POPE FRANCIS ON THE 4TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
Saint Peter’s Square
Sunday, 30 January 2022
Dear brothers and sisters, buongiorno!
In today’s liturgy, the Gospel recounts Jesus’ first sermon in his home town, Nazareth. The outcome is bitter: instead of receiving approval, Jesus finds incomprehension and even hostility (cf. Lk 4:21-30). His fellow villagers, rather than a word of truth, wanted miracles and prodigious signs. The Lord does not perform them and they reject him, because they say they already knew him as a child: he is Joseph’s son (cf. v. 22), and so on. Jesus therefore utters a phrase that has become proverbial: “No prophet is acceptable in his own country” (v. 24).
These words reveal that Jesus’ failure was not entirely unexpected. He knew his people, he knew the heart of his people, he knew the risk he was running, he took rejection into account. And, so, we might wonder: but if it was like this, if he foresaw a failure, why did he go to his hometown all the same? Why do good to people who are not willing to accept you? It is a question that we too often ask ourselves. But it is a question that helps us understand God better. Faced with our closures, he does not withdraw: he does not put brakes on his love. Faced with our closures, he goes forward. We see a reflection of this in parents who are aware of the ingratitude of their children, but do not cease to love them and do good to them for this. God is the same, but at a much higher level. And today he invites us too to believe in good, to leave no stone unturned in doing good.
However, in what happens in Nazareth we also find something else. The hostility towards Jesus on the part of his people provokes us: they were not welcoming – but what about us? To verify this, let us look at the models of acceptance that Jesus proposes today, to us and to his fellow countrymen. They are two foreigners: a widow from Sarepta of Sidon and Naaman, the Syrian. Both of them welcomed prophets: the first Elijah, the second Elisha. But it was not an easy reception, it went through trials. The widow welcomed Elijah, despite the famine and although the prophet was persecuted (cf. 1 Kings 17:7-16), he was persecuted for political and religious reasons. Naaman, on the other hand, despite being a person of the highest order, accepted the request of the prophet Elisha, who led him to humble himself, to bathe seven times in a river (cf. 2 Kings 5:1-14), as if he were an ignorant child. The widow and Naaman, in short, accepted through readiness and humility. The way of receiving God is always to be ready, to welcome and him and to be humble. Faith passes through here: readiness and humility. The widow and Naaman did not reject the ways of God and his prophets; they were docile, not rigid and closed.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus also goes the way of the prophets: he presents himself as we would not expect. He is not found by those who seek miracles – if we look for miracles, we will not find Jesus – by those who seek new sensations, intimate experiences, strange things; those who seek a faith made up of power and external signs. No, they will not find him. Instead, he is found only by those who accept his ways and his challenges, without complaint, without suspicion, without criticism and long faces. In other words, Jesus asks you to accept him in the daily reality that you live; in the Church of today, as it is; in those who are close to you every day; in the reality of those in need, in the problems of your family, in your parents, in your children, in grandparents, in welcoming God there. He is there, inviting us to purify ourselves in the river of availability and in many healthy baths of humility. It takes humility to encounter God, to let ourselves be encountered by him.
And us, are we welcoming or do we resemble his fellow countrymen, who believed they knew everything about him? “I studied theology, I took that course in catechesis… I know everything about Jesus!” Yes, like a fool! Don’t be foolish, you don’t know Jesus. Perhaps, after many years as believers, we think we know the Lord well, with our ideas and our judgments, very often. The risk is that we get accustomed, we get used to Jesus. And in this way, how do we grow accustomed? We close ourselves off, we close ourselves off to his newness, to the moment in which he knocks on our door and asks you something new, and wants to enter into you. We must stop being fixed in our positions. And when a person has an open mind, a simple heart, he or she has the capacity to be surprised, to wonder. The Lord always surprises us: this is the beauty of the encounter with Jesus. Instead, the Lord asks us for an open mind and a simple heart. May Our Lady, model of humility and willingness, show us the way to welcome Jesus.
