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Monday, August 29, 2016

0484: Reflections on the 23rd Sunday
of Ordinary Time by Pope Francis



Entry 0484: Reflections on the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time   

 by Pope Francis 



On three occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 8 September 2013, 7 September 2014, and 6 September 2015. Here are the texts of three brief addresses delivered prior to the recitation of the Angelus.



POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 8 September 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Good morning! In today’s Gospel Jesus insists on the conditions for being his disciples: preferring nothing to the love of Christ, carrying one’s cross and following him. Many people in fact drew near to Jesus, they wanted to be included among his followers; and this would happen especially after some miraculous sign which accredited him as the Messiah, the King of Israel. However Jesus did not want to disappoint anyone. He knew well what awaited him in Jerusalem and which path the Father was asking him to take: it was the Way of the Cross, the way of sacrificing himself for the forgiveness of our sins. Following Jesus does not mean taking part in a triumphal procession! It means sharing his merciful love, entering his great work of mercy for each and every man and for all men. The work of Jesus is, precisely, a work of mercy, a work of forgiveness and of love! Jesus is so full of mercy! And this universal pardon, this mercy, passes through the Cross. Jesus, however, does not want to do this work alone: he wants to involve us too in the mission that the Father entrusted to him. After the Resurrection he was to say to his disciples: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you, ... if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven” (Jn 20:21-22). Jesus’ disciple renounces all his possessions because in Jesus he has found the greatest Good in which every other good receives its full value and meaning: family ties, other relationships, work, cultural and economic goods and so forth. The Christian detaches him or herself from all things and rediscovers all things in the logic of the Gospel, the logic of love and of service.

To explain this requirement, Jesus uses two parables: that of the tower to be built and that of the king going to war. The latter says: “What king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace” (Lk 14:31-32). Jesus does not wish to address the topic of war here; it is only a parable. Yet at this moment in which we are praying intensely for peace, this word of the Lord touches us to the core, and essentially tells us: there is a more profound war that we must all fight! It is the firm and courageous decision to renounce evil and its enticements and to choose the good, ready to pay in person: this is following Christ, this is what taking up our cross means! This profound war against evil! What is the use of waging war, so many wars, if you aren’t capable of waging this profound war against evil? It is pointless! It doesn’t work. Among other things this war against evil entails saying “no” to the fratricidal hatred and falsehood that are used; saying “no” to violence in all its forms; saying “no” to the proliferation of weapons and to the illegal arms trade. There is so much of it! So much of it! And the doubt always remains: is this war or that war—because wars are everywhere—really a war to solve problems or is it a commercial war for selling weapons in illegal trade? These are the enemies to fight, united and consistent, following no other interests than those of peace and of the common good.

Dear brothers and sisters, today we are also commemorating the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, a Feast particularly dear to the Eastern Churches. And let all of us now send a beautiful greeting to all the brothers, sisters, bishops, monks and nuns of the Eastern Churches, both Orthodox and Catholic, a beautiful greeting! Jesus is the sun, Mary is the dawn that heralds his rising. Yesterday evening we kept vigil, entrusting to her intercession our prayers for peace in the world, especially in Syria and throughout the Middle East. Let us now invoke her as Queen of Peace. Queen of Peace pray for us! Queen of Peace pray for us!


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 7 September 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning.

The Gospel this Sunday, taken from Matthew, Chapter 18, presents the theme of brotherly correction within the community of believers: that is, how I must correct another Christian when he does what is not good. Jesus teaches us that, should my Christian brother commit a sin against me, offend me, I must be charitable toward him and, first of all, speak with him personally, explain to him what he said or did that was wrong. What if the brother doesn’t listen to me? Jesus proposes a progressive intervention: first, return and speak to him with two or three other people, so he may be more aware of his error; if, despite this, he does not accept the admonition, the community must be told; and should he also refuse to listen to the community, he must be made aware of the rift and estrangement that he himself has caused, weakening the communion with his brothers in the faith.

The stages of this plan show the effort that the Lord asks of his community in order to accompany the one who transgresses, so that he or she is not lost. It is important above all to prevent any clamor in the news and gossip in the community—this is the first thing, this must be avoided. “Go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone” (v. 15). The approach is one of sensitivity, prudence, humility, attention towards the one who committed a fault, to avoid wounding or killing the brother with words. Because, you know, words too can kill! When I speak, when I make an unfair criticism, when I “flay” a brother with my tongue, this is killing another person’s reputation! Words kill too. Let us pay attention to this. At the same time, the discretion of speaking to him alone is to avoid needlessly humiliating the sinner. It is discussed between the two, no one is aware of it and then it’s over. This requirement also takes into account the consequent series of interventions calling for the involvement of a few witnesses and then actually of the community. The purpose is to help the person realize what he has done, and that through his fault he has offended not only one, but everyone. But it also helps us to free ourselves from anger or resentment which only causes harm: that bitterness of heart which brings anger and resentment, and which leads us to insult and aggression. It’s terrible to see an insult or taunt issue from the mouth of a Christian. It is ugly. Do you understand? Do not insult! To insult is not Christian. Understood? To insult is not Christian.

