Do we wander aimlessly in our lives without moving forward or are we walking on the path toward the promises of God? Pope Francis posed this question during his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning. The Holy Father reflected on three types of Christians: those who trust in the promises of God and follow Him throughout their lives, those whose life of faith is stagnant, and others who lives an “existential tourism.” Recalling the first reading from Isaiah, the Pope noted that God always makes a promise, a promise of a new life full of joy, before asking anything. The essence of Christian life is to walk toward that promise. However, many times there exists the “temptation to stand still.” “There are many Christians who stand still!” he exclaimed. “We have so many behind who have a weak hope. Yes, they believe that there will be Heaven and everything will go well. It’s good that they believe, but they do not look for it! They fulfill the commandments, the precepts: everything, everything….But they are standing still.” “The Lord cannot make of them a leaven in his people, because they do not walk. And this is a problem: those who stand still. Then, there are others among them and us, who go the wrong way: we all sometimes have gone the wrong way, that we know. The problem is not going the wrong way; the problem is not turning back when one realizes that they have made a mistake.” Focusing on the Gospel of St. John, the Holy Father stated that the royal official who does not doubt Christ’s power to heal his son, is the model of faith that all Christians should follow. But, also there are some who deceive themselves into thinking they are on the right path but are actually wandering. “They are the wandering Christians, they wander around, wander around as if life was an existential tourism, without a goal, without taking the promises seriously. Those who wander around deceive themselves, because they say: ‘I walk!’. "No, you don’t walk: you wander,” he said. “Instead, the Lord asks us to not stop, to not go the wrong way and to not run around your whole life. To wander around your whole life. He asks us to guard the promises, to go forward with the promises like this man, like this man: that man who believed the word of Jesus! Faith puts us on the path toward the promises. Faith in the promises of God.” Concluding his homily, Pope Francis invited the faithful to take advantage of the Lenten season, a time to reflect on whether one is on the right path or wandering. “Let us ask the Lord for the grace to go on the path, to go on the way, but toward the promises,” he concluded.
Pope Francis continued his catechetical series on the Sacraments, reflecting on the Sacrament of Holy Orders, during his weekly General Audience today in St. Peter’s Square. This, along with Marriage, he said, correspond to two vocations, through which Christians “can make of their life a gift of love, in the example and name of Christ.” Holy Orders, marked in three degrees of episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate, is the Sacrament which enables the exercise of ministry from the Lord Jesus to the Apostles, "to shepherd his flock in the power of his Spirit, according to his heart,” the Pope said. “In this sense, the ministers who are chosen and consecrated this service to prolong in time the presence and action of the one true Master and Shepherd, who is Christ.” The Pope focused on three aspects that highlight the presence of Christ in the community, the first of which is the minister as the head of the community. Emphasizing the example set by Jesus, the Holy Father said that this aspect means placing one’s authority at the service of others. The second characteristic of a minister is what the Pope described as a “sacramental union with Christ and the passionate love for the Church.” In virtue of the Holy Orders, the minister dedicates his whole self to the community and loves it with his whole heart: it is his family. The bishops, the priest, love the Church in their community and love it strongly. How? Like Christ loved the Church.” Comparing it to the Sacrament of Marriage, the Pope said that are both signs of the great mystery of love that brings one along the path towards the Lord. The final aspect the Holy Father reflected on was to always rekindle the gift that is always in him (the minister). The 77 year old Pontiff stressed the need for those in ordained ministry to be nourished by prayer, the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. “A bishop that does not pray, the bishop that does not hear and listen to the Word of God, that does not celebrate everyday, that does not confess regularly, the same goes for a priest who does not do these things, will lose in the long run the union with Jesus. They become a mediocrity that is not good for the Church,” he said. The Pope called on the faithful to help their priests and bishops to pray and listen to the Word of God, which he called their “daily meal.” Concluding his address, Pope Francis invited those present to contemplate their vocation and to take care if one feels the calling to the priesthood. “What must one do to become a priest?” he asked. “Tickets to enter are not sold, it is an initiative that is taken by the Lord. The Lord calls: He calls each one who wants to be a priest, and maybe there are some young men here, that have felt this call in their heart.” “If one of you have felt this in your heart, it is Jesus who has placed it there! Take care of this invitation and pray that it may grow and give fruit in the whole Church.”
