POPE FRANCIS ON THE 3RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
St. Peter’s Basilica
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, 22 January 2023
Jesus leaves the quiet and hidden life of Nazareth and moves to Capernaum, a port city located along the Sea of Galilee, at the crossroads of different peoples and cultures. The urgency that impels him is the proclamation of the Word of God, which must be brought to everyone. Indeed, we see in the Gospel that the Lord invites all to conversion and calls the first disciples so that they may also spread the light of the Word to others (cf. Mt 4:12-23). Let us appreciate this dynamism, which will help us live out the Sunday of the Word of God: the Word is for everyone, the Word calls everyone to conversion, the Word makes us heralds.
The Word of God is for everyone. The Gospel presents us with Jesus always on the move, on his way to others. On no occasion in his public life does he give us the idea that he is a stationary teacher, a professor seated on a chair; on the contrary, we see him as an itinerant, we see him as a pilgrim, travelling through towns and villages, encountering faces and their stories. His feet are those of the messenger announcing the good news of God’s love (cf. Is 52:7-8). In Galilee of the Gentiles, on the sea route, beyond the Jordan, where Jesus preaches, there was – the text notes – a people plunged into darkness: foreigners, pagans, women and men from various regions and cultures (cf. Mt 4:15-16). Now they too can see the light. And so Jesus “enlarges the boundaries”: the Word of God, which heals and raises up, is not only destined for the righteous of Israel, but for all; he wants to reach those far away, he wants to heal the sick, he wants to save sinners, he wants to gather the lost sheep and lift up those whose hearts are weary and oppressed. In short, Jesus ‘reaches out’ to tell us that God’s mercy is for everyone. Let us not forget this: God’s mercy is for everyone, for each one of us. Each person can say, “God’s mercy is for me”.
This aspect is fundamental also for us. It reminds us that the Word is a gift addressed to everyone; therefore we can never restrict its field of action, for beyond all our calculations, it springs forth in a spontaneous, unforeseen and unpredictable way (cf. Mk 4:26-28), in the ways and times that the Holy Spirit knows. Moreover, if salvation is destined for all, even the most distant and lost, then the proclamation of the Word must become the main priority of the ecclesial community, as it was for Jesus. May it not happen that we profess a God with an expansive heart, yet become a Church with a closed heart – this, I dare say, would be a curse; may it not happen that we preach salvation for all, yet make the way to receive it impractical; may it not happen that we recognize we are called to proclaim the Kingdom, yet neglect the Word, losing ourselves in so many secondary activities or discussions. Let us learn from Jesus to put the Word at the centre, to enlarge our boundaries, to open ourselves up to people, and to foster experiences of encounter with the Lord, realizing that the Word of God “is not encased in abstract or static formulas, but has a dynamic power in history which is made up of persons and events, words and actions, developments and tensions”. 
Let us now come to the second aspect: the Word of God, which is addressed to all, calls everyone to conversion. In fact, Jesus repeats in his preaching: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 4:17). This means that God’s nearness is not inconsequential, his presence does not leave things as they are, it does not advocate a quiet life. On the contrary, his Word shakes us, disturbs us, incites us to change, to conversion. It throws us into crisis because it “is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). Like a sword, the Word penetrates life, enabling us to discern the feelings and thoughts of the heart, that is, making us see where the light of goodness is to be afforded room and where, instead, the thick darkness of vices and sins is to be resisted. When it enters us, the Word transforms our hearts and minds; it changes us and leads us to direct our lives to the Lord.
Here is Jesus’ invitation: God has come close to you; recognize his presence, make room for his Word, and you will change your outlook on life. I can also put it like this: place your life under the Word of God. This is the path the Church shows us. All of us, even the pastors of the Church, are under the authority of the Word of God. Not under our own tastes, tendencies and preferences, but under the one Word of God that moulds us, converts us and calls us to be united in the one Church of Christ. So, brothers and sisters, we can ask ourselves: Where does my life find direction, from where does it draw its orientation? From the many “words” I hear, from ideologies, or from the Word of God that guides and purifies me? What are the aspects in me that require change and conversion?
