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
Why are there people who have their heart closed to salvation?
Fear is the answer to the question because salvation scares us. We need salvation, but at the same time we are afraid of it. When the Lord comes to save us, we must give everything, and at that point he commands; and we fear this. Men want to be in control, they want to be their own masters. And so, salvation does not come, the consolation of the Spirit does not reach us.
Furthermore, the Beatitudes are “the law of those who have been saved” and have opened their heart to salvation. “It was the People of God that followed John the Baptist first and then the Lord”, precisely because they were in need of salvation. But there were also those who “went to test this new doctrine and then to quarrel with Jesus”. Unfortunately they had closed hearts.
Ask the Lord for “the grace to follow him”, but not with the liberty of the Pharisees and Sadducees who became hypocrites because they wanted “to follow him only with human freedom”. Hypocrisy is exactly that: “Not allowing the Spirit to change our hearts with his salvation. The freedom that the Spirit gives us is also a sort of slavery, a slavery to the Lord that sets us free. It is another kind of liberty”.
Man often runs the risk of trying to “bargain”, to take what is convenient for us, “a little of this, a little of that”. It’s like “making a fruit salad: a little of the Spirit and a little of the spirit of the world”. However with God there is no halfway house: the person chooses either “one thing or the other”. The Lord is clear: no one can serve two masters. One either serves the Lord or the spirit of the world. It is impossible to mix everything together.
No one can serve two masters.... You cannot serve God and mammon (Mt 6:24-34)
The parable of the sower (Mt 13) helps us to understand this. The seed that fell upon thorny ground was choked. But who choked it? Jesus says ‘riches and worldly concerns’. We see that Jesus had clear ideas on this. Riches and worldly concerns therefore choke the word of God, they prevent it from growing and the word dies choked because it is not tended.
What do these riches and concerns do to us? They merely cut us out of time. Our whole life rests on three pillars: one in the past, one in the present and another in the future. This is clear in the Bible; the pillar of the past is the choice.... The Lord chose us. Each one of us can say: ‘the Lord chose me, he loved me, he said come, and in Baptism he chose me to follow a path, the Christian path’. The future is the promise Jesus made to humankind. He chose me to walk towards a promise, he made a promise to us. Lastly, the present is our response to this God who is so good, who chose me, who makes me a promise and suggests a covenant to me; and I make a covenant with him.
Choice, promise. covenant; these are therefore the three pillars of the entire history of salvation. However it can sometimes happen that when our heart enters this, which Jesus explains to us, it cuts out time. It cuts out the past, it cuts out the future and is confused in the present.
This happens because those who cling to riches are not concerned with either the past or the future. they have everything. Wealth is an idol. It has no need of a past, a promise, an election or a future, it needs nothing. What we worry about is what can happen.
Those attached to wealth therefore cut off their relationship with the future..... However this does not lead them to a promise so they remain confused and lonely. Let us not cut out the past. We have a Father who has set us on our way. And the future is joyful too, for we are journeying toward a promise and no concerns surface. The Lord is faithful, he does not disappoint. And so, let us go onwards. Let us remember well: the seed that falls among thorns is choked... by riches and worldly concerns: two elements that make us forget the past and the future; so we have a Father but we live as though we did not have one and our future is uncertain.
Ask the Lord for the grace not to err by giving importance to the concerns and idolatry of riches, but always to remember that we have a Father who chose us and promised us something good; we must therefore walk toward that promise, taking the present as it comes.
1. “Woe to the complacent in Zion, to those who feel secure … lying upon beds of ivory!” (Am 6:1,4). They eat, they drink, they sing, they play and they care nothing about other people’s troubles.
These are harsh words which the prophet Amos speaks, yet they warn us about a danger that all of us face. What is it that this messenger of God denounces; what does he want his contemporaries, and ourselves today, to realize? The danger of complacency, comfort, worldliness in our lifestyles and in our hearts, of making our well-being the most important thing in our lives. This was the case of the rich man in the Gospel, who dressed in fine garments and daily indulged in sumptuous banquets; this was what was important for him. And the poor man at his doorstep who had nothing to relieve his hunger? That was none of his business, it didn’t concern him. Whenever material things, money, worldliness, become the centre of our lives, they take hold of us, they possess us; we lose our very identity as human beings. Think of it: the rich man in the Gospel has no name, he is simply “a rich man”. Material things, his possessions, are his face; he has nothing else.
Let’s try to think: How does something like this happen? How do some people, perhaps ourselves included, end up becoming self-absorbed and finding security in material things which ultimately rob us of our face, our human face? This is what happens when we become complacent, when we no longer remember God. “Woe to the complacent in Zion”, says the prophet. If we don’t think about God, everything ends up flat, everything ends up being about “me” and my own comfort. Life, the world, other people, all of these become unreal, they no longer matter, everything boils down to one thing: having. When we no longer remember God, we too become unreal, we too become empty; like the rich man in the Gospel, we no longer have a face! Those who run after nothing become nothing – as another great prophet Jeremiah, observed (cf. Jer 2:5). We are made in God’s image and likeness, not the image and likeness of material objects, of idols!
2. So, as I look out at you, I think: Who are catechists? They are people who keep the memory of God alive; they keep it alive in themselves and they are able to revive it in others. This is something beautiful: to remember God, like the Virgin Mary, who sees God’s wondrous works in her life but doesn’t think about honour, prestige or wealth; she doesn’t become self-absorbed. Instead, after receiving the message of the angel and conceiving the Son of God, what does she do? She sets out, she goes to assist her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth, who was also pregnant. And the first thing she does upon meeting Elizabeth is to recall God’s work, God’s fidelity, in her own life, in the history of her people, in our history: “My soul magnifies the Lord … For he has looked on the lowliness of his servant … His mercy is from generation to generation” (Lk 1:46, 48, 50). Mary remembers God.
This canticle of Mary also contains the remembrance of her personal history, God’s history with her, her own experience of faith. And this is true too for each one of us and for every Christian: faith contains our own memory of God’s history with us, the memory of our encountering God who always takes the first step, who creates, saves and transforms us. Faith is remembrance of his word which warms our heart, and of his saving work which gives life, purifies us, cares for and nourishes us. A catechist is a Christian who puts this remembrance at the service of proclamation, not to seem important, not to talk about himself or herself, but to talk about God, about his love and his fidelity. To talk about and to pass down all that God has revealed, his teaching in its totality, neither trimming it down nor adding on to it.
Saint Paul recommends one thing in particular to his disciple and co-worker Timothy: Remember, remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, whom I proclaim and for whom I suffer (cf. 2 Tim 2:8-9). The Apostle can say this because he too remembered Christ, who called him when he was persecuting Christians, who touched him and transformed him by his grace.
The catechist, then, is a Christian who is mindful of God, who is guided by the memory of God in his or her entire life and who is able to awaken that memory in the hearts of others. This is not easy! It engages our entire existence! What is the Catechism itself, if not the memory of God, the memory of his works in history and his drawing near to us in Christ present in his word, in the sacraments, in his Church, in his love? Dear catechists, I ask you: Are we in fact the memory of God? Are we really like sentinels who awaken in others the memory of God which warms the heart?
3. “Woe to the complacent in Zion!”, says the prophet. What must we do in order not to be “complacent” – people who find their security in themselves and in material things – but men and woman of the memory of God? In the second reading, Saint Paul, once more writing to Timothy, gives some indications which can also be guideposts for us in our work as catechists: pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness (cf. 1 Tim 6:11).
Catechists are men and women of the memory of God if they have a constant, living relationship with him and with their neighbour; if they are men and women of faith who truly trust in God and put their security in him; if they are men and women of charity, love, who see others as brothers and sisters; if they are men and women of “hypomoné”, endurance and perseverance, able to face difficulties, trials and failures with serenity and hope in the Lord; if they are gentle, capable of understanding and mercy.
Let us ask the Lord that we may all be men and women who keep the memory of God alive in ourselves, and are able to awaken it in the hearts of others. Amen
The Lord speaks to us again about the spirit of the world, about worldliness: how this worldliness works and how perilous it is. In his prayer after the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, Jesus besought the Father not to allow his disciples to fall into worldliness. Worldliness is the enemy, and the devil derives great pleasure” in seeing us live according to its ways.
Some of you might say: 'But this man only did what everyone does!'. No, not everyone! Some company administrators, public administrators, government administrators … but perhaps there are not many. It's an attitude of taking short cuts, of taking the easy road to earn a living.
