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Monday, February 27, 2017

0516: Reflections on Ash Wednesday
by Pope Francis



Entry 0516: Reflections on Ash Wednesday  

by Pope Francis 




O
n three occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on Ash Wednesday, on 5 March 2014, 18 February 2015, and 10 February 2016. Here are the texts of the three homilies delivered on these occasions.


ASH WEDNESDAY
HOLY MASS WITH BLESSING AND IMPOSITION OF THE ASHES

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Basilica of Santa Sabina, Wednesday, 5 March 2014

“Rend your hearts and not your garments” (Joel 2:13).

With these penetrating words of the Prophet Joel, the liturgy today introduces us into Lent, pointing to conversion of heart as the chief characteristic of this season of grace. The prophetic appeal challenges all of us without exception, and it reminds us that conversion is not to be reduced to outward forms or to vague intentions, but engages and transforms one’s entire existence beginning from the centre of the person, from the conscience. We are invited to embark upon a journey on which, by defying routine, we strive to open our eyes and ears, but especially to open our hearts, in order to go beyond our own “backyard.”

Opening oneself to God and to the brethren. We know that this increasingly artificial world would have us live in a culture of “doing,” of the “useful,” where we exclude God from our horizon without realizing it. But we also exclude the horizon itself! Lent beacons us to “rouse ourselves,” to remind ourselves that we are creatures, simply put, that we are not God. In the little daily scene, as I look at some of the power struggles to occupy spaces, I think: these people are playing God the Creator. They still have not realized that they are not God.

And we also risk closing ourselves off to others and forgetting them. But only when the difficulties and suffering of others confront and question us may we begin our journey of conversion towards Easter. It is an itinerary which involves the Cross and self-denial. Today’s Gospel indicates the elements of this spiritual journey: prayer, fasting and almsgiving (see Mt 6:1-6; 16-18). All three exclude the need for appearances: what counts is not appearances; the value of life does not depend on the approval of others or on success, but on what we have inside us.

The first element is prayer. Prayer is the strength of the Christian and of every person who believes. In the weakness and frailty of our lives, we can turn to God with the confidence of children and enter into communion with him. In the face of so many wounds that hurt us and could harden our hearts, we are called to dive into the sea of prayer, which is the sea of God’s boundless love, to taste his tenderness. Lent is a time of prayer, of more intense prayer, more prolonged, more assiduous, more able to take on the needs of the brethren; intercessory prayer, to intercede before God for the many situations of poverty and suffering.

The second key element of the Lenten journey is fasting. We must be careful not to practice a formal fast, or one which in truth “satisfies” us because it makes us feel good about ourselves. Fasting makes sense if it questions our security, and if it also leads to some benefit for others, if it helps us to cultivate the style of the Good Samaritan, who bends down to his brother in need and takes care of him. Fasting involves choosing a sober lifestyle; a way of life that does not waste, a way of life that does not “throw away.” Fasting helps us to attune our hearts to the essential and to sharing. It is a sign of awareness and responsibility in the face of injustice, abuse, especially to the poor and the little ones, and it is a sign of the trust we place in God and in his providence.

The third element is almsgiving: it points to giving freely, for in almsgiving one gives something to someone from whom one does not expect to receive anything in return. Gratuitousness should be one of the characteristics of the Christian, who aware of having received everything from God gratuitously, that is, without any merit of his own, learns to give to others freely. Today gratuitousness is often not part of daily life where everything is bought and sold. Everything is calculated and measured. Almsgiving helps us to experience giving freely, which leads to freedom from the obsession of possessing, from the fear of losing what we have, from the sadness of one who does not wish to share his wealth with others.

With its invitations to conversion, Lent comes providentially to awaken us, to rouse us from torpor, from the risk of moving forward by inertia. The exhortation which the Lord addresses to us through the prophet Joel is strong and clear: “Return to me with all your heart” (Jl 2:12). Why must we return to God? Because something is not right in us, not right in society, in the Church and we need to change, to give it a new direction. And this is called needing to convert! Once again Lent comes to make its prophetic appeal, to remind us that it is possible to create something new within ourselves and around us, simply because God is faithful, always faithful, for he cannot deny himself, he continues to be rich in goodness and mercy, and he is always ready to forgive and start afresh. With this filial confidence, let us set out on the journey!


ASH WEDNESDAY
HOLY MASS WITH BLESSING AND IMPOSITION OF THE ASHES

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Basilica of Santa Sabina, Wednesday, 18 February 2015

As the People of God begin the journey of Lent, the time in which we seek to be more firmly united to the Lord, to share the mystery of His Passion and His Resurrection.

Today’s liturgy offers us first and foremost a passage from the Prophet Joel, whom God sent to call the People of God to repentance and conversion, due to a natural disaster (a plague of locusts) which was devastating Judea. The Lord alone can save us from the scourge and it is therefore necessary to entreat Him with prayer and fasting, confessing one’s sins.

The Prophet emphasizes interior conversion: “return to me with all your heart” (2:12).