Finally – the third step – the Word of God, which is addressed to everyone and calls us to conversion, makes us heralds. Indeed, Jesus walks along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and calls Simon and Andrew, two brothers who were fishermen. With his Word he invites them to follow him, telling them that he will make them “fishers of men” (Mt. 4,19): no longer just experts in boats, nets and fish, but experts in seeking others. And just as in sailing and fishing they had learned to leave the shore and cast their nets into the deep, in the same way they would become apostles capable of sailing upon the open seas of the world, of going out to meet their brothers and sisters and proclaiming the joy of the Gospel. This is the dynamism of the Word: it draws us into the “net” of the Father’s love and makes us apostles moved by an unquenchable desire to bring all those we encounter into the barque of the Kingdom. This is not proselytism because it is the Word of God that calls us, not our own word.
Today let us also hear the invitation to be fishers of men: let us feel that we are called by Jesus in person to proclaim his Word, to bear witness to it in everyday life, to live it in justice and charity, called to “give it flesh” by tenderly caring for those who suffer. This is our mission: to become seekers of the lost, oppressed and discouraged, not to bring them ourselves, but the consolation of the Word, the disruptive proclamation of God that transforms life, to bring the joy of knowing that He is our Father and addresses each one of us, to bring the beauty of saying, “Brother, sister, God has come close to you, listen and you will find in his Word an amazing gift!”
Brothers and sisters, I would like to conclude by simply thanking those who work to make sure that the Word of God is shared, proclaimed and put at the centre of our lives. Thank you to those who study and delve into the riches of the Word. Thank you to the pastoral workers and to all Christians engaged in the work of listening to and spreading the Word, especially lectors and catechists. Today I will confer these ministries on some of you. Thank you to those who have accepted the many invitations I have made to take the Gospel with them everywhere and to read it every day. And finally, I especially thank our deacons and priests. Thank you dear brothers, for you do not let God’s holy people be deprived of the nourishment of the Word. Thank you for committing yourselves to meditating on it, living it and proclaiming it. Thank you for your service and your sacrifices. May the sweet joy of proclaiming the Word of salvation be a consolation and reward for all of us.
Saint Peter’s Square
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, 22 January 2023
Dear brothers and sisters, buongiorno!
The Gospel from today’s liturgy (Mt 4:12-23) narrates the call of the first disciples who, along the lake of Galilee leave everything to follow Jesus. He had already met some of them, thanks to John the Baptist, and God had placed the seed of faith within them (cf. Jn 1:35-39). So now, Jesus goes back to look for them where they live and work. The Lord always looks for us. The Lord always draws near to us, always. This time, he extends a direct call to them: “Follow me!” (Mt 4:19). And “immediately they left their nets and followed him” (v. 20). Let’s take a moment to reflect on this scene. This is the moment of a decisive encounter with Jesus, one they would remember their entire lives and would be included in the Gospel. From then on, they follow Jesus. And in order to follow him, they leave.
To leave so as to follow. And it is always like this with Jesus. It can begin in some way with a sense of attraction, perhaps due to others. Then the awareness can become more personal and can kindle a light in the heart. It becomes something beautiful to share: “You know, that passage from the Gospel struck me…. That service opportunity I had struck me…” – something that touches your heart. This is what happened with the first disciples (cf. Jn 1:40-42). But sooner or later, the moment comes in which it is necessary to leave so as to follow (cf. Lk 11:27-28). That is when it is necessary to make a decision: Shall I leave behind some certainties and embark on a new adventure, or shall I remain like I am? This is a decisive moment for every Christian because the meaning of everything else is at stake here. If someone does not find the courage to set out on the journey, the risk is to remain a spectator of one’s own existence and to live the faith halfway.
To stay with Jesus, therefore, requires the courage to leave, to set out on the journey. What must we leave behind? Our vices and our sins, certainly, which are like anchors that hold us at bay and prevent us from setting sail. To begin to leave, it is only right that we begin by asking forgiveness – forgiveness for the things that are not beautiful. I leave these things behind to move forward. But it is also necessary to leave behind what holds us back from living fully, for example, fear, selfish calculations, the guarantees that come from staying safe, just getting by. It also means giving up the time wasted on so many useless things. How beautiful it would be to leave all this in order to experience, for example, the tiring but rewarding risk of service, or to dedicate time to prayer so as to grow in friendship with the Lord. I am also thinking of a young family who leaves behind a quiet life to open themselves up to the unpredictable and beautiful adventure of motherhood and fatherhood. It is a sacrifice, but all it takes is one look at a child to understand that it was the right choice to leave behind certain rhythms and comforts to have this joy. I am also thinking, of certain professionals, for example, doctors or healthcare workers, who give up a lot of free time to study and prepare themselves, and who do good, dedicating many hours day and night, and spend so much physical and mental energy for the sick. I think of workers who leave behind convenience, who let go of doing nothing so as to put food on the table. In short, to live life, we need to accept the challenge to leave. Today, Jesus extends this invitation to each of us.