The master praises the dishonest steward in the Gospel. He is praising bribery! The habit of giving bribes is a worldly and very sinful habit … God commanded us to bring home bread through honest work. This steward was giving dirty bread to his children to eat. And his children, who perhaps were educated in expensive universities and were raised in very cultured circles, were fed dirt by their father. For in bringing home unclean bread, their father lost his dignity. And this is a grave sin. It might start with a small bribe, but it is like a drug.
In fact, that it is such a serious sin “because it is so against our dignity”. That dignity by which we are united through our work. Not through bribes. Not through this addiction to worldly cleverness. When read in the papers or hear someone on the news speak about corruption, perhaps we think that corruption is just a word. This is corruption: not earning our daily bread with dignity.
However, there is another road. It is the path of “Christian cleverness”. This path allows us to be cunning but not according to the spirit of the world. Jesus himself said it: be wise as serpents, innocent as doves. Uniting these two realities is a grace and a gift of the Holy Spirit. This Christian cleverness is a gift; it is a grace that the Lord gives to us. But we need to ask for it.
Perhaps today, it would be good for all of us to pray for the many children who receive dirty bread from their parents, since they too are hungry; they are hungry for dignity. Ask the Lord to change the hearts of those who are devoted to the goddess of bribery in order that they might understand that dignity comes from noble work, from honest work, from daily work, and not from the easy road which in the end strips you of everything. For when they face death, these poor people who lose their dignity through the practice of bribery do not take with them the money they earned; they only take their lack of dignity. Let us pray for them.
Today’s Lenten Liturgy offers us two stories, two judgements and three names. The two stories are those of the parable, narrated by Luke (16:19-31), of the rich man and of the poor man named Lazarus. In particular, the first story is that of the rich man, who was clothed in purple and the finest linen, who took good care of himself, and feasted sumptuously every day. The text, doesn’t say he was bad, but rather that he had a comfortable life, he gave himself a good life. In fact, the Gospel doesn’t say that he overindulged; instead his was a quiet life, with friends. Who knows, perhaps if he had parents, he surely sent them things so they would have the necessities of life. And maybe he was a religious man, in his way. Perhaps he recited a few prayers; and surely two or three times a year he went to the temple to make sacrifices and gave large offerings to the priests. And they, with their clerical cowardliness, thanked him and made him sit in the place of honour. This was the social lifestyle of the rich man presented by Luke.
Then there is the second story, that of Lazarus, the poor mendicant who lay at the rich man’s gate. How is it possible that this man didn’t realize that Lazarus was there, below his house, poor and starving? The wounds that the Gospel speaks of, are a symbol of the many needs he had. However, when the rich man left the house, perhaps the car he left in had darkly tinted windows so he couldn’t see out. But surely his soul, the eyes of his soul were tinted dark so he couldn’t see. And thus the rich man saw only his life and didn’t realize what was happening to Lazarus.
In the final analysis, the rich man wasn’t bad, he was sick: afflicted with worldliness. And worldliness transforms souls, makes them lose consciousness of reality: they live in an artificial world, which they create. Worldliness anaesthetizes the soul, and this is why that worldly man wasn’t able to see reality.
This is why, the second story is clear: there are so many people who conduct their lives in a difficult way but if I have a worldly heart, I will never understand this. After all, with a worldly heart it is impossible to comprehend the necessities and needs of others. With a worldly heart you can go to Church, you can pray, you can do many things. But what did Jesus pray for at the Last Supper? "Please, Father, protect these disciples" so that "they do not fall in the world, do not fall into worldliness". And worldliness is a subtle sin, it’s more than a sin: it’s a sinful state of soul.
These are the two stories presented by the Liturgy. The two judgements, instead, are a curse and a blessing. The First Reading from Jeremiah (17:5-10) reads: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm, whose heart turns away from the Lord". This, is the profile of the worldliness we saw in the rich man. And how will this man end up? Scripture defines him as "a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness" — his soul is a desert — "an uninhabited salt land". And all of this because, in truth, the worldly are alone with their selfishness. Then in the text of Jeremiah there is also a blessing: "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water", while the other "was like a shrub in the desert". This, then, is the final judgement: nothing is more treacherous for a heart and difficult to heal: that man had a sick heart, so battered by this worldly lifestyle that it was very difficult to heal.
There are the three names offered in the Gospel Reading: they are that of the poor man, Lazarus, that of Abraham, and that of Moses. Another key to understanding is that the rich man had no name, because the worldly lose their name, which is merely a feature of the well-off crowd who need nothing. On the other hand are Abraham, our father; Lazarus, a man who struggles because he is good and poor and has so much pain; and Moses, the man who gives us the law. But "the worldly have no name. They didn’t listen to Moses, because they only need extraordinary manifestations.
In the Church, everything is clear, Jesus spoke clearly: this is the way. But at the end there is a word of consolation: when that unfortunate worldly man, in torment, asks that Lazarus be sent with a bit of water to help him, Abraham, who is the figure of God the Father, responds: "Son, remember...". Thus the worldly have lost their name and we too, should we have a worldly heart, we have lost our name. However, we are not orphans. Until the very end, until the final moment, there is the assurance that we have a Father who awaits us. Let us trust in Him. And the Father turns to us, calling us ‘son’ and ‘daughter’, even in the midst of that worldliness: ‘son’. And this means that we are not orphans.
In the opening, we asked the Lord for the grace to turn our hearts toward Him, who is Father. Let us continue the celebration of Mass thinking of these two stories, of these two judgements, of the three names; but above all, of that beautiful word that will always be said until the final moment: ‘son’ .
At the heart of this celebration, which seems so festive, are the words we heard in the hymn of the Letter to the Philippians: “He humbled himself” (2:8). Jesus’ humiliation.
These words show us God’s way and, consequently, that which must be the way of Christians: it is humility. A way which constantly amazes and disturbs us: we will never get used to a humble God!
Humility is above all God’s way: God humbles himself to walk with his people, to put up with their infidelity. This is clear when we read the the story of the Exodus. How humiliating for the Lord to hear all that grumbling, all those complaints against Moses, but ultimately against him, their Father, who brought them out of slavery and was leading them on the journey through the desert to the land of freedom.
This week, Holy Week, which leads us to Easter, we will take this path of Jesus’ own humiliation. Only in this way will this week be “holy” for us too!
We will feel the contempt of the leaders of his people and their attempts to trip him up. We will be there at the betrayal of Judas, one of the Twelve, who will sell him for thirty pieces of silver. We will see the Lord arrested and carried off like a criminal; abandoned by his disciples, dragged before the Sanhedrin, condemned to death, beaten and insulted. We will hear Peter, the “rock” among the disciples, deny him three times. We will hear the shouts of the crowd, egged on by their leaders, who demand that Barabbas be freed and Jesus crucified. We will see him mocked by the soldiers, robed in purple and crowned with thorns. And then, as he makes his sorrowful way beneath the cross, we will hear the jeering of the people and their leaders, who scoff at his being King and Son of God.
This is God’s way, the way of humility. It is the way of Jesus; there is no other. And there can be no humility without humiliation.
Following this path to the full, the Son of God took on the “form of a slave” (cf. Phil 2:7). In the end, humility also means service. It means making room for God by stripping oneself, “emptying oneself”, as Scripture says (v. 7). This – the pouring out of oneself - is the greatest humiliation of all.
There is another way, however, opposed to the way of Christ. It is worldliness, the way of the world. The world proposes the way of vanity, pride, success… the other way. The Evil One proposed this way to Jesus too, during his forty days in the desert. But Jesus immediately rejected it. With him, and only by his grace, with his help, we too can overcome this temptation to vanity, to worldliness, not only at significant moments, but in daily life as well.
In this, we are helped and comforted by the example of so many men and women who, in silence and hiddenness, sacrifice themselves daily to serve others: a sick relative, an elderly person living alone, a disabled person, the homeless…
We think too of the humiliation endured by all those who, for their lives of fidelity to the Gospel, encounter discrimination and pay a personal price. We think too of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted because they are Christians, the martyrs of our own time – and there are many. They refuse to deny Jesus and they endure insult and injury with dignity. They follow him on his way. In truth, we can speak of a “cloud of witnesses” – the martyrs of our own time (cf. Heb 12:1).
During this week, let us set about with determination along this same path of humility, with immense love for him, our Lord and Saviour. Love will guide us and give us strength. For where he is, we too shall be (cf. Jn 12:26).
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!
Today, Jesus invites us to reflect on two opposing ways of life: the way of the world and that of the Gospel — the worldly spirit is not the spirit of Jesus — and He does so by recounting the parable of the unfaithful and corrupt steward, who is praised by Jesus, despite his dishonesty (cf. Lk 16:1-13). We must point out immediately that this administrator is not presented as a model to follow, but as an example of deceitfulness. This man is accused of mismanaging his master’s affairs, and before being removed, astutely he tries to ingratiate himself with the debtors, condoning part of their debt so as to ensure himself a future. Commenting on this behaviour, Jesus observes: “For the sons of this world are wiser in their own generation than the sons of light” (v. 8).
