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
On this Sunday, the Church, looks forward to the joy of Christmas, and that is why it is called “Gaudete Sunday”. In this season, a time of preparation for Christmas, we wear dark vestments, but today they are pink for the blossoming of Christmas joy. And the joy of Christmas is a special joy; but it is a joy that isn’t just for the day of Christmas, it is for the entire life of a Christian. It is a serene and tranquil joy, a joy that forever accompanies the Christian. Even in difficult moments, in moments of difficulty, this joy becomes peace. When he is a true Christian, the Christian never loses his peace, even in suffering. That peace is a gift from the Lord. Christian joy is a gift from the Lord. “Ah, Father, we’ll have a nice big luncheon, everybody will be happy”. This is lovely, a nice luncheon is good; but this isn’t the Christian joy we are talking about today. Christian joy is something else. It brings us together to celebrate, it’s true. Thus the Church wants you to understand what Christian joy is.
The Apostle St Paul says to the Thessalonians: “Brothers, rejoice always”. And how can I rejoice? He says: “pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances”. We find our Christian joy in prayer, it comes from prayer and from giving thanks to God: “Thank you, Lord, for so many beautiful things!”. But there are those who don’t know how to give thanks to God; they are always looking for something to lament about. I knew a sister — far from here! — this sister was a good woman, she worked... but her life was about lamenting, complaining about so many things that happened.... You see, in the convent they called her “Sr Lamenta”. But a Christian cannot live like this, always looking for something to complain about: “That person has something I don't have.... Did you see what just happened?...”. This is not Christian! And it is harmful to find Christians with embittered faces, with a face wry with bitterness, not in peace. Never, never was there a saint with a mournful face, never! Saints always have joy in their faces. Or at least, amid suffering, a face of peace. The greatest suffering, the martyrdom of Jesus: He always had peace in his face and was concerned about others: his mother, John, the thief... his concern was for others.
To have this Christian joy, first, is prayer; second, to give thanks. And what do I do to give thanks? Reflect on your life and think of the many good things that life has given you: so many. “But, Father, it’s true, but I have also received so many bad things!” — “Yes, it’s true, it happens to us all. But think of the good things” — “I have a Christian family, Christian parents, thank God I have a job, my family is not suffering of hunger, we are all healthy...”. I don’t know, so many things, and give thanks to the Lord for this. This accustoms us to joy. Pray, give thanks....
And then, the First Reading suggests another dimension that will help us to have joy. It is to bring others the Good News: We are Christians. “Christian” comes from “Christ”, and “Christ” means “anointed”. And we too are “anointed”. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord consecrated me with unction. We are anointed: Christians mean “anointed ones”. And why are we anointed? To do what? “He sent me to bring the good news” to whom? “To the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (cf. Is 61:1-2). This is the vocation of Christ and the vocation of Christians as well. To go to others, to those in need, whether their needs be material or spiritual.... Many people who suffer anxiety because of family problems.... To bring peace there, to bring the unction of Jesus, the oil of Jesus which does so much good and consoles souls.
Therefore, in order to have this joy in preparation for Christmas, first, pray: “Lord, let me live this Christmas with true joy”. Not with the joy of consumerism that leads me to 24 December with anxiety, because “ah, I’m missing this, I’m missing that...”. No, this is not the joy of God. Prayer. Second: give thanks to the Lord for the good things he has given us. Third, think of how we can go to others, to those in difficulty and with problems — let us think of the sick, of so many problems — to bring a little unction, peace, joy. This is the joy of the Christian. Agreed? We have 15 days left, a little less: 13 days. In these days, let us pray. But do not forget: let us pray, asking for the joy of Christmas. Let us give thanks to God for the good things that he has given us, above all the faith. This is a wonderful grace. Third, let us think where I can go to bring a little relief, a little peace, to those who suffer. Pray, give thanks and help others. And like this we will arrive at the Birth of the Anointed One, the Christ, as ones anointed in grace, prayer and acts of grace and help towards others.
May Our Lady accompany us on this path towards Christmas. And let there be joy, joy!
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In recent Sundays the liturgy has emphasized what it means to assume an attitude of vigilance and what preparing the way of the Lord entails, concretely. On this Third Sunday of Advent, called the “Sunday of Joy”, the liturgy invites us to welcome the spirit with which all this happens, that is, precisely, joy. Saint Paul invites us to prepare for the coming of the Lord, by assuming three attitudes. Listen carefully: three attitudes. First, constant joy; second, steadfast prayer; third, continuous thanksgiving. Constant joy, steadfast prayer and continuous thanksgiving.