After the Angelus
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today is World Leprosy Day. I express my closeness to those who suffer from this disease, and I hope that there will be no lack of spiritual assistance and healthcare assistance. It is necessary to work together towards the full integration of these people, overcoming every form of discrimination associated with a sickness that unfortunately still afflicts many people, especially in the most disadvantaged social contexts.
The day after tomorrow, 1 February, the Lunar New Year will be celebrated in the Far East, as well as various other parts of the world. I extend my cordial greetings, and express the wish that in the New Year everyone may enjoy peace, health and a peaceful and secure life. How beautiful it is when families find opportunities to gather together and experience moments of love and joy! Many families, unfortunately, will not be able to get together this year because of the pandemic. I hope that we will soon be able to overcome this trial. Finally, I hope that, thanks to the good will of individuals and the solidarity of peoples, the entire human family will be able to achieve with renewed dynamism goals of material and spiritual prosperity.
On the eve of the feast of Saint John Bosco, I would like to greet the Salesians and Salesian women, who do so much good in the Church. I followed the Mass celebrated in the shrine of Mary Help of Christians [in Turin] by the Rector Major Ángel Fernández Artime, I prayed with him for everyone. We think of this great Saint, father and teacher of the young. He did not shut himself up in the sacristy, he did not close himself off in his own things. He went out into the streets to look for young people, with the creativity that was his hallmark. Best wishes to all Salesians!
I greet you all, faithful of Rome and pilgrims from all over the world. In particular, I greet the faithful of Torrejón de Ardoz, in Spain, and the students from Murça, in Portugal.
I affectionately greet the boys and girls of Catholic Action of the diocese of Rome! They are here in a group. Dear young people, this year too, accompanied by your parents, educations and assistant priests, you have come – a small group, due to the pandemic – at the end of the Caravan for Peace. Your slogan is “Let’s mend peace”. It is a good slogan! It is important! There is a great need to “mend”, starting from our personal relationships, all the way to relations between states. Thank you! Keep going! And now you will release your balloons as a sign of hope… there! It is a sign of hope that the young people of Rome are bringing to us today, this “caravan for peace”.
I wish you all a blessed Sunday. And please, do not forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch, and arrivederci!
Saint Peter’s Square
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C, 3 February 2019
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Last Sunday the liturgy proposed to us the episode of the Synagogue of Nazareth, where Jesus reads a passage from the prophet Isaiah and in the end reveals that those words are fulfilled “today”, in Him. Jesus presents himself as the one on whom the Spirit of the Lord has rested, the Holy Spirit who consecrated him and sent him to carry out the mission of salvation for the benefit of humanity. Today’s Gospel (cf. Lk 4:21-30) is the continuation of that narrative and shows us the astonishment of his fellow citizens in seeing that someone from their country, “Joseph’s son” (v. 22), claims to be the Christ, the Father’s envoy.
Jesus, with his ability to penetrate minds and hearts, immediately understands what his fellow countrymen think. They believe that, since he is one of them, he must demonstrate his strange “claim” by working miracles there, in Nazareth, as he did in neighbouring countries (cf. v. 23). But Jesus does not want and cannot accept this logic, because it does not correspond to God’s plan: God wants faith, they want miracles, signs; God wants to save everyone, and they want a Messiah for their own benefit. And to explain the logic of God, Jesus gives the example of two great ancient prophets: Elijah and Elisha, whom God had sent to heal and save non-Hebrew people, and other peoples, but who had trusted in his word.
Faced with this invitation to open their hearts to the gratuitousness and universality of salvation, the citizens of Nazareth rebelled, and even assumed an aggressive attitude, which degenerated to the point that “they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill […], that they might throw him down” (v. 29). The initial admiration turned into aggression, a rebellion against him.
