POPE FRANCIS’ REFLECTION 15TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME B
“A. Gemelli” University Hospital
Sunday, 11 July 2021
Dear Brothers and Sisters, buongiorno!
I am glad to be able to keep the Sunday Angelus appointment, even here from “Gemelli” Policlinico. I thank you all: I have felt your closeness and the support of your prayers. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
The Gospel passage we read today in the Liturgy recounts that Jesus’ disciples, sent by Him, “anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them” (Mk 6:13). This “oil” also makes us think of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, which gives comfort to spirit and body. But this “oil” is also listening, the closeness, the care, the tenderness of those who take care of the sick person: it is like a caress that makes you feel better, soothes your pain and cheers you up. All of us, everyone, sooner or later, we all need this “anointing” of closeness and tenderness, and we can all give it to someone else, with a visit, a phone call, a hand outstretched to someone who needs help.
Let us remember that, in the protocol of the final judgment – Matthew 25 – one of the things they will ask us will be about closeness to the sick.
In these days of being hospitalized, I have experienced once again how important good health care is, accessible to all, as it is in Italy and in other countries. Free health care, that assures good service, accessible to everyone. This precious benefit must not be lost. It needs to be kept! And for this everyone needs to be committed, because it helps everyone and requires everyone’s contribution. In the Church it also happens at times that some healthcare institution, due to poor management, does not do well economically, and the first thought that comes to mind is to sell it. But the vocation, in the Church, is not to have money; it is to offer service, and service is always freely given. Do not forget this: to save free institutions.
I would like to express my appreciation and my encouragement to the doctors and all the healthcare workers and staff of this and of other hospitals. They work so hard! And let us pray for all the sick. Here there are some friends, sick children…. Why do children suffer? Why children suffer is a question that touches the heart. Accompany them with prayer and pray for all those who are sick, especially for those in the most difficult conditions: may no one be left alone, may everyone receive the anointing of listening, closeness, tenderness and care. Let us ask this through the intercession of Mary, our Mother, Health of the Sick.
Saint Peter’s Square
Sunday, 15 July 2018
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning,
Today’s Gospel passage (cf. Mk 6:7-13) narrates the moment Jesus sends the Twelve [Apostles] on mission. After calling each of them by name “to be with him” (Mk 3:14), listening to his words and observing his gestures of healing, he now calls them again to “send them out two by two” (6:7) to the villages he was going to visit. It is a sort of “internship” of what they would be called to do following the Resurrection of the Lord, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Gospel passage pauses on the style of the missionary which we can sum up in two points: the mission has a centre; the mission has a face.
First of all, the missionary disciple has his centre of reference who is Jesus himself. The narrative indicates this by using a series of verbs which have him as the subject — “He called to him”; he “began to send them”; he “gave them authority”; “he charged them”, “he said to them” (vv. 7, 8, 10) —, so that the going out and working of the Twelve appears to be radiating from a centre, reaffirming the presence and work of Jesus in their missionary actions. This demonstrates that the Apostles have nothing of their own to proclaim, nor any abilities to manifest, but rather that they speak and act as “emissaries”, as messengers of Jesus.
This episode of the Gospel also applies to us and not only to priests but to all baptized people called to witness to the Gospel of Christ in the various spheres of life. And for us too, this mission is authentic only in so far as its unchanging centre who is Jesus. It is not an initiative of faithful individuals nor of groups and not even of large gatherings. It is the mission of the Church, inseparably united to her Lord. No Christian proclaims the Gospel “on his/her own”, but is only sent by the Church who received the mandate from Jesus himself. Indeed it is Baptism that makes us missionaries. A baptized person who does not feel the need to proclaim the Gospel, to proclaim Jesus, is not a good Christian.
The second characteristic of the missionary’s style is, so to speak, a face, which consists in the poverty of means. His accoutrement responds to a criteria of modesty. Indeed the Twelve have the order to “take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts” (6:8). The Teacher wants them to be free and unhampered, without reserves and without favours, certain only of the love of the One who sends them, strengthened only by his Word which they go to proclaim. The staff and the sandals are the gear of pilgrims because that is what the messengers of the Kingdom of God are, not omnipotent managers, not irreplaceable officials, not celebrities on tour. Let us think for example of this Diocese of which I am Bishop. Let us think about some saints from this Diocese of Rome: Saint Philip Neri, Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, Saint Alessio, Blessed Ludovica Albertoni, Saint Frances of Rome, Saint Gaspare del Bufalo and many others. They were not officials or business people, but rather humble workers of the Kingdom. This was the face they had. And to this “face” also belongs the way the message is received: it can happen that one is not welcomed or listened to (cf. v. 11). This too is poverty: the experience of failure. The experience of Jesus who was rejected and crucified anticipates the destiny of his messenger. And only if we are united to Him, who died and Rose, can we find the courage to evangelize.
