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
Abide in the Lord, the Christian, man or woman, is one who abides in the Lord. But what does this mean? Many things.
The Christian who abides in the Lord knows what is happening in his heart. That is why the Apostle says: ‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits’; know how to discern the spirits, to discern what you are feeling, what you are thinking, what you want, and whether it is truly to abide in the Lord or something else which distances you from the Lord. Our hearts always have desires, wants, thoughts: but are all of these from the Lord? That is why the Apostle says: test what you are thinking, what you are feeling, what you want... If it is in line with the Lord alright; but if not....
It is then necessary to test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. Not only can the prophets be false, but also their prophecies and suggestions. That is why we always need to be watchful. Indeed a Christian is precisely a man or woman who knows how to watch his or her heart.
A heart in which many things come and go is like a local market where you find everything. This is precisely the reason why the constant work of discernment is so needed, in order to understand what is truly of the Lord. But how do I know that something is of Christ? The Apostle John indicates the criteria we should follow. 'Every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already'.
It is so simple: if what you desire, or what you think travels down the road of the Incarnation of the Word, of the Lord who comes in the flesh, it means that it is of God. However, if it does not travel by that road, then it does not come from God. Essentially, it is a matter of recognizing the road travelled by God, who emptied himself, who humbled himself unto death on the Cross. Self abasement, humility and also humiliation: this is the way of road of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, if a thought or a desire leads you on the road of humility, of self-abasement and of service to others, it is of Jesus; but if it leads you on the road of self-importance, of vanity and of pride, or on the road of abstract thought, it is not of Jesus. The temptations Jesus underwent in the desert attest to this. All three of the devil's temptations to Jesus were suggestions aimed at distancing Jesus from this path, from the path of service, from humility, from humiliation, from the act of love he made by his life.
Let us think about this today. It will do us good. First: what is going on in my heart? What am I thinking? What am I feeling? Do I pay attention to what comes and goes or do I let it go? Do I know what I want? Do I test what I desire? Or do I simply take everything? Beloved, do not believe every spirit; but test the spirits. Often our hearts are like a road that everyone takes. This is precisely why we need to test and ask ourselves if we always choose the things that come from God, if we know what comes from God, if we know the right criteria by which we should discern our desires and our thoughts. And, we must never forget that the true criteria is the Incarnation of God.
A disciple of the Lord, is called to set out on a journey that is not a "stroll" but a mission to proclaim the Gospel and spread the good news of Salvation. And this is the task that Jesus gives to his disciples. One who “stands still and doesn’t go out, doesn’t give to others what he received in Baptism, is not a true disciple of Jesus”. Indeed, “he lacks the missionary spirit”, and doesn’t “go out of himself to bring something good to others”.
There is another pathway for the disciple of Jesus: the inner journey, the path within, the path of the disciple who seeks the Lord every day, through prayer, in meditation.
This is not secondary, a disciple must also take this journey because if the disciple does not continuously seek God in this way, the Gospel that is taken to others will be weak, watered down – a Gospel with no strength.
Thus it is a “twofold journey that Jesus wants from his disciples”. One has to walk in order to serve others.
The Gospel reads: “preach as you go, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons”. Here we find again the “disciple’s duty: to serve”.
A disciple who doesn’t serve others is not a Christian.
Every disciple’s point of reference should be what “Jesus preached in those two columns of Christianity: the Beatitudes and the the ‘protocol’ by which we will be judged”, namely that indicated by Matthew in Chapter 25. This is the “framework” of “evangelical service”. There are no loopholes: “If a disciple does not walk in order to serve, his walking is of no use. If his life is not in service, his life is of no use, as a Christian”.
In this very aspect the “temptation of selfishness” can be seen in many people. There are indeed those who say: “Yes, I’m a Christian, I’m at peace, I confess, I go to Mass, I follow the Commandments”. But where is the service to others? Where, is “the service to Jesus in the sick, in the imprisoned, in the hungry, those with no shirt on their back". Jesus wants this of us because He is to be found in them: “Service to Christ in others."
There is also great meaning in the third word inferred from this passage, which is “gratuitous”. Walk, in service, without pay. The passage reads "Freely you have received, freely you must give." A detail so fundamental that the Lord stated it clearly, just in case “the disciples didn’t understand”. He explained to them: “Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics”. In other words, the journey of service is free, because we have received salvation for free. None of us “bought salvation, none of us has earned it”: it is ours purely by the “grace of the Father in Jesus Christ, in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ”.
It’s sad when we see Christians who forget these words of Jesus: ‘Freely you have received, freely give'”. And it’s sad when those who forget are Christian communities, parishes, religious congregations or dioceses. When this happens, it is because in the background “there is the mistake” of assuming “that salvation comes from riches, from human power”.
Three words. Walk, but walk” in order “to proclaim. Service: the life of a Christian is not for himself; it is for others, as Jesus’ life was. And third, “gratuitous”.
This, is how we can place our hope back in Jesus, who “thus sends us a hope which never disappoints”. On the other hand, “when hope is in being comfortable on the journey” or when “hope is in selfishly seeking things for oneself” and not in serving others, or when hope is in riches or in small worldly assurances, all of this caves in. The Lord himself crushes it.
Let us make this journey toward God with Jesus on the altar, in order to then walk toward others in service and in poverty, with only the riches of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus himself gave us.
Jesus asks his disciples an apparently indiscreet question: “What were you discussing along the way?” It is a question which he could also ask each of us today: “What do you talk about every day?” “What are your aspirations?” The Gospel tells us that the disciples “did not answer because on the way they had been arguing about who was the most important”. They were ashamed to tell Jesus what they were talking about. Like the disciples then, today we too can be caught up in these same arguments: who is the most important?
Jesus does not press the question. He does not force them to tell him what they were talking about on the way. But the question lingers, not only in the minds of the disciples, but also in their hearts.
Who is the most important? This is a life-long question to which, at different times, we must give an answer. We cannot escape the question; it is written on our hearts. I remember more than once, at family gatherings, children being asked: “Who do you love more, Mommy or Daddy”? It’s like asking them: “Who is the most important for you?” But is this only a game we play with children? The history of humanity has been marked by the answer we give to this question.
Jesus is not afraid of people’s questions; he is not afraid of our humanity or the different things we are looking for. On the contrary, he knows the depths of the human heart, and, as a good teacher, he is always ready to encourage and support us. As usual, he takes up our searching, our aspirations, and he gives them a new horizon. As usual, he somehow finds an the answer which can pose a new challenge, setting aside the “right answers”, the standard replies we are expected to give. As usual, Jesus sets before us the “logic” of love. A mindset, an approach to life, which is capable of being lived out by all, because it is meant for all.
Far from any kind of elitism, the horizon to which Jesus points us is not for those few privileged souls capable of attaining the heights of knowledge or different levels of spirituality. The horizon to which Jesus points us always has to do with daily life, also here on “our island”, something which can season our daily lives with eternity.
Who is the most important? Jesus is straightforward in his reply: “Whoever wishes to be the first – the most important – among you must be the last of all, and the servant of all”. Whoever wishes to be great must serve others, not be served by others.
This is the great paradox of Jesus. The disciples were arguing about who would have the highest place, who would be chosen for privileges – they were the disciples, those closest to Jesus, and they were arguing about that! –, who would be above the common law, the general norm, in order to stand out in the quest for superiority over others. Who would climb the ladder most quickly to take the jobs which carry certain benefits.
Jesus upsets their “logic”, their mindset, simply by telling them that life is lived authentically in a concrete commitment to our neighbour. That is, by serving.
The call to serve involves something special, to which we must be attentive. Serving means caring for their vulnerability. Caring for the vulnerable of our families, our society, our people. Theirs are the suffering, fragile and downcast faces which Jesus tells us specifically to look at and which he asks us to love. With a love which takes shape in our actions and decisions. With a love which finds expression in whatever tasks we, as citizens, are called to perform. It is people of flesh and blood, people with individual lives and stories, and with all their frailty, that Jesus asks us to protect, to care for and to serve. Being a Christian entails promoting the dignity of our brothers and sisters, fighting for it, living for it. That is why Christians are constantly called to set aside their own wishes and desires, their pursuit of power, before the concrete gaze of those who are most vulnerable.
There is a kind of “service” which serves others, yet we need to be careful not to be tempted by another kind of service, one which is “self-serving” with regard to others. There is a way to go about serving which is interested in only helping “my people”, “our people”. This service always leaves “your people” outside, and gives rise to a process of exclusion.