We are called to respond to this worldly astuteness with Christian astuteness, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit. This is a matter of departing from the worldly spirit and values, which the devil really favours, in order to live according to the Gospel. How is worldliness manifested? Worldliness is manifested by attitudes of corruption, deception, subjugation, and it constitutes the most ill-chosen road, the road of sin, because one leads you to the other! It’s like a chain, even if — it’s true — it is generally the easiest road to travel. Instead, the spirit of the Gospel requires a serious lifestyle — serious but joyful, full of joy! — serious and challenging, marked by honesty, fairness, respect for others and their dignity, and a sense of duty. And this is Christian astuteness!
The journey of life necessarily involves a choice between two roads: between honesty and dishonesty, between fidelity and infidelity, between selfishness and altruism, between good and evil. You can not waver between one and the other, because they move on different and conflicting forms of logic. The prophet Elijah said to the people of Israel that went on these two roads: “You are limping with both feet!” (cf. 1 Kings 18:21). It’s a fine image. It is important to decide which direction to take and then, once you have chosen the right one, to walk it with enthusiasm and determination, trusting in God’s grace and the support of His Spirit. The conclusion of the Gospel passage is powerful and categorical: “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Lk 16:13).
With this teaching, Jesus today urges us to make a clear choice between Him and the worldly spirit, between the logic of corruption, of the abuse of power and greed, and that of righteousness, meekness and sharing. Some people conduct themselves with corruption as they do with drugs: they think they can use it and stop when they want. It starts out small: a tip here, a bribe over there.... And between this and that, one’s freedom is slowly lost. Corruption is also habit-forming, and generates poverty, exploitation, and suffering. How many victims there are in the world today! How many victims of this widespread corruption. But when we try to follow the Gospel logic of integrity, clarity in intentions and in behaviour, of fraternity, we become artisans of justice and we open horizons of hope for humanity. In gratuitousness and by giving of ourselves to our brothers and sisters, we serve the right master: God.
May the Virgin Mary help us to choose at every opportunity and at all costs, the right way, even finding the courage to go against the tide, in order to follow Jesus and his Gospel.
Forty days after Christmas, we celebrate the Lord who enters the Temple and comes to encounter his people. In the Christian East, this feast is called the “Feast of Encounter”: it is the encounter between God, who became a child to bring newness to our world, and an expectant humanity, represented by the elderly man and woman in the Temple.
In the Temple, there is also an encounter between two couples: the young Mary and Joseph, and the elderly Simeon and Anna. The old receive from the young, while the young draw upon the old. In the Temple, Mary and Joseph find the roots of their people. This is important, because God’s promise does not come to fulfilment merely in individuals, once for all, but within a community and throughout history. There too, Mary and Joseph find the roots of their faith, for faith is not something learned from a book, but the art of living with God, learned from the experience of those who have gone before us. The two young people, in meeting the two older people, thus find themselves. And the two older people, nearing the end of their days, receive Jesus, the meaning of their lives. This event fulfils the prophecy of Joel: “Your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions” (2:28). In this encounter, the young see their mission and the elderly realize their dreams. All because, at the centre of the encounter, is Jesus.
Let us look to our own lives, dear consecrated brothers and sisters. Everything started in an encounter with the Lord. Our journey of consecration was born of an encounter and a call. We need to keep this in mind. And if we remember aright, we will realize that in that encounter we were not alone with Jesus; there was also the people of God, the Church, young and old, just as in today’s Gospel. It is striking too, that while the young Mary and Joseph faithfully observe the Law – the Gospel tells us this four times – and never speak, the elderly Simeon and Anna come running up and prophesy. It seems it should be the other way around. Generally, it is the young who speak enthusiastically about the future, while the elderly protect the past. In the Gospel, the very opposite occurs, because when we meet one another in the Lord, God’s surprises immediately follow.
For this to occur in the consecrated life, we have to remember that we can never renew our encounter with the Lord without others; we can never leave others behind, never pass over generations, but must accompany one another daily, keeping the Lord always at the centre. For if the young are called to open new doors, the elderly hold the keys. An institute remains youthful by going back to its roots, by listening to its older members. There is no future without this encounter between the old and the young. There is no growth without roots and no flowering without new buds. There is never prophecy without memory, or memory without prophecy. And constant encounter.
Today’s frantic pace leads us to close many doors to encounter, often for fear of others. Only shopping malls and internet connections are always open. Yet that is not how it should be with consecrated life: the brother and the sister given to me by God are a part of my history, gifts to be cherished. May we never look at the screen of our cellphone more than the eyes of our brothers or sisters, or focus more on our software than on the Lord. For whenever we put our own projects, methods and organization at the centre, consecrated life stops being attractive; it no longer speaks to others; it no longer flourishes because it forgets its very foundations, its very roots.
Consecrated life is born and reborn of an encounter with Jesus as he is: poor, chaste and obedient. We journey along a double track: on the one hand, God’s loving initiative, from which everything starts and to which we must always return; on the other, our own response, which is truly loving when it has no “ifs” or “buts”, when it imitates Jesus in his poverty, chastity and obedience. Whereas the life of this world attempts to take hold of us, the consecrated life turns from fleeting riches to embrace the One who endures forever. The life of this world pursues selfish pleasures and desires; the consecrated life frees our affections of every possession in order fully to love God and other people. Worldly life aims to do whatever we want; consecrated life chooses humble obedience as the greater freedom. And while worldly life soon leaves our hands and hearts empty, life in Jesus fills us with peace to the very end, as in the Gospel, where Simeon and Anna come happily to the sunset of their lives with the Lord in their arms and joy in their hearts.
How good it is for us to hold the Lord “in our arms” (Lk 2:28), like Simeon. Not only in our heads and in our hearts, but also “in our hands”, in all that we do: in prayer, at work, at the table, on the telephone, at school, with the poor, everywhere. Having the Lord “in our hands” is an antidote to insular mysticism and frenetic activism, since a genuine encounter with Jesus corrects both saccharine piety and frazzled hyperactivity. Savouring the encounter with Jesus is also the remedy for the paralysis of routine, for it opens us up to the daily “havoc” of grace. The secret to fanning the flame of our spiritual life is a willingness to allow ourselves to encounter Jesus and to be encountered by him; otherwise we fall into a stifling life, where disgruntlement, bitterness and inevitable disappointments get the better of us. To encounter one another in Jesus as brothers and sisters, young and old, and thus to abandon the barren rhetoric of “the good old days” – a nostalgia that kills the soul – and to silence those who think that “everything is falling apart”. If we encounter Jesus and our brothers and sisters in the everyday events of our life, our hearts will no longer be set on the past or the future, but will experience the “today of God” in peace with everyone.
At the end of the Gospels, there is another encounter with Jesus that can inspire the consecrated life. It is that of the women before the tomb. They had gone to encounter the dead; their journey seemed pointless. You too are journeying against the current: the life of the world easily rejects poverty, chastity and obedience. But like those women, keep moving forward, without worrying about whatever heavy stones need to be removed (cf. Mk 16:3). And like those women, be the first to meet the Lord, risen and alive. Cling to him (cf. Mt 28:9) and go off immediately to tell your brothers and sisters, your eyes brimming with joy (cf. v. 8). In this way, you are the Church’s perennial dawn. You, dear consecrated brothers and sisters, are the Church’s perennial dawn! I ask you to renew this very day your encounter with Jesus, to walk together towards him. And this will give light to your eyes and strength to your steps.
Man left to his own strength does not understand the things of the Spirit. There are two spirits, two ways of thinking, of feeling, of acting: that which leads me to the Spirit of God, and that which leads me to the spirit of the world. And this happens in our life: We all have these two ‘spirits,’ we might say. The Spirit of God, which leads us to good works, to charity, to fraternity, to adore God, to know Jesus, to do many good works of charity, to pray: this one. And [there is] the other spirit, of the world, which leads us to vanity, pride, sufficiency, gossip – a completely different path. Our heart, a saint once said, is like a battlefield, a field of war where these two spirits struggle.
In the life of the Christian, then, we must fight in order to make room for the Spirit of God, and “drive away the spirit of the world. And, a daily examination of conscience can help to identify temptations, to clarify how these opposing forces work.
It is very simple: We have this great gift, which is the Spirit of God, but we are weak, we are sinners, and we still have the temptation of the spirit of the world. In this spiritual combat, in this war of the spirit, we need to be victors like Jesus.