Returning to the Lord “with all your heart” means to begin the journey not of a superficial and transitory conversion, but rather of a spiritual itinerary with regard to the most intimate place of our person. The heart is, indeed, the seat of our feelings, the centre in which our decisions, our attitudes mature. That “return to me with all your heart” involves not only individuals, but is extended to the community as a whole. It is a convocation directed to everyone: “gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber” (v. 16). The Prophet pauses particularly on the prayer of the priests, pointing out that it is to be accompanied by tears. It will do us good, all of us, but especially for us as priests, at the beginning of Lent, to ask for the gift of tears, so as to render our prayer and our journey of conversion ever more authentic and free from hypocrisy. It will do us good to ask ourselves this question: “Do I weep? Does the Pope weep? Do the cardinals weep? Do bishops weep? Do the consecrated weep? Do priests weep? Is there weeping in our prayers?” And this is precisely the message of today’s Gospel. In the passage from Matthew, Jesus again reads the three works of mercy called for by Mosaic law: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. He distinguishes the external disposition from the interior disposition, from the weeping of the heart. Over time, these prescriptions were corroded by external formalism, or they even mutated into a sign of social superiority. Jesus highlighted a common temptation in these three works, that can be summarized precisely as hypocrisy (He mentions it three times): “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them. When you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do. And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray, that they may be seen by men. And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites” (Mt 6:1, 2, 5, 16). You know, brothers, that hypocrites do not know how to weep, they have forgotten how to weep, they do not ask for the gift of tears.

When one performs a good work, the desire arises almost instinctively in us to be esteemed and admired for this good action, to gain satisfaction from it. Jesus calls us to perform these gestures without ostentation, and to rely solely on the reward of the Father “who sees in secret” (Mt 6:4, 6, 18).

Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord never tires of having mercy on us, and wants to offer us His forgiveness once again—we all need it—inviting us to return to Him with a new heart, purified of evil, purified by tears, to take part in His joy. How should we accept this invitation? St Paul advises us: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). This power of conversion is not only the work of mankind, it is letting oneself be reconciled. Reconciliation between us and God is possible thanks to the mercy of the Father who, out of love for us, did not hesitate to sacrifice His only begotten Son. Indeed Christ, who was just and without sin, was made to be sin (see v. 21) when, on the Cross, He took on the burden of our sins, and in this way He redeemed and justified us before God. “In Him” we can become just, in Him we can change, if we accept the grace of God and do not allow this “acceptable time” to pass in vain (6:2). Please, let us stop, let us stop a while and let ourselves be reconciled to God.

With this awareness, we begin the Lenten journey with trust and joy. May Immaculate Mother Mary, without sin, sustain our spiritual battle against sin, accompany us at this acceptable time, so that we may come together to sing of the exultant victory on Easter Day. And as a sign of the will to let ourselves be reconciled to God, in addition to the tears that will be “in secret,” in public we will perform this gesture of the imposition of Ashes on the head. The celebrant speaks these words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (see Gen 3:19); or repeats the exhortation of Jesus: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (see Mk 1:15). Both formulae are a reference to the truth of human existence: we are limited creatures, always sinners in need of repentance and conversion. How important it is to listen to and accept this call in this time of ours! The call to conversion is thus an incentive to return, as the son in the parable did, to the arms of God, gentle and merciful Father, to weep in that embrace, to trust in Him and entrust ourselves to Him.



ASH WEDNESDAY
HOLY MASS WITH BLESSING AND IMPOSITION OF THE ASHES

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica, Wednesday, 10 February 2016

The Word of God, at the start of the Lenten journey, addresses two invitations to the Church and to each of us.

The first is that of St Paul: “be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). It is not simply good fatherly advice, neither is it just a suggestion; it is a bona fide supplication on Christ’s behalf: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (ibid.). Why does he make such a solemn and earnest appeal? Because Christ knows how fragile and sinful we are, he knows the weakness of our heart. He immediately sees it wounded by the evil we have committed. He knows how much we need forgiveness, he knows that it is important for us to feel loved in order to do good. We cannot do it alone: this is why the Apostle does not tell us to do something but to allow ourselves to be reconciled with God, to let him forgive us, with trust, because “God is greater than our hearts” (1 Jn 3:20). He conquers sin and lifts us out of misery, if we let him. It is up to us to acknowledge that we need mercy. This is the first step on the Christian path; it entails entering through the open door which is Christ, where he, the Savior, awaits us and offers us a new and joyful life.