The first attitude, constant joy: “Rejoice always” (1 Thess 5:16), Saint Paul says. This means always being joyful, even when things do not go according to our wishes; but there is that profound joy, which is peace: that too is joy; it is within. And peace is a joy “at the ground level”, but it is a joy. Distress, difficulties and suffering pass through each person’s life, we are all familiar with them; and so often the reality that surrounds us seems to be inhospitable and barren, similar to the desert in which the voice of John the Baptist resonated, as today’s Gospel passage recalls (cf. Jn 1:23). But the very words of the Baptist reveal that our joy rests on a certainty, that this desert is inhabited: “among you” — he says — “stands one whom you do not know” (v. 26). It refers to Jesus, the Father’s envoy who comes, as Isaiah stresses, “to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (61:1-2). These words, which Jesus will speak in his discourse at the synagogue of Nazareth (cf. Lk 4:16-19), clarify that his mission in the world consists in the liberation from sin and from the personal and social slavery that it produces. He has come to the earth to restore to mankind the dignity and freedom of the Children of God — which only he can communicate — and thereby to give joy.
The joy which characterizes the awaiting of the Messiah is based on steadfast prayer: this is the second attitude. Saint Paul says: “pray constantly” (1 Thess 5:17). By praying we can enter a stable relationship with God, who is the source of true joy. A Christian’s joy is not bought; it cannot be bought. It comes from faith and from the encounter with Jesus Christ, the reason for our happiness. And when we are rooted in Christ, the closer we are to Jesus, the more we find inner peace, even among everyday contradictions. For this reason a Christian, having encountered Jesus, cannot be a prophet of misfortune, but a witness and herald of joy. A joy to share with others; an infectious joy that renders the journey of life less toilsome.
The third attitude Paul points to is continuous thanksgiving, which is grateful love towards God. Indeed, he is very generous to us, and we are invited to always recognize his beneficence, his merciful love, his patience and goodness, thus living in unceasing thanksgiving.
Joy, prayer and gratitude are three attitudes that prepare us to experience Christmas in an authentic way. Joy, prayer and gratitude. Everyone together, let us say: joy, prayer and gratitude. [The people repeat.] Once again! [The people repeat.] In this last period of the Season of Advent, let us entrust ourselves to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary. She is a “cause of our joy”, not only because she begot Jesus, but because she keeps directing us to him.
“When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son” (Gal 4:4). This celebration of Vespers breathes the atmosphere of the fullness of time. Not because we are at the last evening of the solar year, far from it; but because the faith teaches us to contemplate and feel that Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, has given fullness to worldly time and human history.
“Born of woman” (v. 4). The first to experience the meaning of the fullness given by the presence of Jesus was precisely the “woman” of whom he was “born”: the Mother of the Incarnate Son, Theotokos, Mother of God. The fullness of time flowed forth through her, so to speak: through her humble and faith-filled heart, through her flesh wholly permeated by the Holy Spirit.
From her the Church has acquired and constantly acquires this inner perception of fullness, which fosters a sense of gratitude, as a unique human response worthy of the immense Gift of God. A heartrending gratitude which, beginning from the contemplation of that Child swaddled and laid in a manger, extends to everything and to everyone, to the entire world. It is a “gratefulness” which reflects the Grace; it comes not from the ‘we’ but from him; it comes not from the ‘I’ but from God; and it engages the ‘I’ and the ‘we’.
In this atmosphere created by the Holy Spirit, we raise to God the thanksgiving for the year that is coming to an end, acknowledging that all good is his gift.
Even this moment of the year 2017, which God gave to us whole and healthy, we humans in many ways have squandered and wounded with works of death, with lies and injustice. Wars are a flagrant sign of this recidivist and absurd pride. But so too are all the small and large offenses to life, to truth, to brotherhood, which cause manifold forms of human, social and environmental degradation.
We wish to and must assume our responsibility for everything before God, our brothers and sisters and creation.
But this evening Jesus’ grace and his reflection in Mary prevail. And therefore gratitude prevails, the gratitude that, as Bishop of Rome, I feel in my heart, thinking of the people who live with open hearts in this city.
