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Monday, October 24, 2016

0493: Reflections on the 31st Sunday
of Ordinary Time by Pope Francis



Entry 0493: Reflections on the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time   

 by Pope Francis 



On three occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 3 November 2013, 2 November 2014, and 1 November 2015. Here are the texts of three brief addresses prior to the recitation of the Angelus and two homilies delivered on these occasions.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 3 November 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

The page of Luke’s Gospel chosen for this Sunday shows us Jesus who, on his way to Jerusalem, enters the city of Jericho. This is the final stage of a journey that sums up the meaning of the whole of Jesus’ life, which was dedicated to searching and saving the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But the more the journey comes to a close, the more hostility envelops Jesus.

Yet one of the most joyful events recounted by St Luke happens in Jericho: the conversion of Zacchaeus. This man is a lost sheep, he is despised and “excommunicated” because he is a tax collector, indeed he is the head of the tax collectors of the city, a friend of the hated Roman occupants; he is a thief and an exploiter.

Being short in stature and prevented from approaching Jesus, most likely because of his bad reputation, Zacchaeus climbs a tree to be able to see the Teacher who is passing by. This exterior action, which is a bit ridiculous, expresses the interior act of a man seeking to bring himself above the crowd in order to be near Jesus. Zacchaeus himself does not realize the deep meaning of his action; he doesn’t understand why he does it, but he does. Nor does he dare to hope that the distance which separates him from the Lord may be overcome; he resigns himself to seeing him only as he passes by. But when Jesus comes close to the tree he calls him by name: “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today” (Lk 19:5). The man of small stature, rejected by everyone and far from Jesus, is lost in anonymity; but Jesus calls him. And the name “Zacchaeus” in the language of the time has a beautiful meaning, full of allusion. “Zacchaeus” in fact, means “God remembers.”

So Jesus goes to Zacchaeus’ house, drawing criticism from all the people of Jericho (even in those days there was a lot of gossip!), who said: How can this be? With all the good people in the city, how can he go stay with a tax collector? Yes, because he was lost. Jesus said: “Today salvation has come to this house, since he is also a son of Abraham” (Lk 19:9). From that day forward in Zacchaeus’ house joy entered, peace entered, salvation entered and Jesus entered.

There is no profession or social condition, no sin or crime of any kind that can erase from the memory and the heart of God even one of his children. “God remembers,” always, he never forgets those who he created. He is the Father, who watchfully and lovingly waits to see the desire to return home be reborn in the hearts of his children. And when he sees this desire, even simply hinted at and so often almost unconsciously, immediately he is there, and by his forgiveness he lightens the path of conversion and return. Let us look at Zacchaeus today in the tree: his is a ridiculous act but it is an act of salvation. And I say to you: if your conscience is weighed down, if you are ashamed of many things that you have done, stop for a moment, do not be afraid. Think about the fact that someone is waiting for you because he has never ceased to remember you; and this someone is your Father, it is God who is waiting for you! Climb up, as Zacchaeus did, climb the tree of desire for forgiveness. I assure you that you will not be disappointed. Jesus is merciful and never grows tired of forgiving! Remember that this is the way Jesus is.

Brothers and sisters, let Jesus also call us by name! In the depths of our hearts, let us listen to his voice which says: “Today I must stop at your house;” that is, in your heart, in your life. And let us welcome him with joy. He can change us, he can transform our stony hearts into hearts of flesh, he can free us from selfishness and make our lives a gift of love. Jesus can do this; let Jesus turn his gaze to you!


COMMEMORATION OF ALL THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED

POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 2 November 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,

Yesterday we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints, and today the liturgy invites us to commemorate the faithful departed. These two recurrences are intimately linked to each other, just as joy and tears find a synthesis in Jesus Christ, who is the foundation of our faith and our hope. On the one hand, in fact, the Church, a pilgrim in history, rejoices through the intercession of the Saints and the Blessed who support her in the mission of proclaiming the Gospel; on the other, she, like Jesus, shares the tears of those who suffer separation from loved ones, and like Him and through Him echoes the thanksgiving to the Father who has delivered us from the dominion of sin and death.

