POPE FRANCIS ON THE 20TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME C
Saint Peter’s Square
Sunday, 14 August 2022
Dear brothers and sisters, buongiorno!
In the Gospel of today’s liturgy there is an expression of Jesus which always strikes us and challenges us. While he is walking with his disciples, he says: “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Lk 12:49). What fire is he talking about? And what is the meaning of these words for us today, this fire that Jesus brings?
As we know, Jesus came to bring to the world the Gospel, that is, the good news of God’s love for each one of us. Therefore, he is telling us that the Gospel is like a fire, because it is a message that, when it erupts into history, burns the old balances of living, burns the old balances of living, challenges us to come out of our individualism, challenges us to overcome selfishness, challenges us to shift from the slavery of sin and death to the new life of the Risen One, of the Risen Jesus. In other words, the Gospel does not leave things as they are; when the Gospel passes, and is listened to and received, things do not stay as they are. The Gospel provokes change and invites conversion. It does not dispense a false intimist peace, but sparks a restlessness that sets us in motion, and drives us to open up to God and to our brothers. It is just like fire: while it warms us with God’s love, it wants to burn our selfishness, to enlighten the dark sides of life – we all have them, eh! – to consume the false idols that enslave us.
In the wake of the Biblical prophets – think, for example, of Elijah and Jeremiah – Jesus is inflamed by God’s love and, to make it spread throughout the world, he expends himself personally, loving up to the end, that is, up to death, and death on the cross (cf. Phil 2:8). He is filled with the Holy Spirit, who is compared to fire, and with his light and his strength, he unveils the mysterious face of God and gives fullness to those considered lost, breaks down the barriers of marginalization, heals the wounds of the body and the soul, and renews a religiosity that was reduced to external practices. This is why he is fire: he changes, purifies.
So, what does that word of Jesus mean for us, for each one of us – for me, for you, for you – what does this word of Jesus, about fire, mean for us? It invites us to rekindle the flame of faith, so that it does not become a secondary matter, or a means to individual wellbeing, enabling us to evade the challenges of life or commitment in the Church and society. Indeed – as a theologian said – faith in God “reassures us – but not on our level, or so to produce a paralyzing illusion, or a complacent satisfaction, but so as to enable us to act” (De Lubac, The Discovery of God). In short, faith is not a “lullaby” that lulls us to sleep. True faith is a fire, a living flame to keep us wakeful and active even at night!
And then, we might wonder: am I passionate about the Gospel? Do I read the Gospel often? Do I carry it with me? Does the faith I profess and celebrate lead me to complacent tranquility or does it ignite the flame of witness in me? We can also ask ourselves this question as. Church: in our communities, does the fire of the Spirit burn, with the passion for prayer and charity, and the joy of faith? Or do we drag ourselves along in weariness and habit, with a downcast face, and a lament on our lips, and gossip every day? Brothers and sisters, let us examine ourselves on this, so that we too can say, like Jesus: we are inflamed with the fire of God’s love, and we want to spread it around the world, to take it to everyone, so that each person may discover the tenderness of the Father and experience the joy of Jesus, who enlarges the heart – and Jesus enlarges the heart! – and makes life beautiful. Let us pray to the Holy Virgin for this: may she, who welcomed the fire of the Holy Spirit, intercede for us.
Saint Peter’s Square
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time C, 18 August 2019
Dear Brothers and sisters, Good Morning!
In today’s Gospel passage (cf. Lk 12:49-53) [20th Sunday in Ordinary Time C], Jesus warns the disciples that the time for decision has arrived. In fact, his coming into the world coincides with the time for decisive choices: the option for the Gospel cannot be delayed. And in order to make this call clearer, he alludes to the fire that he himself came to bring to earth. He says: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled” (v. 49). These words aim to persuade the disciples to abandon their attitude of laziness, apathy, indifference and closure, so as to welcome the fire of God’s love; that love which, as Saint Paul reminds us, “has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rm 5:5). Because it is the Holy Spirit that makes us love God and love our neighbour. It is the Holy Spirit whom we all have within us.
