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Monday, August 21, 2017

0548: Reflections on the 21st Sunday
of Ordinary Time by Pope Francis



Entry 0548: Reflections on the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time   

 by Pope Francis 


O
n four occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 25 August 2013, 24 August 2014, 23 August 2015, and 21 August 2016. Here are the texts of four brief addresses delivered prior to the recitation of the Angelus.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 25 August 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Today’s Gospel invites us to reflect on the theme of salvation. Jesus was journeying from Galilee towards Jerusalem—the Evangelist Luke recounts—when someone asked him: “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” (13:23). Jesus does not answer the question directly: there is no need to know how many are saved; rather it is important to know which path leads to salvation. And so it was that Jesus replied saying: “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (v. 24). What does Jesus mean? Through which door should we enter? And why does Jesus speak of a narrow door?

The image of the door recurs in the Gospel on various occasions and calls to mind the door of the house, of the home, where we find safety, love and warmth. Jesus tell us that there is a door which gives us access to God’s family, to the warmth of God’s house, of communion with him. This door is Jesus himself (see Jn 10:9). He is the door. He is the entrance to salvation. He leads us to the Father and the door that is Jesus is never closed. This door is never closed it is always open and to all, without distinction, without exclusion, without privileges. Because, you know, Jesus does not exclude anyone. Some of you, perhaps, might say to me: “But, Father, I am certainly excluded because I am a great sinner: I have done terrible things, I have done lots of them in my life.” No, you are not excluded! Precisely for this reason you are the favorite, because Jesus prefers sinners, always, in order to forgive them, to love them. Jesus is waiting for you to embrace you, to pardon you. Do not be afraid: he is waiting for you. Take heart, have the courage to enter through his door. Everyone is invited to cross the threshold of this door, to cross the threshold of faith, to enter into his life and to make him enter our life, so that he may transform it, renew it and give it full and enduring joy.

In our day we pass in front of so many doors that invite us to come in, promising a happiness which later we realize lasts only an instant, exhausts itself with no future. But I ask you: by which door do we want to enter? And who do we want to let in through the door of our life? I would like to say forcefully: let’s not be afraid to cross the threshold of faith in Jesus, to let him enter our life more and more, to step out of our selfishness, our closure, our indifference to others so that Jesus may illuminate our life with a light that never goes out. It is not a firework, not a flash of light! No, it is a peaceful light that lasts for ever and gives us peace. Consequently it is the light we encounter if we enter through Jesus’ door.

Of course Jesus’ door is a narrow one but not because it is a torture chamber. No, not for that reason! Rather, because he asks us to open our hearts to him, to recognize that we are sinners in need of his salvation, his forgiveness and his love in order to have the humility to accept his mercy and to let ourselves be renewed by him. Jesus tells us in the Gospel that being Christians does not mean having a “label”! I ask you: are you Christians by label or by the truth? And let each one answer within himself or herself! Not Christians, never Christians by label! Christians in truth, Christians in the heart. Being Christian is living and witnessing to faith in prayer, in works of charity, in promoting justice, in doing good. The whole of our life must pass through the narrow door which is Christ.

Let us ask the Virgin Mary, Door of Heaven, to help us cross the threshold of faith and to let her Son transform our life, as he transformed hers to bring everyone the joy of the Gospel.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 24 August 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,

This Sunday’s Gospel reading (Mt 16:13-20) is a well-known passage, central to Matthew’s account, in which Simon, on behalf of the Twelve, professes his faith in Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God;” and Jesus calls Simon “blessed” for this faith, recognizing in him a special gift of the Father, and tells him: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.”

Let us pause on this very point, on the fact that Jesus gives Simon this name, “Peter,” which in Jesus’ language is pronounced “Kefa,” a word which means “rock.” In the Bible this term, “rock,” refers to God. Jesus gives it to Simon not because of his character or for his merits as a human, but for his genuine and steadfast faith, which comes to him from above.

Jesus feels great joy in his heart because, in Simon, he recognizes the hand of the Father, the work of the Holy Spirit. He recognizes that God the Father has given Simon “steadfast” faith on which He, Jesus, can build his Church, meaning his community, that is, all of us. Jesus intends to give life to “his” Church, a people founded no longer on heritage, but on faith, which means on the relationship with Him, a relationship of love and trust. The Church is built on our relationship with Jesus. And to begin his Church, Jesus needs to find solid faith, “steadfast” faith in his disciples. And it is this that He must verify at this point of the journey.

The Lord has in mind a picture of the structure, an image of the community like a building. This is why, when he hears Simon’s candid profession of faith, he calls him a “rock,” and declares his intention to build his Church upon this faith.

Brothers and sisters, what happened in a unique way in Saint Peter, also happens in every Christian who develops a sincere faith in Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Today’s Gospel passage also asks each of us, is your faith good? Each one answer in his or her heart. Is my faith good? How does the Lord find our hearts? A heart that is firm as a rock, or a heart like sand, that is doubtful, diffident, disbelieving? It will do us good to think about this throughout the day today. If the Lord finds in our heart, I don’t say a perfect, but sincere, genuine faith, then He also sees in us living stones with which to build his community. This community’s foundation stone is Christ, the unique cornerstone. On his side, Peter is the rock, the visible foundation of the Church’s unity; but every baptized person is called to offer Jesus his or her lowly but sincere faith, so that He may continue to build his Church, today, in every part of the world.

Even today, so many people think Jesus may be a great prophet, knowledgeable teacher, a model of justice. And even today Jesus asks his disciples, that is, all of us: “Who do you say that I am?” What do we answer? Let us think about this. But above all, let us pray to God the Father, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary; let us pray that He grant us the grace to respond, with a sincere heart: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This is a confession of faith, this is really “the Creed.” Let us repeat it together three times: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 23 August 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Today the Sixth Chapter of the Gospel of John concludes with the discourse on the Bread of Life, which Jesus gave the day after the multiplication of the loaves and fish.

At the end of that discourse, the great enthusiasm of previous day had dissipated, for Jesus said that he was the Bread which came down from heaven, and that he would give his flesh as food and his blood as drink, thereby clearly alluding to the sacrifice of his life. Those words gave rise to dismay in the people, who deemed such words unworthy of the Messiah, not “winning” words. Thus, several regarded Jesus as a messiah who should have spoken and acted in such a way as to bring success to his mission, straight away. But they were mistaken precisely in this: in the way of understanding the mission of the Messiah! Not even the disciples managed to accept the unsettling words of the Teacher. And today’s passage refers to their discomfort: “This is a hard saying,” they commented, “who can listen to it?” (Jn 6:60).

In reality, they had certainly understood Jesus’ discourse. So well that they did not want to heed it, because it was a discourse which threw their mind-set into crisis. Jesus’ words always throw us into crisis, for example, the worldly spirit, worldliness. But Jesus offers the key for overcoming this difficulty; a key consisting of three elements. First, his divine origin: he came down from heaven and will ascend again to “where he was before” (v. 62). Second: his words can be understood only through the action of the Holy Spirit. The One who “gives life” (v. 63) is precisely the Holy Spirit who enables us to understand Jesus properly. Third: the true cause of incomprehension of his words is the lack of faith: “there are some of you that do not believe” (v. 64), Jesus says. In fact from that time, the Gospel says, “many of his disciples drew back” (v. 66). In the face of these desertions, Jesus does not compromise and does not mince words, indeed he demands that a precise choice be made: either to stay with him or leave him, and he says to the Twelve: “Will you also go away?” (v. 67).

