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Monday, January 25, 2016

0449: Reflections on the Fourth Sunday of
Ordinary Time by Pope Francis

Entry 0449: Reflections on the Fourth Sunday of 

Ordinary Time by Pope Francis (Updated 21 January 2018) 

On four occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 2 February 2014, 1 February 2015, 31 January 2016, and 29 January 2017. Here are the texts of the four reflections prior to the recitation of the Angelus that the Pope delivered on these occasions.



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 2 February 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. This day is also the Day for Consecrated Life, which recalls the importance for the Church of those who have welcomed their vocation to follow Jesus closely on the path of the evangelical counsels. Today’s Gospel recounts that 40 days after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph took the Child to the Temple to offer and consecrate him to God, as was prescribed by Hebrew Law. This Gospel narrative also constitutes an icon of the gift of one’s own life on the part of those who, as a gift of God, take on the characteristic traits of Jesus: virgin, poor and obedient.

This offering of self to God regards every Christian, because we are all consecrated to him in Baptism. We are all called to offer ourselves to the Father with Jesus and like Jesus, making a generous gift of our life, in the family, at work, in service to the Church, in works of mercy. However, this consecration is lived in a special way by religious, by monks and nuns and by consecrated lay people, who by the profession of their vows belong to God in a full and exclusive way. This belonging to the Lord allows those who live it authentically to offer a special kind of witness to the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Totally consecrated to God, they are totally given to their brothers, to bring the light of Christ wherever the shadows are darkest in order to spread his hope to discouraged hearts.

The consecrated are a sign of God in the different areas of life, they are leaven for the growth of a more just and fraternal society, they are the prophecy of sharing with the least and the poor. Thus understood and lived, consecrated life appears as what it really is: a gift from God, a gift of God to the Church, a gift of God to his People! Every consecrated person is a gift for the People of God on it’s journey. There is a great need for their presence, which strengthens and renews commitment to: spreading the Gospel, Christian education, love for the needy, contemplative prayer; commitment to human formation, the spiritual formation of young people, and families; commitment to justice and peace in the human family. But let us think a little about what would happen if there were no sisters in hospitals, no sisters in missions, no sisters in schools. Think about a Church without sisters! It is unthinkable: they are this gift, this leaven that carries forward the People of God. These women who consecrate their life to God, who carry forward Jesus’ message, are great.

The Church and the world need this testimony of the love and mercy of God. The consecrated, men and women religious, are the testimony that God is good and merciful. Thus it is necessary to appreciate with gratitude the experiences of consecrated life and to deepen our understanding of the different charisms and spiritualities. Prayer is needed so that many young people may answer “yes” to the Lord who is calling them to consecrate themselves totally to him for selfless service to their brothers and sisters; to consecrate one’s life in order to serve God and the brethren.

For all these reasons, as was already announced, next year will be dedicated in a special way to consecrated life. Let us entrust as of now this initiative to the intercession of the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, who, as the parents of Jesus, were the first to be consecrated by him and to consecrate their life to him.



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 1 February 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,

This Sunday’s Gospel passage (see Mk 1:21-28) presents Jesus who, with his small community of disciples, enters Capernaum, the city where Peter lived and which was the largest city in Galilee at that time. Jesus goes to that city.

The Evangelist Mark recounts that, since it was the Sabbath, Jesus went straight to the Synagogue and began to teach (see v. 21). This reminds us of the primacy of the Word of God, the Word to be listened to, the Word to be received, the Word to be proclaimed. Arriving in Capernaum, Jesus does not delay proclaiming the Gospel, does not think first about the necessary logistics of his small community, does not tarry over the organization. His primary concern is to communicate the Word of God with the power of the Holy Spirit. And the people in the Synagogue were astonished, because Jesus “taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes” (v. 22).