And this Gospel passage shows us that Jesus’ public ministry begins with a rejection and with a death threat, paradoxically precisely on the part of his fellow citizens. Jesus, in living the mission entrusted to him by the Father, knows well that he must face fatigue, rejection, persecution and defeat. A price that, yesterday as today, authentic prophecy is called to pay. The harsh rejection, however, does not discourage Jesus, nor does it stop the journey and the fruitfulness of his prophetic action. He goes ahead on his way (cf. v. 30), trusting in the Father’s love.
Today too, the world needs to see prophets in the Lord’s disciples, that is, people who are courageous and persevere in responding to the Christian vocation. People who follow the “drive” of the Holy Spirit, who sends them to proclaim hope and salvation to the poor and the excluded; people who follow the logic of faith and not of miraculism; people dedicated to the service of all, without privileges and exclusion. In short: people who are ready to welcome the Father’s will within them and undertake to witness to it faithfully to others.
Let us pray to Mary Most Holy, that we may grow and walk with the same apostolic zeal for the Kingdom of God that inspired Jesus’ mission.
Saint Peter’s Square
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C, 31 January 2016
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today’s Gospel account once again, like last Sunday, brings us to the synagogue of Nazareth, the village in Galilee where Jesus was brought up in a family and was known by everyone. He, who left not long before to begin his public life, now returns and for the first time presents himself to the community, gathered in the synagogue on the Sabbath. He reads the passage of the Prophet Isaiah, who speaks of the future Messiah, and he declares at the end: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21). Jesus’ compatriots, who were at first astonished and admired him, now begin to look sideways, to murmur among themselves and ask: why does he, who claims to be the Lord’s Consecrated, not repeat here in his homeland the wonders they say he worked in Capernaum and in nearby villages? Thus Jesus affirms: “no prophet is acceptable in his own country”, and he refers to the great prophets of the past, Elijah and Elisha, who had worked miracles in favour of the pagans in order to denounce the incredulity of their people. At this point those present are offended, rise up, indignant, and cast Jesus out and want to throw him down from the precipice. But he, with the strength of his peace, “passed through the midst of them and went away” (cf. v. 30). His time has not yet come.
This passage of Luke the Evangelist is not simply the account of an argument between compatriots, as sometimes happens even in our neighbourhoods, arising from envy and jealousy, but it highlights a temptation to which a religious man is always exposed — all of us are exposed — and from which it is important to keep his distance. What is this temptation? It is the temptation to consider religion as a human investment and, consequently, “negotiate” with God, seeking one’s own interest. Instead, true religion entails accepting the revelation of a God who is Father and who cares for each of his creatures, even the smallest and most insignificant in the eyes of man. Jesus’ prophetic ministry consists precisely in this: in declaring that no human condition can constitute a reason for exclusion — no human condition can constitute a reason for exclusion! — from the Father’s heart, and that the only privilege in the eyes of God is that of not having privileges, of not having godparents, of being abandoned in his hands.
“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21). The ‘today’, proclaimed by Christ that day, applies to every age; it echoes for us too in this Square, reminding us of the relevance and necessity of the salvation Jesus brought to humanity. God comes to meet the men and women of all times and places, in their real life situations. He also comes to meet us. It is always he who takes the first step: he comes to visit us with his mercy, to lift us up from the dust of our sins; he comes to extend a hand to us in order to enable us to return from the abyss into which our pride made us fall, and he invites us to receive the comforting truth of the Gospel and to walk on the paths of good. He always comes to find us, to look for us.
Let us return to the synagogue. Surely that day, in the synagogue of Nazareth, Mary, his Mother, was also there. We can imagine her heart beating, a small foreboding of what she will suffer under the Cross, seeing Jesus, there in the synagogue, first admired, then challenged, then insulted, threatened with death. In her heart, filled with faith, she kept everything. May she help us to convert from a god of miracles to the miracle of God, who is Jesus Christ.
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