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
Jesus reprimands these two Apostles, James and John, because in a Samaritan village “they wanted fire to come down from heaven upon those who did not want to receive him”. The two apostles, felt that to close the door on Jesus was a great offense, and that these people needed to be punished. But “the Lord turned and rebuked them: this is not our spirit. In fact, The Lord always goes ahead, making the way of a Christian known to us. It is not... a path of revenge. The Christian spirit is something else, the Lord says. It is the spirit that he showed us in the strongest moment of his life, in his passion: a spirit of humility, a spirit of meekness.
And today, on the anniversary of St Therese of the Child Jesus, it is good for us to think of this spirit of humility, tenderness and goodness. We all want this meek spirit of the Lord. Where is the strength that brings us to this spirit? It is truly in love, in charity, in the awareness that we are in the hands of the Father. As we read at the beginning of Mass: the Lord carries us, he carries us on, he keeps us going. He is with us and he guides us.
Pope Francis recalled the strength of St Therese of the Child Jesus and her importance to the present day: “The Church has made this Saint — who was humble, small, confident in God, and meek — the Patroness of the missions. You don't understand this. The power of the Gospel is right there, because the Gospel reaches its highest point in the humiliation of Jesus... the strength of the Gospel is humility. The humility of a child who is guided by the love and tenderness of the Father”.
“The Church, as Benedict XVI has told us, grows by attraction, by witness. And when people, when peoples see this witness of humility, of meekness and docility, they feel the need” which the prophet Zechariah spoke of, saying: 'Let us go with you'. Faced with the witness of charity, people feel this need.... Charity is simple: worshiping God and serving others. This is the witness that makes the Church grow. “Precisely for this reason”, Pope Francis concluded, St Therese of the Child Jesus, who was “so humble and so trusting in God, has been named Patroness of the missions, because her example makes people say: we want to come with you.
One time, the disciples of Jesus were eating grain because they were hungry; but it was Saturday and on Saturday grain was not allowed to be eaten. Still, they picked it [rubbing his hands together] and ate the grain. And they [the Pharisees] said: “But look at what they are doing! Whoever does this breaks the Law and soils his soul, for he does not obey the Law!”. And Jesus responded: “nothing that comes from without soils the soul. Only what comes from within, from your heart, can soil your soul”. And I believe that it it would do us good today to think not about whether my soul is clean or dirty, but rather about what is in my heart, what do I have inside, what I know I have but no one else knows.
Being honest with yourself is not easy! Because we always try to cover it up when we see something wrong inside, no? So that it doesn’t come out, don’t we? What is in our heart: is it love? Let us think: do I love my parents, my children, my wife, my husband, people in the neighbourhood, the sick?... Do I love? Is there hate? Do I hate someone? Often we find hatred, don’t we? “I love everyone except for this one, this one and that one!”. That’s hatred, isn’t it? What is in my heart, forgiveness? Is there an attitude of forgiveness for those who have offended me, or is there an attitude of revenge — “he will pay for it!”. We must ask ourselves what is within, because what is inside comes out and harms, if it is evil; and if it is good, it comes out and does good. And it is so beautiful to tell ourselves the truth, and feel ashamed when we are in a situation that is not what God wants, it is not good; when my heart feels hatred, revenge, so many situations are sinful. How is my heart?...
Jesus said today, for example — I will give only one example: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘you shall not kill’. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother has killed him in his heart”. And whoever insults his brother, kills him in his heart, whoever hates his brother, kills his brother in his heart; whoever gossips against his brother, kills him in his heart. Maybe we are not conscious of it, and then we talk, “we write off” this person or that, we speak ill of this or that ... And this is killing our brother.
That is why it is important to know what is inside, what is happening in my heart. If one understands his brother, the people, he loves his brother, because he forgives: he understands, he forgives, he is patient.... Is this love or hate? We must be sure of this.
And we must ask the Lord for two graces. The first: to know what is in our own heart, not to deceive ourselves, not to live in deceit. The second grace: to do what is good in our hearts and not to do the evil that is in our hearts.
And as for “killing”, remember that words can kill. Even ill-will toward another kills. Often, when we listen to people talking, saying evil things about others, it seems like the sin of slander. The sin of defamation had been removed from the Ten Commandments and yet to speak evil of a person is still a sin. Why is speaking ill of another a sin? Because there is hatred in my heart, aversion, not love.