At this point Peter makes his confession of faith on behalf of the other Apostles: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (v. 68). He does not say “where shall we go?” but “to whom shall we go?” The underlying problem is not about leaving and abandoning the work undertaken, but to whom to go. From Peter’s question we understand that fidelity to God is a question of fidelity to a person, to whom we bind ourselves to walk together on the same road. And this person is Jesus. All that we have in the world does not satisfy our infinite hunger. We need Jesus, to be with him, to be nourished at his table, on his words of eternal life! Believing in Jesus means making him the center, the meaning of our life. Christ is not an optional element: he is the “Living Bread,” the essential nourishment. Binding oneself to him, in a true relationship of faith and love, does not mean being tied down, but being profoundly free, always on the journey. Each one of us can ask himself or herself: who is Jesus for me? Is he a name, an idea, simply an historical figure? Or is he truly that person who loves me and gave his life for me and walks with me? Who is Jesus for you? Are you with Jesus? Do you try to comprehend him in his word? Do you read the Gospel, each day a passage from the Gospel to learn to know Jesus? Do you carry a small Gospel in your pocket, handbag, to read it, in whatever place? Because the more we are with him the more the desire to be with him grows. Now I ask you, please, let us have a moment of silence and let each one of us silently, in our hearts, ask ourselves the question: “Who is Jesus for me?” Silently, each one, answer in your heart.

May the Virgin Mary help us to always “go” to Jesus to experience the freedom he offers us, allowing it to cleanse our choices from worldly incrustations and fears.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 21 August 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Today’s Gospel passage urges us to meditate on the topic of salvation. Saint Luke the Evangelist tells us that while Jesus was travelling to Jerusalem, he was approached by a man who asked him this question: “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” (Lk 13:23). Rather than giving a direct answer, Jesus shifts the issue to another level in an evocative way, which the disciples don’t understand at first: “strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (v. 24). Using the image of a door, he wants his listeners to understand that it is not a question of numbers—how many will be saved—how many is not relevant, but rather, it is important for everyone to know the way that leads to salvation.

This way means entering through a door. But where is the door? Who is the door? Jesus himself is that door. He says so in the Gospel of John: “I am the door” (10:9). He leads us to communion with the Father, where we find love, understanding and protection. But why is this door narrow, one might ask? Why does he say it is narrow? It is a narrow door not because it is oppressive, but because it demands that we restrain and limit our pride and our fear, in order to open ourselves to Him with humble and trusting hearts, acknowledging that we are sinners and in need of his forgiveness. This is why it is narrow, to limit our pride, which swells us. The door of God’s mercy is narrow but is always open to everyone! God does not have preferences, but always welcomes everyone, without distinction. A narrow door to restrain our pride and our fear; a door open wide because God welcomes us without distinction. And the salvation that He gives us is an unending flow of mercy that overcomes every barrier and opens surprising perspectives of light and peace. The door is narrow but always open wide: do not forget this.

Once more, Jesus extends a pressing invitation to us today to go to Him, to pass through the door of a full, reconciled and happy life. He awaits each one of us, no matter what sins we have committed, to embrace us, to offer us his forgiveness. He alone can transform our hearts, He alone can give full meaning to our existence, giving us true joy. By entering Jesus’ door, the door of faith and of the Gospel, we can leave behind worldly attitudes, bad habits, selfishness and narrow-mindedness. When we encounter the love and mercy of God, there is authentic change. Our lives are enlightened by the light of the Holy Spirit: an inextinguishable light!

I would like to propose something to you. Let us think now for a moment, in silence, of the things that we have inside us which prevent us from entering the door: my pride, my arrogance, my sins. Then, let us think of the other door, the one opened wide by the mercy of God who awaits us on the other side to grant us forgiveness.

The Lord offers us many opportunities to be saved and to enter through the door of salvation. This door is an occasion that can never be wasted: we don’t have to give long, erudite speeches about salvation, like the man who approached Jesus in the Gospel. Rather, we have to accept the opportunity for salvation. Because at a certain moment, the master of the house will rise and shut the door (see Lk 13:25), as the Gospel reminded us. But if God is good and loves us, why would he close the door at a certain point? Because our life is not a video game nor a television soap opera. Our life is serious and our goal is important: eternal salvation.

Let us ask the Virgin Mary, the Gate of Heaven, to help us seize the opportunities the Lord gives us in order to cross the threshold of faith and thus to enter a broad path: it is the path of salvation that can embrace all those who allow themselves to be enraptured by love. It is love that saves, the love that already on this earth is a source of happiness for all those who, in meekness, patience and justice, forget about themselves and give themselves to others, especially to those who are most weak.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


* * * * *

For reflections on the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time
 by Pope Benedict XVI,
please scroll down to the bottom of this page.


* * * * *

Monday, August 14, 2017

0547: Reflections on the 20th Sunday
of Ordinary Time by Pope Francis



Entry 0547: Reflections on the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time   

 by Pope Francis 


O
n four occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 18 August 2013, 17 August 2014, 16 August 2015, and 14 August 2016. Here are the texts of three brief addresses prior to the recitation of the Angelus and a homily delivered on these occasions.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 18 August 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

In today’s liturgy we listen to these words from the Letter to the Hebrews: “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:1-2). We must give special emphasis to this affirmation in this Year of Faith. Let us too, throughout this Year, keep our gaze fixed on Jesus because faith, which is our “yes” to the filial relationship with God, comes from him, comes from Jesus. He is the only mediator of this relationship between us and our Father who is in heaven. Jesus is the Son and we are sons in him.

This Sunday, however, the word of God also contains a word of Jesus which alarms us and must be explained, for otherwise it could give rise to misunderstanding. Jesus says to his disciples: “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division” (Lk 12:51). What does this mean? It means that faith is not a decorative or ornamental element; living faith does not mean decorating life with a little religion, as if it were a cake and we were decorating it with cream. No, this is not faith. Faith means choosing God as the criterion and basis of life, and God is not empty, God is not neutral, God is always positive, God is love, and love is positive! After Jesus has come into the world it is impossible to act as if we do not know God, or as if he were something that is abstract, empty, a purely nominal reference. No, God has a real face, he has a name: God is mercy, God is faithfulness, he is life which is given to us all. For this reason Jesus says “I came to bring division.” It is not that Jesus wishes to split people up. On the contrary Jesus is our peace, he is our reconciliation! But this peace is not the peace of the tomb, it is not neutrality, Jesus does not bring neutrality, this peace is not a compromise at all costs. Following Jesus entails giving up evil and selfishness and choosing good, truth and justice, even when this demands sacrifice and the renunciation of our own interests. And this indeed divides; as we know, it even cuts the closest ties. However, be careful: it is not Jesus who creates division! He establishes the criterion: whether to live for ourselves or to live for God and for others; to be served or to serve; to obey one’s own ego or to obey God. It is in this sense that Jesus is a “sign that is spoken against” (Lk 2:34).

