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
First of all Ezra's shame and embarrassment before God which was so acute that he could not raise his eyes to him. Shame and consternation are common to all of us, because of the sins we have committed that have brought us into bondage for serving idols that are not God.
Prayer is the second concept. Following the example of Ezra who falling upon his knees spread out his arms to God, beseeching him for mercy, we must do likewise in reparation for our innumerable sins. It is a prayer, which we should also raise to God for peace in Lebanon, in Syria and throughout the Middle East. Prayer, always and everywhere, is the road we must take in order to face difficult moments as well as the most dramatic trials and the darkness which at times engulf us in unforeseeable situations. To find our way out of all this, it is necessary to pray ceaselessly.
Lastly, boundless trust in God who never abandons us. We may be certain, that the Lord is with us, and therefore we must be persevering on our journey, thanks to hope which instils fortitude. The pastors' word will become reassuring to the faithful: the Lord will never abandon us.
Yesterday Paul was proclaiming salvation in Jesus Christ through faith. But today he is telling his brothers in Rome about the battle he is waging within. I know that nothing good dwells within me, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells in me.
When I want to do the good, evil is right beside me. In fact, I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of the mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. We do not always have the courage to speaks about this battle as Paul speaks. We always seek to justify ourselves: 'But yes, we are all sinners' we say.
It is against this disposition that we must battle. Indeed, if we do not recognize this we cannot obtain God's forgiveness, because if being a sinner is only a word or a way of speaking, then we do not need God's forgiveness. But if it is a reality that enslaves us, then we truly need the interior freedom and strength of the Lord. Paul shows us the way out of this attitude: Confess your sin and your tendency to sin to the community, do not hide it. This is the disposition which the Church asks of all of us, which Jesus asks of all of us: humbly to confess our sins.
The Church in her wisdom points to the sacrament of confession. “Let us go to our brother, to our brother the priest, and let us make this interior confession: the same confession that Paul himself makes: 'I want the good, I would like to be better, but as you know, I sometimes experience this battle within, sometimes, there is this, that and the other …
Those who refuse to speak with a priest under the pretence that they confess directly to God. “It's easy. It's like confessing by email … God is there, far away; I say things and there is no face to face, there is not face to face encounter. But Paul confessed his weakness to his brothers face to face.
In the alleluia we said: “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden the mysteries of the kingdom from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes. Little ones have a certain wisdom. When a child comes to make his confession, he never speaks in generalities. He says: 'Father, I did this, and I did this to my aunt, I did this to someone else, and to someone else I said this word', and they say the word. They are real, they possess the simplicity of truth. And we always tend to hide the reality of our weakness and poverty.
But if there is one thing that is beautiful, it is when we confess our sins in the presence of God just as they are. We always feel the grace of being ashamed. To feel ashamed before God is a grace. It is a grace to say: 'I am ashamed'. Let us think about St Peter after Jesus' miracle on the lake: “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinner”. He was ashamed of his sin in the presence of Jesus Christ.
Going to confession, is “going to an encounter with the Lord who forgives us, who loves us. And our shame is what we offer him: 'Lord, I am a sinner, but I am not so bad, I am capable of feeling ashamed'.
Let us ask for the grace to live in the truth without hiding anything from the Lord and without hiding anything from ourselves.
Today’s readings tell us of the God of life, who conquers death. Let us pause in particular on the last of the miraculous signs which Jesus performs before his Easter, at the sepulchre of his friend, Lazarus.
Everything appears to have ended there: the tomb is sealed by a great stone; there is only weeping and desolation there. Even Jesus is shaken by the dramatic mystery of the loss of a dear person: “He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (Jn 11:33). Then “Jesus wept” (v. 35) and went to the sepulchre, the Gospel says, “deeply moved again” (v. 38). This is God’s heart: far from evil but close to those who are suffering. He does not make evil disappear magically, but he endures the suffering; he makes it his own and transforms it; he abides it.