What does “with authority” mean? It means that in the human words of Jesus, the power of the Word of God could be felt, the authority of God, who is the inspiration of the Sacred Scriptures. And one of the characteristics of the Word of God is that He does what He says. For the Word of God corresponds to his will. We, on the other hand, often speak empty, shallow words, or superfluous words, words that do not coincide with the truth. Instead, the Word of God corresponds to the truth, it is united to his will and fulfills what He says. Indeed, Jesus, after preaching, immediately demonstrates his authority by freeing a man, in the Synagogue, who was possessed by a demon, (see Mk 1:23-36). The very divine authority of Christ provoked the reaction of Satan, hidden in that man; Jesus, in his turn, immediately recognized the voice of the evil one and “rebuked him: ‘Be silent, and come out of him’” (v. 25). With the power of his word alone, Jesus frees the person from the evil one. And once again those present were amazed: “He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him” (v. 27). The Word of God arouses amazement in us. It has the power to astonish us.

The Gospel is the word of life: it does not oppress people, on the contrary, it frees those who are slaves to the many evil spirits of this world: the spirit of vanity, attachment to money, pride, sensuality. The Gospel changes the heart, changes life, transforms evil inclinations into good intentions. The Gospel is capable of changing people! Therefore it is the task of Christians to spread the redeeming power throughout the world, becoming missionaries and heralds of the Word of God. This is also suggested by today’s passage which closes with a missionary perspective, saying: “his fame”—the fame of Jesus—“spread everywhere, throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee” (v. 28). The new doctrine, taught by Jesus with authority, is what the Church takes to the world, along with the effective signs of His presence: the authoritative teaching and the liberating action of the Son of God become words of salvation and gestures expressing the love of the missionary Church. Always remember that the Gospel has the power to change lives! Do not forget this. It is the Good News, which transforms us only when we allow ourselves to be transformed by it. That is why I always ask you to have daily contact with the Gospel, to read it every day: a verse, a passage, to meditate on it and even to take it with you everywhere: in your pocket, in your bag. In other words to nourish yourself every day with this inexhaustible source of salvation. Do not forget! Read a passage of the Gospel every day. It is the power that changes us, that transforms us: it changes life, it changes the heart.

Let us invoke the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary, she who received the Word and conceived Him for the world, for all mankind. She teaches us to be assiduous listeners and authoritative proclaimers of the Gospel of Jesus.



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 31 January 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Today’s Gospel account once again, like last Sunday, brings us to the synagogue of Nazareth, the village in Galilee where Jesus was brought up in a family and was known by everyone. He, who left not long before to begin his public life, now returns and for the first time presents himself to the community, gathered in the synagogue on the Sabbath. He reads the passage of the Prophet Isaiah, who speaks of the future Messiah, and he declares at the end: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21). Jesus’ compatriots, who were at first astonished and admired him, now begin to look sideways, to murmur among themselves and ask: why does he, who claims to be the Lord’s Consecrated, not repeat here in his homeland the wonders they say he worked in Capernaum and in nearby villages? Thus Jesus affirms: “no prophet is acceptable in his own country,” and he refers to the great prophets of the past, Elijah and Elisha, who had worked miracles in favor of the pagans in order to denounce the incredulity of their people. At this point those present are offended, rise up, indignant, and cast Jesus out and want to throw him down from the precipice. But he, with the strength of his peace, “passed through the midst of them and went away” (see v. 30). His time has not yet come.

This passage of Luke the Evangelist is not simply the account of an argument between compatriots, as sometimes happens even in our neighborhoods, arising from envy and jealousy, but it highlights a temptation to which a religious man is always exposed—all of us are exposed—and from which it is important to keep his distance. What is this temptation? It is the temptation to consider religion as a human investment and, consequently, “negotiate” with God, seeking one’s own interest. Instead, true religion entails accepting the revelation of a God who is Father and who cares for each of his creatures, even the smallest and most insignificant in the eyes of man. Jesus’ prophetic ministry consists precisely in this: in declaring that no human condition can constitute a reason for exclusion—no human condition can constitute a reason for exclusion!—from the Father’s heart, and that the only privilege in the eyes of God is that of not having privileges, of not having godparents, of being abandoned in his hands.