This word of the Gospel does not therefore authorize the use of force to spread the faith. It is exactly the opposite: the Christian’s real force is the force of truth and of love, which involves renouncing all forms of violence. Faith and violence are incompatible! Instead, faith and strength go together. Christians are not violent; they are strong. And with what kind of strength? That of meekness, the strength of meekness, the strength of love.

Dear friends, even among Jesus’ relatives there were some who at a certain point did not share his way of life and preaching, as the Gospel tells us (see Mk 3:20-21). His Mother, however, always followed him faithfully, keeping the eyes of her heart fixed on Jesus, the Son of the Most High, and on his mystery. And in the end, thanks to Mary’s faith, Jesus’ relatives became part of the first Christian community (see Acts 1:14). Let us ask Mary to help us too to keep our gaze firmly fixed on Jesus and to follow him always, even when it costs what it may.


APOSTOLIC JOURNEY
ON THE OCCASION OF THE 6th ASIAN YOUTH DAY

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Haemi Castle, Korea, Sunday, 17 August 2014

Dear Young Friends,

The glory of the martyrs shines upon you! These words—a part of the theme of the Sixth Asian Youth Day—console and strengthen us all. Young people of Asia: you are the heirs of a great testimony, a precious witness to Christ. He is the light of the world; he is the light of our lives! The martyrs of Korea—and innumerable others throughout Asia—handed over their bodies to their persecutors; to us they have handed on a perennial witness that the light of Christ’s truth dispels all darkness, and the love of Christ is gloriously triumphant. With the certainty of his victory over death, and our participation in it, we can face the challenge of Christian discipleship today, in our own circumstances and time.

The words which we have just reflected upon are a consolation. The other part of this Day’s theme—Asian Youth! Wake up!—speaks to you of a duty, a responsibility. Let us consider for a moment each of these words.

First, the word “Asian.” You have gathered here in Korea from all parts of Asia. Each of you has a unique place and context where you are called to reflect God’s love. The Asian continent, imbued with rich philosophical and religious traditions, remains a great frontier for your testimony to Christ, “the way, and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). As young people not only in Asia, but also as sons and daughters of this great continent, you have a right and a duty to take full part in the life of your societies. Do not be afraid to bring the wisdom of faith to every aspect of social life!

As Asians too, you see and love, from within, all that is beautiful, noble and true in your cultures and traditions. Yet as Christians, you also know that the Gospel has the power to purify, elevate and perfect this heritage. Through the presence of the Holy Spirit given you in Baptism and sealed within you at Confirmation, and in union with your pastors, you can appreciate the many positive values of the diverse Asian cultures. You are also able to discern what is incompatible with your Catholic faith, what is contrary to the life of grace bestowed in Baptism, and what aspects of contemporary culture are sinful, corrupt, and lead to death.

Returning to the theme of this Day, let us reflect on a second word: “Youth.” You and your friends are filled with the optimism, energy and good will which are so characteristic of this period of life. Let Christ turn your natural optimism into Christian hope, your energy into moral virtue, your good will into genuine self-sacrificing love! This is the path you are called to take. This is the path to overcoming all that threatens hope, virtue and love in your lives and in your culture. In this way your youth will be a gift to Jesus and to the world.

As young Christians, whether you are workers or students, whether you have already begun a career or have answered the call to marriage, religious life or the priesthood, you are not only a part of the future of the Church; you are also a necessary and beloved part of the Church’s present! You are Church’s present! Keep close to one another, draw ever closer to God, and with your bishops and priests spend these years in building a holier, more missionary and humble Church, a holier, more missionary and humble Church, a Church which loves and worships God by seeking to serve the poor, the lonely, the infirm and the marginalized.

In your Christian lives, you will find many occasions that will tempt you, like the disciples in today’s Gospel, to push away the stranger, the needy, the poor and the broken-hearted. It is these people especially who repeat the cry of the woman of the Gospel: “Lord, help me!” The Canaanite woman’s plea is the cry of everyone who searches for love, acceptance, and friendship with Christ. It is the cry of so many people in our anonymous cities, the cry of so many of your own contemporaries, and the cry of all those martyrs who even today suffer persecution and death for the name of Jesus: “Lord, help me!” It is often a cry which rises from our own hearts as well: “Lord, help me!” Let us respond, not like those who push away people who make demands on us, as if serving the needy gets in the way of our being close to the Lord. No! We are to be like Christ, who responds to every plea for his help with love, mercy and compassion.

Finally, the third part of this Day’s theme—”Wake up!”—This word speaks of a responsibility which the Lord gives you. It is the duty to be vigilant, not to allow the pressures, the temptations and the sins of ourselves or others to dull our sensitivity to the beauty of holiness, to the joy of the Gospel. Today’s responsorial psalm invites us constantly to “be glad and sing for joy.” No one who sleeps can sing, dance or rejoice. I don’t like to see young people who are sleeping. No! Wake up! Go! Go Forward! Dear young people, “God, our God, has blessed us!” (Ps 67:6); from him we have “received mercy” (Rom 11:30). Assured of God’s love, go out to the world so that, “by the mercy shown to you,” they—your friends, co-workers, neighbors, countrymen, everyone on this great continent—”may now receive the mercy of God” (see Rom 11:31). It is by his mercy that we are saved.

Dear young people of Asia, it is my hope that, in union with Christ and the Church, you will take up this path, which will surely bring you much joy. Now, as we approach the table of the Eucharist, let us turn to our Mother Mary, who brought Jesus to the world. Yes, Mother Mary, we long to have Jesus; in your maternal affection help us to bring him to others, to serve him faithfully, and to honor him in every time and place, in this country and throughout Asia. Amen.

Asian youth, wake up!


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 16 August 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

These Sundays the Liturgy is offering us, from the Gospel according to John, Jesus’ discourse on the Bread of Life, which He himself is, just as the Sacrament of the Eucharist is. Today’s passage (Jn 6:51-58) presents the final part of this discussion, and refers to several of those who were scandalized because Jesus said: “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn 6:54). The listeners’ astonishment is understandable; Jesus in fact uses the typical manner of the prophets to provoke questions in people—and also in us—and, ultimately, to provoke a decision. First of all, regarding the questions: what is meant by “eat the flesh and drink the blood” of Jesus? Is it just an image, a figure of speech, a symbol, or does it indicate something real? In order to answer, one must divine what is happening in Jesus’ heart as he breaks the bread for the hungry crowd. Knowing that he will have to die on the cross for us, Jesus identifies himself with that bread broken and shared, and it becomes for him the “sign” of the Sacrifice that awaits him. This process culminates in the Last Supper, where the bread and wine truly become his Body and his Blood. It is the Eucharist, which Jesus leaves us with a specific purpose: that we may become one with Him. Indeed he says: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (v. 56). That “abiding:” Jesus in us and we in Jesus. Communion is assimilation: partaking of Him, we become as He is. This requires our “yes,” our adherence of faith.

Regarding the Holy Mass, one sometimes hears this objection: “Of what use is Mass? I go to Church when I feel like it, and I pray better in solitude.” But the Eucharist is not a private prayer or a beautiful spiritual exercise, it is not a simple commemoration of what Jesus did at the Last Supper. We say, in order to fully understand, that the Eucharist is “a remembrance,” that is, a gesture which renders real and present the event of Jesus’ death and resurrection: the bread really is his Body given up for us, the wine really is his Blood poured out for us.