We notice, however, that amid the general despair over the death of Lazarus, Jesus does not allow himself to be transported by despair. Even while suffering himself, he asks that people believe steadfastly. He does not close himself within his weeping but, moved, he makes his way to the sepulchre. He does not allow the resigned, emotional atmosphere that surrounds him to seize him, but rather, prays with trust and says, “Father, I thank thee” (v. 41). Thus, in the mystery of suffering, before which thoughts and progress are crushed like flies against glass, Jesus offers us the example of how to conduct ourselves. He does not run away from suffering, which is part of this life, but he does not allow himself to be held captive by pessimism.
A great “encounter-clash” thus occurred at that sepulchre. On the one hand, there is the great disappointment, the precariousness of our mortal life which, pierced by anguish over death, often experiences defeat, an interior darkness which seems insurmountable. Our soul, created for life, suffers upon hearing that its thirst for eternal good is oppressed by an ancient and dark evil. On the one hand, there is this defeat of the sepulchre. But on the other, there is the hope that conquers death and evil, and which has a name: the name of hope is Jesus.
He neither brings a bit of comfort nor some remedy to prolong life, but rather, proclaims: “I am the Resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live”, (v. 25). It is for this reason that he says decisively, “Take away the stone” (v. 39) and he calls to Lazarus, “Come out” (v. 43).
Dear brothers and sisters, we too are called to decide on which side to stand. One can stand on the side of the sepulchre or on the side of Jesus. There are those who allow themselves to be closed within their pain and those who open up to hope. There are those who remain trapped among the ruins of life, and those who, like you, with God’s help, pick up the ruins of life and rebuild with patient hope.
In facing life’s great ‘whys?’, we have two paths: either stay and wistfully contemplate past and present sepulchres, or allow Jesus to approach our sepulchres. Yes, because each one of us already has a small sepulchre, some area that has somewhat died within our hearts; a wound, a wrongdoing endured or inflicted, an unrelenting resentment, a regret that keeps coming back, a sin we cannot overcome. Today, let us identify these little sepulchres that we have inside, and let us invite Jesus into them. It is curious, but we often prefer to be alone in the dark caves within us rather than invite Christ inside them. We are tempted to always seek [solutions for] ourselves, brooding and sinking into anguish, licking our wounds, instead of going to him, who says, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”, (Mt 11:28). Let us not be held captive by the temptation to remain alone and discouraged, crying about what is happening to us. Let us not give in to the useless and inconclusive logic of fear, resignedly repeating that everything is going badly and nothing is as it once was. This is the sepulchral atmosphere. The Lord instead wishes to open the path of life, that of encounter with him, of trust in him, of the resurrection of the heart, the way of: “Arise, Arise, come out”. This is what the Lord asks of us, and he is by our side to do so.
Thus, we hear directed to each one of us Jesus’ words to Lazarus: “Come out”. Come out from the gridlock of hopeless sadness; unwrap the bandages of fear that impede the journey, the laces of the weaknesses and anxieties that constrain you; reaffirm that God unties the knots. By following Jesus, we learn not to knot our lives around problems which become tangled. There will always be problems, always, and when we solve one, another one duly arrives. We can however, find a new stability, and this stability is Jesus himself. This stability is called Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life. With him, joy abides in our hearts, hope is reborn, suffering is transformed into peace, fear into trust, hardship into an offering of love. And even though burdens will not disappear, there will always be his uplifting hand, his encouraging Word saying to all of us, to each of us: “Come out! Come to me!”. He tells all of us: “Do not be afraid”.
Today, just like then, Jesus says to us to: “take away the stone”. However burdensome the past, great the sin, weighty the shame, let us never bar the Lord’s entrance. Let us, before him, remove that stone which prevents him from entering. This is the favourable time to remove our sin, our attachment to worldly vanity, the pride that blocks our souls, so much hostility among us, in families.... This is the favourable time for removing all these things.
Visited and liberated by Jesus, we ask for the grace to be witnesses of life in this world that thirsts for it, witnesses who spark and rekindle God’s hope in hearts weary and laden with sadness. Our message is the joy of the living Lord, who says again today, as he did to Ezekiel, “Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people (Ez 37:12).