A humble heart, like that of Mary, is what is required to obtain salvation. Pope Francis emphasized this during his homily at Casa Santa Marta today, the Solemnity of the Annunciation. Through her obedience, Mary loosened the knot of disobedience, caused by the pride of Adam and Eve that led them to disobey God. The Holy Father said that while sin entered among mankind, through “another man comes salvation.” “This very long road will help all of us to have a more human heart, closer to God, not so proud, not so self-sufficient,” he said. "This road of recovery occurs in stages, a road of obedience and humility that leads to salvation." “Salvation cannot be bought or sold: it’s a gift,” he said. “It’s given to us, it’s free. We can’t be saved through ourselves: Salvation is a totally free gift. It’s not bought through the blood of bulls or goats. It can’t be bought. But in order to receive this salvation, we need a humble heart, a meek heart, an obedient heart. Like that of Mary. And the model for this road towards salvation is the same God, his Son, who didn’t consider being equal to God an advantage which cannot be abandoned. Paul said this.” Inviting the faithful to follow this road of humility, the Pope said that through the blood of his son, who “became like one of us”, we are saved. Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to look at the history of Adam, Eve, Mary and Jesus, a road distinguished by the presence of God “who walks alongside his people.” “Let’s say: ‘Thank you. Thank you Lord because today you told us that you have given us salvation.’ Today is a day to give thanks to the Lord,” the Pope said.
Christian humility is telling the truth: ‘I am a sinner’. This was the theme of Pope Francis homily this morning at Casa Santa Marta. The Holy Father reflected on today’s Gospel from St. Luke. In the Gospel, Jesus addressed the citizens of his hometown of Nazareth, saying: “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.” Christ gives the example of the healing of the leper Naaman and the encounter of Elijah with the widow of Zarephath, two figures who accepted the prophets despite being outcasts. “Lepers and widows in those days were the outcasts of society,” he said. “And yet, these two outcasts, welcomed the prophets and were saved, while the people of Nazareth did not accept Jesus because they felt so strong in their faith, so sure of their faithful observance of the Commandments, they felt they had no need for other salvation”. Jesus, he explained, calls on worshippers at the synagogue that those who do not place themselves in the margins will not obtain salvation. “This is humility, the path of humility: to feel so marginalized that we need the Salvation of the Lord. He alone saves us, not our observance of the law. And they did not like this; they were angry and wanted to kill him.” Drawing from the example of Naaman, who was angered at first when asked to wash himself 7 times in the Jordan, the Pope said that the Lord invites us in this season of Lent to choose the path of humility if we want to be healed. "In her Canticle, Mary does not say she is happy because God was looking to her virginity, to her kindness or to her sweetness – all of them virtues that she possessed,” he said. “No, because the Lord was looking to her humility, the humility of His servant, her smallness. This is what the Lord looks for. And we must take heed of this wisdom and put ourselves on the margins so that the Lord may find us. He will not find us at the center of our certainties. That is not where the Lord looks. He will find us on the margins, in our sins, in our mistakes, in our need for spiritual healing, for salvation; that is where the Lord will find us.” Concluding his homily, Pope Francis told the faithful that Christian humility is not the virtue of saying ‘I am not important’, but rather the virtue of recognizing oneself as a sinner. “This is our truth,” he said. “But there is another truth: God saves us. He saves us when we are on the margins; He does not save us in our certainties. Let us ask for the grace of having the wisdom to put ourselves on the margins, for the grace of humility, so that we may receive the Lord’s Salvation.”
Humility and prayer are the two attitudes necessary to not twist the Word of God according to our own interests and desires. This was the central theme of Pope Francis’ homily this morning at Casa Santa Marta. The Holy Father based his homily on the Gospel according to Matthew, which recalled Jesus parable’ of murderous tenants who kill their landowner’s son in order to rob his inheritance. The Pope said that the parable was directed to the Pharisees to show where “they had fallen into for not have their hearts opened to the Word of God.” “They had taken over the Word of God,” he explained. “And the Word of God had become their word, a word according to their interests, their ideology, their theology...at their service. And each one interprets it according to their will, according to their own interests. This is the drama of these people. And to preserve this, they kill. This happened to Jesus.” When the Pharisees fell into this line of interpretation of the Word of God, the Pope continued, it is difficult for the Holy Spirit to act. The Holy Spirit is essentially “trapped in the desires of each one of them.” The Holy Father warned that we can do the same when we are not obedient to the Word of God. “But there is a word that gives us hope. The Word of God is dead in the hearts of these people; it can also die in our hearts! But it doesn’t end, because it is alive in the hearts of the simple, of the humble, of the people of God,” he said. “[The Pharisees] sought to capture him, but they feared the crowd of the people of God, because they considered him a prophet. That simple crowd - that followed behind Jesus, because that which Jesus said did good in their hearts, it warmed their hearts - these people were not mistaken: they did not use the Word of God for their own interests, they felt and looked to be a bit better.” Concluding his homily, Pope Francis highlighted two essential attitudes in order to understand and obey the Word of God: humility and prayer. “[The Pharisees] people did not pray. They had no need to pray. They felt secure, they felt strong, they felt like ‘gods’,” he noted. “With humility and prayer, we go forward to listen to the Word of God and obey it. In the Church. Humility and prayer in the Church. And so, what happened to these people will not happen to us: we will not kill to defend the Word of God, that Word which we believe is the World of God, but it is a word that is totally altered by us.”