Jesus confides his most ardent desire to his friends and also to us: to spread the fire of God’s love on earth that enlightens life and through which mankind is saved. Jesus calls us to spread throughout the world this fire, thanks to which, we will be recognized as his true disciples. The fire of love, lit by Christ in the world through the Holy Spirit, is a boundless fire. It is a universal fire. This was so ever since the early days of Christianity: bearing witness to the Gospel spread like a beneficial fire, overcoming all division among individuals, social categories, peoples and nations. Bearing witness to the Gospel burns. It overcomes all forms of particularism and keeps charity wide open to all, with a preferential option for the poorest and the excluded.
Adherence to the fire of love that Jesus brought to earth, envelopes our entire existence and requires the adoration of God as well as a willingness to serve others. Adoration of God and a willingness to serve others. First, the readiness to adore God, also means learning the prayer of adoration which we usually forget. This is why I invite everyone to discover the beauty of the prayer of adoration and to recite it often. And second, the willingness to serve others. I think with admiration of the many youth communities and groups, who during the summer, dedicate themselves to this service to the sick, the poor and people with disabilities. In order to live according to the Gospel spirit, faced with the ever new needs that arise in the world, there is a need for disciples of Christ who know how to respond with new charitable initiatives. And so, with the adoration of God and service to others — practised together, adoring God and serving others — the Gospel truly manifests itself as a fire that saves, that changes the world beginning with a change in the heart of each one.
In this perspective, we can also understand Jesus’ other statement mentioned in today’s passage which, at first glance, may be disconcerting: “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division” (Lk 12:51). He came to “separate with fire”. To separate what? Good from evil, the just from the unjust. In this sense he came to “divide”, to cause “uneasiness” — albeit in a healthy way — in his disciples’ lives, breaking the facile illusions of those who think they can combine Christian life with worldliness, Christian life with compromises of all kinds, piety with a hostile attitude to others. Combining, some think, true religiosity with superstitious practices: how many so-called Christians go to fortune tellers to have their palms read! And this is superstition. It is not God. One must not live in a hypocritical way but be willing to pay the price for choices that are consistent — this is the attitude that each of us should seek in life: [being] consistent — paying the price for being consistent with the Gospel. Being consistent with the Gospel. Because it is good to call ourselves Christian but above all it is necessary to be Christian in concrete situations, witnessing to the Gospel, which is essentially love for God and for our brothers and sisters.
May Mary Most Holy help us to allow our hearts to be purified by the fire brought by Jesus in order to spread it with our life through decisive and courageous choices.
Saint Peter’s Square
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time C, 14 August 2016
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
The Gospel for this Sunday (Lk 12:49-53) is part of Jesus’ teachings to the disciples during his journey to Jerusalem, where death on the cross awaits him. To explain the purpose of his mission, he takes three images: fire, baptism and division. Today I wish to talk about the first image: fire.
Jesus expresses it with these words: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” (v. 49). The fire that Jesus speaks of is the fire of the Holy Spirit, the presence living and working in us from the day of our Baptism. It — the fire — is a creative force that purifies and renews, that burns all human misery, all selfishness, all sin, which transforms us from within, regenerates us and makes us able to love. Jesus wants the Holy Spirit to blaze like fire in our heart, for it is only from the heart that the fire of divine love can spread and advance the Kingdom of God. It does not come from the head, it comes from the heart. This is why Jesus wants fire to enter our heart. If we open ourselves completely to the action of this fire which is the Holy Spirit, He will give us the boldness and the fervor to proclaim to everyone Jesus and his consoling message of mercy and salvation, navigating on the open sea, without fear.
In fulfilling her mission in the world, the Church — namely all of us who make up the Church — needs the Holy Spirit’s help so as not to let herself be held back by fear and by calculation, so as not to become accustomed to walking inside of safe borders. These two attitudes lead the Church to be a functional Church, which never takes risks. Instead, the apostolic courage that the Holy Spirit kindles in us like a fire helps us to overcome walls and barriers, makes us creative and spurs us to get moving in order to walk even on uncharted or arduous paths, offering hope to those we meet. With this fire of the Holy Spirit we are called to become, more and more, communities of people who are guided and transformed, full of understanding; people with expanded hearts and joyful faces. Now more than ever there is need for priests, consecrated people and lay faithful, with the attentive gaze of an apostle, to be moved by and to pause before hardship and material and spiritual poverty, thus characterizing the journey of evangelization and of the mission with the healing cadence of closeness. It is precisely the fire of the Holy Spirit that leads us to be neighbours to others, to the needy, to so much human misery, to so many problems, to refugees, to displaced people, to those who are suffering.