All of us are called by virtue of our Christian vocation to that service which truly serves, and to help one another not to be tempted by a “service” which is really “self-serving”. All of us are asked, indeed urged, by Jesus to care for one another out of love. Without looking to one side or the other to see what our neighbour is doing or not doing. Jesus says: Whoever would be first among you must be the last, and the servant of all”. That person will be the first. Jesus does not say: if your neighbour wants to be first, let him be the servant! We have to be careful to avoid judgmental looks and renew our belief in the transforming look to which Jesus invites us.
This caring for others out of love is not about being servile. Rather, it means putting the question of our brothers and sisters at the centre. Service always looks to their faces, touches their flesh, senses their closeness and even, in some cases, “suffers” that closeness and tries to help them. Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people.
God’s holy and faithful people in Cuba is a people with a taste for celebrations, for friendship, for beautiful things. It is a people which marches with songs of praise. It is a people which has its wounds, like every other people, yet knows how to stand up with open arms, to keep walking in hope, because it has a vocation of grandeur. These were the seeds sown by your forebears. Today I ask you to care for this vocation of yours, to care for these gifts which God has given you, but above all I invite you to care for and be at the service of the frailty of your brothers and sisters. Do not neglect them for plans which can be seductive, but are unconcerned about the face of the person beside you. We know, we are witnesses of the incomparable power of the resurrection, which “everywhere calls forth the seeds of a new world” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 276, 278).
Let us not forget the Good News we have heard today: the importance of a people, a nation, and the importance of individuals, which is always based on how they seek to serve their vulnerable brothers and sisters. Here we encounter one of the fruits of a true humanity.
Because, dear brothers and sisters: “whoever does not live to serve, does not ‘serve’ to live”.
John writes that all who keep his commandments ‘abide’ in God, and God in them. This ‘abiding’ in God is like the breath and the manner of Christian life. Thus we can say that “a Christian is one who abides in God”. John also writes in his letter: “by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us”. Therefore, a Christian is one who ‘has’ the Holy Spirit and is guided by God. We abide in God and God abides in us by the Spirit which he has given us. Then the problem comes. Be mindful, ‘do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God’. This is precisely the rule for daily life which John teaches us.
Therefore, we should “test the spirits”, but what does it mean to test the spirits? It seems as if they are ghosts.... However, that is not the case, because John tells us to “test the spirits in order to gauge where they come from: to gauge the spirit, what is happening in my heart”. Thus, “it leads us there, to the heart”, to ask ourselves “what is happening, what do I feel in my heart, what do I want to do? The root of what is happening now, where does it come from?”.
This, is testing in order to ‘gauge’. Indeed, the verb ‘gauge’ is the most appropriate verb to truly determine “whether what I feel comes from God, from the spirit that enables me to abide in God, or if it comes from the other one”. Who is the other one: “the antichrist”. After all John’s reasoning is simple, direct, I would say circular, because it turns on the same topic: either you are of Jesus or you are of the world. John also takes up what Jesus, too, asked of the Father for all of us: not to take us from the world, but to protect us from the world. Because worldliness is the spirit which distances us from the Spirit of God that enables us to abide in the Lord.
Okay Father, yes it is all clear, but what are the criteria to truly discern what is happening in my soul? John offers only one criterion, and he presents it in these words: ‘By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit’ — every emotion, every inspiration that I feel — ‘which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God’.
In other words, the criterion is that Jesus has come in the flesh, the criterion is the incarnation. This means that I can feel many things inside, even good things, good ideas, but if these good ideas, if these feelings do not lead me to God who has come in the flesh, if they do not lead me to my neighbour, to my brother, then they are not of God. This is why John begins this passage of his letter by saying: ‘this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another’.
We can make many pastoral plans, conceive of new methods for drawing people close, but if we don’t take the path of God who has come in the flesh, of the Son of God who became man in order to walk with us, then we are not on the path of the good spirit. Instead what prevails is the antichrist, worldliness, the spirit of the world.
Yes, how many people do we find in life who seem spiritual, but who do not speak of doing works of mercy? Yet why is this? Because the works of mercy are precisely the concrete sign of our confession that the Son of God has come in the flesh: visiting the sick, feeding those who do not have food, taking care of outcast. We must perform “works of mercy”, therefore, because each of our brothers and sisters, whom we must love, is the flesh of Christ: God has come in the flesh to identify himself with us and, and one who suffers is Christ who suffers.
Hence, if you take this path, if you feel this, you are on the right path because this is the criterion of discernment, so as not to confuse feelings, spirits, so as not to go down a path that isn’t right.
Returning then to the words of John: ‘do not believe every spirit’ — be mindful — ‘but test the spirits to see whether they are of God’. For this reason, “service to the neighbour, brother, sister who is in need — there are so many needs — of advice or of a listening ear: these are signs that we are on the path of the good spirit, that is, on the path of the Word of God who has come in the flesh”.
Ask the Lord for the grace to be well aware of what is happening in our hearts, what we prefer doing, that is to say, what touches me most: whether it is the Spirit of God, which leads me to the service of others, or the spirit of the world that roams within me, in my closure, in my selfishness, in so many other things. Yes, let us ask for the grace to know what is happening in our hearts.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In the text of today’s Gospel (Lk 12:32-48), Jesus speaks to his disciples about the attitude to assume in view of the final encounter with him, and explains that the expectation of this encounter should impel us to live a life full of good works. Among other things he says: “Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys” (v. 33). It is a call to give importance to almsgiving as a work of mercy, not to place trust in ephemeral goods, to use things without attachment and selfishness, but according to God’s logic, the logic of attention to others, the logic of love. We can be so attached to money, and have many things, but in the end we cannot take them with us. Remember that “the shroud has no pockets”.
Jesus’ lesson continues with three short parables on the theme of vigilance. This is important: vigilance, being alert, being vigilant in life. The first is the parable of the servants waiting for their master to return at night. “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes” (v. 37): it is the beatitude of faithfully awaiting the Lord, of being ready, with an attitude of service. He presents himself each day, knocks at the door of our heart. Those who open it will be blessed, because they will have a great reward: indeed, the Lord will make himself a servant to his servants — it is a beautiful reward — in the great banquet of his Kingdom He himself will serve them. With this parable, set at night, Jesus proposes life as a vigil of diligent expectation, which heralds the bright day of eternity. To be able to enter one must be ready, awake and committed to serving others, from the comforting perspective that, “beyond”, it will no longer be we who serve God, but He himself who will welcome us to his table. If you think about it, this already happens today each time we meet the Lord in prayer, or in serving the poor, and above all in the Eucharist, where he prepares a banquet to nourish us of his Word and of his Body.
The second parable describes the unexpected arrival of the thief. This fact requires vigilance; indeed, Jesus exhorts: “You also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (v. 40).
The disciple is one who awaits the Lord and his Kingdom. The Gospel clarifies this perspective with the third parable: the steward of a house after the master’s departure. In the first scene, the steward faithfully carries out his tasks and receives compensation. In the second scene, the steward abuses his authority, and beats the servants, for which, upon the master’s unexpected return, he will be punished. This scene describes a situation that is also frequent in our time: so much daily injustice, violence and cruelty are born from the idea of behaving as masters of the lives of others. We have only one master who likes to be called not “master” but “Father”. We are all servants, sinners and children: He is the one Father.
Jesus reminds us today that the expectation of the eternal beatitude does not relieve us of the duty to render the world more just and more liveable. On the contrary, this very hope of ours of possessing the eternal Kingdom impels us to work to improve the conditions of earthly life, especially of our weakest brothers and sisters. May the Virgin Mary help us not to be people and communities dulled by the present, or worse, nostalgic for the past, but striving toward the future of God, toward the encounter with him, our life and our hope.
The readings for the Memorial of St Barnabas (Acts 11:21-26; 12: 1-3 and Matthew 10:7-13) demonstrate that the Holy Spirit is the “protagonist” of the Gospel proclamation. That proclamation is unlike other types of communication. Due to the action of the Holy Spirit, it has the power to change hearts. There have been pastoral plans that seem to be perfect. They were incapable of changing hearts because they were ends in themselves. They were not instruments of evangelization.
It is not with an entrepreneurial attitude that Jesus sends us…. No, it is with the Holy Spirit. This is courage. The true courage behind evangelization is not human stubbornness. No, it is the Spirit who gives us courage and who carries you forward.