So, I leave you with a question about this. First of all: Can I remember a “strong moment” in which I have already encountered Jesus? Each of us can recall our own story – in my life, has there been a significant moment when I encountered Jesus? And, is there something beautiful and significant that happened in my life because of which I left other less important things? And today, is there something Jesus asks me to give up? What are the material things, ways of thinking, attitudes I need to leave behind so as to truly say “yes”? May Mary help us to respond with a total “yes” to God, like she did, to know what to leave behind so as to follow him better. Do not be afraid to leave if it is to follow Jesus. We will always find that we are better.
Source: https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/angelus/2023/documents/20230122-angelus.html Emphasis mine.
Saint Peter’s Square
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, 26 January 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today’s Gospel (cf. Mt 4:12-23) presents us with the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. This occurred in Galilee, a land on the periphery of Jerusalem that was looked upon with suspicion because the population was mixed with Gentiles. Nothing good and new was expected from that region. However, it was precisely there that Jesus, who had grown up in Nazareth in Galilee, began his preaching.
He proclaimed the central core of his teaching in his condensed appeal: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (v. 17). This announcement is like a powerful ray of light that pierces the darkness and splits the fog and evokes the prophecy of Isaiah that is read on Christmas Eve: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined” (Is 9:2). With the coming of Jesus, Light of the world, God the Father showed his closeness and friendship to humanity. These [gifts] are freely given to us regardless of our merits. Closeness to God and friendship with God, are not deserved but gifts freely given by God. We must safeguard these gifts.
The appeal to conversion that Jesus addresses to all men and women of good will is fully understood, precisely in view of the event of the manifestation of the Son of God, on which we meditated on recent Sundays. It is often impossible to change life, to abandon the path of egotism, of evil, to abandon the way of sin because we centre our commitment to conversion only on ourselves and on our strengths, and not on Christ and his Spirit. However, our adherence to the Lord cannot be reduced to a personal effort, no. To think this would also be a sin of pride. Our adherence to the Lord cannot be reduced to a personal effort. Instead, it must express itself in a trusting opening of the heart and of the mind in order to welcome the Good News of Jesus. This is — the Word of Jesus, the Good News of Jesus, the Gospel — that changes the world and hearts! We are thus called to trust Christ’s Word, to open ourselves to the Father’s mercy and to allow ourselves to be transformed by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
This is where a true journey of conversion begins. Just as occurred to the first disciples: the encounter with the divine Teacher, with his gaze, with his Word spurred them to follow him, to change their lives by placing themselves concretely at the service of the Kingdom of God.
The surprising and decisive encounter with Jesus began the disciples’ journey, transforming them into proclaimers and witnesses of God’s love for his people. May each of us follow in the footsteps of the Saviour to offer hope to those who thirst for it, imitating these first heralds and messengers of the Word of God.
May the Virgin Mary whom we address in this prayer of the Angelus, support these intentions and strengthen them with her maternal intercession.
Saint Peter’s Square
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, 22 January 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today’s Gospel passage (cf. Mt 4:12-23) recounts the beginning of Jesus’ preaching in Galilee. He leaves Nazareth, a village in the mountains, and settles in Capernaum, an important centre on the lakeshore, inhabited largely by pagans, a crossroads between the Mediterranean and the Mesopotamian inland. This choice indicates that the beneficiaries of his preaching are not only his compatriots, but those who arrive in the cosmopolitan “Galilee of the Gentiles” (v. 15, cf. Is 9:1): that’s what it was called. Seen from the capital Jerusalem, that land is geographically peripheral and religiously impure because it was full of pagans, having mixed with those who did not belong to Israel. Great things were not expected from Galilee for the history of salvation. Instead, right from there — precisely from there — radiated that “light” on which we meditated in recent Sundays: the light of Christ. It radiated right from the periphery.