Every night, a Christian should think over the events of the past day, to determine whether “vanity” and “pride” prevailed, or whether he or she has succeeded in imitating the Son of God
To recognize the things that occur in the heart. If we do not do this, if we do not know what happens in our heart – and I don’t say this, the Bible does – we are like ‘animals that understand nothing,’ that move along through instinct. But we are not animals, we are children of God, baptized with the gift of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, it is important to understand what has happened each day in my heart. May the Lord teach us always, every day, to make an examination of conscience.
In order to love God concretely, one must also love one's brothers and sisters – all of them: both those we like and those we don’t like.
Good Christians must not neglect to pray even for the enemy, nor give way to feelings of jealousy or engage in harmful gossip.
St. John the Apostle speaks of worldliness when he says that “whoever is begotten by God conquers the world”. This refers to our everyday struggle against a worldly spirit that is deceitful and lacks in consistency while God’s spirit is truthful. The spirit of the world is a spirit of vanity, of things that have no strength, no foundation and that are destined to fall. The Apostle shows us the way reminding us that if we go by God’s spirit, we will do good things.
Concretely, If anyone says, ‘I love God’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
If you are unable to love something you see why would you love something you do not see? Love what you see, what you can touch, what is real. Not the fantasies that you do not see.
If one does not show his love for God in a concrete manner, it is not true love. The spirit of the world can be divisive and create splits in families, communities and society. When divisions multiply they bring hatred and war.
Three signs that indicate that one does not love one's brother.
The first is actually a question we must all ask ourselves: Do I pray for others? For those whom I like and for those whom I dislike?.
The second pertains to feelings of envy and jealousy and wishing someone ill: Don’t let these feelings grow. They are dangerous.
The third has to do with engaging in chatter - or gossip – that is harmful to others: If I do this I do not love God because with my words I am destroying another person
the spirit of the world is conquered with the spirit of faith: believing that God is really in the brother and sister who are close to me.
Only faith gives us the strength to tread the path of true love.
“Blow the trumpet […] sanctify a fast” (Joel 2:15), says the prophet in the first reading. Lent opens with a piercing sound, that of a trumpet that does not please the ears, but instead proclaims a fast. It is a loud sound that seeks to slow down our life, which is so fast-paced, yet often directionless. It is a summons to stop – a “halt!” –, to focus on what is essential, to fast from the unnecessary things that distract us. It is a wake-up call for the soul.
This wake-up call is accompanied by the message that the Lord proclaims through the lips of the prophet, a short and heartfelt message: “Return to me” (v 12). To return. If we have to return, it means that we have wandered off. Lent is the time to rediscover the direction of life. Because in life’s journey, as in every journey, what really matters is not to lose sight of the goal. If what interests us as we travel, however, is looking at the scenery or stopping to eat, we will not get far. We should ask ourselves: On the journey of life, do I seek the way forward? Or am I satisfied with living in the moment and thinking only of feeling good, solving some problems and having fun? What is the path? Is it the search for health, which many today say comes first but which eventually passes? Could it be possessions and wellbeing? But we are not in the world for this. Return to me, says the Lord. To me. The Lord is the goal of our journey in this world. The direction must lead to him.
Today we have been offered a sign that will help us find our direction: the head marked by ash. It is a sign that causes us to consider what occupies our mind. Our thoughts often focus on transient things, which come and go. The small mark of ash, which we will receive, is a subtle yet real reminder that of the many things occupying our thoughts, that we chase after and worry about every day, nothing will remain. No matter how hard we work, we will take no wealth with us from this life. Earthly realities fade away like dust in the wind. Possessions are temporary, power passes, success wanes. The culture of appearance prevalent today, which persuades us to live for passing things, is a great deception. It is like a blaze: once ended, only ash remains. Lent is the time to free ourselves from the illusion of chasing after dust. Lent is for rediscovering that we are created for the inextinguishable flame, not for ashes that immediately disappear; for God, not for the world; for the eternity of heaven, not for earthly deceit; for the freedom of the children of God, not for slavery to things. We should ask ourselves today: Where do I stand? Do I live for fire or for ash?
On this Lenten journey, back to what is essential, the Gospel proposes three steps which the Lord invites us to undertake without hypocrisy and pretence: almsgiving, prayer, fasting. What are they for? Almsgiving, prayer and fasting bring us back to the three realities that do not fade away. Prayer reunites us to God; charity, to our neighbour; fasting, to ourselves. God, my neighbour, my life: these are the realities that do not fade away and in which we must invest. Lent, therefore, invites us to focus, first of all on the Almighty, in prayer, which frees us from that horizontal and mundane life where we find time for self but forget God. It then invites us to focus on others, with the charity that frees us from the vanity of acquiring and of thinking that things are only good if they are good for me. Finally, Lent invites us to look inside our heart, with fasting, which frees us from attachment to things and from the worldliness that numbs the heart. Prayer, charity, fasting: three investments for a treasure that endures.
Jesus said: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt 6:21). Our heart always points in some direction: it is like a compass seeking its bearings. We can also compare it to a magnet: it needs to attach itself to something. But if it only attaches itself to earthly things, sooner or later it becomes a slave to them: things to be used become things we serve. Outward appearance, money, a career or hobby: if we live for them, they will become idols that enslave us, sirens that charm us and then cast us adrift. Whereas if our heart is attached to what does not pass away, we rediscover ourselves and are set free. Lent is the time of grace that liberates the heart from vanity. It is a time of healing from addictions that seduce us. It is a time to fix our gaze on what abides.
Where can we fix our gaze, then, throughout this Lenten journey? It is simple: upon the Crucified one. Jesus on the cross is life’s compass, which directs us to heaven. The poverty of the wood, the silence of the Lord, his loving self-emptying show us the necessity of a simpler life, free from anxiety about things. From the cross, Jesus teaches us the great courage involved in renunciation. We will never move forward if we are heavily weighed down. We need to free ourselves from the clutches of consumerism and the snares of selfishness, from always wanting more, from never being satisfied, and from a heart closed to the needs of the poor. Jesus on the wood of the cross burns with love, and calls us to a life that is passionate for him, which is not lost amid the ashes of the world; to a life that burns with charity and is not extinguished in mediocrity. Is it difficult to live as he asks? Yes, it is difficult, but it leads us to our goal. Lent shows us this. It begins with the ashes, but eventually leads us to the fire of Easter night; to the discovery that, in the tomb, the body of Jesus does not turn to ashes, but rises gloriously. This is true also for us, who are dust. If we, with our weaknesses, return to the Lord, if we take the path of love, then we will embrace the life that never ends. And surely we will be full of joy.
We can learn about the Christian style by first knowing our attitudes that don’t belong to the Christian style. The "accusatory style", the "worldly style" and the "selfish style".
The accusatory style belongs to those who always try and live by accusing others, disqualifying others, acting as absent promoters of justice. But they don't realize that it's the style of the devil: in the Bible, the devil is called the "great accuser", who is always accusing others.
This was the same in the time of Jesus who in a few cases reproached the accusers: "Instead of looking at the speck in the eyes of others, look at the beam in yours"; or again: "Those who have not sinned can throw the first stone". Living by accusing others and looking for defects, is not Christian, not new wineskin.
Worldliness, is an attitude of Catholics who can recite the Creed, but live on vanity, pride and attachment to money, believing themselves to be self-sufficient.
The Lord has offered you the new wine but you did not change the wineskin, you did not change yourself. This worldliness is what ruins so many who are good but they enter into this spirit of vanity, of pride, of being seen... Humility that is part of the Christian style, like that of Our Lady and St. Joseph, is lacking.
The selfish spirit is the spirit of indifference that is common in our communities. One believes oneself to be a good Catholic but doesn’t worry about the problems of others – wars, illnesses and the suffering of our neighbours. This is the hypocrisy that Jesus reproached the doctors of the law for. What then is the Christian style?
The Christian style is that of the Beatitudes: meekness, humility, patience in suffering, love for justice, ability to endure persecution, not judging others... If a Catholic wants to learn the Christian style, so as not to fall into this accusatory style, the worldly style and the selfish style, he / she must read the Beatitudes. They are the wineskins, the path we must take. To be a good Christian one must have the ability not only to recite the Creed with the heart but also the Our Father with the heart.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today's Gospel (cf. Lk 12, 13-21) opens with the scene of a man who stands up in the crowd and asks Jesus to resolve a legal question about the inheritance of family. But in His answer He does not address the question, and exhorts us to stay away from greed, that is the greed to possess. To distract His listeners from this frantic search for wealth, Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool, who believes he is happy because he has had the good fortune of an exceptional year and feels secure because of the goods he has accumulated. It would be nice that today you read this chapter twelve of Saint Luke, verse 13. It is a beautiful parable that teaches us much. The story comes alive when the contrast emerges between what the rich man plans for himself and between what God promises for him.