We must always ask for this grace: to know what is happening in our heart, to constantly make the right choice, the choice for good. And that the Lord help us to love one another. And if I cannot love another well, why not? Pray for that person, pray that the Lord make me love him. And like this we move forward, remembering that what taints our lives is the evil that comes from our hearts. And that the Lord can help us.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mt 5:38-48) — one of the passages that best illustrates Christian “revolution” — Jesus shows us the way of true justice through the law of love which is greater than the law of retaliation, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. This ancient law imposed the infliction on wrongdoers of a punishment equivalent to the damage they caused: death for those who killed, amputation for those who injured, and so on. Jesus does not ask his disciples to abide evil, but asks them to react; however, not with another evil action, but with good. This is the only way to break the chain of evil: one evil leads to another which leads to another evil.... This chain of evil is broken and things truly begin to change. Evil is, in fact, a “void”, a void of good. It is not possible to fill a void, except with “fullness”, that is, good. Revenge never leads to conflict resolution. “You did this to me, I will do it back to you”: this never resolves conflict, nor is it even Christian.
According to Jesus, the rejection of violence can also involve the sacrifice of a legitimate right. He gives a few examples of this: turn the other cheek, give up your coat or money, accept other sacrifices (v. 39-42). But such sacrifice does not mean that the demands of justice should be ignored or contradicted. No, on the contrary, Christian love, which manifests itself in a special way in mercy, is an achievement superior to justice. What Jesus wants to teach us is the clear distinction that we must make between justice and revenge. Distinguishing between justice and revenge. Revenge is never just. We are permitted to ask for justice. It is our duty to exercise justice. We are, however, not permitted to avenge ourselves or, in any way foment revenge, as it is an expression of hatred and violence.
Jesus does not wish to propose a new system of civil law, but rather the commandment to love thy neighbour, which also includes loving enemies: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. (v. 44) And this is not easy. These words should not be seen as an approval of evil carried out by an enemy, but as an invitation to a loftier perspective, a magnanimous perspective, similar to that of the Heavenly Father, who, Jesus says, “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust”. (v. 45). An enemy, in fact, is also a human being, created as such in God’s image, despite the fact that in the present, that image may be tarnished by shameful behaviour.
When we speak of “enemies”, we should not think about people who are different or far removed from us; let us also talk about ourselves, as we may come into conflict with our neighbour, at times with our relatives. How many hostilities exist within families — how many! Let us think about this. Enemies are also those who speak ill of us, who defame us and do us harm. It is not easy to digest this. We are called to respond to each of them with good, which also has strategies inspired by love.
May the Virgin Mary help us follow Jesus on this demanding path, which truly exalts human dignity and lets us live as children of our Father who art in Heaven. May she help us exercise patience, dialogue, forgiveness, and to be artisans of communion, artisans of fraternity in our daily life, and above all in our families.
“While he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Lk 15:20).
Here the Gospel takes us to the heart of the parable, showing the father’s response at seeing the return of his son. Deeply moved, he runs out to meet him before he can even reach home. A son long awaited. A father rejoicing to see him return.
That was not the only time the father ran. His joy would not be complete without the presence of his other son. He then sets out to find him and invites him to join in the festivities (cf. v. 28). But the older son appeared upset by the homecoming celebration. He found his father’s joy hard to take; he did not acknowledge the return of his brother: “that son of yours”, he calls him (v. 30). For him, his brother was still lost, because he had already lost him in his heart.
By his unwillingness to take part in the celebration, the older son fails not only to recognize his brother, but his father as well. He would rather be an orphan than a brother. He prefers isolation to encounter, bitterness to rejoicing. Not only is he unable to understand or forgive his brother, he cannot accept a father capable of forgiving, willing to wait patiently, to trust and to keep looking, lest anyone be left out. In a word, a father capable of compassion.
At the threshold of that home, something of the mystery of our humanity appears. On the one hand, celebration for the son who was lost and is found; on the other, a feeling of betrayal and indignation at the celebrations marking his return. On the one hand, the welcome given to the son who had experienced misery and pain, even to the point of yearning to eat the husks thrown to the swine; on the other, irritation and anger at the embrace given to one who had proved himself so unworthy.
What we see here yet again is the tension we experience in our societies and in our communities, and even in our own hearts. A tension deep within us ever since the time of Cain and Abel. We are called to confront it and see it for what it is. For we too ask: “Who has the right to stay among us, to take a place at our tables and in our meetings, in our activities and concerns, in our squares and our cities?” The murderous question seems constantly to return: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (cf. Gen 4:9).