The Eucharist is Jesus himself who gives himself entirely to us. Nourishing ourselves of Him and abiding in Him through Eucharistic Communion, if we do so with faith, transforms our life, transforms it into a gift to God and to our brothers and sisters. Nourishing ourselves of that “Bread of Life” means entering into harmony with the heart of Christ, assimilating his choices, his thoughts, his behavior. It means entering into a dynamism of love and becoming people of peace, people of forgiveness, of reconciliation, of sharing in solidarity. The very things that Jesus did.

Jesus concludes his discourse with these words: “he who eats this bread will live for ever” (Jn 6:58). Yes, living in real communion with Jesus on this earth lets us pass from death to life. Heaven begins precisely in this communion with Jesus.

In Heaven Mary our Mother is already waiting for us—we celebrated this mystery yesterday. May she obtain for us the grace to nourish ourselves with faith in Jesus, Bread of Life.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 14 August 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

The Gospel for this Sunday (Lk 12:49-53) is part of Jesus’ teachings to the disciples during his journey to Jerusalem, where death on the cross awaits him. To explain the purpose of his mission, he takes three images: fire, baptism and division. Today I wish to talk about the first image: fire.

Jesus expresses it with these words: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” (v. 49). The fire that Jesus speaks of is the fire of the Holy Spirit, the presence living and working in us from the day of our Baptism. It—the fire—is a creative force that purifies and renews, that burns all human misery, all selfishness, all sin, which transforms us from within, regenerates us and makes us able to love. Jesus wants the Holy Spirit to blaze like fire in our heart, for it is only from the heart that the fire of divine love can spread and advance the Kingdom of God. It does not come from the head, it comes from the heart. This is why Jesus wants fire to enter our heart. If we open ourselves completely to the action of this fire which is the Holy Spirit, He will give us the boldness and the fervor to proclaim to everyone Jesus and his consoling message of mercy and salvation, navigating on the open sea, without fear.

In fulfilling her mission in the world, the Church—namely all of us who make up the Church—needs the Holy Spirit’s help so as not to let herself be held back by fear and by calculation, so as not to become accustomed to walking inside of safe borders. These two attitudes lead the Church to be a functional Church, which never takes risks. Instead, the apostolic courage that the Holy Spirit kindles in us like a fire helps us to overcome walls and barriers, makes us creative and spurs us to get moving in order to walk even on uncharted or arduous paths, offering hope to those we meet. With this fire of the Holy Spirit we are called to become, more and more, communities of people who are guided and transformed, full of understanding; people with expanded hearts and joyful faces. Now more than ever there is need for priests, consecrated people and lay faithful, with the attentive gaze of an apostle, to be moved by and to pause before hardship and material and spiritual poverty, thus characterizing the journey of evangelization and of the mission with the healing cadence of closeness. It is precisely the fire of the Holy Spirit that leads us to be neighbors to others, to the needy, to so much human misery, to so many problems, to refugees, to displaced people, to those who are suffering.

At this moment I am thinking with admiration especially of the many priests, men and women religious and lay faithful who, throughout the world, are dedicated to proclaiming the Gospel with great love and faithfulness, often even at the cost of their lives. Their exemplary testimony reminds us that the Church does not need bureaucrats and diligent officials, but passionate missionaries, consumed by ardor to bring to everyone the consoling word of Jesus and his grace. This is the fire of the Holy Spirit. If the Church does not receive this fire, or does not let it inflame her, she becomes a cold or merely lukewarm Church, incapable of giving life, because she is made up of cold and lukewarm Christians. It will do us good today to take five minutes to ask ourselves: “How is my heart? Is it cold? Is it lukewarm? Is it capable of receiving this fire?” Let us take five minutes for this. It will do everyone good.

Let us ask the Virgin Mary to pray with us and for us to the Heavenly Father, that he dispense upon all believers the Holy Spirit, the divine flame which warms hearts and helps us to be in solidarity with the joys and the sufferings of our brothers and sisters. May we be sustained on our journey by the example of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, martyr of charity, whose feast day is today: may he teach us to live the fire of love for God and for our neighbor.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


* * * * *

For reflections on the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time
 by Pope Benedict XVI,
please scroll down to the bottom of this page.


* * * * *

Monday, August 7, 2017

0546: Reflections on the 19th Sunday
of Ordinary Time by Pope Francis



Entry 0546: Reflections on the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time   

 by Pope Francis 


O
n four occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 11 August 2013, 10 August 2014, 9 August 2015, and 7 August 2016. Here are the texts of four brief addresses prior the recitation of the Angelus that the Holy Father delivered on these occasions.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 11 August 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

This Sunday’s Gospel (Lk 12:32-48) speaks to us about the desire for the definitive encounter with Christ, a desire that keeps us ever ready, alert in spirit, for we anticipate this encounter with all our heart, with all our being. This is a fundamental aspect of life. It is a desire that we all share, whether explicit or secret, we have hidden in our heart; we all harbor this desire in our heart.

It is also important to see Jesus’ teaching in the actual context in which he transmitted it. In this case, Luke the Evangelist shows us Jesus walking with his disciples to Jerusalem, walking to his death and resurrection at Easter, and on this journey he teaches them, confiding to them what he himself carries in his heart, the deep attitude of his heart: detachment from earthly possessions, his trust in the Father’s Providence and, indeed, his innermost watchfulness, all the while working for the Kingdom of God. For Jesus it is waiting for his return to the Father’s house. For us it is waiting for Christ himself who will come to take us to the everlasting celebration, as he did for his Mother, Mary Most Holy; he took her up to Heaven with him.

The Gospel intends to tell us that the Christian is someone who has a great desire, a deep desire within him: to meet his Lord with his brothers and sisters, his traveling companions. And what Jesus tells us is summed up in his famous phrase: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Lk 12:34). A heart full of desire. We all have desires. The poor ones are those who have no desire, no desire to go forward, toward the horizon; and for us Christians this horizon is the encounter with Jesus, the very encounter with him, who is our life, our joy, our happiness. I would like to ask you two questions. First: do you all have a desiring heart? A heart that desires? Think about it and respond silently in your hearts. I ask you, is your heart filled with desire, or is it a closed heart, a sleeping heart, a heart numb to the things of life? The desire to go forward to encounter Jesus. The second question: where is your treasure, what are you longing for? Jesus told us: where your treasure is, there will be your heart—and I ask you: where is your treasure? What is the most important reality for you, the most precious reality, the one that attracts your heart like a magnet? What attracts your heart? May I say that it is God’s love? Do you wish to do good to others, to live for the Lord and for your brothers and sisters? May I say this? Each one answer in his own heart. But someone could tell me: Father, I am someone who works, who has a family, for me the most important reality is to keep my family and work going. Certainly, this is true, it is important. But what is the power that unites the family? It is indeed love, and the One who sows love in our hearts is God, God’s love, it is precisely God’s love that gives meaning to our small daily tasks and helps us face the great trials. This is the true treasure of humankind: going forward in life with love, with that love which the Lord has sown in our hearts, with God’s love. This is the true treasure. But what is God’s love? It is not something vague, some generic feeling. God’s love has a name and a face: Jesus Christ, Jesus. Love for God is made manifest in Jesus. For we cannot love air. Do we love air? Do we love all things? No, no we cannot, we love people and the person we love is Jesus, the gift of the Father among us. It is a love that gives value and beauty to everything else; a love that gives strength to the family, to work, to study, to friendship, to art, to all human activity. It even gives meaning to negative experiences, because this love allows us to move beyond these experiences, to go beyond them, not to remain prisoners of evil, it moves us beyond, always opening us to hope, that’s it! Love of God in Jesus always opens us to hope, to that horizon of hope, to the final horizon of our pilgrimage. In this way our labors and failures find meaning. Even our sin finds meaning in the love of God because this love of God in Jesus Christ always forgives us. He loves us so much that he always forgives us.