The rich man puts three considerations before his soul: the many possessions piled up, the many years that these assets seem to assure him and third, tranquillity and unrestrained well-being (cf. v. 19). But the word that God address to him cancels these plans. Instead of the "many years", God indicates the immediacy of ' tonight; tonight you will die '; instead of "the enjoyment of life" He presents him with the rendering of life; with the consequent judgment. As for the reality of many accumulated goods on which the rich man had to base everything, it is covered by the sarcasm of the question: "and what he has prepared, who's will it be?" (v. 20). Let us think of the struggles for inheritance; so many family fights. And so many people, we all know some, that at the time that death begins to arrive: the grandchildren, the grandchildren come to see "But what is for me?", and take everything away. It is this contrast which justifies the nickname of "fool"- because he thinks about things that he believes to be concrete but are a fantasy - with which God speaks to this man. He is foolish because in practice he has renounced God, he has not come to terms with Him.
The end of parable, formulated by the Evangelist, is of singular effectiveness: "so it is that of those who accumulate treasures for themselves and do not enrich themselves with God" (v. 21). It is a cautionary tale that reveals the horizon towards which we are all called to look. Material goods are necessary – they are real! -but are a means of living honestly and in sharing with those most in need. Today Jesus invites us to consider that riches can chain the heart and distract it from the true treasure that is in heaven. Saint Paul also reminds us of this in today's second reading. It goes like this: "seek the things that are above. ... turn your thoughts to the things above, not of things on Earth "(Col 3, 1-2).
This – you understand--does not mean being alienated from reality, but look for things that have a true value: justice, solidarity, hospitality, fraternity, peace, all of which constitute the true dignity of man. It is a matter of inclining towards a life lived not in the worldly way, but according to the Gospel: to love God with our whole being, and to love our neighbour as Jesus loved him, that is in service and self-giving. The greed for possessions, the desire to have possessions, does not satisfy the heart, indeed it provokes more hunger! Greed is like those good candies: you take one and say "Ah! How good ", and then you take another; and one leads to another. So it is with greed: you will never be satisfied. Be careful! Love thus understood and lived is the source of true happiness while the boundless search for material goods and wealth is often source of restlessness, and of adversity, of prevarication, of wars. Many wars begin for greed.
The Virgin Mary help us not to be fascinated by the securities that pass by, but to be credible witnesses every day to eternal values of the Gospel.
The Christian life is to remain in God, following the Holy Spirit and not the spirit of the world, which leads to corruption, and does not distinguish good from evil. In the first reading in the liturgy St. John the Apostle takes up the advice of Jesus to his disciples: "Remain in God".
One can be in the most sinful cities, in the most atheistic societies, but if one's heart remains in God, this man and this woman bring salvation. Remember the episode narrated in the Acts of the Apostles, who arrive in a city and meet Christians baptized by John. They ask them: "Have you received the Holy Spirit?", but they didn't even know he was there. How many Christians even today identify the Holy Spirit only with a dove and do not know that what makes you remain in the Lord is the guarantee, the strength to remain in the Lord.
The spirit of the world is contrary to the Holy Spirit. Jesus, at the Last Supper, does not ask the Father to remove the disciples from the world, because Christian life is in the world; but to protect them from the spirit of the world, which is the opposite. It is even worse than committing a sin. It is an atmosphere that renders you unconscious, leads you to a point that you do not know how to recognize good from evil.
Instead, to remain in God, we must ask for this gift of the Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee. From this we know that we remain in the Lord. But how can we know if we have the Holy Spirit or the spirit of the world? Saint Paul gives us this advice: "Do not sadden the Holy Spirit. When we go towards the spirit of the world we upset the Holy Spirit and ignore him, we cast him aside and our life goes another way.
The spirit of the world is forgetting, because sin does not turn you away from God if you realize it and ask forgiveness, but the spirit of the world makes you forget what sin is everything is permissible. In recent days a priest showed him a film of Christians celebrating the New Year in a tourist city, in a Christian country. They celebrated the New Year with a terrible worldliness, wasting money and many things. The spirit of the world. Is this a sin? - No dear: this is corruption, worse than sin. The Holy Spirit leads you to God, and if you sin, the Holy Spirit protects you and helps you to rise up, but the spirit of the world leads you to corruption, to the point that you do not know what is good and what is evil: everything is the same.
There is an Argentinean song that says: "Go, go, go... everything is the same that down there in the oven we will meet". The spirit of the world leads you to the unconsciousness of not distinguishing sin. And how do I know if I am on the road to worldliness, to the spirit of the world, or if am I following the Spirit of God?
The Apostle John gives us this advice: "Dear friends, do not give faith to every spirit (i.e. to every feeling, every inspiration, every idea), but test the spirits, to test whether they really come from God (or from the world)". But what does it mean to test the Spirit? It is simply this: when you feel something, you feel like doing something, or you come up with an idea, a judgment of something, ask yourself: is this what I feel from the Spirit of God or from the spirit of the world?
And how do you do it? Ask yourself once, twice a day, or when you feel something that comes into your mind: This thing that I feel, that I want to do, where does it come from? From the spirit of the world or the Spirit of God? Will this make me good or will it throw me down the road of worldliness that is unconsciousness?
Many Christians live without knowing what goes on in their hearts. That is why St. Paul and St. John say: "Do not lend faith to every spirit", to what you feel, but put it to the test. And so we will know what happens in our hearts. Because "For many Christians their hearts are like a road and they do not know who comes and goes, they come and go, because they do not know how to examine what is going on inside".
That is why I recommend that you take some time every day before going to bed or at noon - when you want to - and ask yourself: what has happened in my heart today? What did I want to do, to think? What is the spirit that has moved in my heart? The Spirit of God, the gift of God, the Holy Spirit who always brings me forward to the encounter with the Lord or the spirit of the world who gently, slowly moves me away from the Lord; it is a slow, slow, slow slide.
Let us ask for this grace, to remain in the Lord and we pray to the Holy Spirit, that He may make us remain in the Lord and give us the grace to distinguish the spirits, that is, what moves within us. May our heart not be a road, may it be the meeting point between us and God.
When Solomon was old his wives had turned his heart to strange gods.
King Solomon began as a “good boy”, who asked the Lord for wisdom and God made him wise to the point that judges, and even the Queen of Sheba in Africa, came bearing gifts because they had heard of his wisdom.
At that time it was possible to have more than one wife. But that did not mean it was permissible to be “a womanizer”.
But Solomon’s heart became weak, not because he married several women, but because they came from other peoples with other gods. He fell into a trap by letting his wives convince him to worship their idols, Chemosh or Molech.
And so he did this for all his foreign women who offered sacrifices to their gods. In one word, he allowed everything and stopped worshipping the one God. With a weakened heart because of his overly fondness for women, paganism entered his life. Then that wise man who had prayed well asking for wisdom, fell to the point of being rejected by the Lord.
His wasn’t an apostasy overnight. It was a slow apostasy. Even King David, his father, in fact, had sinned - strongly at least twice - but immediately he had repented and asked for forgiveness: he had remained faithful to the Lord who guarded him to the end. David wept for that sin and for the death of his son Absalom, and when he fled from him before, he was humbled thinking of his sin, when people insulted him. He was holy. Solomon is not holy. The Lord had given him so many gifts, but he had wasted everything because he had let his heart weaken. King Solomon did not just sin once but slid into sin.
The women led his heart astray, and the Lord rebuked him: ‘You have turned your heart away.’ This happens in our own lives. None of us is a criminal; none of us commits great sins like David did with the wife of Uriah. But wherein lies the danger? Letting ourselves slide slowly, because it is an anesthetized fall. You don’t even realize it, but slowly you slip. Things get relativized, and faithfulness to God is lost. These women were from other peoples – they had their own gods – and how often do we forget the Lord and begin to deal with other gods: money, vanity, pride. But this is done slowly, and without the grace of God everything is lost.
Psalm 106: 35-36 "But they mingled with the nations and imitated their ways. They served their idols and were ensnared by them", shows that serving their idols means becoming worldly and pagan.