At the threshold of that home, we can see our own divisions and strife, the aggressiveness and conflicts that always lurk at the door of our high ideals, our efforts to build a society of fraternity, where each person can experience even now the dignity of being a son or daughter.
Yet at the threshold of that home, we will also see in all its radiant clarity, with no ifs and buts, the father’s desire that all his sons and daughters should share in his joy. That no one should have to live in inhuman conditions, as his younger son did, or as orphaned, aloof and bitter like the older son. His heart wants all men and women to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4).
It is true that many situations can foment division and strife, while others can bring us to confrontation and antagonism. It cannot be denied. Often we are tempted to believe that hatred and revenge are legitimate ways of ensuring quick and effective justice. Yet experience tells us that hatred, division and revenge succeed only in killing our peoples’ soul, poisoning our children’s hopes, and destroying and sweeping away everything we cherish.
Jesus invites us, then, to stop and contemplate the heart of our Father. Only from that perspective can we acknowledge once more that we are brothers and sisters. Only against that vast horizon can we transcend our short-sighted and divisive ways of thinking, and see things in a way that does not downplay our differences in the name of a forced unity or a quiet marginalization. Only if we can raise our eyes to heaven each day and say “Our Father”, will we be able to be part of a process that can make us see things clearly and risk living no longer as enemies but as brothers and sisters.
“All that is mine is yours” (Lk 15:31), says the father to his older son. He is not speaking so much about material wealth, as about sharing in his own love and own compassion. This is the greatest legacy and wealth of a Christian. Instead of measuring ourselves or classifying ourselves according to different moral, social, ethnic or religious criteria, we should be able to recognize that another criterion exists, one that no one can take away or destroy because it is pure gift. It is the realization that we are beloved sons and daughters, whom the Father awaits and celebrates.
“All that is mine is yours”, says the Father, including my capacity for compassion. Let us not fall into the temptation of reducing the fact that we are his children to a question of rules and regulations, duties and observances. Our identity and our mission will not arise from forms of voluntarism, legalism, relativism or fundamentalism, but rather from being believers who daily beg with humility and perseverance: “May your Kingdom come!”
The Gospel parable leaves us with an open ending. We see the father asking the older son to come in and share in the celebration of mercy. The Gospel writer says nothing about what the son decided. Did he join the party? We can imagine that this open ending is meant to be written by each individual and every community. We can complete it by the way we live, the way we regard others, and how we treat our neighbour. The Christian knows that in the Father’s house there are many rooms: the only ones who remain outside are those who choose not to share in his joy.
Dear brothers and dear sisters, I want to thank you for the way in which you bear witness to the Gospel of mercy in this land. Thank you for your efforts to make each of your communities an oasis of mercy. I encourage you to continue to let the culture of mercy grow, a culture in which no one looks at others with indifference, or averts his eyes in the face of their suffering (cf. Misericordia et Misera, 20). Keep close to the little ones and the poor, and to all those who are rejected, abandoned and ignored. Continue to be a sign of the Father’s loving embrace.
May the Merciful and Compassionate One – as our Muslim brothers and sisters frequently invoke him – strengthen you and make your works of love ever more fruitful.
Jesus quotes the ancient law: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Mt 5:38; Ex 21:24). We know what that law meant: when someone takes something from you, you are to take the same thing from him. This law of retaliation was actually a sign of progress, since it prevented excessive retaliation. If someone harms you, then you can repay him or her in the same degree; you cannot do something worse. Ending the matter there, in a fair exchange, was a step forward.
But Jesus goes far beyond this: “But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil” (Mt 5:39). But how, Lord? If someone thinks badly of me, if someone hurts me, why can I not repay him with the same currency? “No”, says Jesus. Nonviolence. No act of violence.
We might think that Jesus’ teaching is a part of a plan; in the end, the wicked will desist. But that is not why Jesus asks us to love even those who do us harm. What, then, is the reason? It is that the Father, our Father, continues to love everyone, even when his love is not reciprocated. The Father “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (v. 45). In today’s first reading, he tells us: “You shall be holy; for I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Lev 19:2). In other words: “Live like me, seek the things that I seek”. And that is precisely what Jesus did. He did not point a finger at those who wrongfully condemned him and put him to a cruel death, but opened his arms to them on the cross. And he forgave those who drove the nails into his wrists (cf. Lk 23:33-34).