There may be a few obstacles, which close the door of the heart. There is the temptation to lock the doors, or to live with our sin, minimizing it, always justifying it, thinking we are no worse than others; this, however, is how the locks of the soul are closed and we remain shut inside, prisoners of evil. Another obstacle is the shame of opening the secret door of the heart. Shame, in reality, is a good symptom, because it shows that we want to break away from evil; however, it must never be transformed into apprehension or fear. There is a third pitfall, that of distancing ourselves from the door: it happens when we hide in our misery, when we ruminate constantly, connecting it to negative things, until sinking into the darkest repositories of the soul. Then we even become kindred with the sorrow that we do not want, we become discouraged and we are weaker in the face of temptations. This happens because we bide alone with ourselves, closing ourselves off and avoiding the light; while the Lord’s grace alone frees us. Therefore let us be reconciled, let us listen to Jesus who says to those who are weary and oppressed: “Come to me” (Mt 11:28). Not to dwell within themselves, but to go to him! Comfort and peace are there.

At this celebration the Missionaries of Mercy are present, to receive the mandate to be signs and instruments of God’s forgiveness. Dear brothers, may you help to open the doors of hearts, to overcome shame, not to avoid the light. May your hands bless and lift up brothers and sisters with paternity; through you may the gaze and the hands of God rest on his children and heal them of their wounds!

There is a second invitation of God, who says, through the prophet Joel: “return to me with all your heart” (2:12). If we need to return it is because we have distanced ourselves. It is the mystery of sin: we have distanced ourselves from God, from others, from ourselves. It is not difficult to realize this: we all see how we struggle to truly trust in God, to entrust ourselves to him as Father, without fear; as it is challenging to love others, rather than thinking badly of them; how it costs us to do our true good, while we are attracted and seduced by so many material realities, which disappear and in the end leave us impoverished. Alongside this history of sin, Jesus inaugurated a history of salvation. The Gospel which opens Lent calls us to be protagonists, embracing three remedies, three medicines which heal us from sin (see Mt 6:1-6, 16-18).

In the first place is prayer, an expression of openness and trust in the Lord: it is the personal encounter with him, which shortens the distances created by sin. Praying means saying: “I am not self-sufficient, I need You, You are my life and my salvation.” In the second place is charity, in order to overcome our lack of involvement with regard to others. True love, in fact, is not an outward act, it is not giving something in a paternalistic way in order to assuage the conscience, but to accept those who are in need of our time, our friendship, our help. It means living to serve, overcoming the temptation to satisfy ourselves. In the third place is fasting, penance, in order to free ourselves from dependencies regarding what is passing, and to train ourselves to be more sensitive and merciful. It is an invitation to simplicity and to sharing: to take something from our table and from our assets in order to once again find the true benefit of freedom.

“Return to me”—says the Lord—“return with all your heart:” not only with a few outward deeds, but from the depths of our selves. Indeed, Jesus calls us to live prayer, charity and penance with consistency and authenticity, overcoming hypocrisy. May Lent be a beneficial time to “prune” falseness, worldliness, indifference: so as not to think that everything is fine if I am fine; so as to understand that what counts is not approval, the search for success or consensus, but the cleansing of the heart and of life; so as to find again our Christian identity, namely, the love that serves, not the selfishness that serves us. Let us embark on the journey together, as Church, by receiving Ashes—we too will become ashes—and keeping our gaze fixed on the Crucifix. He, loving us, invites us to be reconciled with God and to return to him, in order to find ourselves again. 



© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana



* * * * *


For reflections on Ash Wednesday 

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


* * * * *



Monday, February 20, 2017

0515: Reflections on the Eighth Sunday
of Ordinary Time by Pope Francis



Entry 0515: Reflections on the Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time    
 by Pope Francis 


On one occasion during his pontificate, Pope Francis delivered a reflection on the Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 2 March 2014. Here is the text of this reflection which was delivered prior to the recitation of the Angelus


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 2 March 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

At the centre of this Sunday’s Liturgy we find one of the most reassuring truths: Divine Providence. The Prophet Isaiah presents it as the image of maternal love full of tenderness, and thus says: “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (49:15). How beautiful is this! God does not forget us, not one of us! Everyone by name and surname. He loves us and doesn’t forget. What a beautiful thought. This invitation to trust in God finds a parallel on a page of Matthew’s Gospel: “Look at the birds of the air,” Jesus says, “they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Mt 6:26, 28-29).

However, thinking of the many people who live in precarious conditions, or even in a poverty offensive to their dignity, these words of Jesus could seem abstract, if not illusory. But actually they are relevant, now more than ever! They remind us that you cannot serve two masters: God and wealth. As long as everyone seeks to accumulate for themselves, there will never be justice. We must take heed of this! As long as everyone seeks to accumulate for themselves, there will be no justice. Instead, by entrusting ourselves to God’s providence, and seeking his Kingdom together, no one will lack the necessary means to live with dignity.

A heart troubled by the desire for possessions is a heart full of desire for possessions, but empty of God. That is why Jesus frequently warned the rich, because they greatly risk placing their security in the goods of this world, and security, the final security, is in God. In a heart possessed by wealth, there isn’t much room for faith: everything is involved with wealth, there is no room for faith. If, however, one gives God his rightful place, that is first place, then his love leads one to share even one’s wealth, to set it at the service of projects of solidarity and development, as so many examples demonstrate, even recent ones, in the history of the Church. And like this God’s Providence comes through our service to others, our sharing with others. If each of us accumulates not for ourselves alone but for the service of others, in this case, in this act of solidarity, the Providence of God is made visible. If, however, one accumulates only for oneself, what will happen when one is called by God? No one can take his riches with him, because—as you know—the shroud has no pockets! It is better to share, for we can take with us to Heaven only what we have shared with others.