Actually, before God we are all sinners and in need of forgiveness. All of us. Indeed, Jesus told us not to judge. Fraternal correction is a mark of the love and communion which must reign in the Christian community; it is, rather, a mutual service that we can and must render to one another. To reprove a brother is a service, and it is possible and effective only if each one recognizes oneself to be a as sinner and in need of the Lord’s forgiveness. The same awareness that enables me to recognize the fault of another, even before that, reminds me that I have likewise made mistakes and I am often wrong.

This is why, at the beginning of Mass, every time, we are called before the Lord to recognize that we are sinners, expressing through words and gestures sincere repentance of the heart. And we say: “Have mercy on me, Lord. I am a sinner! I confess to Almighty God my sins.” And we don’t say: “Lord, have mercy on this man who is beside me, or this woman, who are sinners.” No! “Have mercy on me!” We are all sinners and in need of the Lord’s forgiveness. It is the Holy Spirit who speaks to our spirit and makes us recognize our faults in light of the Word of Jesus. And Jesus himself invites us all, saints and sinners, to his table, gathering us from the crossroads, from diverse situations of life (see Mt 22:9-10). And among the conditions in common among those participating in the Eucharistic celebration, two are fundamental in order to go to Mass correctly: we are all sinners and God grants his mercy to all. These are the two conditions which open wide the doors that we might enter Mass properly. We must always remember this before addressing a brother in brotherly correction.

Let us ask all this through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose Nativity we will celebrate in tomorrow’s liturgy.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 6 September 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

The Gospel today (Mk 7:31-37) recounts Jesus’ healing of a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, an incredible event that shows how Jesus reestablishes the full communication of man with God and with other people. The miracle is set in the region of the Decapolis, that is, in a completely pagan territory; thus, this deaf man who is brought before Jesus becomes the symbol of an unbeliever who completes a journey to faith. In effect, his deafness expresses the inability to hear and to understand, not just the words of man, but also the Word of God. And St Paul reminds us that “faith comes from what is heard” (Rom 10:17).

The first thing that Jesus does is take this man far from the crowd: He doesn’t want to publicize this deed he intends to carry out, but he also doesn’t want his word to be lost in the din of voices and the chatter of those around. The Word of God that Christ brings us needs silence to be welcomed as the Word that heals, that reconciles and reestablishes communication.

Then we are told about two gestures Jesus makes. He touches the ears and the tongue of the deaf man. To reestablish a relationship with this man whose communication is “impeded,” he first seeks to reestablish contact. But the miracle is a gift that comes from on high, which Jesus implores from the Father. That’s why he raises his eyes to the heavens and orders, “Be opened.” And the ears of the deaf man are opened, the knot of his tongue is untied and he begins to speak correctly (see v. 35).

The lesson we can take from this episode is that God is not closed in on himself, but instead he opens himself and places himself in communication with humanity. In his immense mercy, he overcomes the abyss of the infinite difference between him and us, and comes to meet us. To bring about this communication with man, God becomes man. It is not enough for him to speak to us through the law and the prophets, but instead he makes himself present in the person of his Son, the Word made flesh. Jesus is the great “bridge-builder” who builds in himself the great bridge of full communion with the Father.

But this Gospel speaks to us also about ourselves: Often we are drawn up and closed in on ourselves, and we create many inaccessible and inhospitable islands. Even the most basic human relationships can sometimes create realities incapable of reciprocal openness: the couple closed in, the family closed in, the group closed in, the parish closed in, the country closed in. And this is not from God! This is from us. This is our sin.

However, at the beginning of our Christian life, at baptism, it is precisely this gesture and word of Jesus that are present: “Ephphatha!” “Be opened!” And behold the miracle has been worked. We are healed of the deafness of selfishness and the impediment of being closed in on ourselves, and of sin, and we have been inserted into the great family of the Church. We can hear God who speaks to us and communicates his Word to those who have never before heard it, or to the one who has forgotten it and buried it in the thorns of the anxieties and the traps of the world.

Let us ask the Virgin Mary, a woman of listening and of joyful testimony, that she sustain us in the commitment to profess our faith and to communicate the wonders of the Lord to those we find along our way. 