Yesterday and today, many have been visiting cemeteries, which, as the word itself implies, is the “place of rest,” as we wait for the final awakening. It is lovely to think that it will be Jesus himself to awaken us. Jesus himself revealed that the death of the body is like a sleep from which He awakens us. With this faith we pause—even spiritually—at the graves of our loved ones, of those who loved us and did us good. But today we are called to remember everyone, even those who no one remembers. We remember the victims of war and violence; the many “little ones” of the world, crushed by hunger and poverty; we remember the anonymous who rest in the communal ossuary. We remember our brothers and sisters killed because they were Christian; and those who sacrificed their lives to serve others. We especially entrust to the Lord, those who have left us during the past year.

Church Tradition has always urged prayer for the deceased, in particular by offering the Eucharistic Celebration for them: it is the best spiritual help that we can give to their souls, particularly to those who are the most forsaken. The foundation of prayer in suffrage lies in the communion of the Mystical Body.

As the Second Vatican Council repeats, “fully conscious of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the pilgrim Church from the very first ages of the Christian religion has cultivated with great piety the memory of the dead” (Lumen Gentium, no. 50).

Remembering the dead, caring for their graves and prayers of suffrage, are the testimony of confident hope, rooted in the certainty that death does not have the last word on human existence, for man is destined to a life without limits, which has its roots and its fulfillment in God. Let us raise this prayer to God: “God of infinite mercy, we entrust to your immense goodness all those who have left this world for eternity, where you wait for all humanity, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ your Son, who died as a ransom for our sins. Look not, O Lord, on our poverty, our suffering, our human weakness, when we appear before you to be judged for joy or for condemnation. Look upon us with mercy, born of the tenderness of your heart, and help us to walk in the ways of complete purification. Let none of your children be lost in the eternal fire, where there can be no repentance. We entrust to you, O Lord, the souls of our beloved dead, of those who have died without the comfort of the sacraments, or who have not had an opportunity to repent, even at the end of their lives. May none of them be afraid to meet You, after their earthly pilgrimage, but may they always hope to be welcomed in the embrace of your infinite mercy. May our Sister, corporal death find us always vigilant in prayer and filled with the goodness done in the course of our short or long lives. Lord, may no earthly thing ever separate us from You, but may everyone and everything support us with a burning desire to rest peacefully and eternally in You. Amen” (Fr Antonio Rungi, Passionist, Prayer for the Dead).

With this faith in man’s supreme destiny, we now turn to Our Lady, who suffered the tragedy of Christ’s death beneath the Cross and took part in the joy of his Resurrection. May She, the Gate of Heaven, help us to understand more and more the value of prayer in suffrage for the souls of the dead. They are close to us! May She support us on our daily pilgrimage on earth and help us to never lose sight of life’s ultimate goal which is Heaven. And may we go forth with this hope that never disappoints!


SOLEMNITY OF ALL SAINTS

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Cemetery of Verano, Saturday, 1 November 2014

When in the First Reading we heard this voice of the Angel crying a loud to the four Angels who were given power to damage the earth and the sea, “Do not harm earth or sea or the trees” (Rev 7:3), this brought to mind a phrase that is not here but in everyone’s heart: “men are far more capable of doing this better than you.” We are capable of destroying the earth far better than the Angels. And this is exactly what we are doing, this is what we do: destroy creation, destroy lives, destroy cultures, destroy values, destroy hope. How greatly we need the Lord’s strength to seal us with his love and his power to stop this mad race of destruction! Destroying what He has given us, the most beautiful things that He has done for us, so that we may carry them forward, nurture them to bear fruit. When I looked at the pictures in the sacristy from 71 years ago [of the bombing of the Verano on 19 July 1943], I thought, “This was so grave, so painful. That is nothing in comparison to what is happening today.” Man takes control of everything, he believes he is God, he believes he is king. And wars, the wars that continue, they do not exactly help to sow the seed of life but to destroy. It is an industry of destruction. It is also a system, also of life, that when things cannot be fixed they are discarded: we discard children, we discard the old, we discard unemployed youth. This devastation has created the culture of waste. We discard people. This is the first image that came to my mind as I listened to this Reading.