For us this slippery slide in life is towards worldliness. This is the grave sin: ‘Everyone is doing it, don’t worry about it; obviously it’s not ideal, but…’ We justify ourselves with these words to the price of losing our faithfulness to the one God. They are modern idols. Let us consider this sin of worldliness, of losing the authenticity of the Gospel. The authenticity of the Word of God, and the love of God who gave His life for us. There is no way to maintain a good relationship with God and the devil. In practice it means not being faithful "neither to God nor to the devil."
Let us think of this sin of Solomon, let us think of how that wise Solomon fell, blessed by the Lord, with all the inheritances of his father David, how he fell slowly, anesthetized towards this idolatry, towards this worldliness, and the kingdom was taken from him.
Let us ask the Lord for the grace to understand when our heart begins to weaken and to slide, so that we can stop. It will be His grace and His love that will stop us if we pray for him.
In today's Gospel (Mark 9:30-37) Jesus tells the twelve disciples “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all". If we make compromises while trying to live out the Gospel we will end up imbibing the spirit of the world, which leads to dominating others and is the enemy of God. On the contrary, Jesus calls us to the path of service.
Jesus knew that along the way the disciples, because of ambition, had been arguing about which one of them was the greatest. This quarrel by saying "I must go on, I must go up", is the spirit of the world. But today's First Reading of the Liturgy (James 4:1-10) also follows this aspect, when the Apostle James remembers that love for the world is the enemy of God.
This anxiety of worldliness, this concern to be more important than others, saying, “No! I deserve this, that person doesn’t deserve it”: this is worldliness, this is the spirit of the world, and those who breathe in this spirit, breathe in the enmity of God. Jesus, in another passage, says to the disciples, “Either you are with me or you are against me”. There are no compromises in the Gospel. And when someone wants to live the Gospel while making compromises, they ultimately find themselves with the worldly spirit, which always tries to make compromises in order to climb higher, to dominate, to be greater.
So many wars and so many quarrels come precisely from worldly desires, from passions. It’s true that there are many wars in the world today. But “What about the wars among ourselves, like the one among the Apostles about who is the most important?” "Look at the career I've had: I can't go back now!" This is the spirit of the world, and this is not Christian. “No! It’s my turn! I have to earn more to get more money and more power”. This is the spirit of the world. And then, there's the wickedness of chatter: gossip. Where does it come from? From envy. The great envious one is the devil, we know that, it says so in the Bible. From envy. Through the devil’s envy evil enters into the world. Envy is a worm that drives you to destroy, to bad-mouth others, to annihilate others.
In the discussion among the disciples, there were all these passions and so Jesus rebuked the them, and called them to become servants to all, and to take the last place.
Who is the most important in the Church? The Pope, the bishops, the monsignors, the cardinals, the pastors of the most beautiful parishes, the presidents of lay associations? No! The greatest in the Church are those who make themselves servants of all, those who serve everyone, not those who have titles. And to help us understand this, He took a child and placed him among them; and embracing him with tenderness – because Jesus spoke with tenderness, He had so much – He said to them: “Whoever receives a child, receives me”. That is, whoever welcomes the most humble, the one who serves the most. This is the way. There is only one road against the spirit of the world: humility. Serving others, choosing the last place, not climbing the ladder.
Therefore, we must not negotiate with the spirit of the world, we must not say: "I am entitled to this place, because, look at the career I have made". Worldliness, in fact, is God's enemy. On the contrary we need to listen to these very wise words of encouragement that Jesus speaks in the Gospel: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all”.
Let us pray today for artists, who have this great capacity for creativity and through beauty show us the way forward. May the Lord give us all the grace of creativity at this time.
The people who had listened to Jesus throughout the day, and then had this grace of the multiplication of loaves and saw the power of Jesus, wanted to make him king. First they went to Jesus to hear the word and also to ask for the sick to be healed. They stayed all day listening to Jesus without getting bored, without getting tired or being tired, but they were there, happy. But then when they saw that Jesus fed them, which they did not expect, they thought: "But he would be a good leader for us and surely he will be able to free us from the power of the Romans and take the country forward". And they were enthusiastic to make him king. Their intention changed, because they saw and thought: "Well ... a person who does this miracle, who feeds the people, can be a good leader." But they had forgotten at that moment the enthusiasm that the word of Jesus gave rise to in their hearts.
Jesus left and went to pray. These people stayed there, and next day they were looking for Jesus, "because he must be here" they said, because they had seen that he had not boarded the boat with the others. And there was a boat there, it stayed there . But they did not know that Jesus had joined the others by walking on the water. So they decided to go to the other side of the Sea of Tiberias to look for Jesus, and when they saw him, the first word they say to him was ( "Rabbi, when did you get here?", as if saying: "We do not understand, this seems a strange thing".
And Jesus makes them return to their first feelings, to what they had before the multiplication of the loaves, when they listened to the word of God: "I say to you: you are looking for me not because you saw signs - as at the beginning, the sign of the word, that excited them, the signs of healing - not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled." Jesus reveals their intention and says: "But this is how you have changed your attitude." And they, instead of justifying themselves: "No, Lord, no...", were humble. Jesus continues: "Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life and that the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal." And being good they said, "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?" and Jesus says "Believe in the Son of God." This is a case in which Jesus corrects the attitude of the people, of the crowd, because they had gradually distanced themselves from the first spiritual consolation and had taken a path that was not right, a path more worldly than evangelical.
This makes us think that so many times in life we begin to follow Jesus, behind Jesus, with the values of the Gospel, and halfway there comes another idea, we see some signs and we turn away and conform with something more temporal, more material, more worldly, perhaps, and we lose the memory of that first enthusiasm that we had when we heard Jesus speak. The Lord always brings us back to the first encounter, to the first moment when he looked at us, spoke to us and aroused within us the desire to follow him. This is a grace to ask the Lord, because we in life will always have this temptation to move away because we see something else: "But that will be fine, but that idea is good...". We're moving away. The grace to always return to the first call, to the first moment: do not forget, do not forget my story, when Jesus looked at me with love and said to me: "This is your path"; when Jesus through so many people made me understand the path of the Gospel and not other somewhat worldly paths, with other values. Go back to the first encounter.
It has always struck me that among the things Jesus says on the morning of the Resurrection: "Go to my disciples and tell them to go to Galilee, there they will find me", Galilee was the place of the first meeting. There they had met Jesus. Each of us has our own "Galilee" within us, our own moment when Jesus approached us and said, "Follow me." In life similar things happen to us like what happened with these good people, and then they say to him: "But what should we do?", and they obeyed right away - it happens that we move away and look for other values, other ways of interpretation, other things, and we lose the freshness of the first call. The author of the letter to the Hebrews also reminds us of this: "Remember the first days." The memory, the memory of the first encounter, the memory of "my Galilee", when the Lord looked at me with love and said, "Follow me."
Let us pray today for the deceased who have died because of the pandemic. They died alone. They died without the caress of their loved ones. So many of them did not even have a funeral. May the Lord receive them in glory.
Jesus was in the temple, the feast of Easter was near (John 10:22-30). Even the Jews, at that time, came around him and said, "How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly" (10: 24). They would make some lose patience, but Jesus meekly answered them, "I told you and you do not believe" (10: 25). They kept saying. "But is it you? Is it you?" and Jesus said "Yes, I told you, but you do not believe" "But you do not believe because you are not among my sheep" (10:26). And this, perhaps, raises a doubt: I believe and I am a part of the sheep of Jesus. But if Jesus said to us: "You cannot believe because you are not a part?".. What is this to be part of Jesus' faith? What is the thing that stops me in front of the door that is Jesus?
There are pre-confession attitudes, even for us, who are in the flock of Jesus.. that do not let us go forward in the knowledge of the Lord. The first of all is wealth. So many of us, who have entered through the door of the Lord, then stop and do not move forward because we are imprisoned by wealth. The Lord was hard, with wealth: he was very hard, very hard. To the point of saying that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (cf. Mt 19:24). That's hard. Wealth is an impediment to moving forward. But should we fall into poverty? No. But do not be slaves to wealth, do not live for wealth, because riches are a lord, they are the lord of this world and we cannot serve two lords (cf. Luke 16:13). And wealth stop us.
Another thing that prevents us from moving forward in the knowledge of Jesus, and in belonging to Jesus, is rigidity: the rigidity of the heart. Even the rigidity in the interpretation of the Law. Jesus reproached the Pharisees, the doctors of the Law for this rigidity ( Mt 23: 1-36). That is not fidelity: faithfulness is always a gift of God; rigidity is a security for myself. I remember once when I walked into a parish and a lady – a good lady – came up to me and said, "Father, a piece of advice..." – "Say ..." – "Last week, Saturday, not yesterday, the other Saturday, we went as a family to a wedding: it was with Mass. It was Saturday afternoon, and we thought that with this Mass we had fulfilled the Sunday precept. But then, on my way home, I thought the Readings of that Mass were not the ones of Sunday. And so I realized that I am in mortal sin, because I did not go on Sunday because I went Saturday, but to a Mass that was not right, because the readings were not right." That's rigidity. And that lady belonged to a church movement. Rigidity. This distances us from the wisdom of Jesus, from the beauty of Jesus; it takes away your freedom. And so many pastors make this rigidity grow in the souls of the faithful, and this rigidity does not allow us enter through the door of Jesus (John 1: 7). Is it more important to observe the law as it is written or how I interpret it, rather than the freedom to move forward following Jesus?
