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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 (Updated 18 August 2017) 

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



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 25 August 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

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

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

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

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

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



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 24 August 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,

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

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

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

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

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

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



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 23 August 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

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

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

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

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

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



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 21 August 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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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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