The road that Jesus points out can seem a little unrealistic with respect to the common mindset and to problems due to the economic crisis; but, if we think about it, this road leads us back to the right scale of values. He says: “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Mt 6:25). In order to ensure that no one lacks bread, water, clothing, a home, work, health, we need to recognize that all people are children of the Father who is in Heaven and, therefore, brothers among us, and that we must act accordingly. I recalled this in the Message for Peace of 1 January this year: the way to peace is fraternity—this going together, sharing things with one another.

In the light of this Sunday’s Word of God, let us invoke the Virgin Mary as Mother of Divine Providence. To her we entrust our lives, the journey of the Church and all humanity. In particular, let us invoke her intercession that we may all strive to live in a simple and sober manner, keeping in mind the needs of those brothers who are most in need. 

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


* * * * *


For reflections on the Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time 

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


* * * * *

Monday, February 13, 2017

0514: Reflections on the Seventh Sunday
of Ordinary Time by Pope Francis



Entry 0514: Reflections on the Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time    
 by Pope Francis 


On one occasion during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 23 February 2014. Here are the texts of a reflection prior to the recitation of the Angelus and a homily that the Pope delivered on this occasion.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 23 February 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

In this Sunday’s second Reading, St Paul states: “Let no one boast of men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor 3:23). Why does the Apostle say this? Because the problem he is facing is that of divisions in the community of Corinth, where groups had formed around various preachers whom they considered their heads; they said: “I belong to Paul, I belong to Apollos, I belong to Cephas.” (1:12). St Paul explains that this way of thinking is mistaken, for the community does not belong to the Apostles, but rather it is they—the Apostles—who belong to the community; but the community as a whole belongs to Christ.

It follows from this belonging that, in Christian communities—dioceses, parishes, associations, movements—differences cannot contradict the fact that by our Baptism we all have the same dignity: in Jesus Christ, we are all children of God. And this is our dignity: in Jesus Christ we are children of God! Those who have received a ministry to lead, preach and administer the Sacraments should not consider themselves as possessing special powers, as masters; rather, they should place themselves at the service of the community, helping it to pursue the path of holiness with joy.

The Church today entrusts the witness of this style of pastoral life to the new cardinals, with whom I celebrated Holy Mass this morning. Let us all greet the new cardinals with an applause. Greetings to all! Yesterday’s Consistory and today’s Eucharistic celebration offer us a very valuable opportunity to experience the catholicity, the universality of the Church, which is well represented by the various backgrounds of the members of the College of Cardinals gathered in close communion around the Successor of Peter. And may the Lord also grant us the grace to work for the unity of the Church, to build this unity, because unity is more important than conflicts! The unity of the Church and of Christ; conflicts are problems that are not always from Christ.

May the liturgical and celebratory moments we have had the opportunity to experience over the course of the last two days strengthen us all in faith, and in love for Christ and his Church! I invite you to support these Pastors and to assist them by your prayer, so that they may always zealously guide the people entrusted to them by manifesting the Lord’s tenderness and love. How much prayer a bishop, a cardinal, a pope needs in order to help and lead forward the people of God! I say “help,” that is serve the People of God, for the vocation of the bishop, cardinal and pope is precisely this: to be a servant, to serve in the name of Christ. Pray for us, that we might be good servants: good servants, not good masters! All of us together, bishops, priests, consecrated people and lay faithful must offer the witness of a Church that is faithful to Christ, animated by the desire to serve the brethren, and ready to go out with prophetic courage to meet the expectations and spiritual needs of the men and women of our time. May Our Lady accompany us and protect us along this path.


HOLY MASS WITH THE NEW CARDINALS

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica, Sunday, 23 February 2014

“Merciful Father, by your help, may we be ever attentive to the voice of the Spirit” (Opening Prayer).

This prayer, the opening prayer of today’s Mass, reminds us of something fundamental: we are called to listen to the Holy Spirit who enlivens and guides the Church. By his creative and renewing power, the Spirit always sustains the hope of God’s People as we make our pilgrim way through history, and, as the Paraclete, he always supports the witness of Christians. In this moment, together with the new Cardinals, all of us want to listen to the voice of the Spirit as he speaks to us through the Scriptures we have just heard.

In the first reading, the Lord’s call to his people resounds: “You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev 19:2). In the Gospel Jesus echoes this call: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). These words challenge all of us, as the Lord’s disciples. Today, they are especially addressed to me and to you, dear brother Cardinals, and in a particular way to those of you who yesterday entered the College. Imitating the holiness and perfection of God might seem an unattainable goal. Yet, the first reading and the Gospel offer us concrete examples which enable God’s way of acting to become the norm for our own. Yet we—all of us—must never forget that without the Holy Spirit our efforts are in vain! Christian holiness is not first and foremost our own work, but the fruit of docility—willed and cultivated—to the Spirit of God thrice holy.