Those who trust in themselves, in others and in their riches will ultimately lose their identity and dignity as a human. This was the theme of Pope Francis’ homily this morning at Casa Santa Marta. “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, but stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth,” the first reading from the prophet Jeremiah stated. The Holy Father began his homily by contemplating on this passage from the Scripture, saying that a person who trusts only in those things is closed, without any hope of salvation. This is evidenced in the Gospel of Luke, which recalls Jesus’ parable of Lazarus. The Pope noted that while Lazarus has a name, the rich man does not. “And this is the strongest curse of those who trust in themselves or in their strengths, in the possibilities of men and not in God: to lose their name? What is your name? This account number, in that bank. What is your name? This many properties, this many houses, this many...What is your name? The things we have, the idols,” the Pope said. A person’s trust in material goods, he went on to say, is what curses them. “We all have this weakness, this frailty of placing our hopes in ourselves or in friends or only in human possibilities and we forget the Lord. And this takes us on the path of unhappiness.” The Holy Father called on the faithful to take this time of Lent to reflect on where their trust is truly place. If one does realize that their trust is not in the Lord, there is hope. "Always in the end, there is a possibility," he said. "And this man, when he realized that he lost his name, he lost everything, everything, he raises his eyes and says one word: ‘Father’. And the answer of God is one word: ‘Son!’,” he said. “If some of us in life, after placing so much trust in man and in ourselves, end up losing our name, losing this dignity, there is still the possibility to say this word that is more than magic. It is more, it is strong: ‘Father’. He always waits for us to open a door that we do not see and will say to us: ‘Son’. Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to ask for the grace to trust solely in God and not on human strength
In his homily at Casa Santa Marta today, Pope Francis reflected on the Lenten season, calling it a time “to adjust one’s life.” The first reading from the prophet Isaiah calls to conversion the “princes of Sodom” and “the people of Gomorrah," a calling, the Holy Father noted, that urges us to “change our lives” and to look after the “good of our souls.” The Lord, he continued, is waiting for us to come close to him and forgive us. The Gospel, however, recalled Christ’s warning to not follow the example of hypocrites who do not practice what they preach. “What do the hypocrites do? They wear masks, they put on the make-up of good [people]: they look holy, they pray looking towards heaven, making themselves be seen, they feel more righteous than others, they despise the others,” the Pope said. “‘But - they say - I am very Catholic, because my uncle was a great benefactor, my family was and I [...] know this bishop, that cardinal, this priest...I am...’ They think themselves better than others. This is hypocrisy. The Lord says: ‘No, not that’. No one is righteous by himself. We all have the need to be justified. And the only one who justifies us is Jesus Christ.” The Pope called on the faithful to be close to the Lord in order to avoid becoming hypocrites. The way to do this, he said, is highlighted in the first reading. "'Redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.' Care for your neighbour: the sick, the poor, those in need, those ignored. This is the touchstone. The hypocrites do not know how to do this, they can’t, because they are so full of themselves that they are blind to looking at others. When one walks a bit and comes close to the Lord, the light of the Lord makes them see these things and they go to help the brothers. This is the sign, this is the sign of conversion.” Concluding his homily, the Holy Father encouraged those present to live the Lenten season as a time to change one’s life and come close to the Lord. Those who are far from the Him, he said, live in hypocrisy. “The hypocrite has no need for the Lord, he is saved by himself, so he thinks, and disguises himself as a saint,” the Holy Father said. “The sign that we are close to the Lord is with penance, asking forgiveness, and that we take care of our brothers in need. May the Lord give us all light and courage: light to know what is going on within us and courage to convert, to come close to the Lord. It is beautiful to be close to the Lord.”