I feel a sense of fondness and gratitude for all those people who each day contribute, with small but valuable concrete gestures, to the good of Rome: they try as best they can to fulfil their duty; they move through the traffic with discernment and prudence, respecting public places and signalling the things that do not work; they are attentive to people who are elderly or in difficulty, and so on. In these and a thousand other ways they concretely express love for the city. Without speeches, without publicity, but with a style of civic education practiced in daily life. And in this way they quietly cooperate for the common good.
Likewise I feel great esteem for the parents, teachers and all educators who, with this same manner, try to form children and young people in civic awareness, in an ethics of responsibility, educating them to feel part of, to take care of, to take an interest in the reality that surrounds them.
These people, even if they do not make the news, are the majority of the people who live in Rome. And among them many find themselves in conditions of economic difficulty; and yet they do not complain about it, nor do they harbour resentment and rancour, but they strive each day to do their part to make things a little better.
Today, in giving thanks to God, I invite you to also express appreciation for all these artisans of the common good, who love their city not only with words but with deeds.
“Your faith has saved you” (Lk 17:19). This is the climax of today’s Gospel, which reflects the journey of faith. There are three steps in this journey of faith. We see them in the actions of the lepers whom Jesus heals. They cry out, they walk and they give thanks.
First, they cry out. The lepers were in a dreadful situation, not only because of a disease that, widespread even today, needs to be battled with unremitting effort, but also because of their exclusion from society. At the time of Jesus, lepers were considered unclean and, as such, had to be isolated and kept apart (cf. Lev 13:46). We see that when they approach Jesus, they “kept their distance” (Lk 17:12). Even though their condition kept them apart, the Gospel tells us that they “called out” (v. 13) and pleaded with Jesus. They did not let themselves be paralyzed because they were shunned by society; they cried out to God, who excludes no one. We see how distances are shortened, how loneliness is overcome: by not closing in on ourselves and our own problems, by not thinking about how others judge us, but rather by crying out to the Lord, for the Lord hears the cry of those who find themselves alone.
Like those lepers, we too need healing, each one of us. We need to be healed of our lack of confidence in ourselves, in life, in the future; we need to be healed of our fears and the vices that enslave us, of our introversion, our addictions and our attachment to games, money, television, mobile phones, to what other people think. The Lord sets our hearts free and heals them if only we ask him, only if we say to him: “Lord, I believe you can heal me. Dear Jesus, heal me from being caught up in myself. Free me from evil and fear”. The lepers are the first people, in this Gospel, who called on the name of Jesus. Later, a blind man and a crucified thief would do so: all of them needy people calling on the name of Jesus, which means: “God saves”. They call God by name, directly and spontaneously. To call someone by name is a sign of confidence, and it pleases the Lord. That is how faith grows, through confident, trusting prayer. Prayer in which we bring to Jesus who we really are, with open hearts, without attempting to mask our sufferings. Each day, let us invoke with confidence the name of Jesus: “God saves”. Let us repeat it: that is prayer, to say “Jesus“ is to pray. And prayer is essential! Indeed, prayer is the door of faith; prayer is medicine for the heart.
The second word is to walk. It is the second stage. In today’s brief Gospel, there are several verbs of motion. It is quite striking is that the lepers are not healed as they stand before Jesus; it is only afterwards, as they were walking. The Gospel tells us that: “As they went, they were made clean” (v. 14). They were healed by going up to Jerusalem, that is, while walking uphill. On the journey of life, purification takes place along the way, a way that is often uphill since it leads to the heights. Faith calls for journey, a “going out” from ourselves, and it can work wonders if we abandon our comforting certainties, if we leave our safe harbours and our cosy nests. Faith increases by giving, and grows by taking risks. Faith advances when we make our way equipped with trust in God. Faith advances with humble and practical steps, like the steps of the lepers or those of Naaman who went down to bathe in the river Jordan (cf. 2 Kings 5:14-17). The same is true for us. We advance in faith by showing humble and practical love, exercising patience each day, and praying constantly to Jesus as we keep pressing forward on our way.