Dear brothers and sisters, in the Church today we are commemorating Saint Clare of Assisi who, in the footsteps of Francis, left everything to consecrate herself to Christ in poverty. Saint Clare gives us a very beautiful testimony of today’s Gospel reading: may she, together with the Virgin Mary, help us to live the Gospel, each one of us according to one’s own vocation.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 10 August 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,

In today’s Gospel, we are presented with the account of Jesus walking on the water of the lake (see Mt 14:22-23). After the multiplication of loaves and fish, He asks the disciples to get into the boat and go before him to the other side of the lake while He dismisses the crowds. He then goes up into the hills by himself to pray until late at night. Meanwhile a strong storm blows up on the lake and right in the middle of the storm Jesus reaches the disciples’ boat, walking upon the water of the lake. When they see him, the disciples are terrified, but He calms them: “Take heart, it is I; have no fear!” (v. 27). Peter, with his usual passion, practically puts him to the test: “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water;” and Jesus answers “Come!” (vv. 28-29). Peter gets out of the boat and walks on the water; but a strong wind hits him and he begins to sink. And so he yells: “Lord, save me!” (v. 30), and Jesus reaches out his hand and catches him.

This story is a beautiful icon of the faith of the Apostle Peter. In the voice of Jesus who tells him: “Come!” he recognizes the echo of the first encounter on the shore of that very lake, and right away, once again, he leaves the boat and goes toward the Teacher. And he walks on the waters! The faithful and ready response to the Lord’s call always enables one to achieve extraordinary things. But Jesus himself told us that we are capable of performing miracles with our faith, faith in Him, faith in his word, faith in his voice. Peter however begins to sink the moment he looks away from Jesus and he allows himself to be overwhelmed by the hardships around him. But the Lord is always there, and when Peter calls him, Jesus saves him from danger. Peter’s character, with his passion and his weaknesses, can describe our faith: ever fragile and impoverished, anxious yet victorious, Christian faith walks to meet the Risen Lord, amid the world’s storms and dangers.

And the final scene is also very important. “And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God!’” (vv. 32-33). All the disciples are on the boat, united in the experience of weakness, of doubt, of fear and of “little faith.” But when Jesus climbs into that boat again, the weather suddenly changes: they all feel united in their faith in Him. All the little and frightened ones become great at the moment in which they fall on their knees and recognize the Son of God in their Teacher. How many times the same thing happens to us! Without Jesus, far from Jesus, we feel frightened and inadequate to the point of thinking we cannot succeed. Faith is lacking! But Jesus is always with us, hidden perhaps, but present and ready to support us.

This is an effective image of the Church: a boat which must brave the storms and sometimes seems on the point of capsizing. What saves her is not the skill and courage of her crew members, but faith which allows her to walk, even in the dark, amid hardships. Faith gives us the certainty of Jesus’ presence always beside us, of his hand which grasps us to pull us back from danger. We are all on this boat, and we feel secure here despite our limitations and our weaknesses. We are safe especially when we are ready to kneel and worship Jesus, the only Lord of our life. This is what our Mother, Our Lady always reminds us. We turn to her trustingly.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 9 August 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

This Sunday, we continue the Reading of Chapter Six of the Gospel according to John, in which Jesus, after performing the great miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, explains to the people the meaning of that “sign” (Jn 6:41-51).

As he had done earlier with the Samaritan woman, starting from the experience of thirst and the sign of water, here Jesus begins from the experience of hunger and the sign of bread, to reveal himself and to offer an invitation to believe in him.

The people seek him, the people listen to him, because they are still enthusiastic about the miracle; they want to make him king! However, when Jesus affirms that he is the true bread given by God, many are shocked, they do not understand, and begin murmuring among themselves, saying: “Do we not know his father and mother? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” (see Jn 6:42). And they begin to murmur. Then Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him,” and he adds: “he who believes has eternal life” (vv. 44, 47).

This word of the Lord astonishes us, and makes us think. It introduces the dynamic of faith, which is a relationship: the relationship between the human person—all of us—and the Person of Jesus, where the Father plays a decisive role, and, of course, the Holy Spirit does too, which is implied here. To believe in Him, it is not enough to meet Jesus, it is not enough to read the Bible, the Gospel—this is important! But it is not enough. It is not even enough to witness a miracle, such as that of the multiplication of the loaves. So many people were in close contact with Jesus and they did not believe. In fact, they even despised and condemned him. And I ask myself: Why this? Were they not attracted by the Father? No, this happened because their hearts were closed to the action of God’s Spirit. If your heart is always closed, faith doesn’t enter! Instead God the Father draws us to Jesus: it is we who open or close our hearts. Instead, faith, which is like a seed deep in the heart, blossoms when we let the Father draw us to Jesus, and we “go to Him” with an open heart, without prejudices; then we recognize in his face the Face of God, and in his words the Word of God, because the Holy Spirit has made us enter into the relationship of love and of life between Jesus and God the Father. And there we receive a gift, the gift of the faith.

With this attitude of faith, we can also understand the meaning of the “Bread of Life” that Jesus gives us, and which he describes in this way: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” (Jn 6:51). In Jesus, in his “flesh”—that is, in his concrete humanity—is all the love of God, which is the Holy Spirit. Those who let themselves be drawn by this love go to Jesus and go with faith, and receive from Him life, eternal life.

The one who lived this experience in such an exemplary way was Mary, the Virgin of Nazareth: the first human person who believed in God by accepting the flesh of Jesus. Let us learn from her, our Mother, joy and gratitude through the gift of faith. A gift that is not “private,” a gift that is not private property but is a gift to be shared: it is a gift “for the life of the world!”


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 7 August 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

In the text of today’s Gospel (Lk 12:32-48), Jesus speaks to his disciples about the attitude to assume in view of the final encounter with him, and explains that the expectation of this encounter should impel us to live a life full of good works. Among other things he says: “Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys” (v. 33). It is a call to give importance to almsgiving as a work of mercy, not to place trust in ephemeral goods, to use things without attachment and selfishness, but according to God’s logic, the logic of attention to others, the logic of love. We can be so attached to money, and have many things, but in the end we cannot take them with us. Remember that “the shroud has no pockets.”