St Luke 5: 1-11. It is an episode that reminds us of the other miraculous catch of fish, which took place after the Resurrection, when Jesus asked His disciples if they had anything to eat. In both cases, there is an anointing of Peter: first as a fisher of men, then as a pastor. Jesus then changes his name from Simon to Peter; and, as a good Israelite, Peter knows that a change of name signifies a change of mission. Peter felt proud because he truly loved Jesus, and this miraculous catch represents a step forward in his life.
After seeing that the nets were at the point of breaking on account of the great number of fish, Peter throws himself at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
This is the first decisive step of Peter along the path of discipleship, of the disciple of Jesus, accusing himself: ‘I am a sinner.’ This is Peter’s first step; and also the first step for each one of us, if you want to go forward in the spiritual life, in the life of Jesus, serving Jesus, following Jesus, must be this, accusing oneself: without accusing oneself you cannot walk in the Christian life.
There is a risk, however. We all know that we are sinners in a general way, but it is not easy to accuse ourselves of being sinners concretely. We are so used to saying, ‘I am a sinner,’ but in the same way that we say, “I am human,” or “I am an Italian citizen.” But to truly accuse ourselves, on the other hand, means really feeling our own misery: to feel miserable, misery, before the Lord. It’s related to feeling shame. And this is something that does not come from words, but from the heart. That is, there is a concrete experience, like that of Peter when he said to Jesus, “Depart from me, a sinner.” He really felt himself to be a sinner; and then he felt himself to be saved.
The salvation that Jesus brings us requires this sincere confession precisely because it is not a cosmetic thing, that changes your looks with “two brushstrokes.” Rather, it transforms – but because you enter into it, you have to make room for it with a sincere confession of your own sins; and so one experiences the wonder that Peter felt.
The first step of conversion, then, is to accuse oneself with shame, and to try to experience the wonder of feeling that you are saved. We have to be converted, we must do penance.
There are people who go through life talking about others, accusing others and never thinking of their own sins. And when I go to make my confession, how do I confess? Like a parrot? ‘Bla, bla, bla… I did this, this…’ But are you touched at heart by what you have done? Many times, no. You go there to put on make-up, to make-yourself up a little bit in order to look beautiful. But it hasn’t entered completely into your heart, because you haven’t left room, because you are not capable of accusing yourself.
And so that first step is also a grace: the grace of learning to accuse oneself, and not others.
A sign that a person does not know, that a Christian does not know how to accuse himself is when he is accustomed to accusing others, to talking about others, to being nosy about the lives of others. And that is an ugly sign. Do I do this? It’s a good question to get to the heart of things.
Today let us ask the Lord for the grace, the grace to find ourselves face to face with Him with this wonder that His presence gives; and the grace to feel that we are sinners, but concretely, and to say with Peter: 'Depart from me, for I am a sinner'.
In these days, I will offer Mass for those who are sick from the coronavirus epidemic, for the doctors, nurses, volunteers who are helping them, for their families, for the elderly in nursing homes, for prisoners. Let us pray together this week, this strong prayer to the Lord: “Redeem me, O Lord, and have mercy on me. My foot stands on level ground; I will bless the Lord in the assembly."
The first Reading of the Prophet Daniel (9:4-10) is a confession of sins. The people recognize that they have sinned ... "Sir, you have been faithful to us, but we have sinned, we have acted as villains and been wicked. We've been rebellious, we've departed from your commandments and your laws. We have not obeyed your servants, the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers, and all the people of the land" (vv. 5-6).
This is a confession of sin, a recognition that we have sinned. And as we prepare to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we must do what is called an "examination of conscience" and see what I have done before God: I have sinned. Recognizing sin. But this recognition of sin cannot be just to make a list of intellectual sins, to say "I have sin", then I say it to the Father and the Father forgives me. It's not necessary, it's not right to do this. This would be like making a list of things I have to do or that I have to have or that I did wrong, but it stays in my head. A true confession of sins must remain in the heart. To go to confession is not only to tell the priest this list, "I did this, this, this, this ...", and then I leave, I am forgiven. No, that's not it. It takes one step, one more step, which is the confession of our miseries, but from the heart; that is, that that list that I have done bad things, goes down to the heart. And so does Daniel, the prophet. "Justice, O Lord, is on your side; we are shamefaced " (see v. 7).