“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21). The ‘today’, proclaimed by Christ that day, applies to every age; it echoes for us too in this Square, reminding us of the relevance and necessity of the salvation Jesus brought to humanity. God comes to meet the men and women of all times and places, in their real life situations. He also comes to meet us. It is always he who takes the first step: he comes to visit us with his mercy, to lift us up from the dust of our sins; he comes to extend a hand to us in order to enable us to return from the abyss into which our pride made us fall, and he invites us to receive the comforting truth of the Gospel and to walk on the paths of good. He always comes to find us, to look for us.

Let us return to the synagogue. Surely that day, in the synagogue of Nazareth, Mary, his Mother, was also there. We can imagine her heart beating, a small foreboding of what she will suffer under the Cross, seeing Jesus, there in the synagogue, first admired, then challenged, then insulted, threatened with death. In her heart, filled with faith, she kept every thing. May she help us to convert from a god of miracles to the miracle of God, who is Jesus Christ.



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 29 January 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

This Sunday’s liturgy leads us to meditate on the Beatitudes (see Mt 5:1-12) which open up the great so-called Sermon on the Mount, the “Magna Carta” of the New Testament. Jesus manifests God’s desire to lead men to happiness. This message was already present in the preaching of the prophets: God is close to the poor and the oppressed, and delivers them from those who mistreat them. But in this preaching of his, Jesus follows a particular path: he starts with the word “blessed,” that is, happy. He continues with the indication of the condition to be so; and he concludes by making a promise. The cause of blessedness, that is, of happiness, lies not in the requisite condition—for example, “poor in spirit,” “mourning,” “hungry for righteousness,” “persecuted”—but in the subsequent promise, to be welcomed with faith as a gift of God. One starts from a condition of hardship in order to open oneself to God’s gift and enter the new world, the “Kingdom” announced by Jesus. This is not an automatic mechanism, but a way of life in following the Lord, through which the reality of hardship and affliction is seen in a new perspective and experienced according to the conversion that comes about. One is not blessed if one is not converted, capable of appreciating and living God’s gifts.

I pause on the first Beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (v. 3). The poor in spirit is he who has assumed the feelings and attitudes of those poor people who, in their state, do not rebel, but who know how to be humble, meek, open to God’s grace. The happiness of the poor—of the poor in spirit—has a twofold dimension: with regard to riches and with regard to God. With regard to possessions, to material possessions, this poverty in spirit is sobriety: not necessarily sacrifice, but the ability to savor the essence, to share; the ability to renew every day the wonder at the goodness of things, without being weighed down in the obscurity of voracious consumption. The more I have, the more I want; the more I have, the more I want: this is voracious consumption. This kills the soul. Men or women who do this, who have this attitude, ‘the more I have, the more I want’, are not happy and will not attain happiness. With regard to God, it is praising and recognizing that the world is a blessing and that at its origin is the creative love of the Father. But it is also opening to Him, docility to his Lordship: it is He, the Lord, He is the Great One. I am not great because I have so many things! It is He: He who wanted the world for all mankind, and who wanted it so that men and women might be happy.

The poor in spirit is the Christian who does not rely on himself, on material wealth, is not obstinate in his own opinions, but who listens with respect and willingly defers to the decisions of others. If in our communities there were more of the poor in spirit, there would be fewer divisions, disagreements and controversies! Humility, like charity, is an essential virtue for living together in Christian communities. The poor, in this evangelical sense, appear to be those who keep alive the objective of the Kingdom of Heaven, offering a glimpse of it revealed as a seed in the fraternal community which favors sharing over ownership. I would like to emphasize this: to favor sharing over ownership. Always having the heart and hands open (he gestures), not closed (he gestures). When the heart is closed (he gestures), it is a shrunken heart. It doesn’t even know how to love. When the heart is open (he gestures), it is on the path of love.

May the Virgin Mary, model and first fruit of the poor in spirit because she is wholly docile to the Lord’s will, help us to surrender ourselves to God, rich in mercy, so that we may be filled with his gifts, especially the abundance of his forgiveness

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For reflections on the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time 

 by Pope Benedict XVI,
please scroll down to the bottom of this page.

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