“Merciful men and women have an open heart," Pope Francis said in his homily today at Casa Santa Marta. "They always excuse the other and think of their own sins.” The Holy Father reflected on today’s Gospel of St. Luke, which recounts Jesus’ call to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” The Pope said that his attitude is difficult since many times we are accustomed to judge others. “To be merciful, two attitudes are necessary,” he said. The first is the knowledge of oneself: to know that we have done many things that are not good, that we are sinners.” This, he continued, is only possible if we truly feel ashamed of our sins.” “It is true, none of us have killed anyone, but [there are] many little things, many daily sins, of everyday… And when one thinks: ‘But what, what a small heart: I did this against the Lord! It is to be ashamed! To be ashamed before God and this shame is grace: it is the grace of being a sinner. ‘I am a sinner and I am ashamed before You and I ask You for forgiveness.’ It is simple, but it is difficult to say: ‘I have sinned.” The Holy Father went on to say that many times, we justify ourselves by laying the blame on others. If one, instead, is truly repentant, one can give the same mercy that is received. The second attitude in order to be merciful, the Pope continued, is the need to open one’s heart. A small heart, he said, “is selfish and incapable of mercy.” “Open your heart! ‘But I am a sinner.’ ‘But look at what this person did, or that person...I haven’t done so much!’”, he said. “‘Who am I to judge him?’ This phrase: ‘Who am I to judge? Who am I to gossip on that one? Who am I to…? Who am I that has done the same or worse? An open heart!” “And the Lord says it: ‘Do not judge lest you be judged! Do not condemn and you will not be condemned! Forgive and you will be forgiven? Give and you shall be given!’ This is generosity of heart! And what will be given to you? A good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. And the image of the people who would go to collect wheat with an apron and would widen the apron to receive more, more grain. If your heart is wide, large, you can receive more.” Concluding his homily, Pope Francis invited the faithful present to widen their hearts, explaining that an open heart does not condemn, but rather, forgives and forgets. “This is the path of mercy that we should ask for,” he said. But if all of us, if all the people, persons, families, neighbourhoods, had this attitude, how much peace would there be in the world, this peace in our hearts! Because mercy brings us to peace. Always remember: ‘Who am I to judge?’ To be ashamed and to widen your heart. May the Lord give us this grace.”
Pope Francis has advised the faithful to read part of the Gospel every day so they can listen to Jesus at all times. In his Angelus address on the second Sunday of Lent, the Holy Father reflected upon the Transfiguration of Christ and urged the faithful this week to “listen to Jesus”. “We, as Jesus' disciples, are called upon to be people who listen to His voice and take His words seriously,” he said. “To listen to Jesus, we need to be near to Him, to follow Him, as did the crowds in the Gospel who ran after him through the streets of Palestine.” But, he added, we also listen to Jesus in his written Word, in the Gospel. “Let me ask you a question: do you read a passage from the Gospel every day? Yes, no, yes, no, so-so. But it is important. It is a good idea to have a small Gospel, a pocket-sized Gospel that you can carry around with you, and to read a short passage from it at any time of the day,” he said. “At any time in the day I take the Gospel out of my pocket and read a little something, a short passage. There we find Jesus, Who speaks to us, in the Gospel! Think about this. It is not difficult, and it is not even necessary to have all four of them: we can carry just one of the Gospels, a little copy, with us at all times. Let us always keep the Gospel with us, because it is the Word of Jesus, so that we can listen to Him at all times.” The Pope said that, in order to share the Word of the Lord, we must learn to “ascend” in prayer and “descend” with fraternal charity, and he emphasised that this is a mission that involves the entire Church, all baptised persons. “In this episode of the Transfiguration, I would like to comment on two significant elements that can be summarised in two words – ascent and descent”, he said. “We need to take time out to climb the mountain in silent space, to find ourselves and to better hear the voice of the Lord. We do this in prayer. But we cannot remain there! The encounter with God in prayer inspires us to go back down the mountain, onto the plain, where we meet many brothers and sisters who are weighed down by fatigue, injustice, ignorance and poverty, both material and spiritual. “We must bring to these brothers of ours who are in difficulty the fruits of our experience with God, sharing the grace we have received. And this is curious,” he said. “When we hear the Word of Jesus, when we listen to the Word of Jesus and commit it to our hearts, that Word grows. And do you know how we make it grow? By giving it to others! The Word of Christ grows in us when we proclaim it, when we give it to others. And this is Christian life”. Finally, the Holy Father asked all those present to turn to the Mother of God and our Mother, invoking her guidance in our Lenten journey
This is a modest effort at a "blog" my attempt to offer some brief reflections each day that come from various sources that I find interesting - primarily the daily reflections of Pope Francis as found on Zenit and Rome Reports. Fr. John