, he finds the passage regarding the Messiah, who proclaims a message of consolation and liberation for the poor and oppressed (cf. Is 61:1-2). At the end of the reading, “the eyes of all… were fixed on him” (v. 20). And Jesus begins by saying: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled” (v. 21). Let us dwell on this today. It is the first word of Jesus’ preaching recorded in the Gospel of Luke. Pronounced by the Lord, it indicates a “today” that runs through all ages and always remains valid. The Word of God is always “today”. It begins with a “today”: when you read the Word of God, a “today” begins in your soul, if you understand it well. Today. Isaiah’s prophecy dates back centuries, but Jesus, “in the power of the Spirit” (v. 14), makes it relevant and, above all, brings it to fulfilment, and shows how to receive the Word of God: today. It is not like ancient history, no: today. Today, it speaks to your heart.
Jesus' fellow countrymen are struck by his word. Although, clouded by prejudice, they do not believe him, they realize that his teaching is different from that of the other teachers (cf. v. 22): they sense that there is more to Jesus. What is there? There is the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it happens that our sermons and our teachings remain generic, abstract; they do not touch the soul and the life of the people. And why? Because they lack the power of this today; what Jesus “fills with meaning” by the power of the Spirit, is today. Today is speaking to you. Yes, at times one hears impeccable conferences, well-constructed speeches, but they do not move the heart and so everything remains as before. Even many homilies – I say it with respect but with pain – are abstract, and instead of awakening the soul, they put it to sleep. When the faithful start looking at their watches – “when is this going to end?” – they put the soul to sleep. Preaching runs this risk: without the anointing of the Spirit, it impoverishes the Word of God, and descends to moralism and abstract concepts; it presents the Gospel with detachment, as if it were outside time, far from reality. And this is not the way. But a word in which the power of today does not pulsate is not worthy of Jesus and does not help people’s lives. That is why those who preach, please, are the first to experience the today of Jesus, so as to be able to communicate it in the today of others. And if they want to give lectures, conferences, let them do so, but elsewhere, not at the time of the homily, where they must give the Word in a way that rouses hearts.
Dear brothers and sisters, on this Sunday of the Word of God I would like to thank the preachers and proclaimers of the Gospel who remain faithful to the Word that rouses the heart, who remain faithful to “today”. Let us pray for them, that they may live the today of Jesus, the sweet power of his Spirit that makes the Scriptures come alive. The Word of God, is indeed alive and effective (cf. Heb 4:12); it changes us, it enters into our affairs, it illuminates our daily lives, it comforts and brings order. Remember: the Word of God transforms an ordinary day into the today in which God speaks to us. So, let us pick up the Gospel and choose each day a small passage to read and re-read. Keep the Gospel in your pocket or your bag, to read it on your travels, at any moment, and read it calmly. In time we will discover that these words are made especially for us, for our life. They will help us to welcome each day with a better, more serene outlook, because when the Gospel enters into today’s world, it fills it with God. I would like to make a suggestion. On the Sundays of this liturgical year the Gospel of Luke, the Gospel of mercy, is proclaimed. Why not also read it personally, all of it, one small passage each day? A short passage. Let us familiarize ourselves with the Gospel, it will bring us the newness and joy of God!
The Word of God is also the beacon that guides the synodal journey that has begun throughout the Church. As we strive to listen to each other, with attention and discernment – because it is not a question of opinion, no, but of discerning the Word, there – let us listen together to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. And may Our Lady obtain for us the constancy to nourish ourselves with the Gospel every day.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
The Gospel of this Sunday’s Liturgy presents us with a lively domestic scene with Martha and Mary, two sisters who extend their hospitality to Jesus in their home (cf. Lk 10:38-42). Martha immediately sets about welcoming the guests, whereas Mary sits at Jesus’ feet to listen to him. Then Martha turns to the Master and asks him to tell Mary to help her. Martha’s complaint does not seem out of place; indeed, we would tend to agree with her. Yet Jesus answers her: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, but few things are needed. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (Lk 10:41-42). This is a surprising answer. But Jesus overturns our way of thinking many times. So, let us ask ourselves why the Lord, while appreciating Martha’s generous care, says that Mary's behaviour is to be preferred.
Martha’s “philosophy” seems to be this: first duty, then pleasure. In effect, hospitality is not composed of fine words, but demands that you put your hand to the stove, that everything necessary is done so the guest feels welcome. Jesus is well aware of this. And indeed, he acknowledges Martha’s effort. However, he wants to make her understand that there is a new order of priorities, different from the one she had followed until then. Mary had intuited that there is a “better part” that must be accorded first place. Everything else comes after, like a stream flowing from the source. And so we wonder: what is this “better part”? It is listening to Jesus’ words. The Gospel says Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to what he was saying” (v. 39). Note: she did not listen while standing, doing other things, but she sat at Jesus’ feet. She understood that he is not like other guests. At first sight it seems that he has come to receive, because he needs food and lodging, but in reality, the Master came to give himself to us through his word.