When I recognize that I have sinned, that I have not prayed well, and I feel this in my heart, there is this feeling of shame: "I am ashamed to have done this. I ask your forgiveness with shame." And shame for our sins is a grace, we must ask it: "Lord, may I be ashamed." A person who has lost his sense of shame has lost a sense of moral judgement, loses the respect of others. He's a shame. . "Lord," continues Daniel , "we are shamefaced, like our kings, our princes, our fathers, because we have sinned against you" (v. 8). "But yours, O Lord, our God, are compassion and forgiveness" (v. 9).
When we have not only the memory, the memory of the sins we have done, but also the feeling of shame, it touches God's heart and he responds with mercy. The path to God's mercy is to be ashamed of the bad things, the bad things we have done. So when I go to confess, I will say not only the list of sins, but the feelings of confusion, of shame for having done this to a God so good, so compassionate, so just.
Today we ask for the grace of feeling ashamed: to be ashamed of our sins. May the Lord grant this grace to all of us.
“Whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ” (Phil 3:7). That is what Saint Paul tells us in the first reading. And if we ask ourselves what were those things that he no longer considered important in his life, and was even content to lose in order to find Christ, we realize that they were not material riches, but a fund of “religious” assets. Paul was devout and zealous, just and dutiful (cf. vv. 5-6). Yet, this very religiosity, which could have seemed a source of pride and merit, proved to be an impediment for him. Paul goes on to say: “I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (v. 8). Everything that had given him a certain prestige, a certain fame...; “forget it: for me, Christ is more important”.
People who are extremely rich in their own minds, and proud of their religious accomplishments, consider themselves better than others – how frequently does this happen in a parish: “I’m from Catholic Action; I’m going to help the priest; I do the collection... it’s all about me, me, me”; how often people believe themselves better than others; each of us, in our hearts, should reflect on whether this has ever happened – they feel satisfied that they cut a good figure. They feel comfortable, but they have no room for God because they feel no need for him. And many times “good Catholics”, those who feel upright because they go the parish, go to Mass on Sunday and boast of being righteous, say: “No, I don’t need anything, the Lord has saved me”. What has happened? They have replaced God with their own ego, and although they recite prayers and perform works of piety, they never really engage in dialogue with the Lord. They perform monologues in place of dialogue and prayer. Scripture tells us that only “the prayer of the humble pierces the clouds” (Sir 35:1), because only those who are poor in spirit, and conscious of their need of salvation and forgiveness, come into the presence of God; they come before him without vaunting their merits, without pretense or presumption. Because they possess nothing, they find everything, because they find the Lord.
Jesus offers us this teaching in the parable that we have just heard (cf. Lk 18:9-14). It is the story of two men, a Pharisee and a tax collector, who both go to the Temple to pray, but only one reaches the heart of God. Even before they do anything, their physical attitude is eloquent: the Gospel tells us that the Pharisee prayed, “standing by himself” right at the front, while the tax collector, “standing far off, would not even look up to heaven” (v. 13), out of shame. Let us reflect for a moment on these attitudes.
The Pharisee stood by himself. He is sure of himself, standing proudly erect, like someone to be respected for his accomplishments, like a model. With this attitude, he prays to God, but in fact he celebrates himself. I go to the Temple, I observe the Law, I give alms… Formally, his prayer is perfect; publicly, he appears pious and devout, but instead of opening his heart to God, he masks his weaknesses in hypocrisy. How often we make a façade of our lives. This Pharisee does not await the Lord’s salvation as a free gift, but practically demands it as a reward for his merits. “I’ve completed my tasks, now I demand my prize”. This man strides right up to the altar of God and takes his place in the front row, but he ends by going too far and puts himself before God!
The tax collector, on the other hand, stands far off. He doesn’t push himself to the front; he stays at the back. Yet that distance, which expresses his sinfulness before the holiness of God, enables him to experience the loving and merciful embrace of the Father. God could come to him precisely because, by standing far off, he had made room for him. He doesn’t speak about himself, he addresses God and asks for forgiveness. How true this is, also with regard to our relationships in our families, in society, and in the Church! True dialogue takes place when we are able to preserve a certain space between ourselves and others, a healthy space that allows each to breathe without being sucked in or overwhelmed. Only then, can dialogue and encounter bridge the distance and create closeness. That happens in the life of the tax collector: standing at the back of the Temple, he recognizes the truth of how he, a sinner, stands before God. “Far off”, and in this way making it possible for God to draw near to him.