There is a further interesting aspect to the journey of the lepers: they move together. The Gospel tells us that, “as they went, they were made clean” (v. 14). The verbs are in the plural. Faith means also walking together, never alone. Once healed, however, nine of them go off on their own way, and only one turns back to offer thanks. Jesus then expresses his astonishment: “The others, where are they?” (v. 17). It is as if he asks the only one who returned to account for the other nine. It is the task of us, who celebrate the Eucharist as an act of thanksgiving, to take care of those who have stopped walking, those who have lost their way. We are called to be guardians of our distant brothers and sisters, all of us! We are to intercede for them; we are responsible for them, to account for them, to keep them close to heart. Do you want to grow in faith? You, who are here today, do you want to grow in faith? Then take care of a distant brother, a faraway sister.
To cry out. To walk. And to give thanks. This is the final step. Only to the one who thanked him did Jesus say: “Your faith has saved you” (v. 19). It made you both safe, and sound. We see from this that the ultimate goal is not health or wellness, but the encounter with Jesus. Salvation is not drinking a glass of water to keep fit; it is going to the source, which is Jesus. He alone frees us from evil and heals our hearts. Only an encounter with him can save, can make life full and beautiful. Whenever we meet Jesus, the word “thanks” comes immediately to our lips, because we have discovered the most important thing in life, which is not to receive a grace or resolve a problem, but to embrace the Lord of life. And this is the most important thing in life: to embrace the Lord of life.
It is impressive to see how the man who was healed, a Samaritan, expresses his joy with his entire being: he praises God in a loud voice, he prostrates himself, and he gives thanks (cf. vv. 15-16). The culmination of the journey of faith is to live a life of continual thanksgiving. Let us ask ourselves: do we, as people of faith, live each day as a burden, or as an act of praise? Are we closed in on ourselves, waiting to ask another blessing, or do we find our joy in giving thanks? When we express our gratitude, the Father’s heart is moved and he pours out the Holy Spirit upon us. To give thanks is not a question of good manners or etiquette; it is a question of faith. A grateful heart is one that remains young. To say “Thank you, Lord” when we wake up, throughout the day and before going to bed: that is the best way to keep our hearts young, because hearts can grow old and be spoilt. This also holds true for families, and between spouses. Remember to say thank you. Those words are the simplest and most effective of all.
To cry out. To walk. To give thanks. Today we give thanks to the Lord for our new Saints. They walked by faith and now we invoke their intercession. Three of them were religious women; they show us that the consecrated life is a journey of love at the existential peripheries of the world. Saint Marguerite Bays, on the other hand, was a seamstress; she speaks to us of the power of simple prayer, enduring patience and silent self-giving. That is how the Lord made the splendour of Easter radiate in her life, in her humbleness. Such is the holiness of daily life, which Saint John Henry Newman described in these words: “The Christian has a deep, silent, hidden peace, which the world sees not... The Christian is cheerful, easy, kind, gentle, courteous, candid, unassuming; has no pretence... with so little that is unusual or striking in his bearing, that he may easily be taken at first sight for an ordinary man” (Parochial and Plain Sermons, V, 5).
Let us ask to be like that, “kindly lights” amid the encircling gloom. Jesus, “stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as Thou shinest: so to shine as to be a light to others” (Meditations on Christian Doctrine, VII, 3). Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today, I would like to focus on the prayer of thanksgiving. And I take my cue from an episode recounted by the Evangelist Luke. While Jesus was on the way, ten lepers approached Him who begged him: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (17:13). We know that those who had leprosy suffered not only physically, but also from social marginalization and religious marginalization. They were marginalized. Jesus did not back off from meeting them. Sometimes, He surpassed the limitations imposed by the law and touched, embraced and healed the sick person – which was not supposed to be done. In this case, there was no contact. From a distance, Jesus invited them to present themselves to the priests (v. 14), who were designated by law to certify healings that had occurred. Jesus said nothing else. He heard their prayer, He heard their cry for mercy, and He sent them immediately to the priests.
Those ten lepers trusted, they did not remain there until they were cured, no: they trusted and they went immediately, and while they were on their way, they were cured, all ten were cured. The priests would have therefore been able to verify their healing and readmit them to normal life. But this is where the important point enters in: only one in the group, before going to the priests, returned to thank Jesus and to praise God for the grace received. Only one, the other nine continued on their way. And Jesus points out that that man was a Samaritan, a sort of “heretic” for the Jews of that time. Jesus comments: “Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (17:18). This narrative is touching.