Another thing that does not let us go forward in the knowledge of Jesus is the apathy. That tiredness. Let's think of that man at the pool: there 38 years (cf. John 5: 1-9). It's apathy. It takes away the will to go on and everything is "yes, but ... no, now no, no, but ...", it makes you tepid and makes you lukewarm. Apathy, it's another thing that keeps us from moving forward.
Another that is quite ugly is a clerical attitude. Clericalism puts itself in the place of in Jesus. It says: "No, this must be so, so..." – "But, the Master ..." – "Leave the Master aside: this is so, so, so, and if you do not do so, so, so you cannot enter." A clericalism that takes away the freedom of the faith of believers. It is a disease, in the church: the clerical attitude.
Then, another thing that prevents us from moving forward, of coming in to know Jesus and confessing Jesus is the worldly spirit. When the observance of faith, the practice of faith ends in worldliness. And everything is worldly. Let us think of the celebration of some sacraments in some parishes: how much worldliness there is there! And the grace of Jesus' presence is not well understood.
These are the things that stop us from being part of Jesus' sheep. We are "sheep" of all these things: wealth, apathy, rigidity, worldliness, clericalism, ideologies.. Freedom is lacking. And you cannot follow Jesus without freedom. But sometimes freedom goes too far and one slips: yes, it is true. It's true. We can slip on the way of freedom. But it is worse to slip before you go, with these things that prevent you from starting to go towards Jesus.
May the Lord enlightens us to see within us if there is the freedom to pass through the door that is Jesus and go beyond; to become a flock, to become sheep of his flock.
Let us pray today for the people who are responsible for burying the dead in this pandemic. It is one of the works of mercy to bury the dead and of course it is not a pleasant thing. Let us pray for them who also risk their lives and may catch the infection.
Jesus speaks of the world several times, and especially in his farewell address to the apostles, (John 15: 18-21). And here he says, "If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first" (v. 18). Clearly he is speaking of the hatred that the world had towards Jesus and will have towards us. And in the prayer he says at the table with the disciples at the Last Supper, he asks the Father not to take them out of the world, but to defend them from the spirit of the world (John 17: 15).
I believe that we can ask ourselves: what is the spirit of the world? What is this worldliness, capable of hating, of destroying Jesus and his disciples, even of corrupting them and of corrupting the Church? What is the spirit of the world, what is it, it will do us good to think about it. It is a style of life, worldliness. But some people think it's worldliness to party, to live in parties. No, no. It could be that, but it's not that essentially.
Worldliness is a culture; it is a culture of the ephemeral, a culture of appearance, of make up, a culture "of today yes tomorrow no, tomorrow yes and today no". It has superficial values. A culture that knows no fidelity, because it changes according to circumstances, everything is negotiable. This is the worldly culture, the culture of worldliness. And Jesus insists on defending us from this and prays that the Father will defend us from this culture of worldliness. It's a throw-away culture, according to what's convenient. It's a culture without fidelity, it has no roots. But it is a way of life, a way of life also of many who say they are Christians. They are Christians but they are worldly.
Jesus, in the parable of the seed that falls into the earth, says that the preoccupations of the world, that is worldliness, stifle the Word of God, does not allow it to grow (Luke 8: 7). And Paul to the Galatians says: "You were slaves of the world, to worldliness" (Gal 4: 3). It always strikes me when I read the last pages of the book of the father de Lubac: "The meditations on the Church" (cf Henri de Lubac, Meditations on the Church, Milan 1955), the last three pages, where he speaks precisely of spiritual worldliness. And he says it is the worst of evils that can happen to the Church; and he does not exaggerate, because then he tells about some evils that are terrible, and this is the worst: spiritual worldliness, because it is a hermeneutic of life, is a way of life; even a way of living Christianity. And to survive the preaching of the Gospel, it hates, it kills.
When we speak about the martyrs who are killed out of hatred of the faith, yes it is true, for some, hatred was for a theological problem; but they weren't the majority. In most cases it is worldliness that hates faith and kills them, as they did with Jesus.
It is curious: worldliness, some might say to me: "But father, this is a superficiality of life". Let's not deceive ourselves! Worldliness is not superficial at all! It has deep roots, deep roots. It is chameleon-like, it changes, it comes and goes depending on the circumstances, but the substance is the same: a proposal of life that enters everywhere, even in the Church. Worldliness, worldly hermeneutics, make-up, everything can be made up to appear like this.
The Apostle Paul came to Athens, and was impressed when he saw in the areopagus so many monuments to the gods. And he thought of talking about this: "You are a religious people, I see this. The altar to the 'unknown god' has attracted my attention. I know him and I come to tell you who he is." And he began to preach the Gospel. But when he arrived at the cross and the resurrection they were shocked and left (Acts 17: 22-33). There is one thing that worldliness does not tolerate: the scandal of the Cross. It will not tolerate it. And the only medicine against the spirit of worldliness is Christ who died and rose for us, scandal and foolishness (1Cor 1: 23).
That is why when the Apostle John in his first letter deals with the theme of the world, he says: "The victory that conquers the world is our faith"(1 John 5: 4). The only one: faith in Jesus Christ, who died and rose. And that doesn't mean being fanatical. This does not mean neglecting to have dialogue with all people, no, but it's about the conviction of faith, starting from the scandal of the Cross, the foolishness of Christ and also the victory of Christ. "This is our victory," says John, "our faith."
Let us ask the Holy Spirit in these last days, even in the novena of the Holy Spirit, in the last days of the Easter season, for the grace to discern what is worldliness and what is the Gospel, and to not be deceived, because the world hates us, the world hated Jesus and Jesus prayed that the Father would defend us from the spirit of the world (John 17 :15).
Today’s readings propose two key words for the Advent season: closeness and watchfulness. God’s closeness and our watchfulness. The prophet Isaiah says that God is close to us, while in the Gospel Jesus urges us to keep watch in expectation of his return.
Closeness. Isaiah begins by speaking personally to God: “You, O Lord, are our father” (63:16). “Never has anyone heard”, he continues, “[of] any God, other than you, who has done so much for those who trust in him” (cf. 64:3). We are reminded of the words of Deuteronomy: who is like the Lord our God, so close to us whenever we call upon him? (cf. 4:7). Advent is the season for remembering that closeness of God who came down to dwell in our midst. The prophet goes on to ask God to draw close to us once more: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” (Is 64:1). We prayed for this in today’s responsorial psalm: “Turn again… come to save us” (Ps 80:15.3). We often begin our prayers with the invocation: “God, come to my assistance”. The first step of faith is to tell God that we need him, that we need him to be close to us.
This is also the first message of Advent and the liturgical year: we need to recognize God’s closeness and to say to him: “Come close to us once more!” God wants to draw close to us, but he will not impose himself; it is up to us to keep saying to him: “Come!” This is our Advent prayer: “Come!” Advent reminds us that Jesus came among us and will come again at the end of time. Yet we can ask what those two comings mean, if he does not also come into our lives today? So let us invite him. Let us make our own the traditional Advent prayer: “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20). The Book of Revelation ends with this prayer: “Come, Lord Jesus”. We can say that prayer at the beginning of each day and repeat it frequently, before our meetings, our studies and our work, before making decisions, in every more important or difficult moment in our lives: Come, Lord Jesus! It is a little prayer, yet one that comes from the heart. Let us say it in this Advent season. Let us repeat it: “Come, Lord Jesus!”
If we ask Jesus to come close to us, we will train ourselves to be watchful. Today Mark’s Gospel presented us with the end of Jesus’ final address to his disciples, which can be summed up in two words: “Be watchful!” The Lord repeats these words four times in five verses (cf. Mk 13:33-35.37). It is important to remain watchful, because one great mistake in life is to get absorbed in a thousand things and not to notice God. Saint Augustine said: “Timeo Iesum transeuntem” (Sermons, 88, 14, 13), “I fear that Jesus will pass by me unnoticed”. Caught up in our own daily concerns (how well we know this!), and distracted by so many vain things, we risk losing sight of what is essential. That is why today the Lord repeats: “To all, I say: be watchful!” (Mk 13:37). Be watchful, attentive.