Service is the second dimension of evangelization. In fact, pursuing a career or success in the Church is a sure sign that someone doesn’t know what evangelization is…for the one who commands must be the one who serves.
We can say good things but without service it is not proclamation. It may seem to be, but it is not, because the Spirit not only carries you forward to proclaim the truths of the Lord and the life of the Lord, but He also brings you to the service of the brothers and sisters, even in small things. It’s awful when you find evangelizers who make others serve them and who live to be served. They are like the princes of evangelization – how awful.
Gratuitousness is the third aspect of evangelization because no one can be redeemed by his or her own merit. The Lord reminds us, “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give” (Matthew 10:8).
All of us have been saved gratuitously by Jesus Christ. Therefore, we must give gratuitously. Those who carry out the pastoral work of evangelization must learn this. Their life must be gratuitous, given in service, proclamation, borne by the Spirit. Their personal poverty forces them to open themselves up to the Spirit.
There are so many Christians, yes, they go to Mass on Sundays, but they are always busy. They have no time for their children, they don’t play with their children. This is bad. “I have so much to do, I’m so busy…” [they say]. And in the end they become worshippers of that religion which is busy-ness: they belong to the group of the busy, who are always doing things… But pause, gaze upon the Lord, take the Gospel, listen to the Word of the Lord, open your heart… No: always the language of the hands, always. And they do good, but not Christian good: a human good. These people lack contemplation. Martha lacked that. [She was] courageous, always going forward, taking things in hand, but lacking peace: losing time gazing upon the Lord.
On the other hand, Mary doesn’t sit around “doing-nothing.” She “gazed upon the Lord because the Lord had touched her heart; and it is from there, from that inspiration of the Lord, that there came the work that she had to undertake later.” This is the rule of St Benedict, “Ora et labora,” “pray and work,” which monks and nuns incarnate in the cloister, who certainly don’t spend the whole day gazing at the heavens. They pray and work.” And this was especially what St Paul incarnated, as he wrote in the day’s first Reading: “When God chose him,” the Pope said, “he didn’t go off to preach” immediately, but instead “went off to pray,” “to contemplate the mystery of Jesus Christ who was revealed”:
Everything Paul did, he did with this spirit of contemplation, of gazing upon the Lord. It was the Lord who spoke from his heart, because Paul was in love with the Lord. And this is the key for not going astray: “being in love.” In order to know which side we are on, or whether we are exaggerating because we are getting into an overly abstract, even gnostic, contemplation; or whether we are too busy; we must ask ourselves the question: “Am I in love with the Lord? Am I certain, certain that He has chosen me? Or do I live my Christianity like this, doing things… Yes, I do this, I do that; But what does my heart do? Does it contemplate?
The Pope said it is like a husband returning home from work, and finding his wife waiting to greet him: A wife that is truly in love does not make him comfortable, and then return to her chores; she “takes the time to be with him.” We too take time for the Lord in our service to others:
Contemplation and service: this is the path of our life. Each one of us can think to ourselves, “How much time each day do I give to contemplating the mystery of Jesus?” And then, “How do I work? Do I work so much that there seems to be an alienation? Or is my work consistent with my faith, work as a service that comes from the Gospel?” We would do well to consider this.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today’s Gospel passage (cf. Mk 10:35-45) describes Jesus who, once again and with great patience, tries to correct his disciples, converting them from the world’s mentality to that of God. The opportunity is given to him by the brothers James and John, two of the very first whom Jesus met and called to follow him. By now they have gone quite a long way with him and in fact belong to the group of the 12 Apostles. Therefore, while they are on their way to Jerusalem — where the disciples anxiously hope that on the occasion of the celebration of Passover, Jesus will at last establish the Kingdom of God — the two brothers take courage, approach the Teacher and make their request: “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory” (v. 37).
Jesus knows that James and John are inspired by great enthusiasm for him and for the cause of the Kingdom, but he also knows that their expectations and their zeal are tarnished by the spirit of the world. Thus he responds: “You do not know what your are asking” (v. 38). And as they are speaking of ‘thrones of glory’ on which to sit beside Christ the King, he speaks of a “cup” to be drunk, of a “baptism” to be received, that is, his passion and death. James and John, always aiming at the hoped-for privilege, say in an outburst: yes, “we are able”! (v. 39). But here too, they do not truly understand what they are saying. Jesus forewarns that they will drink his cup and receive his baptism, that is, that they too, like the other Apostles, will take part in his cross, when their time comes. However, Jesus concludes: “to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared” (v. 40). As if to say: now follow me and learn how to love ‘at a loss’, and the heavenly Father will see to our reward. The way of love is always ‘at a loss’, because to love means to set aside egoism, self-referentiality, in order to serve others.
Jesus then realizes that the other 10 Apostles are angry with James and John, and thus show they have the same worldly mentality. And this offers him inspiration for a lesson that applies to Christians of all times, for us too. He says: “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all” (vv. 42-44). It is the rule of Christians. The Teacher’s message is clear: while the great people of the Earth build themselves ‘thrones’ for their own power, God chooses an uncomfortable throne, the cross, from which to reign by giving his life: “the Son of man”, Jesus says, “also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (v. 45).
The way of service is the most effective antidote against the disease of seeking first place; it is the medicine for status seekers, this seeking first place, which infects many human contexts, and does not even spare Christians, the People of God, nor even the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Therefore, as disciples of Christ, let us receive this Gospel passage as a call to conversion, in order to witness with courage and generosity a Church that bows at the feet of the least, in order to serve them with love and simplicity. May the Virgin Mary, who fully and humbly adhered to the will of God, help us to joyfully follow Jesus on the way of service, the royal road that leads to Heaven.
In the parable of today’s Gospel, we heard that the bridesmaids, all ten of them, “went forth to meet the bridegroom” (Mt 25:1). For all of us, life is a constant call to go forth: from our mother’s womb, from the house where we are born, from infancy to youth, from youth to adulthood, all the way to our going forth from this world. For ministers of the Gospel too, life is in constant movement, as we go forth from our family home to wherever the Church sends us, from one variety of service to another. We are always on the move, until we make our final journey.
The Gospel shows us the meaning of this constant wayfaring that is life: it is a going forth to meet the Bridegroom. This is what life is meant to be lived for: the call that resounds in the night, according to the Gospel, and which we will hear at the hour of our death: “Here is the Bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” (v. 6). The encounter with Jesus, the Bridegroom who “loved the Church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25), gives meaning and direction to our lives. That and nothing more. It is the finale that illuminates everything that preceded it. Just as the seeding is judged by the harvest, so the journey of life is shaped by its ultimate goal.
If our life is a journey to meet the Bridegroom, it is also the time we have been granted to grow in love. Every day of our lives is a preparation for the wedding banquet, a great period of betrothal. Let us ask ourselves: do I live like someone preparing to meet the Bridegroom? In the ministry, amid all our meetings, activities and paperwork, we must never lose sight of the one thread that holds the entire fabric together: our expectation of the Bridegroom. The centre of it all can only be a heart in love with the Lord. Only in this way will the visible body of our ministry be sustained by an invisible soul. Here we begin to realize what the Apostle tells us in the second reading: “We look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal” (2 Cor 4:18). Let us not keep our gaze fixed on earthly affairs, but look beyond them. It is true when they say that the really important things are invisible to our eyes. The really important thing in life is hearing the voice of the Bridegroom. That voice asks us daily to catch sight of the Lord who comes, and to make our every activity a means of preparation for his wedding banquet.
We are reminded of this by what the Gospel tells is the one essential thing for the bridesmaids awaiting the wedding banquet. It is not their gowns, or their lamps, but rather the oil kept in small jars.
Here we see a first feature of oil: it is not impressive. It remains hidden; it does not appear, yet without it there is no light. What does this suggest to us? That in the Lord’s eyes what matters is not appearances but the heart (cf. 1 Sam 16:7). Everything that the world runs after and then parades – honours, power, appearances, glory – passes away and leaves nothing behind. Detachment from worldly appearances is essential to our preparation for heaven. We need to say no to the “cosmetic culture” that tells us to worry about how we look. Instead of our outward appearance that passes away, we should purify and keep custody of our heart, our inner self, which is precious in the eyes of God.