Jesus’ lesson continues with three short parables on the theme of vigilance. This is important: vigilance, being alert, being vigilant in life. The first is the parable of the servants waiting for their master to return at night. “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes” (v. 37): it is the beatitude of faithfully awaiting the Lord, of being ready, with an attitude of service. He presents himself each day, knocks at the door of our heart. Those who open it will be blessed, because they will have a great reward: indeed, the Lord will make himself a servant to his servants—it is a beautiful reward—in the great banquet of his Kingdom He himself will serve them. With this parable, set at night, Jesus proposes life as a vigil of diligent expectation, which heralds the bright day of eternity. To be able to enter one must be ready, awake and committed to serving others, from the comforting perspective that, “beyond,” it will no longer be we who serve God, but He himself who will welcome us to his table. If you think about it, this already happens today each time we meet the Lord in prayer, or in serving the poor, and above all in the Eucharist, where he prepares a banquet to nourish us of his Word and of his Body.

The second parable describes the unexpected arrival of the thief. This fact requires vigilance; indeed, Jesus exhorts: “You also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (v. 40).

The disciple is one who awaits the Lord and his Kingdom. The Gospel clarifies this perspective with the third parable: the steward of a house after the master’s departure. In the first scene, the steward faithfully carries out his tasks and receives compensation. In the second scene, the steward abuses his authority, and beats the servants, for which, upon the master’s unexpected return, he will be punished. This scene describes a situation that is also frequent in our time: so much daily injustice, violence and cruelty are born from the idea of behaving as masters of the lives of others. We have only one master who likes to be called not “master” but “Father.” We are all servants, sinners and children: He is the one Father.

Jesus reminds us today that the expectation of the eternal beatitude does not relieve us of the duty to render the world more just and more liveable. On the contrary, this very hope of ours of possessing the eternal Kingdom impels us to work to improve the conditions of earthly life, especially of our weakest brothers and sisters. May the Virgin Mary help us not to be people and communities dulled by the present, or worse, nostalgic for the past, but striving toward the future of God, toward the encounter with him, our life and our hope.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


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For reflections on the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time
 by Pope Benedict XVI,
please scroll down to the bottom of this page.


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Monday, July 31, 2017

0545: Reflections on the 18th Sunday
of Ordinary Time by Pope Francis



Entry 0545: Reflections on the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time   

 by Pope Francis 


O
n four occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 4 August 2013, 3 August 2014, 2 August 2015, and 31 July 2016. Here are the texts of four brief addresses prior the recitation of the Angelus and a homily delivered on these occasions.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 4 August 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last Sunday I was in Rio de Janeiro. Holy Mass and the World Youth Day were drawing to a close. I think we must all thank the Lord together for the great gift which this event was, for Brazil, for Latin America and for the entire world. It was a new stage on the pilgrimage of youth crossing the continents bearing the Cross of Christ. We must never forget that World Youth Days are not “firework displays,” flashes of enthusiasm that are an end in themselves; they are the stages of a long journey, begun in 1985, at the initiative of Pope John Paul II. He entrusted the cross to the young people and said: go out and I will come with you! And so it was; and this youth pilgrimage continued with Pope Benedict and, thanks be to God, I too have been able to experience this marvelous milestone in Brazil. Let us always remember: young people do not follow the Pope, they follow Jesus Christ, bearing his Cross. And the Pope guides them and accompanies them on this journey of faith and hope. I therefore thank all the young people who have taken part, even at the cost of sacrifices. I also thank the Lord for the other encounters I had with the Pastors and people of that vast country which Brazil is, and likewise the authorities and the volunteers. May the Lord reward all those who worked hard for the success of this great feast of faith. I also want to emphasize my gratitude; many thanks to the Brazilians. The people of Brazil are an excellent people, a people with a great heart! I shall not forget the warm welcome, the greetings, their gaze, all the joy. A generous people; I ask the Lord to shower his blessings upon them!

I would like to ask you to pray with me that the young people who took part in World Youth Day will be able to express this experience in their journey through daily life, in their everyday conduct; and that they can also express it in the important decisions of life, in response to the personal call of the Lord. Today in the liturgy, the provocative words of Ecclesiastes ring out: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!” (1:2). Young people are particularly sensitive to the empty, meaningless values that often surround them. Unfortunately, moreover, it is they who pay the consequences. Instead the encounter with the living Christ in his great family which is the Church fills hearts with joy, for it fills them with true life, with a profound goodness that endures, that does not tarnish. We saw it on the faces of the youth in Rio. But this experience must confront the daily vanity, that poison of emptiness which creeps into our society based on profit and possession and on consumerism which deceives young people. This Sunday’s Gospel reminds us, precisely, of the absurdity of basing our own happiness on having. The rich say to themselves: my soul, you have many possessions at your disposal, rest, eat, drink and be merry! But God says to them: Fools! This very night your life will be required of you. And all the things you have accumulated, whose will they be? (see Lk 12:19-20).

Dear brothers and sisters, the true treasure is the love of God shared with our brethren. That love which comes from God and enables us to share it with one another and to help each other. Those who experience it do not fear death and their hearts are at peace. Let us entrust this intention, the intention of receiving God’s love and sharing it with our brothers and sisters, to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 3 August 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters Good morning,

This Sunday, the Gospel presents to us the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish (Mt 14:13-21). Jesus performed it along the Lake of Galilee, in a deserted place where he had withdrawn with his disciples after learning of the death of John the Baptist. But many people followed them and joined them there; and upon seeing them, Jesus felt compassion and healed their sick until the evening. And seeing the late hour, the disciples became concerned and suggested that Jesus send the crowd away so they could go into the villages and buy food to eat. But Jesus calmly replied: “You give them something to eat” (Mt 14:16); and he asked them to bring five loaves and two fish, blessed them, began to break them and give them to the disciples, who distributed them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and there were even leftovers!

We can understand three messages from this event. The first is compassion. In facing the crowd who follows him and—so to speak—“won’t leave him alone,” Jesus does not react with irritation; he does not say: “These people are bothering me.” No, no. He reacts with a feeling of compassion, because he knows they are not seeking him out of curiosity but out of need. But attention: compassion—which Jesus feels—is not simply feeling pity; it’s more! It means to suffer with, in other words to empathize with the suffering of another, to the point of taking it upon oneself. Jesus is like this: he suffers together with us, he suffers with us, he suffers for us. And the sign of this compassion is the healing of countless people he performed. Jesus teaches us to place the needs of the poor before our own. Our needs, even if legitimate, are not as urgent as those of the poor, who lack the basic necessities of life. We often speak of the poor. But when we speak of the poor, do we sense that this man or that woman or those children lack the bare necessities of life? That they have no food, they have no clothing, they cannot afford medicine. Also that the children do not have the means to attend school. Whereas our needs, although legitimate, are not as urgent as those of the poor who lack life’s basic necessities.