Having to be watchful, however, means it is now night. We are not living in broad daylight, but awaiting the dawn, amid darkness and weariness. The light of day will come when we shall be with the Lord. Let us not lose heart: the light of day will come, the shadows of night will be dispelled, and the Lord, who died for us on the cross, will arise to be our judge. Being watchful in expectation of his coming means not letting ourselves be overcome by discouragement. It is to live in hope. Just as before our birth, our loved ones expectantly awaited our coming into the world, so now Love in person awaits us. If we are awaited in Heaven, why should we be caught up with earthly concerns? Why should we be anxious about money, fame, success, all of which will pass away? Why should we waste time complaining about the night, when the light of day awaits us? Why should we look for “patrons” to help advance our career? All these things pass away. Be watchful, the Lord tells us.
Staying awake is not easy; it is really quite hard. At night, it is natural to sleep. Even Jesus’s disciples did not manage to stay awake when told to stay awake “in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn” (cf. v. 35). Those were the very times they were not awake: in the evening, at the Last Supper, they betrayed Jesus; at midnight, they dozed off; at the cock’s crow, they denied him; in the morning, they let him be condemned to death. They did not keep watch. They fell asleep. But that same drowsiness can also overtake us. There is a dangerous kind of sleep: it is the slumber of mediocrity. It comes when we forget our first love and grow satisfied with indifference, concerned only for an untroubled existence. Without making an effort to love God daily and awaiting the newness he constantly brings, we become mediocre, lukewarm, worldly. And this slowly eats away at our faith, for faith is the very opposite of mediocrity: it is ardent desire for God, a bold effort to change, the courage to love, constant progress. Faith is not water that extinguishes flames, it is fire that burns; it is not a tranquilizer for people under stress, it is a love story for people in love! That is why Jesus above all else detests lukewarmness (cf. Rev 3:16). God clearly disdains the lukewarm.
How can we rouse ourselves from the slumber of mediocrity? With the vigilance of prayer. When we pray, we light a candle in the darkness. Prayer rouses us from the tepidity of a purely horizontal existence and makes us lift our gaze to higher things; it makes us attuned to the Lord. Prayer allows God to be close to us; it frees us from our solitude and gives us hope. Prayer is vital for life: just as we cannot live without breathing, so we cannot be Christians without praying. How much we need Christians who keep watch for those who are slumbering, worshipers who intercede day and night, bringing before Jesus, the light of the world, the darkness of history. How much we need worshipers. We have lost something of our sense of adoration, of standing in silent adoration before the Lord. This is mediocrity, lukewarmness.
There is also another kind of interior slumber: the slumber of indifference. Those who are indifferent see everything the same, as if it were night; they are unconcerned about those all around them. When everything revolves around us and our needs, and we are indifferent to the needs of others, night descends in our hearts. Our hearts grow dark. We immediately begin to complain about everything and everyone; we start to feel victimized by everyone and end up brooding about everything. It is a vicious circle. Nowadays, that night seems to have fallen on so many people, who only demand things for themselves, and are blind to the needs of others.
How do we rouse ourselves from the slumber of indifference? With the watchfulness of charity. To awaken us from that slumber of mediocrity and lukewarmness, there is the watchfulness of prayer. To rouse us from that slumber of indifference, there is the watchfulness of charity. Charity is the beating heart of the Christian: just as one cannot live without a heartbeat, so one cannot be a Christian without charity. Some people seem to think that being compassionate, helping and serving others is for losers. Yet these are the only things that win us the victory, since they are already aiming towards the future, the day of the Lord, when all else will pass away and love alone will remain. It is by works of mercy that we draw close to the Lord. This is what we asked for in today’s opening prayer: “Grant [us]… the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming”. The resolve to run forth to meet Christ with good works. Jesus is coming, and the road to meet him is clearly marked: it passes through works of charity.
Dear brothers and sisters, praying and loving: that is what it means to be watchful. When the Church worships God and serves our neighbour, she does not live in the night. However weak and weary, she journeys towards the Lord. Let us now call out to him. Come, Lord Jesus, we need you! Draw close to us. You are the light. Rouse us from the slumber of mediocrity; awaken us from the darkness of indifference. Come, Lord Jesus, take our distracted hearts and make them watchful. Awaken within us the desire to pray and the need to love.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning
This Sunday's Gospel passage (cf. Mk 1:14-20) shows us, so to speak, the “passing of the baton” from John the Baptist to Jesus. John was His precursor; he prepared the terrain for Him and prepared the way for Him: now Jesus can begin his mission and announce the salvation by now present; He was salvation. His preaching is summarized in these words: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel” (v. 15). Simply. Jesus did not mince words. It is a message that invites us to reflect on two essential themes: time and conversion.
In this text of Mark the Evangelist, time is to be understood as the duration of the history of salvation worked by God; therefore, the time “fulfilled” is that in which this salvific action reaches its pinnacle, full realization: it is the historical moment in which God sent his Son into the world and his Kingdom is rendered more “close” than ever. The time of salvation is fulfilled because Jesus has arrived.
However, salvation is not automatic; salvation is a gift of love and as such offered to human freedom. Always, when we speak of love, we speak of freedom: a love without freedom is not love; it may be interest, it may be fear, many things, but love is always free, and being free it calls for a freely given response: it calls for our conversion. Thus, it means to change mentality – this is conversion, to change mentality – and to change life: to no longer follow the examples of the world but those of God, who is Jesus; to follow Jesus, as Jesus had done, and as Jesus taught us. It is a decisive change of view and attitude. In fact, sin – above all the sin of worldliness which is like air, it permeates everything – brought about a mentality that tends toward the affirmation of oneself against others and against God. This is curious.... What is your identity? And so often we hear that one's identity is expressed in terms of “opposition”. It is difficult to express one's identity in the worldly spirit in positive terms and those of salvation: it is against oneself, against others and against God. And for this purpose it does not hesitate – the mentality of sin, the worldly mentality – to use deceit and violence. Deceit and violence. We see what happens with deceit and violence: greed, desire for power and not to serve, war, exploitation of people.... This is the mentality of deceit that definitely has its origins in the father of deceit, the great pretender, the devil. He is the father of lies, as Jesus defines him.
All this is opposed by the message of Jesus, who invites us to recognize ourselves as in need of God and his grace; to have a balanced attitude with regard to earthly goods; to be welcoming and humble toward others; to know and fulfil ourselves in the encounter with and service of others. For each one of us the time in which we are able to receive redemption is brief: it is the duration of our life in this world. It is brief. Perhaps it seems long.... I remember that I went to administer the Sacraments, the Anointing of the Sick to a very good elderly man, very good, and in that moment, before receiving the Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick, he told me this phrase: “My life flew by”. This is how we, the elderly, feel, that life has passed away. It passes away. And life is a gift of God's infinite love, but is also the time to prove our our love for Him. For this reason every moment, every instant of our existence is precious time to love God and to love our neighbour, and thereby enter into eternal life.
The history of our life has two rhythms: one, measurable, made of hours, days, years; the other, composed of the seasons of our development: birth, childhood, adolescence, maturity, old age, death. Every period, every phase has its own value, and can be a privileged moment of encounter with the Lord. Faith helps us to discover the spiritual significance of these periods: each one of them contains a particular call of the Lord, to which we can offer a positive or negative response. In the Gospel we see how Simon, Andrew, James and John responded: they were mature men; they had their work as fishermen, they had their family life.... Yet, when Jesus passed and called to them, “immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Mk 1:18).
Dear brothers and sisters, let us stay attentive and not let Jesus pass by without welcoming him. Saint Augustine said “I am afraid of God when he passes by”. Afraid of what? Of not recognizing Him, of not seeing Him, not welcoming Him.
May the Virgin Mary help us to live each day, each moment as the time of salvation, in which the Lord passes and calls us to follow him, every second of our life. And may she help us to convert from the mentality of the world, that of worldly reveries which are fireworks, to that of love and service.
Dear brothers and sisters,
On 20 January, just metres from St Peter's Square, a 46-year-old Nigerian homeless man named Edwin was found dead from the cold weather. His story is in addition to that of so many other homeless people who recently died in Rome under the same tragic circumstances. Let's pray for Edwin. Let us be admonished by what St Gregory the Great said, who, in the face of the death of a beggar in the cold, said that Mass would not be celebrated that day because it was like Good Friday. Let's think about Edwin. Let's think about what this man, 46, felt in the cold, ignored by everyone, abandoned, even by us. Let us pray for him.