If we want to be disciples of Christ, if we want to call ourselves Christians, this is the only way; there is no other. Having been loved by God, we are called to love in return; having been forgiven, we are called to forgive; having been touched by love, we are called to love without waiting for others to love first; having been saved graciously, we are called to seek no benefit from the good we do. You may well say: “But Jesus goes too far! He even says: “Love your enemies and pray for those who they persecute you” (Mt 5:44). Surely he speaks like this to gain people’s attention, but he cannot really mean it”. But he really does. Here Jesus is not speaking in paradoxes or using nice turns of phrase. He is direct and clear. He quotes the ancient law and solemnly tells us: “But I say to you: love your enemies”. His words are deliberate and precise.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. This is the Christian innovation. It is the Christian difference. Pray and love: this is what we must do; and not only with regard to those who love us, not only with regard to our friends or our own people. The love of Jesus knows no boundaries or barriers. The Lord demands of us the courage to have a love that does not count the cost. Because the measure of Jesus is love without measure. How many times have we neglected that demand, behaving like everyone else! Yet his commandment of love is not simply a challenge; it is the very heart of the Gospel. Where the command of universal love is concerned, let us not accept excuses or preach prudent caution. The Lord was not cautious; he did not yield to compromises. He asks of us the extremism of charity. This is the only legitimate kind of Christian extremism: the extremism of love.
Love your enemies. We do well today, at Mass and afterwards, to repeat these words to ourselves and apply them to those who treat us badly, who annoy us, whom we find hard to accept, who trouble our serenity. Love your enemies. We also do well to ask ourselves: “What am I really concerned about in this life? About my enemies, or about those who dislike me? Or about loving?” Do not worry about the malice of others. about those who think ill of you. Instead, begin to disarm your heart out of love for Jesus. For those who love God have no enemies in their hearts.
The worship of God is contrary to the culture of hatred. And the culture of hatred is fought by combatting the cult of complaint. How many times do we complain about the things that we lack, about the things that go wrong! Jesus knows about all the things that don’t work. He knows that there is always going to be someone who dislikes us. Or someone who makes our life miserable. All he asks us to do is pray and love. This is the revolution of Jesus, the greatest revolution in history: from hating our enemy to loving our enemy; from the cult of complaint to the culture of gift. If we belong to Jesus, this is the road we are called to take! There is no other.
True enough, you can object: “I understand the grandeur of the ideal, but that is not how life really is! If I love and forgive, I will not survive in this world, where the logic of power prevails and people seem to be concerned only with themselves”. So is Jesus’ logic, his way of seeing things, the logic of losers? In the eyes of the world, it is, but in the eyes of God it is the logic of winners. As Saint Paul told us in the second reading: “Let no one deceive himself... For the wisdom of this world is folly with God” (1 Cor 3:18-19). God sees what we cannot see. He knows how to win. He knows that evil can only be conquered by goodness. That is how he saved us: not by the sword, but by the cross. To love and forgive is to live as a conqueror. We will lose if we defend the faith by force.
The Lord would repeat to us the words he addressed to Peter in Gethsemane: “Put your sword into its sheath” (Jn 18:11). In the Gethsemanes of today, in our indifferent and unjust world that seems to testify to the agony of hope, a Christian cannot be like those disciples who first took up the sword and later fled. No, the solution is not to draw our sword against others, or to flee from the times in which we live. The solution is the way of Jesus: active love, humble love, love “to the end” (Jn 13:1).
Dear brothers and sisters, today Jesus, with his limitless love, raises the bar of our humanity. In the end, we can ask ourselves: “Will we be able to make it?” If the goal were impossible, the Lord would not have asked us to strive for it. By our own effort, it is difficult to achieve; it is a grace and it needs to be implored. Ask God for the strength to love. Say to him: “Lord, help me to love, teach me to forgive. I cannot do it alone, I need you”. But we also have to ask for the grace to be able to see others not as hindrances and complications, but as brothers and sisters to be loved. How often we pray for help and favours for ourselves, yet how seldom do we pray to learn how to love! We need to pray more frequently for the grace to live the essence of the Gospel, to be truly Christian. For “in the evening of life, we will be judged on love” (Saint John of the Cross, Sayings of Light and Love, 57).
Today let us choose love, whatever the cost, even if it means going against the tide. Let us not yield to the thinking of this world, or content ourselves with half measures. Let us accept the challenge of Jesus, the challenge of charity. Then we will be true Christians and our world will be more human.