The Book of Leviticus says: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Lev 19:17-18). These attitudes are born of the holiness of God. We, however, tend to be so different, so selfish and proud, and yet, God’s goodness and beauty attract us, and the Holy Spirit is able to purify, transform and shape us day by day. To make effort to be converted, to experience a heartfelt conversion: this is something that all of us—especially you Cardinals and myself—must do. Conversion!

In the Gospel Jesus also speaks to us of holiness, and explains to us the new law, his law. He does this by contrasting the imperfect justice of the scribes and Pharisees with the higher justice of the Kingdom of God. The first contrast of today’s passage refers to revenge. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, if anyone should strike you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Mt 5:38-39). We are required not only to avoid repaying others the evil they have done to us, but also to seek generously to do good to them.

The second contrast refers to our enemies: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy’. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:43-44). Jesus asks those who would follow him to love those who do not deserve it, without expecting anything in return, and in this way to fill the emptiness present in human hearts, relationships, families, communities and in the entire world. My brother Cardinals, Jesus did not come to teach us good manners, how to behave well at the table! To do that, he would not have had to come down from heaven and die on the Cross. Christ came to save us, to show us the way, the only way out of the quicksand of sin, and this way of holiness is mercy, that mercy which he has shown, and daily continues to show, to us. To be a saint is not a luxury. It is necessary for the salvation of the world. This is what the Lord is asking of us.

Dear brother Cardinals, the Lord Jesus and mother Church ask us to witness with greater zeal and ardor to these ways of being holy. It is exactly in this greater self-gift, freely offered, that the holiness of a Cardinal consists. We love, therefore, those who are hostile to us; we bless those who speak ill of us; we greet with a smile those who may not deserve it. We do not aim to assert ourselves; we oppose arrogance with meekness; we forget the humiliations that we have endured. May we always allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit of Christ, who sacrificed himself on the Cross so that we could be “channels” through which his charity might flow. This is the attitude of a Cardinal, this must be how he acts. A Cardinal—I say this especially to you—enters the Church of Rome, my brothers, not a royal court. May all of us avoid, and help others to avoid, habits and ways of acting typical of a court: intrigue, gossip, cliques, favoritism and partiality. May our language be that of the Gospel: “yes when we mean yes; no when we mean no;” may our attitudes be those of the Beatitudes, and our way be that of holiness. Let pray once more: “Merciful Father, by your help, may we be ever attentive to the voice of the Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit also speaks to us today through the words of Saint Paul: “You are God’s temple, God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are” (1 Cor 3:16-17). In this temple, which we are, an existential liturgy is being celebrated: that of goodness, forgiveness, service; in a word, the liturgy of love. This temple of ours is defiled if we neglect our duties towards our neighbour. Whenever the least of our brothers and sisters finds a place in our hearts, it is God himself who finds a place there. When that brother or sister is shut out, it is God himself who is not being welcomed. A heart without love is like a deconsecrated church, a building withdrawn from God’s service and given over to another use.

Dear brother Cardinals, may we remain united in Christ and among ourselves! I ask you to remain close to me, with your prayers, your advice and your help. And I ask all of you, bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated men and women, and laity, together to implore the Holy Spirit, that the College of Cardinals may always be ever more fervent in pastoral charity and filled with holiness, in order to serve the Gospel and to help the Church radiate Christ’s love in our world. 

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


* * * * *


For reflections on the Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time 

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


* * * * *

Monday, February 6, 2017

0513: Reflections on the Sixth Sunday
of Ordinary Time by Pope Francis



Entry 0513: Reflections on the Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time    
 by Pope Francis 


On two occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 16 February 2014 and 15 February 2015. Here are the texts of the two reflections prior to the recitation of the Angelus and of two homilies delivered on these occasions.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 16 February 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

This Sunday’s Gospel continues the “Sermon on the Mount:” Jesus’ first great preaching. Today’s theme is Jesus’ attitude toward the Jewish Law. He says: “Think not that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Mt 5:17). Jesus did not want to do away with the Commandments that the Lord had given through Moses; rather, he wanted to bring them to fulfilment. He then added that this “fulfilment” of the Law requires a higher kind justice, a more authentic observance. In fact, he says to his disciples: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:20).

But what does this “fulfilment” of the Law mean? What is this superior justice? Jesus himself answers this question with a few examples. Jesus was practical and he always used examples to make himself understood, comparing the old Law with his teachings. He begins with the fifth of the Ten Commandments: “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to council” (v. 21-22). In this way, Jesus reminds us that words can kill! When we say that a person has the tongue of a snake, what does that mean? That their words kill! Not only is it wrong to take the life of another, but it is also wrong to bestow the poison of anger upon him, strike him with slander, and speak ill of him.