The second image, from the same Reading: “A great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues” (7:9). The nations, the tribes. Now it’s starting to get cold: those poor people, who have to flee for their lives, from their homes, from their people, from their villages, in the desert, and they live in tents, they feel the cold, without medicine, hungry, because the “man-god” has taken control of Creation, of all that good that God has done for us. But who pays for this feast? They do! The young, the poor, those people who are discarded. And this is not ancient history: it is happening today. “But Father, it is far away.” It is here too, everywhere. It is happening today. I will continue: it seems that these people, these children who are hungry, sick, do not seem to count, it’s as if they were of a different species, as if they were not even human. And this multitude is before God and asks, “Salvation, please! Peace, please! Bread, please! Work, please! Children and grandparents, please! Young people with the dignity of being able to work, please!” Among these are also those who are persecuted for their faith; there “then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘who are these, clothed in white, and when have they come?’ ... ‘These are they who have come out of great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb’” (7:13-14). And today, without exaggeration, today on the Feast of All Saints I would like us to think of all these, the unknown saints. Sinners like us, worse off than us, destroyed. Of this multitude of people who are in great distress: most of the world is in tribulation. Most of the world is in tribulation. And the Lord sanctifies this people, sinners like us, but He sanctifies these people in tribulation.

Finally, there is a third image: God. First was the devastation; second was the victims; the third is God. In the Second Reading we heard: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what shall be” (1 Jn 3:2), that is, hope. And this is the Lord’s blessing that we still have: hope. Hope that He will have mercy on His people, pity on those who are in great tribulation and compassion for the destroyers so that they will convert. And so, the holiness of the Church goes on: with these people, with us, that we will see God as He is. What should our attitude be if we want to be part of this multitude journeying to the Father, in this world of devastation, in this world of war, in this world of tribulation? Our attitude, as we heard in the Gospel, is the attitude of the Beatitudes. That path alone will lead us to the encounter with God. That path alone will save us from destruction, from destroying the earth, Creation, morality, history, family, everything. That path alone. But it too will bring us through bad things! It will bring us problems, persecution. But that path alone will take us forward. And so, these people who are suffering so much today because of the selfishness of destroyers, of our brothers destroyers, these people struggle onwards with the Beatitudes, with the hope of finding God, of coming face-to-face with the Lord in the hope of becoming saints, at the moment of our final encounter with Him.

May the Lord help us and give us the grace of this hope, but also the grace of courage to emerge from all this destruction, devastation, the relativism of life, the exclusion of others, exclusion of values, exclusion of all that the Lord has given us: the exclusion of peace. May he deliver us from this, and give us the grace to walk in the hope of finding ourselves one day face-to-face with Him. And this hope, brothers and sisters, does not disappoint!


SOLEMNITY OF ALL SAINTS

POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 1 November 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning and Happy Feast Day!

In today’s celebration, the Feast of All Saints, we experience in a special way the reality of the communion of saints, our great family that consists of all members of the Church, both those of us who are still pilgrims on earth, and the immense multitude of those who have already left and gone to Heaven. We are all united, and this is called the “communion of saints,” meaning the community of all baptized people.

In today’s Liturgy, the Book of Revelation refers to an essential characteristic of saints, saying: they are people who belong totally to God. They are presented as an immense multitude of “chosen ones,” dressed in white and marked with the “seal of God” (cf. 7:2-4, 9-14). Through this last detail, with allegorical language, it is emphasized that the saints belong to God fully and exclusively, and that they are his property. What does it means to bear the seal of God in one’s very life and person? The Apostle John again tells us: it means that in Jesus Christ we have truly become children of God (cf. 1 Jn 3:1-3).

Are we conscious of this great gift? We are all children of God! Do we remember that in Baptism we received the “seal” of our Heavenly Father, and that we became his children? To put it simply: we bear God’s surname, our surname is God, because we are the children of God. Here lies the root of the vocation to holiness! The saints whom we remember today are those who lived in the grace of their Baptism, those who kept the “seal” intact, behaving as children of God, seeking to emulate Jesus; and now they have reached the goal, because they finally “see God as he is.”