This narrative, so to speak, divides the world in two: those who do not give thanks and those who do; those who take everything as if it is owed them, and those who welcome everything as a gift, as grace. The Catechism says: “every event and need can become an offering of thanksgiving” (n. 2638). The prayer of thanksgiving always begins here: to recognize that grace precedes us. We were thought of before we learned how to think; we were loved before we learned how to love; we were desired before our hearts conceived a desire. If we view life like this, then “thank you” becomes the driving force of our day. And how often we even forget to say “thank you”.
For us Christians, thanksgiving was the name given to the most essential Sacrament there is: the Eucharist. In fact, the Greek word, means precisely this: thanksgiving, eucharist: thanksgiving. Christians, as all believers, bless God for the gift of life. To live is first and foremost to have received life! All of us are born because someone wanted us to have life. And this is only the first of a long series of debts that we incur by living. Debts of gratitude. During our lives, more than one person has gazed on us with pure eyes, gratuitously. Often, these people are educators, catechists, persons who carried out their roles above and beyond what was required of them. And they provoked us to be grateful. Even friendship is a gift for which we should always be grateful.
This “thank you” that we must say continually, this thanks that Christians share with everyone, grows in meeting Jesus. The Gospels attest that when Jesus passed by, He often provoked joy and praise to God in those whom He met. The Gospel accounts are filled with prayerful people who are greatly touched by the coming of the Saviour. And we too are called to participate in this immense jubilation. The episode of the ten lepers who are healed also suggests this. Naturally, all of them were happy for having recovered their health, allowing them to end that unending forced quarantine that excluded them from the community. But among them, there was one who experienced an additional joy: in addition to being healed, he rejoices at meeting Jesus. He is not only freed from evil, but he now possesses the certainty of being loved. This is the crux: when you thank someone, give thanks, you express the certainty that you are loved. And this is a huge step: to have the certainty that you are loved. It is the discovery of love as the force that governs the world – as Dante said: the Love that “moves the sun and other stars” (Paradise, XXXIII, 145). We are no longer vagabonds wandering aimlessly here and there, no: we have a home, we dwell in Christ, and from that “dwelling” we contemplate the rest of the world which appears infinitely more beautiful to us. We are children of love, we are brothers and sisters of love. We are men and woman who thank.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us seek to remain always in the joy of encountering Jesus. Let us cultivate joyfulness. The devil, instead, after having deluded us – with whatever temptation – always leaves us sad and alone. If we are in Christ, there is no sin and no threat that can ever prevent us from continuing joyfully on our way, together with many other companions on the road.
Above all, let us not forget to thank: if we are bearers of gratitude, the world itself will become better, even if only a little bit, but that is enough to transmit a bit of hope. The world needs hope. And with gratitude, with this habit of saying thank you, we transmit a bit of hope. Everything is united and everything is connected, and everyone needs to do his or her part wherever we are. The path to happiness is the one Saint Paul described at the end of one of his letters: “Pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thes 5:17-19). Do not quench the Spirit, what a beautiful project of life! Do not quench the Spirit within us that leads us to gratitude. Thank you.
This evening’s celebration always has a two-fold aspect: liturgically, we enter into the solemn Feast of Mary Most Holy, the Mother of God; and at the same time, we conclude the solar year with the great hymn of praise.
Tomorrow we will have the opportunity to reflect together on the first aspect. This evening, we create the space for giving thanks for the year that is drawing to a close.
“We praise you, O God: We acclaim you as Lord.” This may seem to be a forced, almost jarring form of thanking God at the end of a year like this, marked by the pandemic. We think of the families who have lost one or more members, of those who are ill, of those who have suffered alone, of those who have lost their jobs…
Sometimes someone asks: what sense does a tragedy such as this have? We do not need to hastily respond to this question. To our most anguished “whys”, not even God responds by having recourse to “higher reason”. God’s response takes the path of the Incarnation, as the Antiphon for the Magnificat will sing in a moment: “In his great love for us, God sent his Son in the likeness of our sinful nature”.
A God who would sacrifice human beings for his grand design, even the best possible, is certainly not the God that Jesus Christ revealed to us. God is Father, the “eternal Father”, and if his Son became man it is because of the immense compassion of the Father’s heart. God is a shepherd, and what shepherd would give up even a single sheep for lost, thinking that he at least still has many others? No, this cynical and ruthless god does not exist. This is not the God we “praise” and “acclaim as Lord”.
When the Good Samaritan met that poor, half-dead man on the side of the road, he did not give him a speech to explain to him the meaning of what had happened to him, perhaps even trying to convince him that in the end it was for his own good. The Samaritan, moved with compassion, bent over that stranger, treating him like a brother and cared for him, doing everything in his power (see Lk 10:25-37).