This brings us to gossip: gossip can also kill, because it kills the reputation of the person! It is so terrible to gossip! At first it may seem like a nice thing, even amusing, like enjoying a candy. But in the end, it fills the heart with bitterness, and even poisons us. What I am telling you is true, I am convinced that if each one of us decided to avoid gossiping, we would eventually become holy! What a beautiful path that is! Do we want to become holy? Yes or no? [The people: Yes!] Do we want to be attached to the habit of gossip? Yes or no? [The people: No!] So we agree then: no gossiping! Jesus offers the perfection of love to those who follow him: love is the only measure that has no measure, to move past judgments.

Love of neighbour is a fundamental attitude that Jesus speaks of, and he says that our relationship with God cannot be honest if we are not willing to make peace with our neighbour. He says: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (v. 23-24). Therefore we are called to reconcile with our neighbour before showing our devotion to the Lord in prayer.

In all of this we see that Jesus does not give importance simply to disciplinary compliance and exterior conduct. He goes to the Law’s roots focusing, first and foremost, on the intention and the human heart, from which our good and bad actions originate. To obtain good and honest conduct, legal rules are not enough. We need a deep motivation, an expression of a hidden wisdom, God’s wisdom, which can be received through the Holy Spirit. Through faith in Christ, we can open ourselves to the action of the Spirit which enable us to experience divine love.

In the light of Christ’s teaching, every precept reveals its full meaning as a requirement of love, and they all come together in the greatest commandment: to love God with all of your heart and to love your neighbour as yourself.


PASTORAL VISIT TO THE ROMAN PARISH
“SAN TOMMASO APOSTOLO”

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Sunday, 16 February 2014

One time, the disciples of Jesus were eating grain because they were hungry; but it was Saturday and on Saturday grain was not allowed to be eaten. Still, they picked it [rubbing his hands together] and ate the grain. And they [the Pharisees] said: “But look at what they are doing! Whoever does this breaks the Law and soils his soul, for he does not obey the Law!” And Jesus responded: “nothing that comes from without soils the soul. Only what comes from within, from your heart, can soil your soul.” And I believe that it would do us good today to think not about whether my soul is clean or dirty, but rather about what is in my heart, what do I have inside, what I know I have but no one else knows. Being honest with yourself is not easy! Because we always try to cover it up when we see something wrong inside, no? So that it doesn’t come out, don’t we? What is in our heart: is it love? Let us think: do I love my parents, my children, my wife, my husband, people in the neighborhood, the sick? Do I love? Is there hate? Do I hate someone? Often we find hatred, don’t we? “I love everyone except for this one, this one and that one!” That’s hatred, isn’t it? What is in my heart, forgiveness? Is there an attitude of forgiveness for those who have offended me, or is there an attitude of revenge—“he will pay for it!” We must ask ourselves what is within, because what is inside comes out and harms, if it is evil; and if it is good, it comes out and does good. And it is so beautiful to tell ourselves the truth, and feel ashamed when we are in a situation that is not what God wants, it is not good; when my heart feels hatred, revenge, so many situations are sinful. How is my heart?

Jesus said today, for example—I will give only one example: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘you shall not kill’. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother has killed him in his heart.” And whoever insults his brother, kills him in his heart, whoever hates his brother, kills his brother in his heart; whoever gossips against his brother, kills him in his heart. Maybe we are not conscious of it, and then we talk, “we write off” this person or that, we speak ill of this or that. And this is killing our brother. That is why it is important to know what is inside, what is happening in my heart. If one understands his brother, the people, he loves his brother, because he forgives: he understands, he forgives, he is patient. Is this love or hate? We must be sure of this. And we must ask the Lord for two graces. The first: to know what is in our own heart, not to deceive ourselves, not to live in deceit. The second grace: to do what is good in our hearts and not to do the evil that is in our hearts. And as for “killing,” remember that words can kill. Even ill-will toward another kills. Often, when we listen to people talking, saying evil things about others, it seems like the sin of slander. The sin of defamation had been removed from the Ten Commandments and yet to speak evil of a person is still a sin. Why is speaking ill of another a sin? Because there is hatred in my heart, aversion, not love. We must always ask for this grace: to know what is happening in our heart, to constantly make the right choice, the choice for good. And that the Lord help us to love one another. And if I cannot love another well, why not? Pray for that person, pray that the Lord make me love him. And like this we move forward, remembering that what taints our lives is the evil that comes from our hearts. And that the Lord can help us.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 15 February 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,

In these Sundays, Mark the Evangelist speaks to us about Jesus’ actions against every type of evil, for the benefit of those suffering in body and spirit: the possessed, the sick, sinners. Jesus presents Himself as the One who fights and conquers evil wherever He encounters it. In today’s Gospel (see Mk 1:40-45) this struggle of His confronts an emblematic case, because the sick man is a leper. Leprosy is a contagious and pitiless disease, which disfigures the person, and it was a symbol of impurity: a leper had to stay outside of inhabited centres and make his presence known to passersby. He was marginalized by the civil and religious community. He was like a deadman walking.