Along with this first feature – not to be flashy but essential – there is another aspect of oil: it exists in order to be consumed. Only when it is burned does it spread light. Our lives are like that: they radiate light only if they are consumed, if they spend themselves in service. The secret to live is to live to serve. Service is the ticket to be presented at the door of the eternal wedding banquet. Whatever will remain of life, at the doorstep of eternity, is not what we gained but what we gave away (cf. Mt 6:19-21; 1 Cor 13:8). The meaning of life is found in our response to God’s offer of love. And that response is made up of true love, self-giving and service. Serving others involved a cost, since it involves spending ourselves, letting ourselves be consumed. In our ministry, those who do not live to serve do not de-serve to live. Those who hold on too tightly to their lives will lose them.
A third feature of oil is clearly present in the Gospel: it must be prepared. Oil has to be stored up ahead of time and carried with one (cf. vv. 4, 7). Love is certainly spontaneous, but it is not impromptu. It was precisely by their lack of preparation that the bridesmaids excluded from the wedding banquet showed their foolishness. Now is the time for preparation: here and now, day by day, love has to be stored up and fostered. Let us ask for grace to renew daily our first love with the Lord (cf. Rev 2:4), lest its flame die out. It is a great temptation to sink into a life without love, which ends up being like an empty vase, a snuffed lamp. If we do not invest in love, life will stifle it. Those called to God’s wedding feast cannot be content with a sedentary, flat and humdrum life that plods on without enthusiasm, seeking petty satisfactions and pursuing fleeting rewards. A dreary and predictable life, content to carry out its duties without giving of itself, is unworthy of the Bridegroom.
As we pray for the Cardinals and Bishops who have passed away in this last year, let us beg the intercession of all those who lived unassuming lives, content to prepare daily to meet the Lord. Following the example of these witnesses, who praise God are all around us in great numbers, let us not be content with a quick glance at this day and nothing else. Instead, let us desire to look farther ahead, to the wedding banquet that awaits us. A life burning with desire for God and trained by love will be prepared to enter the chamber of the Bridegroom, and this, forever.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
In this Sunday's Gospel passage, Luke the evangelist tells us of Jesus's visit to the house of Martha and Mary, the Sisters of Lazarus (cf. Lk 10: 38-42). They welcome Him, and Mary sits at His feet to listen to Him; she leaves what she was doing to be close to Jesus: she does not want to miss any of His words. As it was for Mary it can be said for each of us. There should be no occupation or concern that can keep us away from the divine master. Everything should always be put aside because, when He comes to visit us in our lives, His presence and His word come before everything else. The Lord always surprises us: when we really listen to Him, the clouds vanish, doubts give way to truth, fears to serenity, and the numerous situations of life find their rightful place. The Lord always, fixes things as well. Even for us.
In this scene of Mary of Bethany at the feet of Jesus, St. Luke shows the prayerful attitude of the believer, who knows how to be in the presence of the Master in order to listen to Him and to be in harmony with Him. It is a matter of taking a break during the day, of gathering together in silence for a few minutes to make room for the Lord who passes and of finding the courage to remain a little on the side lines with Him in order to then return, with more serenity and effectiveness to the aspects of everyday life. Praising the behaviour of Mary, who has chosen the better part (v. 42), Jesus seems to repeat to each of us: "do not be carried away by things to do but listen to the voice of the Lord, to carry out well the tasks that life gives you."
Then there is the other sister, Martha. Saint Luke says that she was the one who welcomed Jesus (cf. v. 38). Perhaps Martha was the older of the two sisters, we don't know, but certainly this woman had the charism of hospitality. In fact, while Mary is listening to Jesus, she's taken with many services. Therefore, Jesus says to her, "Martha, Martha, you anxious and worried about many things" (v. 41). With these words He certainly doesn't intend to condemn the attitude of service, but rather the anxiety with which it is sometimes experienced. We also share Saint Martha's concern and, following her example, we propose to make sure that in our families and in our communities, there is a sense of welcome, of fraternity, so that everyone can feel at home, especially the little ones and the poor and those who knock on our door.
Therefore, today's Gospel reminds us that the wisdom of the heart lies precisely in knowing how to combine these two elements: contemplation and action. Martha and Mary show us the way. If we want to savour life with joy, we must associate these two attitudes: on the one hand, to stand at the feet of Jesus, to listen to Him as He reveals to us the secret of everything; on the other, to be attentive and ready in hospitality, when He passes by and knocks on our door, with the face of a friend who needs a moment of refreshment and fraternity. It wants our hospitality.
May Mary most Holy, Mother of the Church, give us the grace to love and serve God and our brothers and sisters with the hands of Martha and the heart of Mary, so that by always listening to Christ can we be artisans of peace and hope. And this is interesting: with these two attitudes we can become artisans of peace and hope.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
In today's Gospel (cf. Lk 12: 49-53 ) Jesus warns his disciples that now is the time to decide. His coming into the world, in fact, coincides with the time of making decisive choices: the option in favour of the Gospel cannot be postponed. And in order to better explain His message, He uses the image of fire that He himself came to bring upon Earth. He says: "I have come to bring fire upon the Earth, and how I wish it were already blazing!» (see para. 49). These words are meant to help the disciples abandon every attitude of laziness, apathy, indifference and closure so as to welcome the fire of God's love; that love which, as Saint Paul reminds us was poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5: 5). Because it is the Holy Spirit that helps us love God and love our neighbour; It is the Holy Spirit that we all have inside.
Jesus reveals to his friends, and to us, his most ardent desire: to bring the fire ground of His Father's love to Earth, which kindles life and by which we are saved. Jesus calls us to spread this fire in the world, thanks to which we will be recognized as his true disciples. The fire of love, kindled by Christ into the world through the Holy Spirit, is a limitless fire, is a universal fire. This has been seen since the early days of Christianity: the witness of the Gospel has spread like beneficial wildfire overcoming every division between individuals, groups, peoples and nations. The evangelical message burns all forms of particularism and keeps charity open to all, with a preference for the poorest and most excluded.
The adherence to the fire of love that Jesus brought to Earth embraces our entire existence and adoring God and a willingness to serve our neighbour. Worshiping God and being available to serve our neighbour. The first, adoring God means learning the prayer of adoration, which we often forget. That is why I invite everyone to discover the beauty of the prayer of adoration and to practice it often. And then the second, a willingness to serve our neighbour: I think with admiration of so many communities and groups of young people who, even during the summer, are dedicated to this service for the sick, the poor, and people with disabilities. To live according to the spirit of the Gospel, it is necessary that in the face of ever changing needs that are emerging in the world, that there be disciples of Christ who can respond with new charitable initiatives. And so, by adoring God and serving our neighbours – both together, loving God and serving our neighbour – the Gospel might truly manifest itself as the fire that saves, that changes the world starting from a change in each one of our hearts.
In this perspective, we can also understand the other statement of Jesus in today's passage, that at first glance might disconcert us: "Do you think I came to bring peace on Earth? No, I say to you, division "(Lk 12.51). He came to "separate with fire". Separate what? Good from evil, right from wrong. In this sense He came to "divide", put into crisis – but in a healthy way – the lives of His disciples, breaking the easy illusions of those who believe they can combine Christian life and worldliness, Christian life with compromises of all kinds, religious practices and attitudes against others. In other words, true religion with superstitious practices: how many people who say they are Christians go to sooth sayers or palm readers in order to have their future read! This is superstition, this is not of God. We are talking about not living as hypocrites, but of being willing to pay the price of consistent choices – this is the attitude that all of us should seek in life: consistent – pay the price to be consistent with the Gospel. Consistent with the Gospel. Because it is good to say that we are Christians, but above all we need to be Christians in concrete situations, witnessing to the Gospel which is essentially love for God and for our brothers and sisters.
May Mary Most Holy helps us to allow ourselves to allow our hearts to be purified by the fire brought by Jesus, and to spread it through our lives, decisive and courageous choices.
The prophecy of Isaiah that we have heard is a prophecy about the Messiah, the Redeemer, but also a prophecy about the people of Israel, about the people of God: we can say that it may be a prophecy about each of us. In essence, the prophecy emphasizes that the Lord chose his servant from his mother's womb: twice it says this. (Is. 49:1). From the beginning his servant was chosen, from birth or before birth. The people of God were chosen before birth, even each of us. None of us fell into the world by chance. Everyone has a destiny, he has a free destiny, the destiny of the election of God. I am born with the destiny of being a child of God, of being a servant of God, with the task of serving, of building, of building. And this, from the mother's womb.