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


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For reflections on the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time 

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


* * * * *

Monday, August 22, 2016

0483: Reflections on the 22nd Sunday
of Ordinary Time by Pope Francis



Entry 0483: Reflections on the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time   

 by Pope Francis 



On three occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 1 September 2013, 31 August 2014, and 30 August 2015. Here are the texts of three brief addresses delivered prior to the recitation of the Angelus.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 1 September 2013
 
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Hello!

Today, dear brothers and sisters, I wish to make add my voice to the cry which rises up with increasing anguish from every part of the world, from every people, from the heart of each person, from the one great family which is humanity: it is the cry for peace! It is a cry which declares with force: we want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace, and we want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, that peace break out! War never again! Never again war! Peace is a precious gift, which must be promoted and protected.

There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great suffering and worry, but in these days my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming.

I appeal strongly for peace, an appeal which arises from deep within me. How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake in that martyred country, especially among civilians and the unarmed! I think of many children will not see the light of the future! With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons: I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart. There is a judgment of God and of history upon our actions which are inescapable! Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence.

With all my strength, I ask each party in this conflict to listen to the voice of their own conscience, not to close themselves in solely on their own interests, but rather to look at each other as brothers and decisively and courageously to follow the path of encounter and negotiation, and so overcome blind conflict. With similar vigor I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people.

May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries. May humanitarian workers, charged with the task of alleviating the sufferings of these people, be granted access so as to provide the necessary aid.

What can we do to make peace in the world? As Pope John said, it pertains to each individual to establish new relationships in human society under the mastery and guidance of justice and love (see John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, 11 April 1963, in AAS 55 [1963]: 301-302).

All men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace. I make a forceful and urgent call to the entire Catholic Church, and also to every Christian of other confessions, as well as to followers of every religion and to those brothers and sisters who do not believe: peace is a good which overcomes every barrier, because it belongs to all of humanity!

I repeat forcefully: it is neither a culture of confrontation nor a culture of conflict which builds harmony within and between peoples, but rather a culture of encounter and a culture of dialogue; this is the only way to peace.

May the plea for peace rise up and touch the heart of everyone so that they may lay down their weapons and let themselves be led by the desire for peace.

To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.

On 7 September, in Saint Peter’s Square, here, from 19:00 until 24:00, we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention.

Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love. She is our mother: may she help us to find peace; all of us are her children! Help us, Mary, to overcome this most difficult moment and to dedicate ourselves each day to building in every situation an authentic culture of encounter and peace. Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 31 August 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Sunday’s reading from the Gospel according to Matthew brings us to the critical point at which Jesus, after having ascertained that Peter and the other eleven believed in Him as the Messiah and Son of God, “began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things, ... and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (16:21). It is a critical moment at which the contrast between Jesus’ way of thinking and that of the disciples emerges. Peter actually feels duty bound to admonish the Master because the Messiah could not come to such an ignominious end. Then Jesus, in turn, severely rebukes Peter and puts him in his place, because he is “not on the side of God, but of men” (v. 23), unintentionally playing the part of Satan, the tempter. In the liturgy for this Sunday the Apostle Paul also stresses this point when he writes to the Christians in Rome, telling them: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2).

Indeed, we Christians live in the world, fully integrated into the social and cultural reality of our time, and rightly so; but this brings with it the risk that we might become “worldly,” that “the salt might lose its taste,” as Jesus would say (see Mt 5:13). In other words, the Christian could become “watered down,” losing the charge of newness which comes to him from the Lord and from the Holy Spirit. Instead it should be the opposite: when the power of the Gospel remains alive in Christians, it can transform “criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life” (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, no. 19). It is sad to find “watered-down” Christians, who seem like watered-down wine. One cannot tell whether they are Christian or worldly, like watered-down wine; one cannot tell whether it is wine or water! This is sad. It is sad to find Christians who are no longer the salt of the earth, and we know that when salt loses its taste, it is no longer good for anything. Their salt has lost its taste because they have delivered themselves up to the spirit of the world, that is, they have become worldly.

This is why it is necessary to renew oneself by continually drawing sap from the Gospel. And how can one do this in practice? First of all by actually reading and meditating on the Gospel every day, so the Word of Jesus may always be present in our life. Remember: it will help you to always carry the Gospel with you: a small Gospel, in a pocket, in a bag, and read a passage during the day. But always with the Gospel, because it is carrying the Word of Jesus, and being able to read it. In addition, attending Sunday Mass, where we encounter the Lord in the community, we hear his Word and receive the Eucharist which unites us with Him and to one another; and then days of retreat and spiritual exercises are very important for spiritual renewal. Gospel, Eucharist, Prayer. Do not forget: Gospel, Eucharist, Prayer. Thanks to these gifts of the Lord we are able to conform not to the world but to Christ, and follow him on his path, the path of “losing one’s life” in order to find it (Mt 16:25). “To lose it” in the sense of giving it, offering it through love and in love—and this leads to sacrifice, also the cross—to receive it liberated from selfishness and from the mortgage of death, newly purified, full of eternity.