Jesus’ message reiterates that of the Baptist, announcing the “kingdom of heaven” (v. 17). This kingdom does not involve the establishment of a new political power, but the fulfillment of the Covenant between God and his people, which inaugurates a season of peace and justice. To secure this covenant pact with God, each one is called to convert, transforming his or her way of thinking and living. This is important: converting is not only changing the way of life but also the way of thinking. It is a transformation of thought. It is not a matter of changing clothing, but habits! What differentiates Jesus from John the Baptist is the way and manner. Jesus chooses to be an itinerant prophet. He doesn’t stay and await people, but goes to encounter them. Jesus is always on the road! His first missionary appearances take place along the lake of Galilee, in contact with the multitude, in particular with the fishermen. There Jesus does not only proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God, but seeks companions to join in his salvific mission. In this very place he meets two pairs of brothers: Simon and Andrew, James and John. He calls them, saying: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (v. 19). The call reaches them in the middle of their daily activity: the Lord reveals himself to us not in an extraordinary or impressive way, but in the everyday circumstances of our life. There we must discover the Lord; and there he reveals himself, makes his love felt in our heart; and there — with this dialogue with him in the everyday circumstances of life — he changes our heart. The response of the four fishermen is immediate and willing: “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (v. 20). We know, in fact, that they were disciples of the Baptist and that, thanks to his witness, they had already begun to believe in Jesus as the Messiah (cf. Jn 1:35-42).
We, today’s Christians, have the joy of proclaiming and witnessing to our faith because there was that first announcement, because there were those humble and courageous men who responded generously to Jesus’ call. On the shores of the lake, in an inconceivable land, the first community of disciples of Christ was born. May the knowledge of these beginnings give rise in us to the desire to bear Jesus’ word, love and tenderness in every context, even the most difficult and resistant. To carry the Word to all the peripheries! All the spaces of human living are soil on which to cast the seeds of the Gospel, so they may bear the fruit of salvation.
May the Virgin Mary help us with her maternal intercession to respond joyfully to Jesus’ call, and to place ourselves at the service of the Kingdom of God.
Saint Peter’s Square
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, 26 January 2014
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
This Sunday’s Gospel recounts the beginnings of the public life of Jesus in the cities and villages of Galilee. His mission does not begin in Jerusalem, the religious centre and also the social and political centre, but in an area on the outskirts, an area looked down upon by the most observant Jews because of the presence in that region of various foreign peoples; that is why the Prophet Isaiah calls it “Galilee of the nations” (Is 9:1).
It is a borderland, a place of transit where people of different races, cultures, and religions converge. Thus Galilee becomes a symbolic place for the Gospel to open to all nations. From this point of view, Galilee is like the world of today: the co-presence of different cultures, the necessity for comparison and the necessity of encounter. We too are immersed every day in a kind of “Galilee of the nations”, and in this type of context we may feel afraid and give in to the temptation to build fences to make us feel safer, more protected. But Jesus teaches us that the Good News, which he brings, is not reserved to one part of humanity, it is to be communicated to everyone. It is a proclamation of joy destined for those who are waiting for it, but also for all those who perhaps are no longer waiting for anything and haven’t even the strength to seek and to ask.
Starting from Galilee, Jesus teaches us that no one is excluded from the salvation of God, rather it is from the margins that God prefers to begin, from the least, so as to reach everyone. He teaches us a method, his method, which also expresses the content, which is the Father’s mercy. “Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel” (Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 20).
Jesus begins his mission not only from a decentralized place, but also among men whom one would call, refer to, as having a “low profile”. When choosing his first disciples and future apostles, he does not turn to the schools of scribes and doctors of the Law, but to humble people and simple people, who diligently prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus goes to call them where they work, on the lakeshore: they are fishermen. He calls them, and they follow him, immediately. They leave their nets and go with him: their life will become an extraordinary and fascinating adventure.
Dear friends, the Lord is calling today too! The Lord passes through the paths of our daily life. Even today at this moment, here, the Lord is passing through the square. He is calling us to go with him, to work with him for the Kingdom of God, in the “Galilee” of our times. May each one of you think: the Lord is passing by today, the Lord is watching me, he is looking at me! What is the Lord saying to me? And if one of you feels that the Lord says to you “follow me” be brave, go with the Lord. The Lord never disappoints. Feel in your heart if the Lord is calling you to follow him. Let’s let his gaze rest on us, hear his voice, and follow him! “That the joy of the Gospel may reach to the ends of the earth, illuminating even the fringes of our world” (ibid., n. 288).
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