Yahweh's Servant, Jesus, served to the death: it seemed like defeat, but it was the way to serve. And this underscores the way we serve in our lives. To serve is to give to others. Serving is not pretending that we have any other benefit to give other than to serve. It is glory to serve; and the glory of Christ is to serve to the point of annihilating himself, to the death, death on the Cross .cf. Phil 2:8). Jesus is the servant of Israel. The people of God are a servant, and when God's people move away from this attitude of service, they are an apostate people: they move away from the vocation that God has given them. And when each of us distances ourselves from this vocation to serve, we move away from God's love. And we construct our lives on other loves, often idolatrous.
The Lord chose us from our mother's womb. There are, in life, falls: each of us is a sinner and can fall and has fallen. Only Our Lady and Jesus: all the others, we have fallen, we are sinners. But what matters is our behaviour before the God who chose us, who anointed me as a servant; and the attitude of a sinner who is able to ask for forgiveness, like Peter, who swears that "no, I will never deny you, Lord, never, never!" then, when the cock crows, he cries. He repents. (Mt. 26:75). This is the path of a servant: when he slips, when he falls, he asks for forgiveness.
Instead, when the servant is not able to understand that he has fallen, when passion takes hold of him in such a way that it leads him to idolatry, he opens his heart to Satan, the night enters: it is what happened to Judas (cf. Mt. 27: 3-10).
Let us think today of Jesus, the servant, faithful in service. His vocation was to serve, until death and death on the Cross (cf. Phil. 2:5-11). Let us think of each of us, part of God's people: we are servants, our vocation is to serve, not to take advantage of our place in the Church. Serve. Always on duty.
Let us ask for the grace to persevere in service. Sometimes with slips, falls, but the grace at least to weep as Peter cried.
Eucharist, Service, Anointing
This is what we experience in today’s celebration: the Lord who wants to remain with us in the Eucharist. And we become the Lord’s tabernacles, carrying the Lord with us; to the point that he himself tells us: if we do not eat his body and drink his blood, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. This is a mystery, bread and wine, the Lord with us, within us, inside us.
Service. This gesture is the condition to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, to serve... everyone. But the Lord, in the words he exchanged with Peter (cf. Jn 13:6-9), makes him realize that to enter the kingdom of heaven we must let the Lord serve us, that the servant of God be our servant. And this is hard to understand. If I do not let the Lord be my servant, do not let allow the Lord wash me, help me grow, forgive me, then I will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
And the priesthood too. Today I would like to be close to priests, to all priests, from the most recently ordained right up to the Pope. We are all priests. The bishops too, all of us... we are anointed, anointed by the Lord; anointed to confect the Eucharist, anointed to serve.
There is no Chrism Mass today – I hope we can have it before Pentecost, otherwise it will have to be postponed to next year – but I cannot let tonight’s Mass pass by without remembering priests. Priests who offer their lives for the Lord, priests who are servants. In these days many of them have died, more than sixty here in Italy, while tending to the sick in hospital, together with doctors and nurses... They are “saints next door”, priests who have given their lives in serving.
I think too of those who are far away. Today I received a letter from a priest, a chaplain in a prison far away, who told me how he was spending this Holy Week with the prisoners. A Franciscan priest. Priests who travel far to bring the Gospel and who die far away. A bishop told me once that the first thing he did on arriving in these mission posts was to go to the cemetery, to the graves of priests who gave their lives there, young priests who died from local diseases because they were not prepared, they didn’t have the antibodies; and no one knew their names: anonymous priests. Then there are the parish priests in the countryside, pastors of four, five, seven little villages in the mountains, who go from one to the other, who know the people. One of them once told me that he knew the name of every person in his villages. I asked him, “Really?” And he told me “I even know the dogs’ names!”. They know everyone. Priestly closeness. Good, good priests.
Today I carry you in my heart and I carry you to the altar. Also priests who are slandered. This happens often today; they cannot walk about freely because people say bad things about them, referring to the scandal from discovering priests who have done bad things. Some of them have told me that they cannot go out wearing clerics because people insult them. Yet they carry on. Priests who are sinners, together with bishops and the Pope who is also a sinner, must not forget to ask forgiveness and learn how to forgive because they know that they need to ask forgiveness and to forgive. We are all sinners. Priests who suffer from crises, who do not know what to do, who live in darkness...
Today you are all with me, brother priests, at the altar, you who are consecrated. I say to you just one thing: do not be stubborn like Peter. Let your feet be washed, the Lord is your servant, he is close to you, and he gives you strength to wash the feet of others.
In this way, conscious of the need to be washed clean, you will be great dispensers of forgiveness. Forgive! Have a big heart that is generous in forgiving. This is the measure by which we will be judged. As you have forgiven, so you will be forgiven, in the same measure. Do not be afraid to forgive. Sometimes we have doubts; look to Christ [he looks to the Crucifix]. There, there is forgiveness for all. Be courageous, also in taking risks, in forgiving, in order to bring consolation. And if you cannot give sacramental pardon at this moment, then at least give the consolation of a brother to those you accompany, leaving the door open for people to return.
I thank God for the grace of the priesthood, we all give thanks. I thank God for you, priests. Jesus loves you! He asks only that you let him wash your feet.
Let us pray together today for the people who perform funeral services. It's so painful, so sad what they do, and they feel the pain of this pandemic so closely. Let us pray for them.
Today the Church celebrates St. Mark, one of the four evangelists, he was very close to the Apostle Peter. The Gospel of Mark was the first to be written. It's simple, a simple style, very close. If you have some time today, take it in your hand and read it. It is not long, but it is pleasing to read the simplicity with which Mark recounts the life of the Lord.
And in the Gospel - which is the end of the Gospel of Mark, that we have just read - there is the sending forth by the Lord. The Lord has revealed himself as saviour, as the only Son of God; he has been revealed to all of Israel and the people, especially in more detail to the apostles, to the disciples. This is the Lord's taking leave: the Lord leaves, departs, and "was taken up into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God." But before he left, when he appeared to the Eleven, he said to them, "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature." This is the missionary nature of faith.
Faith is either missionary or it is not faith. Faith is not just for me, for me to grow up with faith: this is a gnostic heresy. Faith always leads you out of yourself. Go out. The transmission of faith; faith must be transmitted, it must be offered, especially through witness: "Go, let people see how you live."
Someone told me, a European priest, of a European city: "There is so much disbelief, so much agnosticism in our cities, because Christians have no faith. If they did, they would definitely give it to people." Missionaryness is lacking. Because their roots lack conviction: "Yes, I am a Christian, I am Catholic, but ...". As if it's a social attitude. In the identity card, you call yourself that, like this, and "I'm a Christian." It's a fact on the identity card. This is not faith. This is a cultural thing. Faith necessarily takes you out, leads you to give it, because essentially faith must be transmitted . It's not quiet. "Oh, do you mean, father, that we all have to be missionaries and go to distant countries?" No, this is a part of the missionary dimension. This means that if you have faith you necessarily need to go out of yourself, you need to go out of yourself, and show faith socially. Social faith is for everyone: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature." And that's not to proselytize, as if I were recruiting for a football team or a charity. No, faith is "not proselytizing." It is to show the revelation, so that the Holy Spirit can act in people with witness, and as a witness through service. Service is a way of life: if I say that I am a Christian and I live like a pagan, it does not work! That doesn't convince anyone. If I say that I am a Christian and I live as a Christian, that attracts. That's witness.
Once, in Poland, a university student asked me: "But in the university I have many fellow students who are atheists. What do I have to tell them to convince them?" – "Nothing, nothing! The last thing you have to do is say something. Start to live and they will see your witness, and they will ask you, 'But why do you live like this?'" Faith must be transmitted, but not by convincing, but by offering a treasure. "It's there, you see it?" And this is also the humility that St. Peter spoke of in the First Reading: "Clothe yourself with humility in your dealings with one another, because God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." How many times in the Church, in history, have movements, groups of men or women who wanted to convince others to faith, to convert and were real "proselytes." And how did they end up? In corruption.
This passage of the Gospel is so tender. But where's the certainty? How can I be sure that by going out of myself I will be fruitful in the transmission of faith? "Proclaim the gospel to every creature," you will do wonders. And the Lord will be with us until the end of the world. He accompanies us. In the transmission of faith, the Lord is always with us. In the transmission of ideology there will be teachers, but when I have an attitude of faith that must be transmitted, there is the Lord there who accompanies me. I am never alone in the transmission of faith . It is the Lord with me who transmits the faith. He promised it: "I will be with you every day until the end of the world."
Let us pray to the Lord to help us live our faith like this: faith with open doors, a transparent faith, not "proselytizing", but one that shows: "Look I am like this." And with this healthy curiosity, you help people get this message that will save them.