The episode of the healing of the leper takes place in three brief phases: the sick man’s supplication, Jesus’ response, the result of the miraculous healing. The leper beseeches Jesus, “kneeling,” and says to Him: “If you will, you can make me clean” (v. 40). Jesus responds to this humble and trusting prayer because his soul is moved to deep pity: compassion. “Compassion” is a most profound word: compassion means “to suffer-with-another.” Jesus’ heart manifests God’s paternal compassion for that man, moving close to him and touching him. And this detail is very important. Jesus “stretched out his hand and touched him. And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean” (vv. 41-42). God’s mercy overcomes every barrier and Jesus’ hand touches the leper. He does not stand at a safe distance and does not act by delegating, but places Himself in direct contact with our contagion and in precisely this way our ills become the motive for contact: He, Jesus, takes from us our diseased humanity and we take from Him his sound and healing humanity. This happens each time we receive a Sacrament with faith: the Lord Jesus “touches” us and grants us his grace. In this case we think especially of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which heals us from the leprosy of sin.

Once again the Gospel shows us what God does in the face of our ills: God does not come to “give a lesson” on pain; neither does He come to eliminate suffering and death from the world; but rather, He comes to take upon Himself the burden of our human condition and carries it to the end, to free us in a radical and definitive way. This is how Christ fights the world’s maladies and suffering: by taking them upon Himself and conquering them with the power of God’s mercy.

The Gospel of the healing of the leper tells us today that, if we want to be true disciples of Jesus, we are called to become, united to Him, instruments of his merciful love, overcoming every kind of marginalization. In order to be “imitators of Christ” (see 1 Cor 11:1) in the face of a poor or sick person, we must not be afraid to look him in the eye and to draw near with tenderness and compassion, and to touch him and embrace him. I have often asked this of people who help others, to do so looking them in the eye, not to be afraid to touch them; that this gesture of help may also be a gesture of communication: we too need to be welcomed by them. A gesture of tenderness, a gesture of compassion. Let us ask you: when you help others, do you look them in the eye? Do you embrace them without being afraid to touch them? Do you embrace them with tenderness? Think about this: how do you help? From a distance or with tenderness, with closeness? If evil is contagious, so is goodness. Therefore, there needs to be ever more abundant goodness in us. Let us be infected by goodness and let us spread goodness!


HOLY MASS WITH THE NEW CARDINALS

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica, Sunday, 15 February 2015

“Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out his hand and touched him, and said: “I do choose. Be made clean!” (Mk 1:40-41). The compassion of Jesus! That com-passion which made him draw near to every person in pain! Jesus does not hold back; instead, he gets involved in people’s pain and their need, for the simple reason that he knows and wants to show com-passion, because he has a heart unashamed to have “compassion.”

“Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed in the country; and people came to him from every quarter” (Mk 1:45). This means that Jesus not only healed the leper but also took upon himself the marginalization enjoined by the law of Moses (see Lev 13:1-2, 45-46). Jesus is unafraid to risk sharing in the suffering of others; he pays the price of it in full (see Is 53:4).

Compassion leads Jesus to concrete action: he reinstates the marginalized! These are the three key concepts that the Church proposes in today’s liturgy of the word: the compassion of Jesus in the face of marginalization and his desire to reinstate.

Marginalization: Moses, in his legislation regarding lepers, says that they are to be kept alone and apart from the community for the duration of their illness. He declares them: “unclean!” (see Lev 13:1-2, 45-46).

Imagine how much suffering and shame lepers must have felt: physically, socially, psychologically and spiritually! They are not only victims of disease, but they feel guilty about it, punished for their sins! Theirs is a living death; they are like someone whose father has spit in his face (see Num 12:14).

In addition, lepers inspire fear, contempt and loathing, and so they are abandoned by their families, shunned by other persons, cast out by society. Indeed, society rejects them and forces them to live apart from the healthy. It excludes them. So much so that if a healthy person approached a leper, he would be punished severely, and often be treated as a leper himself.

True, the purpose of this rule was “to safeguard the healthy,” “to protect the righteous,” and, in order to guard them from any risk, to eliminate “the peril” by treating the diseased person harshly. As the high priest Caiaphas exclaimed: “It is better to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed” (Jn 11:50).

Reinstatement: Jesus revolutionizes and upsets that fearful, narrow and prejudiced mentality. He does not abolish the law of Moses, but rather brings it to fulfillment (see Mt 5:17). He does so by stating, for example, that the law of retaliation is counterproductive, that God is not pleased by a Sabbath observance which demeans or condemns a man. He does so by refusing to condemn the sinful woman, but saves her from the blind zeal of those prepared to stone her ruthlessly in the belief that they were applying the law of Moses. Jesus also revolutionizes consciences in the Sermon on the Mount (see Mt 5), opening new horizons for humanity and fully revealing God’s “logic.” The logic of love, based not on fear but on freedom and charity, on healthy zeal and the saving will of God. For “God our Savior desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:3-4). “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Mt 12:7; Hos 6:6).