Yes, perhaps here we can find the “meaning” of this tragedy, of this pandemic, as well as other scourges that afflict humanity: the triggering compassion in us and of prompting attitudes and gestures of closeness, of care, of solidarity.
This is what has happened and is happening even in Rome in these months. And it is above all for this that we give thanks to God this evening: for the good things that have taken place in our cities during the lockdown and, in general, during the pandemic which, unfortunately, is not over yet.
There are many people who, without making noise, have tried to make the weight of this trial more bearable. With their daily dedication, inspired by love for their neighbour, they have made the words of the Te Deum real: “Day by day we praise you: We acclaim you now and to all eternity”. For the blessing and praise that the Lord loves the most is love of neighbour.
The healthcare workers – doctors, nurses, volunteers – found themselves on the front lines, and so they were always in our prayers and deserve our gratitude, as well as many priests and men and women religious. But this evening, our thanks go to all those who strive every day in the best way possible to carry on their service to their own families and the common good. We think especially of school administrators and teachers who carry out an essential role in the life of society and who must face a very complex situation. We gratefully think of public administrators as well who know how to value all of the resources present in their cities and territories, who are detached from their own private interests as well as those of their parties, who truly seek everyone’s good, beginning with the most disadvantaged.
All of this cannot happen without the grace, without the mercy of God. In difficult moments – we know this by experience – we are inclined to defend ourselves – this is natural – to protect ourselves and our dear ones, to safeguard our own interests… How is it then that so many people, without any other reward than that of doing good, found the strength to be concerned about others? What drove them to give up something of themselves, their own comfort, their own time, their own good, in order to give to others? In the end, even if they themselves are not aware of it, what fortifies them is God’s strength which is more powerful than our selfishness. We praise him for this, because we believe and we know that all the good that is accomplished day after day on earth, in the end, comes from him. And looking toward the future that awaits us, we implore of him once again: “May your mercy always be with us, Lord, For we have hoped in you”. Our trust and our hope are in you.
As Jesus was walking along, ten lepers met him and cried out: “Have mercy on us!” (Lk 17:13). All ten were healed, yet only one of them returned to thank Jesus. He was a Samaritan, a kind of heretic for the Jewish people. At the beginning, they were walking together, but then the Samaritan left the others and turned back, “praising God with a loud voice” (v. 15). Let us stop and reflect on these two aspects of today’s Gospel: walking together and giving thanks.
First, walking together. At the beginning of the account, there is no difference between the Samaritan and the other nine. We only hear that they are lepers, who together, as a group, approach Jesus. Leprosy, as we know, was not only a physical affliction, one which even today we must make every effort to eliminate, but also a “social disease”, since in those days, for fear of contagion, lepers had to remain apart from the community (cf. Lev 13:46). Hence, they could not enter villages; they were kept at a distance, isolated and relegated to the margins of social and even religious life. By walking together, these lepers indicted a society that excluded them. We should also note that the Samaritan, although considered a heretic, “a foreigner”, is part of their group. Brothers and sisters, whenever disease and fragility are shared, barriers fall and exclusion is overcome.
This image is also meaningful for us: when we are honest with ourselves, we realize that we are all sick at heart, all sinners in need of the Father’s mercy. Then we stop creating divisions on the basis of merit, social position or some other superficial criterion; our interior barriers and prejudices likewise fall. In the end, we realize once more that we are brothers and sisters. Even Naaman the Syrian, as the first reading reminded us, for all his wealth and power, could only be healed by doing something simple: wash in the river in which everyone else was bathing. First of all, he had to remove his armour and his robes (cf. 2 Kings 5). We would do well to set aside our own outer armour, our defensive barriers, and take a good bath of humility, mindful that all of us are vulnerable within and in need of healing. All of us are brothers and sisters. Let us remember this: the Christian faith always asks us to walk alongside others, never to be solitary wayfarers. Faith always urges us to move beyond ourselves and towards God and our brothers and sisters, never to remain enclosed within ourselves. Faith invites us to acknowledge constantly that we are in need of healing and forgiveness, and to share in the frailty of those who are near to us, without feeling ourselves superior.