Dear brothers and sisters, good day!
In today’s Gospel passage (see Mt 21:33-43) Jesus, foreseeing His passion and death, tells the parable of the murderous winemakers, to admonish the chief priests and elders of the people who are about to take the wrong path. Indeed, they have bad intentions towards Him and are seeking a way of eliminating Him.
The allegorical story describes a landowner who, after having taken great care of his vineyard (see v. 33), had to depart and leave it in the hands of farmers. Then, at harvest time, he sends some servants to collect the fruit; but the tenants welcome the servants with a beating and some even kill them. The owner sends other servants, more numerous, but they receive the same treatment (see vv. 34-36). The peak is reached when the landowner decides to send his son: the winegrowers have no respect for him, on the contrary, they think that by eliminating him they can take over the vineyard, and so they kill him too (cf. vv. 37-39).
The image of the vineyard is clear: it represents the people that the Lord has chosen and formed with such care; the servants sent by the landowner are the prophets, sent by God, while the son represents Jesus. And just as the prophets were rejected, so too Christ was rejected and killed.
At the end of the story, Jesus asks the leaders of the people: "When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" (v. 40). And, caught up in the logic of the narrative, they deliver their own sentence: the owner, they say, will severely punish those wicked people and entrust the vineyard “to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him at the proper time” (v. 41).
With this very harsh parable, Jesus confronts his interlocutors with their responsibility, and He does so with extreme clarity. But let us not think that this admonition applies only to those who rejected Jesus at that time. It applies to all times, including our own. Even today God awaits the fruits of His vineyard from those He has sent to work in it. All of us.
In any age, those who have authority, any authority, also in the Church, in God’s people, may be tempted to work in their own interests instead of those of God. And Jesus says that true authority is when you carry out service; it is in serving, not exploiting others. The vineyard is the Lord’s, not ours. Authority is a service, and as such should be exercised, for the good of all and for the dissemination of the Gospel. It is awful to see when people who have authority in the Church seek their own interests.
Saint Paul, in the second reading of today’s liturgy, tells us how to be good workers in the Lord’s vineyard: that which is true, noble, just, pure, loved and honoured; that which is virtuous and praiseworthy, let all this be the daily object of our commitment (cf. Phil 4:8). I repeat: that which is true, noble, just, pure, loved and honoured; that which is virtuous and praiseworthy, let all this be the daily object of our commitment. It is the attitude of authority and also of each one of us, because every one of us, even in a small, tiny way, has a certain authority. In this way we shall become a Church ever richer in the fruits of holiness, we shall give glory to the Father who loves us with infinite tenderness, to the Son who continues to give us salvation, and to the Spirit who opens our hearts and impels us towards the fullness of goodness.
Let us now turn to Mary Most Holy, spiritually united with the faithful gathered in the Shrine of Pompeii for the Supplication, and in October let us renew our commitment to pray the Holy Rosary.
The parable we have just listened to has a beginning, a middle and an end, which shed light on the beginning, the middle and the end of our lives.
The beginning. Everything begins with a great good. The master does not keep his wealth to himself, but gives it to his servants; five talents to one, two to another, one to a third, “to each according to his ability” (Mt 25:15). It has been calculated that a single talent was equivalent to the income of some twenty years’ work: it was of enormous value, and would be sufficient for a lifetime. This is the beginning. For us too, everything began with the grace of God – everything always begins with grace, not with our own efforts – with the grace of God, who is a Father and has given us so many good things, entrusting different talents to each of us. We possess a great wealth that depends not on what we possess but on what we are: the life we have received, the good within us, the indelible beauty God has given us by making us in his image… All these things make each of us precious in his eyes, each one of us is priceless and unique in history! This is how God looks at us, how God feels towards us.
We need to remember this. All too often, when we look at our lives, we see only the things we lack, and we complain about what we lack. We then yield to the temptation to say: “If only…!” If only I had that job, if only I had that home, if only I had money and success, if only I didn’t have this or that problem, if only I had better people around me…! But those illusory words – if only! – prevent us from seeing the good all around us. They make us forget the talents we possess. You may not have that, but you do have this, and the “if only” makes us forget this. Yet God gave those talents to us because he knows each of us and he knows our abilities. He trusts us, despite our weaknesses. God even trusts the servant who will hide his talent, hoping that despite his fears, he too will put to good use what he received. In a word, the Lord asks us to make the most of the present moment, not yearning for the past, but waiting industriously for his return. How ugly is that nostalgia, which is like a black mood poisoning our soul and making us always look backwards, always at others, but never at our own hands or at the opportunities for work that the Lord has given us, never at our own situation… not even at our own poverty.
This brings us to the centre of the parable: the work of the servants, which is service. Service is our work too; it makes our talents bear fruit and it gives meaning to our lives. Those who do not live to serve, serve for little in this life. We must repeat this, and repeat it often: those who do not live to serve, serve for little in this life. We should reflect on this: those who do not live to serve, serve for little in this life. But what kind of service are we speaking of? In the Gospel, good servants are those who take risks. They are not fearful and overcautious, they do not cling to what they possess, but put it to good use. For if goodness is not invested, it is lost, and the grandeur of our lives is not measured by how much we save but by the fruit we bear. How many people spend their lives simply accumulating possessions, concerned only about the good life and not the good they can do. Yet how empty is a life centred on our needs and blind to the needs of others! The reason we have gifts is so that we can be gifts for others. And here, brothers and sisters, we should ask ourselves the question: do I only follow my own needs, or am I able to look to the needs of others, to whoever is in need? Are my hands open, or are they closed?
It is significant that fully four times those servants who invested their talents, who took a risk, are called “faithful” (vv. 21, 23). For the Gospel, faithfulness is never risk-free. “But, father, does being a Christian mean taking risks?” – “Yes, dearly beloved, take a risk. If you do not take risks, you will end up like the third [servant]: burying your abilities, your spiritual and material riches, everything”. Taking risks: there is no faithfulness without risk. Fidelity to God means handing over our life, letting our carefully laid plans be disrupted by our need to serve. “But I have my plans, and if I have to serve…”. Let your plans be upset, go and serve. It is sad when Christians play a defensive game, content only to observe rules and obey commandments. Those “moderate” Christians who never go beyond boundaries, never, because they are afraid of risk. And those, allow me this image, those who take care of themselves to avoid risk begin in their lives a process of mummification of their souls, and they end up as mummies. Following rules is not enough; fidelity to Jesus is not just about not making mistakes, this is quite wrong. That is what the lazy servant in the parable thought: for lack of initiative and creativity, he yielded to needless fear and buried the talent he had received. The master actually calls him “wicked” (v. 26). And yet he did nothing wrong! But he did nothing good either. He preferred to sin by omission rather than to risk making a mistake. He was not faithful to God, who spends freely, and he made his offence even worse by returning the gift he had received. “You gave me this, and I give it to you”, nothing more. The Lord, for his part, asks us to be generous, to conquer fear with the courage of love, to overcome the passivity that becomes complicity. Today, in these times of uncertainty, in these times of instability, let us not waste our lives thinking only of ourselves, indifferent to others, or deluding ourselves into thinking: “peace and security!” (1 Thess 5:3). Saint Paul invites us to look reality in the face and to avoid the infection of indifference.
How then do we serve, as God would have us serve? The master tells the faithless servant: “You ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest” (v. 27). Who are the “bankers” who can provide us with long-term interest? They are the poor. Do not forget: the poor are at the heart of the Gospel; we cannot understand the Gospel without the poor. The poor are like Jesus himself, who, though rich, emptied himself, made himself poor, even taking sin upon himself: the worst kind of poverty. The poor guarantee us an eternal income. Even now they help us become rich in love. For the worst kind of poverty needing to be combatted is our poverty of love. The worst kind of poverty needing to be combatted is our poverty of love. The Book of Proverbs praises the woman who is rich in love, whose value is greater than that of pearls. We are told to imitate that woman who “opens her hand to the poor” (Prov 31:20): that is the great richness of this woman. Hold out your hand to the poor, instead of demanding what you lack. In this way, you will multiply the talents you have received.
The season of Christmas is approaching, the holiday season. How often do we hear people ask: “What can I buy? What more can I have? I must go shopping”. Let us use different words: “What can I give to others?”, in order to be like Jesus, who gave of himself and was born in the manger”.