Brothers, sisters, let us remember this: the Lord comes to us when we step back from our presumptuous ego. Let us reflect: Am I conceited? Do I think I’m better than others? Do I look at someone with a little contempt? “I thank you, Lord, because you have saved me and I’m not like those people who understand nothing; I go to church, I attend Mass; I am married, married in church, whereas they are divorced sinners…”: is your heart like this? That is the way to perdition. Yet to get closer to God, we must say to the Lord: “I am the first of sinners, and if I have not fallen into the worst filth it is because your mercy has taken me by the hand. Thanks to you, Lord, I am alive; thanks to you, Lord, I have not destroyed myself with sin”. God can bridge the distance whenever, with honesty and sincerity, we bring our weaknesses before him. He holds out his hand and lifts us up whenever we realize we are “hitting rock bottom” and we turn back to him with a sincere heart. That is how God is. He is waiting for us, deep down, for in Jesus he chose to “descend to the depths” because he is unafraid to descend even to our inner abysses, to touch the wounds of our flesh, to embrace our poverty, to accept our failures in life and the mistakes we make through weakness and negligence, and all of us have done so. There, deep down, God waits for us, and he waits for us especially in the sacrament of Penance, when, with much humility, we go to ask forgiveness, as we do today. God is waiting for us there.
Brothers and sisters, today let each of us make an examination of conscience, because the Pharisee and the tax collector both dwell deep within us. Let us not hide behind the hypocrisy of appearances, but entrust to the Lord’s mercy our darkness, our mistakes. Let us think about our wretchedness, our mistakes, even those that we feel unable to share because of shame, which is alright, but with God they must show themselves. When we go to confession, we stand “far off”, at the back, like the tax collector, in order to acknowledge the distance between God’s dream for our lives and the reality of who we are each day: poor sinners. At that moment, the Lord draws near to us; he bridges the distance and sets us back on our feet. At that moment, when we realize that we are naked, he clothes us with the festal garment. That is, and that must be, the meaning of the sacrament of Reconciliation: a festal encounter that heals the heart and leaves us with inner peace. Not a human tribunal to approach with dread, but a divine embrace in which to find consolation.
One of the most beautiful aspects of how God welcomes us is his tender embrace. If we read of when the prodigal son returns home (cf. Lk 15:20-22) and begins to speak, the father does not allow him to speak, he embraces him so he is unable to speak. A merciful embrace. Here, I address my brother confessors: please, brothers, forgive everything, always forgive, without pressing too much on people’s consciences; let them speak about themselves and welcome them like Jesus, with the caress of your gaze, with silent understanding. Please, the sacrament of Penance is not for torturing but for giving peace. Forgive everything, as God will forgive you everything. Everything, everything, everything.
In this season of Lent, with contrite hearts let us quietly say, like the tax collector, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (v. 13). Let us do so together: God, be merciful to me, a sinner! God, when I forget you or I neglect you, when I prefer my words and those of the world to your own word, when I presume to be righteous and look down on others, when I gossip about others, God, be merciful to me, a sinner! When I care nothing for those all around me, when I’m indifferent to the poor and the suffering, the weak and the outcast, God, be merciful to me, a sinner! For my sins against life, for my bad example that mars the lovely face of Mother Church, for my sins against creation, God, be merciful to me, a sinner! For my falsehoods, my duplicity, my lack of honesty and integrity, God, be merciful to me, a sinner! For my hidden sins, which no one knows, for the ways in which I have unconsciously wronged others, and for the good I could have done and yet failed to do, God, be merciful to me, a sinner!
In silence, let us repeat these words for a few moments, with a repentant and trusting heart: God, be merciful to me, a sinner! And in this act of repentance and trust, let us open our hearts to the joy of an even greater gift: the mercy of God.