May the Virgin Mary always go before us on this journey; let us be guided and accompanied by her.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 30 August 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

The Gospel for this Sunday concerns a dispute between Jesus and several Pharisees and scribes. The discussion is about the value of the “tradition of the elders” (Mk 7:3) which Jesus, quoting the Prophet Isaiah, defines as the “precepts of men” (v. 7) which must never take precedence over the “commandment of God” (v. 8). The ancient rules in question consisted not only in the precepts God revealed to Moses, but in a series of norms that the Mosaic Law indicated. The interlocutors observed these norms in an extremely scrupulous manner and presented them as the expression of authentic religiosity. Therefore, they rebuked Jesus and his disciples for transgressing them, specifically the norms regarding the external purification of the body (see v. 5). Jesus’ response has the force of a prophetic pronouncement: “You leave the commandment of God,” he says, “and hold fast the tradition of men” (v. 8). These are words which fill us with admiration for our Teacher: we sense that in him there is truth and that his wisdom frees us from prejudice.

Pay heed! With these words, Jesus wants to caution us too, today, against the belief that outward observance of the law is enough to make us good Christians. Dangerous as it was then for the Pharisees, so too is it for us to consider ourselves acceptable or, even worse, better than others simply for observing the rules, customs, even though we do not love our neighbour, we are hard of heart, we are arrogant and proud. Literal observance of the precepts is a fruitless exercise which does not change the heart and turn into practical behavior: opening oneself to meet God and his Word in prayer, seeking justice and peace, taking care of the poor, the weak, the downtrodden. We all know, in our communities, in our parishes, in our neighborhoods, how much harm and scandal is done to the Church by those people who say they are deeply Catholic and often go to Church, but who then neglect their family in daily life, speak badly of others and so on. This is what Jesus condemns because this is a counter-witness to Christianity.

After his exhortation, Jesus focuses attention on a deeper aspect and states: “there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him” (v. 15). In this way he emphasizes the primacy of interiority, that is, the primacy of the “heart:” it is not the external things that make us holy or unholy, but the heart which expresses our intentions, our choices and the will to do all for the love of God. External behavior is the result of what we decide in the heart, and not the contrary: with a change in external behavior, but not a change of heart, we are not true Christians. The boundary between good and evil does not pass outside of us, but rather within us. We could ask ourselves: where is my heart? Jesus said: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” What is my treasure? Is it Jesus, is it his teaching? If so, then the heart is good. Or is my treasure something else? Thus it is a heart which needs purification and conversion. Without a purified heart, one cannot have truly clean hands and lips which speak sincere words of love—it is all duplicitous, a double life—lips which speak words of mercy, of forgiveness: only a sincere and purified heart can do this

Let us ask the Lord, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, to give us a pure heart, free of all hypocrisy. This is the word that Jesus uses for the Pharisees: “hypocrites,” because they say one thing and do another. A heart free from all hypocrisy, thus we will be able to live according to the spirit of the law and accomplish its aim, which is love. 

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


* * * * *


For reflections on the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time 

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


* * * * *

Monday, August 15, 2016

0482: Reflections on the 21st Sunday
of Ordinary Time by Pope Francis



Entry 0482: Reflections on the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time   

 by Pope Francis 



On three occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 25 August 2013, 24 August 2014, and 23 August 2015. Here are the texts of three 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 Jerusalemthe 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

St. 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 St 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 centre, 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. 

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For reflections on the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time 

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


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Monday, August 8, 2016

0481: Reflections on the 20th Sunday
of Ordinary Time by Pope Francis



Entry 0481: Reflections on the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time   

 by Pope Francis 



On three occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 18 August 2013, 17 August 2014, and 16 August 2015. Here are the texts of two 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
OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA
ON THE OCCASION OF THE 6th ASIAN YOUTH DAY

(13-18 AUGUST 2014)

CLOSING MASS FOR THE SIXTH ASIAN YOUTH DAY

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Haemi Castle, 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 Koreaand innumerable others throughout Asiahanded 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. 

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For reflections on the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time 

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


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Monday, August 1, 2016

0480: Reflections on the 19th Sunday
of Ordinary Time by Pope Francis



Entry 0480: Reflections on the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time   

 by Pope Francis 



On three occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 11 August 2013, 10 August 2014, and 9 August 2015. Here are the texts of the three brief addresses delivered prior to the recitation of the Angelus.


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 St Clare of Assisi who, in the footsteps of Francis, left everything to consecrate herself to Christ in poverty. St 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

St. 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!" 

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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.




* * * * *