At this moment I am thinking with admiration especially of the many priests, men and women religious and lay faithful who, throughout the world, are dedicated to proclaiming the Gospel with great love and faithfulness, often even at the cost of their lives. Their exemplary testimony reminds us that the Church does not need bureaucrats and diligent officials, but passionate missionaries, consumed by ardour to bring to everyone the consoling word of Jesus and his grace. This is the fire of the Holy Spirit. If the Church does not receive this fire, or does not let it inflame her, she becomes a cold or merely lukewarm Church, incapable of giving life, because she is made up of cold and lukewarm Christians. It will do us good today to take five minutes to ask ourselves: “How is my heart? Is it cold? Is it lukewarm? Is it capable of receiving this fire?”. Let us take five minutes for this. It will do everyone good.
Let us ask the Virgin Mary to pray with us and for us to the Heavenly Father, that he dispense upon all believers the Holy Spirit, the divine flame which warms hearts and helps us to be in solidarity with the joys and the sufferings of our brothers and sisters. May we be sustained on our journey by the example of St Maximilian Kolbe, martyr of charity, whose feast day is today: may he teach us to live the fire of love for God and for our neighbour.
Saint Peter’s Square
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time C, 18 August 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In today’s liturgy we listen to these words from the Letter to the Hebrews: “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:1-2). We must give special emphasis to this affirmation in this Year of Faith. Let us too, throughout this Year, keep our gaze fixed on Jesus because faith, which is our “yes” to the filial relationship with God, comes from him, comes from Jesus. He is the only mediator of this relationship between us and our Father who is in heaven. Jesus is the Son and we are sons in him.
This Sunday, however, the word of God also contains a word of Jesus which alarms us and must be explained, for otherwise it could give rise to misunderstanding. Jesus says to his disciples: “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division” (Lk 12:51). What does this mean? It means that faith is not a decorative or ornamental element; living faith does not mean decorating life with a little religion, as if it were a cake and we were decorating it with cream. No, this is not faith. Faith means choosing God as the criterion and basis of life, and God is not empty, God is not neutral, God is always positive, God is love, and love is positive! After Jesus has come into the world it is impossible to act as if we do not know God, or as if he were something that is abstract, empty, a purely nominal reference. No, God has a real face, he has a name: God is mercy, God is faithfulness, he is life which is given to us all. For this reason Jesus says “I came to bring division”. It is not that Jesus wishes to split people up. On the contrary Jesus is our peace, he is our reconciliation! But this peace is not the peace of the tomb, it is not neutrality, Jesus does not bring neutrality, this peace is not a compromise at all costs. Following Jesus entails giving up evil and selfishness and choosing good, truth and justice, even when this demands sacrifice and the renunciation of our own interests. And this indeed divides; as we know, it even cuts the closest ties. However, be careful: it is not Jesus who creates division! He establishes the criterion: whether to live for ourselves or to live for God and for others; to be served or to serve; to obey one’s own ego or to obey God. It is in this sense that Jesus is a “sign that is spoken against” (Lk 2:34).
This word of the Gospel does not therefore authorize the use of force to spread the faith. It is exactly the opposite: the Christian’s real force is the force of truth and of love, which involves renouncing all forms of violence. Faith and violence are incompatible! Instead, faith and strength go together. Christians are not violent; they are strong. And with what kind of strength? That of meekness, the strength of meekness, the strength of love.
Dear friends, even among Jesus’ relatives there were some who at a certain point did not share his way of life and preaching, as the Gospel tells us (cf. Mk 3:20-21). His Mother, however, always followed him faithfully, keeping the eyes of her heart fixed on Jesus, the Son of the Most High, and on his mystery. And in the end, thanks to Mary’s faith, Jesus’ relatives became part of the first Christian community (cf. Acts 1:14). Let us ask Mary to help us too to keep our gaze firmly fixed on Jesus and to follow him always, even when it costs what it may.
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