We now come to the end of the parable. Some will be wealthy, while others, who had plenty and wasted their lives, will be poor (cf. v. 29). At the end of our lives, then, the truth will be revealed. The pretence of this world will fade, with its notion that success, power and money give life meaning, whereas love – the love we have given – will be revealed as true riches. Those things will fall, yet love will emerge. A great Father of the Church wrote: “As for this life, when death comes and the theatre is deserted, when all remove their masks of wealth or of poverty and depart hence, judged only by their works, they will be seen for what they are: some truly rich, others poor” (Saint John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Poor Man Lazarus, II, 3). If we do not want to live life poorly, let us ask for the grace to see Jesus in the poor, to serve Jesus in the poor.
I would like to thank all those faithful servants of God who quietly live in this way, serving others. I think, for example, of Father Roberto Malgesini. This priest was not interested in theories; he simply saw Jesus in the poor and found meaning in life in serving them. He dried their tears with his gentleness, in the name of God who consoles. The beginning of his day was prayer, to receive God’s gifts; the centre of his day was charity, to make the love he had received bear fruit; the end was his clear witness to the Gospel. This man realized that he had to stretch out his hand to all those poor people he met daily, for he saw Jesus in each of them. Brothers and sisters, let us ask for the grace to be Christians not in word, but in deed. To bear fruit, as Jesus desires. May this truly be so.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good afternoon!
On this next to the last Sunday of the liturgical year, the Gospel presents us the well-known Parable of the Talents (cf. Mt 25:14-30). It is part of Jesus' discourse on the end times, which immediately precedes His passion, death and resurrection. The parable describes a rich gentleman who has to go away and, foreseeing a long absence, entrusts his property to three of his servants: to the first he entrusts five talents; to the second, two; to the third, one. Jesus specifies that the distribution is made “each according to his ability” (v. 15). The Lord does so with all of us: He knows us well; He knows we are not all equal and does not wish to favour anyone to the detriment of the others, but entrusts an amount to each one according to his or her abilities.
During the master's absence, the first two servants are very busy, to the point of doubling the amount entrusted to them. It is not so with the third servant, who hides the talent in a hole: to avoid risks, he leaves it there, safe from thieves, but without making it bear fruit. The moment comes for the master’s return, who calls the servants to settle accounts. The first two present the good fruit of their efforts; they have worked and the master praises them, compensates them and invites them to partake in his feast, in his joy. The third, however, realizing he is at fault, immediately begins to justify himself, saying: “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours” (vv. 24-25). He defends his laziness by accusing his master of being “hard”. This is an attitude that we have too: we defend ourselves, many times, by accusing others. But they are not at fault: the fault is ours; the flaw is ours. And this servant accuses others, he accuses the master in order to justify himself. We too, many times, do the same. So the master rebukes him: he calls the servant “wicked and slothful” (v. 26); he has the talent taken from him and has him cast out of his house.
This parable applies to everyone but, as always, to Christians in particular. Today too, it is very topical: today is the Day of the Poor, where the Church tells us Christians: “Extend a hand to the poor. Reach out a hand to the poor. You are not alone in life: there are people who need you. Do not be selfish; reach out a hand to the poor. We have all received from God a “heritage” as human beings, a human richness, whatever it may be. And as disciples of Christ we have also received the faith, the Gospel, the Holy Spirit, the Sacraments, and so many other things. These gifts need to be used to do good, to do good in this life, in service to God and to our brothers and sisters. And today the Church tells you, she tells us: “Use what God has given you and look at the poor. Look: there are so many of them; even in our cities, in the centre of our city, there are many. Do good!”
At times, we think that to be Christian means not to do harm. And not doing harm is good. But not doing good is not good. We must do good, to come out of ourselves and look, look at those who have more need. There is so much hunger, even in the heart of our cities; and many times we enter into that logic of indifference: the poor person is there, and we look the other way. Reach out your hand to the poor person: it is Christ. Some say: “But these priests, these bishops who talk about the poor, the poor.... We want them to talk to us about eternal life!”. Look, brother and sister, the poor are at the centre of the Gospel; it is Jesus who taught us to speak to the poor; it is Jesus who came for the poor. Reach out your hand to the poor. You have received many things, and you let your brother, your sister die of hunger?
Dear brothers and sisters, may each one say in his or her heart what Jesus tells us today; repeat in your heart: “Reach out your hand to the poor”. And Jesus tells us something else: “You know, I am the poor person. I am the poor”.
The Virgin Mary received a great gift: Jesus Himself, but she did not keep Him to herself; she gave Him to the world, to His people. Let us learn from her to reach out a hand to the poor.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. The great parable with which the liturgical year closes is that which unfolds the mystery of Christ, the entire liturgical year. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of history; and today’s liturgy focuses on the “Omega”, that is, on the final goal. The meaning of history is understood by keeping its culmination before our eyes: the goal is also the end. And it is precisely this that Matthew accomplishes in this Sunday’s Gospel (25:31-46), placing Jesus’s discourse on the universal judgement at the end of His earthly life: He, the one whom men are about to condemn is, in reality, the supreme judge. In His death and resurrection, Jesus will manifest Himself as the Lord of History, the King of the Universe, the Judge of all. But the Christian paradox is that the Judge is not vested in the fearful trappings of royalty, but is the shepherd filled with meekness and mercy.
Jesus, in fact, in this parable of the final judgement, uses the image of a shepherd, He picks up these images from the prophet Ezekiel who had spoken of God’s intervention in favour of His people against the evil pastors of Israel (see 34:1-10). They had been cruel exploiters, preferring to feed themselves rather than the flock; therefore, God Himself promises to personally take care of His flock, defending it from injustice and abuse. This promise God made on behalf of His people is fully accomplished in Jesus Christ, the shepherd: He Himself is the good shepherd. He Himself even said of Himself: “I am the good shepherd” (Jn 10:11, 14).
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus identifies Himself not only with the king-shepherd, but also with the lost sheep, we can speak of a double identity: the king-shepherd, and also Jesus and the sheep: that is, He identifies Himself with the least and most in need of His brothers and sisters. And He thus indicates the criterion of the judgement: it will be made on the basis of concrete love given or denied to these persons, because He Himself, the judge, is present in each one of them. He is the judge. He is God and Man, but He is also the poor one, He is hidden and present in the person of the poor people that He mentions: right there. Jesus says: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it (or did it not) to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it (you did it not) to me” (vv. 40, 45). We will be judged on love. The judgement will be on love, not on feelings, no: we will be judged on works, on compassion that becomes nearness and kind help. Have I drawn near to Jesus present in the persons of the sick, the poor, the suffering, the imprisoned, of those who are hungry and thirsty for justice? Do I draw near to Jesus present there? This is the question for today.
Therefore, at the end of the world, the Lord will inspect the flock, and he will do so not only from the perspective of the shepherd, but also from the perspective of the sheep, with whom He has identified Himself. And He will ask us: “Were you a little bit like a shepherd as myself?” “Where you a shepherd to me who was present in those people who were in need, or were you indifferent?” Brothers and sisters, let us look at the logic of indifference, of those who come to mind immediately. Looking away when we see a problem. Let us remember the parable of the Good Samaritan. That poor man, wounded by the brigands, thrown to the ground, between life and death, he was alone. A priest passed by, saw, and went on his way. He looked the other way. A Levite passed by, saw and looked the other way. I, before my brothers and sisters in need, am I indifferent like the priest, like the Levite and look the other way? I will be judged on this: on how I drew near, how I looked on Jesus present in those in need. This is the logic, and I am not saying it: Jesus says it. “What you did to that person and that person and that person, you did it to me. And what you did not do to that person and that person and that person, you did not do it to me, because I was there”. May Jesus teach us this logic, this logic of being close, of drawing near to Him, with love, to the person who is suffering most.
Let us ask the Virgin Mary to teach us to reign by serving. The Madonna, assumed into Heaven, received the royal crown from her Son because she followed Him faithfully – she is the first disciple – on the way of Love. Let us learn from her to enter God’s Kingdom even now through the door of humble and generous service. And let us return home with this phrase only: “I was present there. Thank you!" or, "You forgot about me”.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning
On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, the liturgy proclaims the Gospel in which Saint John refers to an episode that occurred in the final days of Christ’s life, shortly before the Passion (cf. Jn 12:20-33). While Jesus was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, several Greeks, curious because of what he had been doing, express the wish to see him. They approach the apostle Philip and say to him: “We wish to see Jesus” (v. 21). “We wish to see Jesus”. Let us remember this: “We wish to see Jesus”. Philip tells Andrew and then together they report it to the Teacher. In the request of those Greeks we can glimpse the request that many men and women, of every place and every time, pose to the Church and also to each one of us: “We wish to see Jesus”.