Jesus, the new Moses, wanted to heal the leper. He wanted to touch him and restore him to the community without being “hemmed in” by prejudice, conformity to the prevailing mindset or worry about becoming infected. Jesus responds immediately to the leper’s plea, without waiting to study the situation and all its possible consequences! For Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family! And this is scandalous to some people!

Jesus is not afraid of this kind of scandal! He does not think of the closed-minded who are scandalized even by a work of healing, scandalized before any kind of openness, by any action outside of their mental and spiritual boxes, by any caress or sign of tenderness which does not fit into their usual thinking and their ritual purity. He wanted to reinstate the outcast, to save those outside the camp (see Jn 10).

There are two ways of thinking and of having faith: we can fear to lose the saved and we can want to save the lost. Even today it can happen that we stand at the crossroads of these two ways of thinking. The thinking of the doctors of the law, which would remove the danger by casting out the diseased person, and the thinking of God, who in his mercy embraces and accepts by reinstating him and turning evil into good, condemnation into salvation and exclusion into proclamation.

These two ways of thinking are present throughout the Church’s history: casting off and reinstating. Saint Paul, following the Lord’s command to bring the Gospel message to the ends of the earth (see Mt 28:19), caused scandal and met powerful resistance and great hostility, especially from those who demanded unconditional obedience to the Mosaic law, even on the part of converted pagans. Saint Peter, too, was bitterly criticized by the community when he entered the house of the pagan centurion Cornelius (see Acts 10).

The Church’s way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement. This does not mean underestimating the dangers of letting wolves into the fold, but welcoming the repentant prodigal son; healing the wounds of sin with courage and determination; rolling up our sleeves and not standing by and watching passively the suffering of the world. The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for eternity; to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart. The way of the Church is precisely to leave her four walls behind and to go out in search of those who are distant, those essentially on the “outskirts” of life. It is to adopt fully God’s own approach, to follow the Master who said: “Those who are well have no need of the physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call, not the righteous but sinners” (Lk 5:31-32).

In healing the leper, Jesus does not harm the healthy. Rather, he frees them from fear. He does not endanger them, but gives them a brother. He does not devalue the law but instead values those for whom God gave the law. Indeed, Jesus frees the healthy from the temptation of the “older brother” (see Lk 15:11-32), the burden of envy and the grumbling of the laborers who bore “the burden of the day and the heat” (see Mt 20:1-16).

In a word: charity cannot be neutral, antiseptic, indifferent, lukewarm or impartial! Charity is infectious, it excites, it risks and it engages! For true charity is always unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous! (see 1 Cor 13). Charity is creative in finding the right words to speak to all those considered incurable and hence untouchable. Finding the right words: Contact is the language of genuine communication, the same endearing language which brought healing to the leper. How many healings can we perform if only we learn this language of contact! The leper, once cured, became a messenger of God’s love. The Gospel tells us that “he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the word” (see Mk 1:45).

Dear new Cardinals, this is the “logic,” the mind of Jesus, and this is the way of the Church. Not only to welcome and reinstate with evangelical courage all those who knock at our door, but to go out and seek, fearlessly and without prejudice, those who are distant, freely sharing what we ourselves freely received. “Whoever says: ‘I abide in [Christ]’, ought to walk just as he walked” (1 Jn 2:6). Total openness to serving others is our hallmark, it alone is our title of honor!

Consider carefully that, in these days when you have become Cardinals, we have asked Mary, Mother of the Church, who herself experienced marginalization as a result of slander (see Jn 8:41) and exile (see Mt 2:13-23), to intercede for us so that we can be God’s faithful servants. May she—our Mother—teach us to be unafraid of tenderly welcoming the outcast; not to be afraid of tenderness. How often we fear tenderness! May Mary teach us not to be afraid of tenderness and compassion. May she clothe us in patience as we seek to accompany them on their journey, without seeking the benefits of worldly success. May she show us Jesus and help us to walk in his footsteps.

Dear new Cardinals, my brothers, as we look to Jesus and our Mother, I urge you to serve the Church in such a way that Christians—edified by our witness—will not be tempted to turn to Jesus without turning to the outcast, to become a closed caste with nothing authentically ecclesial about it. I urge you to serve Jesus crucified in every person who is emarginated, for whatever reason; to see the Lord in every excluded person who is hungry, thirsty, naked; to see the Lord present even in those who have lost their faith, or turned away from the practice of their faith, or say that they are atheists; to see the Lord who is imprisoned, sick, unemployed, persecuted; to see the Lord in the leper—whether in body or soul—who encounters discrimination! We will not find the Lord unless we truly accept the marginalized! May we always have before us the image of Saint Francis, who was unafraid to embrace the leper and to accept every kind of outcast. Truly, dear brothers, the Gospel of the marginalized is where our credibility is at stake, is discovered and is revealed! 

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For reflections on the Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time 

 by Pope Benedict XVI,
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