A second characteristic of the saints is that they are examples to emulate. Let us note: not only those who are canonized, but the saints “next door,” so to speak, those who, by the grace of God, strive to practice the Gospel in their everyday lives. Among these saints we also find ourselves; perhaps someone in our family or among friends and acquaintances. We must be grateful for them, and above all we must be grateful to God who has given them to us, putting them close to us as living and contagious examples of the way to live and die in fidelity to the Lord Jesus and his Gospel. How many good people have we met and do we know, about whom we say: “This person is a saint!” We say it, it comes spontaneously. These are the saints next door, those who are not canonized but who live with us.

Imitating their gestures of love and mercy is a bit like perpetuating their presence in this world. These evangelical gestures are indeed the only ones that can withstand the destruction of death: an act of tenderness, generous aid, time spent listening, a visit, a kind word, a smile. In our eyes these gestures might seem insignificant, but in the eyes of God they are eternal, because love and compassion are stronger than death.

May the Virgin Mary, Queen of All Saints, help us to trust more in the grace of God, and to walk with enthusiasm along the path of holiness. Let us offer our daily efforts to Our Mother, and let us also pray to her for our dear departed, in the intimate hope of finding each other one day, all together, in the glorious communion of heaven.


HOLY MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY OF ALL SAINTS

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Verano Cemetery, Rome, Sunday, 1 November 2015

In the Gospel we listened to Jesus who was teaching his disciples and the crowd that had gathered on the mountain near the lake of Galilee (cf. Mt 5:1-12). The Word of the risen and living Lord also shows us, today, the way to reach the true beatitude, the way that leads to Heaven. It is difficult to understand the path because it goes against the current, but the Lord tells us that those who go on this path are happy, sooner or later they become happy.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We might ask ourselves how a person poor of heart can be happy, one whose only treasure is the Kingdom of Heaven. The reason is exactly this: that having the heart stripped and free of so many worldly things, this person is “awaited” in the Kingdom of Heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” How can those who weep be happy? Yet, those who in life have never felt sadness, angst, sorrow, will never know the power of comfort. Instead, happy are those with the capacity to be moved, the capacity to feel in their heart the sorrow that exists in their life and in the lives of others. They will be happy! Because the tender hand of God the Father will comfort them and will caress them.

“Blessed are the meek.” How often are we, on the contrary, impatient, irritable, always ready to complain! We have many demands regarding others, but when our turn comes, we react by raising our voice, as if we were masters of the world, when in reality we are all children of God. Let us think instead of those mothers and fathers who are so patient with their children who “drive them mad.” This is the way of the Lord: the way of meekness and of patience. Jesus traveled this path: as a child he endured persecution and exile; and then, as an adult, slander, snares, false accusations in court; and he endured it all with meekness. Out of love for us he endured even the cross.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Yes, those who have a strong sense of justice, and not only toward others, but first of all toward themselves, they will be satisfied, because they are ready to receive the greatest justice, that which only God can give.

Then, “blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Happy are those who know how to forgive, who have mercy on others, who do not judge every thing and every one, but try to put themselves in the place of others. Forgiveness is the thing we all need, without exception. This is why at the beginning of the Mass we recognize ourselves for what we are, namely, sinners. It isn’t an expression or a formality: it is an act of truth. “Lord, here I am, have mercy on me.” If we are able to give others the forgiveness we ask for ourselves, we are blessed. As we say in the “Our Father”: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Let us look at the faces of those who go around sowing discord: are they happy? Those who are always seeking occasions to mislead, to take advantage of others, are they happy? No, they cannot be happy. Instead, those who patiently try to sow peace each day, are who artisans of peace, of reconciliation, yes, they are blessed, because they are true children of our Heavenly Father, who sows always and only peace, to the point that he sent his Son into the world as the seed of peace for humanity.

Dear brothers and sisters, this is the way of holiness, and it is the very way of happiness. It is the way that Jesus traveled. Indeed, He himself is the Way: those who walk with Him and proceed through Him enter into life, into eternal life. Let us ask the Lord for the grace to be simple and humble people, the grace to be able to weep, the grace to be meek, the grace to work for justice and peace, and above all the grace to let ourselves be forgiven by God so as to become instruments of his mercy.

This is what the Saints did, those who have preceded us to our heavenly home. They accompany us on our earthly pilgrimage, they encourage us to go forward. May their intercession help us to walk on Jesus’ path, and to obtain eternal happiness for our deceased brothers and sisters, for whom we offer this Mass

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For reflections on the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time 

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


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