Brothers and sisters, let us reflect and see if in our lives, in our families, in the places where we daily work and spend our time, we are capable of walking together with others, listening to them, resisting the temptation to lock ourselves up in self-absorption and to think only of our own needs. To walk together – to be “synodal” – is also the vocation of the Church. Let us ask ourselves if we are really communities truly open and inclusive of all; if we cooperate, as priests and laity, in the service of the Gospel; and if we show ourselves welcoming, not only in words but with concrete gestures, to those both near and far, and all those buffeted by the ups and downs of life. Do we make them feel a part of the community? Or do we exclude them? I am troubled when I see Christian communities that divide the world into the good and the bad, saints and sinners: this makes them feel superior to others and exclude so many people that God wants to embrace. Please, always be inclusive: in the Church and in society, which is still marred by many forms of inequality and marginalization. Always be inclusive. Today, the day in which Bishop Scalabrini becomes a saint, I think of emigrants. The exclusion of emigrants is scandalous. Actually, the exclusion of emigrants is criminal. They are dying right in front of us, as the Mediterranean is the largest cemetery in the world. The exclusion of emigrants is revolting, sinful and criminal. Not opening doors to those in need – “No, we do not exclude them, we send them away” to camps, where they are exploited and sold like slaves. Brothers and sisters, today let us call to mind these emigrants, especially those who are dying. And those who are able to enter, do we welcome them as brothers and sisters or do we exploit them? I simply pose the question.
The second thing is giving thanks. In the group of the ten lepers, there was only one who, realizing that he was cured, turned back to praise God and to show gratitude to Jesus. The other nine were healed, but then went their own way, forgetting the one who had healed them. They forgot the graces given to them by God. The Samaritan, on the other hand, makes the gift he received the first step of a new journey: he returns to the one who healed him; he goes back to Jesus in order to know him better; he enters into a relationship with the Lord. His grateful attitude, then, is no mere act of courtesy, but the start of a journey of thanksgiving: he falls at Jesus’ feet (cf. Lk 17:16) and worships him. He recognizes that Jesus is the Lord, that Jesus is more important than the healing he received.
This is a great lesson also for us, brothers and sisters, who daily benefit from the gifts of God, yet so often go our own way, failing to cultivate a living and real relationship with him. This is a nasty spiritual disease: we take everything for granted, including faith, including our relationship with God, to the point where we become Christians no longer able to be amazed or to give thanks, lacking in gratitude and incapable of seeing the wonders of the Lord. A woman I know used to say, “They are rose-water Christians”. We end up thinking that all the gifts we receive each day are natural and due to us. Gratitude, the ability to give thanks, makes us appreciate instead the presence in our lives of the God who is love. And to recognize the importance of others, overcoming the dissatisfaction and indifference that disfigure our hearts. It is essential to know how to say “thank you”. To thank the Lord each day and to thank one another. In our families, for the little gifts we receive daily and so often do not even think about. In the places we spend our days, for the many services which we enjoy and for all those people who support us. In our Christian communities, for the love of God that we experience in the closeness of our brothers and sisters who, often silently, pray, sacrifice, suffer and journey with us. So please, let us not forget to say these key words: thank you!
The two saints canonized today remind us of the importance of walking together and being able to give thanks. Bishop Scalabrini, who founded two Congregations – one male and one female – for the care of emigrants, used to say that in the shared journeying of emigrants we should see not only problems, but also a providential plan. In his words: “Precisely because of the migrations imposed by persecutions, the Church pressed beyond the confines of Jerusalem and of Israel, and became ‘catholic’; thanks to the migrations of our own days, the Church will be an instrument of peace and of communion among peoples” (L’emigrazione degli operai italiani, Ferrara, 1899). The emigration currently taking place in Europe is causing great suffering and forcing us to open our hearts – that is the emigration of Ukrainians who are fleeing from war. Let us not forget the beleaguered Ukrainian emigrants. With great vision, Scalabrini looked forward to a world and a Church without barriers, where no one was a foreigner. For his part, the Salesian Brother Artemide Zatti – with his bicycle - was a living example of gratitude. Cured of tuberculosis, he devoted his entire life to serving others, caring for the infirm with tender love. He was said to have carried on his shoulders the dead body of one of his patients. Filled with gratitude for all that he had received, he wanted to say his own “thank you” by taking upon himself the wounds of others.
Let us pray that these Saints, our brothers, may help us to walk together, without walls of division; and to cultivate that nobility of soul, so pleasing to God, which is gratitude.