The second message is sharing. The first is compassion, which Jesus felt, and the second is sharing. It’s helpful to compare the reaction of the disciples with regard to the tired and hungry people, with that of Jesus. They are different. The disciples think it would be better to send them away so they can go and buy food. Jesus instead says: “you give them something to eat.” Two different reactions, which reflect two contrasting outlooks: the disciples reason with worldly logic, by which each person must think of himself; they reason as if to say: “Sort it out for yourselves.” Jesus reasons with God’s logic, which is that of sharing. How many times we turn away so as not to see our brothers in need! And this looking away is a polite way to say, with white gloves, “Sort it out for yourselves.” And this is not Jesus’ way: this is selfishness. Had he sent away the crowds, many people would have been left with nothing to eat. Instead those few loaves and fish, shared and blessed by God, were enough for everyone. And pay heed! It isn’t magic, it’s a “sign:” a sign that calls for faith in God, provident Father, who does not let us go without “our daily bread,” if we know how to share it as brothers.

Compassion, sharing. And the third message: the miracle of the loaves foreshadows the Eucharist. It is seen in the gesture of Jesus who, before breaking and distributing the loaves, “blessed” them (Mt 14:19). It is the same gesture that Jesus was to make at the Last Supper, when he established the perpetual memorial of his Redeeming Sacrifice. In the Eucharist Jesus does not give just any bread, but the bread of eternal life, he gives Himself, offering Himself to the Father out of love for us. But we must go to the Eucharist with those sentiments of Jesus, which are compassion and the will to share. One who goes to the Eucharist without having compassion for the needy and without sharing, is not at ease with Jesus.

Compassion, sharing, Eucharist. This is the path that Jesus points out to us in this Gospel. A path which brings us to face the needs of this world with fraternity, but which leads us beyond this world, because it comes from God the Father and returns to Him. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Divine Providence, accompany us on this journey.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 2 August 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

This Sunday the Reading of Chapter Six of the Gospel according to John continues. After the multiplication of the loaves, the people went in search of Jesus and finally found him near Capernaum. He was well aware of the motive for their great enthusiasm in seeking him and he made this clear to them: “you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (Jn 6:26). In fact, those people followed him for the material bread which had placated their hunger the previous day, when Jesus had performed the multiplication of the loaves; they had not understood that that bread, broken for so many, for the multitude, was the expression of the love of Jesus himself. They had given more meaning to that bread than to its donor. Before this spiritual blindness, Jesus emphasizes the necessity of going beyond the gift, to discover, come to know the donor. God himself is both the gift and the giver. Thus from that bread, from that gesture, the people can find the One who gives it, who is God. He invites them to open up to a perspective which is not only that of the daily need to eat, dress, achieve success, build a career. Jesus speaks of another food. He speaks of a food which is incorruptible and which is good to seek and gather. He exhorts: “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you” (v. 27). That is to say, seek salvation, the encounter with God.

With these words, he seeks to make us understand that, in addition to physical hunger man carries within him another hunger—all of us have this hunger—a more important hunger, which cannot be satisfied with ordinary food. It is a hunger for life, a hunger for eternity which He alone can satisfy, as he is “the bread of life” (v. 35). Jesus does not eliminate the concern and search for daily food. No, he does not remove the concern for all that can make life more progressive. But Jesus reminds us that the true meaning of our earthly existence lies at the end, in eternity, it lies in the encounter with Him, who is gift and giver. He also reminds us that human history with its suffering and joy must be seen in a horizon of eternity, that is, in that horizon of the definitive encounter with Him. And this encounter illuminates all the days of our life. If we think of this encounter, of this great gift, the small gifts of life, even the suffering, the worries will be illuminated by the hope of this encounter. “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst” (v. 35). This refers to the Eucharist, the greatest gift that satisfies the soul and the body. Meeting and welcoming within us Jesus, “Bread of Life,” gives meaning and hope to the often winding journey of life. This “Bread of Life” is given to us with a task, namely, that we in our turn satisfy the spiritual and material hunger of our brothers, proclaiming the Gospel the world over. With the witness of our brotherly and solidary attitude toward our neighbor, we render Christ and his love present amid mankind.

May the Blessed Virgin sustain us in the search and sequela of her Son Jesus, the true bread, the living bread which does not spoil, but which endures for eternal life.


 XXXI WORLD YOUTH DAY

POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Krakow, Poland, Sunday, 31 July 2016

At the conclusion of this celebration, I join all of you in thanking God, the Father of infinite mercy, for allowing us to experience this World Youth Day. I thank Cardinal Dziwisz and Cardinal Ryłko, who have been indefatigable in their efforts to make this Day possible, as too, for the prayers which have accompanied the preparations for this event; I also thank all those who have contributed to its successful outcome. A big word of thanks goes to you, dear young people! You filled Krakow with the contagious enthusiasm of your faith. Saint John Paul II has rejoiced from heaven, and he will help you spread the joy of the Gospel everywhere.

In these days, we have experienced the beauty of our universal fraternity in Christ, the center and hope of our lives. We have heard his voice, the voice of the Good Shepherd who dwells in our midst. He has spoken to each of you in your heart. He has renewed you by his love and he has shown you the light of his forgiveness, the power of his grace. He has made you experience the reality of prayer. These days have given you a spiritual “breath of fresh air” that will help you live lives of mercy once you return to your own countries and communities.

Here, beside the altar, is the image of the Virgin Mary venerated by Saint John Paul II in the shrine of Kalwaria. Mary, our Mother, teaches us how we can make our experience here in Poland be productive. She tells us to do what she did: not to squander the gift you have received, but to treasure it in your heart so it can grow and bear fruit, with the help of the Holy Spirit. In this way, each of you, for all your limitations and failings, can be a witness to Christ wherever you live: at home, in your parishes, in your associations and groups, and your places of study, work, service, entertainment, wherever God’s providence will lead you.

God’s providence is always one step ahead of us. Think: it has already determined the next stop in this great pilgrimage begun in 1985 by Saint John Paul II! So now I am happy to announce that the next World Youth Day—after the two that will be held on the diocesan level—will take place in 2019 in Panama.

I invite the Bishops of Panama to approach, and to join me in giving the blessing.

Trusting in the intercession of Mary, let us ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten and sustain the journey of young people in the Church and in the world, and make you disciples and witnesses to God’s mercy.

Now let us recite together the Angelus prayer.


 XXXI WORLD YOUTH DAY

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Krakow, Poland, Sunday, 31 July 2016

Dear young people, you have come to Krakow to meet Jesus. Today’s Gospel speaks to us of just such a meeting between Jesus and a man named Zacchaeus, in Jericho (see Lk 19:1-10). There Jesus does not simply preach or greet people; as the Evangelist tells us, he passed through the city (v. 1). In other words, Jesus wants to draw near to us personally, to accompany our journey to its end, so that his life and our life can truly meet.

An amazing encounter then takes place, with Zacchaeus, the chief “publican” or tax collector. Zacchaeus was thus a wealthy collaborator of the hated Roman occupiers, someone who exploited his own people, someone who, because of his ill repute, could not even approach the Master. His encounter with Jesus changed his life, just as it has changed, and can daily still change, each of our lives. But Zacchaeus had to face a number of obstacles in order to meet Jesus. It was not easy for him; he had to face a number of obstacles. At least three of these can also say something to us.

The first obstacle is smallness of stature. Zacchaeus couldn’t see the Master because he was little. Even today we can risk not getting close to Jesus because we don’t feel big enough, because we don’t think ourselves worthy. This is a great temptation; it has to do not only with self-esteem, but with faith itself. For faith tells us that we are “children of God, that is what we are” (1 Jn 3:1). We have been created in God’s own image; Jesus has taken upon himself our humanity and his heart will never be separated from us; the Holy Spirit wants to dwell within us. We have been called to be happy for ever with God!