And how does Jesus respond to that request? In a way that makes us think. He says: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified…. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (vv. 23-24). These words do not seem to respond to the request those Greeks made. In reality, they surpass it. In fact, Jesus reveals that for every man and woman who wants to find him, He is the hidden seed ready to die in order to bear much fruit. As if to say: if you wish to know me, if you wish to understand me, look at the grain of wheat that dies in soil, that is, look at the cross.
The sign of the Cross comes to mind, which over the centuries has become the symbol par excellence of Christians. Even today, those who wish to “see Jesus”, perhaps coming from countries and cultures where Christianity is not well-known, what do they see first? What is the most common sign they encounter? The Crucifix, the Cross. In churches, in the homes of Christians, even worn on their persons. The important thing is that the sign be consistent with the Gospel: the cross cannot but express love, service, unreserved self-giving: only in this way is it truly the “tree of life”, of overabundant life.
Today too, many people, often without saying so, implicitly would like to “see Jesus”, to meet him, to know him. This is how we understand the great responsibility we Christians and of our communities have. We too must respond with the witness of a life that is given in service, a life that takes upon itself the style of God – closeness, compassion and tenderness – and is given in service. It means sowing seeds of love, not with fleeting words but through concrete, simple and courageous examples, not with theoretical condemnations, but with gestures of love. Then the Lord, with his grace, makes us bear fruit, even when the soil is dry due to misunderstandings, difficulty or persecution, or claims of legalism or clerical moralism. This is barren soil. Precisely then, in trials and in solitude, while the seed is dying, that is the moment in which life blossoms, to bear ripe fruit in due time. It is in this intertwining of death and life that we can experience the joy and true fruitfulness of love, which always, I repeat, is given in God’s style: closeness, compassion, tenderness.
May the Virgin Mary help us to follow Jesus, to walk, strong and joyful, on the path of service, so that the love of Christ may shine in our every attitude and become more and more the style of our daily life.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
The Gospel of today’s Liturgy (Mk 9:30-37) narrates that, on the way to Jerusalem, Jesus’ disciples were discussing “with one another who was the greatest” (v. 34). So, Jesus directed harsh words toward them that are still valid today: “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (v. 35). If you want to be first, you need to get in line, be last, and serve everyone. Through this shocking phrase, the Lord inaugurates a reversal: he overturns the criteria about what truly matters. The value of a person does not depend any more on the role they have, the work they do, the money they have in the bank. No, no, no, it does not depend on this. Greatness and success in God’s eyes are measured differently: they are measured by service. Not on what someone has, but on what someone gives. Do you want to be first? Serve. This is the way.
Today, the word “service” appears a bit hackneyed, worn out by use. But it has a precise and concrete meaning in the Gospel. To serve is not a courteous expression: it means to act like Jesus, who, summing up his life in a few words, said he had come “not to be served, but to serve” (Mk 10:45). This is what the Lord said. Therefore, if we want to follow Jesus, we must follow the path he himself traced out, the path of service. Our fidelity to the Lord depends on our willingness to serve. And we know this often costs, because “it tastes like a cross”. But, as our care and availability toward others grows, we become freer inside, more like Jesus. The more we serve, the more we are aware of God’s presence. Above all, when we serve those who cannot give anything in return, the poor, embracing their difficulties and needs with tender compassion: and we in turn discover God’s love and embrace there.
After having spoken of the primacy of service, Jesus does something precisely to illustrate this. We have seen that Jesus’ actions are stronger than the words he uses. And what is that action? He takes a child and puts him in the midst of the disciples, at the center, in the most important place (cf. v. 36). In the Gospel, the child does not symbolize innocence so much as littleness. For like children, the little ones depend on others, on adults, they need to receive. Jesus embraces those children and says that those who welcome a little one, a child, welcome him (cf. v. 37). The ones who are to be served above all are: those in need of receiving who cannot give anything in return. To serve those who need to receive and cannot give anything in return. In welcoming those on the margins, the neglected, we welcome Jesus because He is there. And in the little one, in the poor person we serve, we also receive God’s tender embrace.
Dear brothers and sisters, challenged by the Gospel, let us ask ourselves: Am I, who follow Jesus, interested in the one who is neglected? Or am I rather seeking personal gratification, like the disciples that day? Do I understand life in terms of competing to make room for myself at others’ expense, or do I believe that being first means serving? And, concretely: do I dedicate time to a “little one”, to a person who has no means to pay me back? Am I concerned about someone who cannot give me anything in return, or only with my relatives and friends? These are the questions we need to ask ourselves.
May the Virgin Mary, the humble servant of the Lord, help us understand that to serve does not belittle us, but helps us grow. And that there is more joy in giving than in receiving (cf. Acts 20:35).
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
The Gospel of today’s Liturgy (Mk 10:35-45) narrates that two disciples, James and John, ask the Lord to one day sit beside him in glory, as if they were “prime ministers”, or something like that. But the other disciples hear it and become indignant. At that point, Jesus patiently offers them a great teaching. It is this: true glory is not obtained by rising over others, but by experiencing the same baptism that He, Jesus, would receive just a little later in Jerusalem, that is, the cross. What does this mean? The word “baptism” means “immersion”: through his Passion, Jesus immersed himself into death, offering his life to save us. Therefore, his glory, the glory of God, is love that becomes service, not power that seeks to dominate. Not power that seeks to dominate, no! But love that becomes service. Thus, Jesus ends saying to his disciples and to us as well: “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (v. 43). To become great, you should take the path of service, serving others.
We are in front of two different types of logic: the disciples want to rise up and Jesus wants to immerse Himself. Let us spend a few moments on these two verbs. The first is to rise up. It expresses that worldly mentality to which we are always tempted: to experience everything, including relationships, in order to feed our ambition, to climb the ladder of success, to reach important positions. The quest for personal prestige can become a spiritual malady, masquerading itself even behind good intentions: for example, when behind the good we do and preach, we actually seek ourselves alone and our own affirmation, that is, that we get ahead and climb up, we see it even in the Church... How many times, we Christians – who should be servants – try to climb up, to get ahead. We therefore always need to evaluate our heart’s real intentions, to ask ourselves: “Why am I carrying out this work, this responsibility? To offer service or rather to be recognised, praised and to receive compliments?” Jesus contrasts this worldly logic with his own: instead of exalting yourself over others, get off your pedestal to serve them; instead of rising above others, to be immersed in others’ lives. I was watching on the program A Sua Immagine that service carried out by Caritas so that no one might lack food: being concerned about others’ hunger, being concerned about others’ needs. There are so, so many in need, and after the pandemic there are many more. Seek to be immersed in service rather than to climb up for one’s own glory.
Here is the second verb: to be immersed. Jesus asks us to immerse ourselves. And how should we immerse ourselves? Compassionately in the lives of those we meet. We were considering hunger: but do we think compassionately about the hunger of so many people? When we have a meal before us, which is a grace from God that we can eat, there are people who do not have enough food for the entire month. Let’s think about that. And immerse ourselves compassionately, to have compassion, is not a statistic in an encyclopedia… No! They are people. Do I have compassion for people? Compassion for the lives of those we meet, like Jesus has done with me, with you, with all of us, he drew near with compassion. Let us look at the Crucified Lord, completely immersed in our wounded history, and we will discover God’s way of doing things. We see that he did not remain up above in heaven to look down on us from up there, but he lowered himself to wash our feet. God is love and love is humble, it does not exalt itself, but comes down like the rain that falls to the earth and brings life. But how can we adopt the same direction as Jesus, going from raising ourselves up to immersing ourselves, from the mentality of prestige, worldly prestige, to that of service, Christian service? Dedication is needed, but that is not enough. It is difficult alone, but not impossible, for we have a strength within that helps us. It is the strength of Baptism, of that immersion in Jesus that all of us have already received through grace that directs us, moving us to follow him instead of seeking our interests, but to put ourselves at the service of others. It is a grace, a fire that the Spirit has kindled in us that needs to be nurtured. Today, let us ask the Holy Spirit to renew the grace of Baptism in us, that immersion in Jesus, in his way of being, to be more like servants, to be servants like he has been with us.
And let us pray to the Madonna: she – even though she was the greatest – did not seek to rise up, but was the humble servant of the Lord, and is completely immersed in our service to help us encounter Jesus.