The word of Jesus is not abstract; it is a teaching that touches and shapes our life, changes it, frees it from the opaqueness of evil, satisfies and infuses it with a joy that does not pass: Jesus’ word is the better part, that Mary had chosen. Therefore, she gives it first place: she stops and listens. The rest will come after. This does not detract from the value of practical effort, but it must not precede, but rather flow from listening to the word of Jesus. It must be enlivened by his Spirit. Otherwise, it is reduced to fussing and fretting over many things, it is reduced to sterile activism.
Brothers and sisters, let us take advantage of this summer vacation time to stop and listen to Jesus. Nowadays it is increasingly difficult to find free time to meditate. For many people the rhythm of life is frenetic and wearisome. Summertime can be valuable also for opening the Gospel and reading it slowly, without haste, a passage each day, a short passage from the Gospel. And this lets us enter into this dynamic of Jesus. Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by those pages, asking ourselves how our life, my life, is going, if it is in line with what Jesus says, or not so much. In particular, let us ask ourselves: When I start my day, do I throw myself headlong into the things to be done, or do I first seek inspiration in the Word of God? At times we begin the day automatically, we start doing things … like hens. No, We must start the day by first of all looking to the Lord, taking his Word, briefly, but let this be the inspiration for the day. If we leave the house in the morning keeping a word of Jesus in mind, the day will surely acquire a tone marked by that word, which has the power to orient our actions according to the wishes of the Lord.
May the Virgin Mary teach us to choose the better part, which will never be taken from us.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
The Gospel from today’s Liturgy concludes with a troubling question posed by Jesus: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk 18:8) It’s almost like he was saying, “When I come again at the end of time” – or we could also think, even now, at this time of life – “will I find a bit of faith in you, in your world?” This is a serious question. Let us imagine that the Lord came today on earth. Unfortunately, he would see many wars, much poverty and many inequalities. At the same time, he would see tremendous technical conquests, modern means, and people who are always running, who never stop. But would he find someone who dedicates time and affection to him, someone who would put him in first place? Above all, let us ask ourselves, “What would he find in me, if the Lord were to come today, what would he find in me, in my life, in my heart? What priorities would he see in my life?”
We often focus on so many urgent but unnecessary things. We occupy and preoccupy ourselves with so many secondary realities. And perhaps without even recognizing it, we neglect what counts the most and we allow our love for God to grow cold, to grow cold bit by bit. Today, Jesus offers us the remedy to rekindle a tepid faith. And what is the remedy? Prayer. Yes, prayer is the medicine for faith, it is the restorative of the soul. It needs to be constant prayer, however. If we must undergo treatment to get better, it is important to follow the treatment plan well, to take the medicine faithfully and regularly in the right way and at the right times. This is necessary in all of life. Let us think of a houseplant: we need to water it consistently every day. We cannot soak it and then leave it without giving it water for a week! Even more so with prayer. We cannot live only on strong moments of prayer or occasional intense encounters, and then “go into hibernation”. Our faith would dry up. We need the daily water of prayer, we need time dedicated to God, so that he can enter into our time, into our lives; we need consistent moments in which we open our hearts to him so that he can daily pour out on us love, peace, joy, strength, hope, thus nourishing our faith.
This is why Jesus tells his disciples – to everyone, not only to some! – “that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (v. 1). Now someone might object: “But, how can I do that? I don’t live in a convent. I don’t have much time to pray!” Perhaps a wise spiritual practice for this real difficulty that the elderly, especially our grandparents, know well can come to our aid, which is a bit forgotten today. These are so-called aspirations. The name is a bit outdated, but the substance is good. What are they? They are very short, easy to memorize prayers that can be repeated often throughout the day, in the course of various activities, to remain “in tune” with the Lord. For example, as soon as we awaken, we can say: “Lord, I thank you and I offer this day to you”. This is a short prayer. Then, before an activity, we can repeat, “Come, Holy Spirit”. Between one thing and another, we can pray thus, “Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, I love you”. Really short prayers that help us stay in contact with the Lord. How often we send instant messages to the people we love! Let’s do this with the Lord as well so that our hearts remain connected to him. And let’s not forget to read his responses. The Lord always responds. Where do we find them? In the Gospel which should always be kept at hand and should be opened several times every day, to receive a Word of life directed to us.
And let’s go back to the advice I have given many times – carry a pocket-size Gospel in your pocket in your purse. And when you have a minute, open it and read something, and the Lord will respond.
May the Virgin Mary, faithful listener, teach us the art of praying always, without losing heart.