That is our real “stature,” our spiritual identity: we are God’s beloved children, always. So you can see that not to accept ourselves, to live glumly, to be negative, means not to recognize our deepest identity. It is like walking away when God wants to look at me, trying to spoil his dream for me. God loves us the way we are, and no sin, fault or mistake of ours makes him change his mind. As far as Jesus is concerned—as the Gospel shows—no one is unworthy of, or far from, his thoughts. No one is insignificant. He loves all of us with a special love; for him all of us are important: you are important! God counts on you for what you are, not for what you possess. In his eyes the clothes you wear or the kind of cell phone you use are of absolutely no concern. He doesn’t care whether you are stylish or not; he cares about you, just as you are! In his eyes, you are precious, and your value is inestimable.

At times in our lives, we aim lower rather than higher. At those times, it is good to realize that God remains faithful, even obstinate, in his love for us. The fact is, he loves us even more than we love ourselves. He believes in us even more than we believe in ourselves. He is always “cheering us on;” he is our biggest fan. He is there for us, waiting with patience and hope, even when we turn in on ourselves and brood over our troubles and past injuries. But such brooding is unworthy of our spiritual stature! It is a kind of virus infecting and blocking everything; it closes doors and prevents us from getting up and starting over. God, on the other hand, is hopelessly hopeful! He believes that we can always get up, and he hates to see us glum and gloomy. It is sad to see young people who are glum. Because we are always his beloved sons and daughters. Let us be mindful of this at the dawn of each new day. It will do us good to pray every morning: “Lord, I thank you for loving me; I am sure that you love me; help me to be in love with my own life!” Not with my faults, that need to be corrected, but with life itself, which is a great gift, for it is a time to love and to be loved.

Zacchaeus faced a second obstacle in meeting Jesus: the paralysis of shame. We spoke a little about this yesterday. We can imagine what was going on in his heart before he climbed that sycamore. It must have been quite a struggle—on one hand, a healthy curiosity and desire to know Jesus; on the other, the risk of appearing completely ridiculous. Zacchaeus was public figure, a man of power, but deeply hated. He knew that, in trying to climb that tree, he would have become a laughingstock to all. Yet he mastered his shame, because the attraction of Jesus was more powerful. You know what happens when someone is so attractive that we fall in love with them: we end up ready to do things we would never have even thought of doing. Something similar took place in the heart of Zacchaeus, when he realized that Jesus was so important that he would do anything for him, since Jesus alone could pull him out of the mire of sin and discontent. The paralysis of shame did not have the upper hand. The Gospel tells us that Zacchaeus “ran ahead,” “climbed” the tree, and then, when Jesus called him, he “hurried down” (vv. 4, 6). He took a risk, he put his life on the line. For us too, this is the secret of joy: not to stifle a healthy curiosity, but to take a risk, because life is not meant to be tucked away. When it comes to Jesus, we cannot sit around waiting with arms folded; he offers us life—we can’t respond by thinking about it or “texting” a few words!

Dear young friends, don’t be ashamed to bring everything to the Lord in confession, especially your weaknesses, your struggles and your sins. He will surprise you with his forgiveness and his peace. Don’t be afraid to say “yes” to him with all your heart, to respond generously and to follow him! Don’t let your soul grow numb, but aim for the goal of a beautiful love which also demands sacrifice. Say a firm “no” to the narcotic of success at any cost and the sedative of worrying only about yourself and your own comfort.

After his small stature, after the paralysis of shame, there was a third obstacle that Zacchaeus had to face. It was no longer an interior one, but was all around him. It was the grumbling of the crowd, who first blocked him and then criticized him: How could Jesus have entered his house, the house of a sinner! How truly hard it is to welcome Jesus, how hard it is to accept a “God who is rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4)! People will try to block you, to make you think that God is distant, rigid and insensitive, good to the good and bad to the bad. Instead, our heavenly Father “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good” (Mt 5:45). He demands of us real courage: the courage to be more powerful than evil by loving everyone, even our enemies. People may laugh at you because you believe in the gentle and unassuming power of mercy. But do not be afraid. Think of the motto of these days: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Mt 5:7). People may judge you to be dreamers, because you believe in a new humanity, one that rejects hatred between peoples, one that refuses to see borders as barriers and can cherish its own traditions without being self-centered or small-minded. Don’t be discouraged: with a smile and open arms, you proclaim hope and you are a blessing for our one human family, which here you represent so beautifully!

That day the crowd judged Zacchaeus; they looked him over, up and down. But Jesus did otherwise: he gazed up at him (v. 5). Jesus looks beyond the faults and sees the person. He does not halt before bygone evil, but sees future good. His gaze remains constant, even when it is not met; it seeks the way of unity and communion. In no case does it halt at appearances, but looks to the heart. Jesus looks to our hearts, your heart, my heart. With this gaze of Jesus, you can help bring about another humanity, without looking for acknowledgement but seeking goodness for its own sake, content to maintain a pure heart and to fight peaceably for honesty and justice. Don’t stop at the surface of things; distrust the worldly cult of appearances, cosmetic attempts to improve our looks. Instead, “download” the best “link” of all, that of a heart which sees and transmits goodness without growing weary. The joy that you have freely received from God, please, freely give away (see Mt 10:8): so many people are waiting for it! So many are waiting for it from you.

Finally let us listen to the words that Jesus spoke to Zacchaeus, which to be seem meant for us today, for each one of us: “Come down, for I must stay at your house today” (v. 5). “Come down, for I must stay with you today. Open to me the door of your heart.” Jesus extends the same invitation to you: “I must stay at your house today.” We can say that World Youth Day begins today and continues tomorrow, in your homes, since that is where Jesus wants to meet you from now on. The Lord doesn’t want to remain in this beautiful city, or in cherished memories alone. He wants to enter your homes, to dwell in your daily lives: in your studies, your first years of work, your friendships and affections, your hopes and dreams. How greatly he desires that you bring all this to him in prayer! How much he hopes that, in all the “contacts” and “chats” of each day, pride of place be given to the golden thread of prayer! How much he wants his word to be able to speak to you day after day, so that you can make his Gospel your own, so that it can serve as a compass for you on the highways of life!

In asking to come to your house, Jesus calls you, as he did Zacchaeus, by name. All of us, Jesus calls by name. Your name is precious to him. The name “Zacchaeus” would have made people back the think of the remembrance of God. Trust the memory of God: his memory is not a “hard disk” that “saves” and “archives” all our data, his memory is a heart filled with tender compassion, one that finds joy in “erasing” in us every trace of evil. May we too now try to imitate the faithful memory of God and treasure the good things we have received in these days. In silence, let us remember this encounter, let us preserve the memory of the presence of God and his word, and let us listen once more to the voice of Jesus as he calls us by name. So let us now pray silently, remembering and thanking the Lord wanted us to be here and has come here to meet us.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


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For reflections on the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time
 by Pope Benedict XVI,
please scroll down to the bottom of this page.


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