May the Virgin Mary, the first disciple and missionary of the Word of God, help us to convey to the world the message of the Gospel in a humble and radiant exultation, beyond any rejection, misunderstanding or tribulation.
HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER
Ñu Guazú, Asunción (Paraguay)
Sunday, 12 July 2015
“The Lord will shower down blessings, and our land will yield its increase”. These are the words of the Psalm. We are invited to celebrate this mysterious communion between God and his People, between God and us. The rain is a sign of his presence, in the earth tilled by our hands. It reminds us that our communion with God always brings forth fruit, always gives life. This confidence is born of faith, from knowing that we depend on grace, which will always transform and nourish our land.
It is a confidence which is learned, which is taught. A confidence nurtured within a community, in the life of a family. A confidence which radiates from the faces of all those people who encourage us to follow Jesus, to be disciples of the One who can never deceive. A disciple knows that he or she is called to have this confidence; we feel Jesus’s invitation to be his friend, to share his lot, his very life. “No longer do I call you servants… but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you”. The disciples are those who learn how to live trusting in the friendship offered by Jesus.
The Gospel speaks to us of this kind of discipleship. It shows us the identity card of the Christian. Our calling card, our credentials.
Jesus calls his disciples and sends them out, giving them clear and precise instructions. He challenges them to take on a whole range of attitudes and ways of acting. Sometimes these can strike us as exaggerated or even absurd. It would be easier to interpret these attitudes symbolically or “spiritually”. But Jesus is quite precise, very clear. He doesn’t tell them simply to do whatever they think they can.
Let us think about some of these attitudes: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money…” “When you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place” (cf. Mk 6:8-11). All this might seem quite unrealistic.
We could concentrate on the words, “bread”, “money”, “bag”, “staff”, “sandals” and “tunic”. And this would be fine. But it strikes me that one key word can easily pass unnoticed among the challenging words I have just listed. It is a word at the heart of Christian spirituality, of our experience of discipleship: “welcome”. Jesus as the good master, the good teacher, sends them out to be welcomed, to experience hospitality. He says to them: “Where you enter a house, stay there”. He sends them out to learn one of the hallmarks of the community of believers. We might say that a Christian is someone who has learned to welcome others, who has learned to show hospitality.
Jesus does not send them out as men of influence, landlords, officials armed with rules and regulations. Instead, he makes them see that the Christian journey is simply about changing hearts. One’s own heart first all, and then helping to transform the hearts of others. It is about learning to live differently, under a different law, with different rules. It is about turning from the path of selfishness, conflict, division and superiority, and taking instead the path of life, generosity and love. It is about passing from a mentality which domineers, stifles and manipulates to a mentality which welcomes, accepts and cares.
These are two contrasting mentalities, two ways of approaching our life and our mission.
How many times do we see mission in terms of plans and programs. How many times do we see evangelization as involving any number of strategies, tactics, maneuvers, techniques, as if we could convert people on the basis of our own arguments. Today the Lord says to us quite clearly: in the mentality of the Gospel, you do not convince people with arguments, strategies or tactics. You convince them by simply learning how to welcome them.
The Church is a mother with an open heart. She knows how to welcome and accept, especially those in need of greater care, those in greater difficulty. The Church, as desired by Jesus, is the home of hospitality. And how much good we can do, if only we try to speak this language of hospitality, this language of receiving and welcoming. How much pain can be soothed, how much despair can be allayed in a place where we feel at home! This requires open doors, especially the doors of our heart. Welcoming the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner (Mt 25:34-37), the leper and the paralytic. Welcoming those who do not think as we do, who do not have faith or who have lost it. And sometimes, we are to blame. Welcoming the persecuted, the unemployed. Welcoming the different cultures, of which our earth is so richly blessed. Welcoming sinners, because each one of us is also a sinner.
So often we forget that there is an evil underlying our sins, that precedes our sins. There is a bitter root which causes damage, great damage, and silently destroys so many lives. There is an evil which, bit by bit, finds a place in our hearts and eats away at our life: it is isolation. Isolation which can have many roots, many causes. How much it destroys our life and how much harm it does us. It makes us turn our back on others, God, the community. It makes us closed in on ourselves. From here we see that the real work of the Church, our mother, should not be mainly about managing works and projects, but rather about learning to experience fraternity with others. A welcome-filled fraternity is the best witness that God is our Father, for “by this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).
In this way, Jesus teaches us a new way of thinking. He opens before us a horizon brimming with life, beauty, truth and fulfillment.
God never closes off horizons; he is never unconcerned about the lives and sufferings of his children. God never allows himself to be outdone in generosity. So he sends us his Son, he gives him to us, he hands him over, he shares him… so that we can learn the way of fraternity, of self-giving. In a definitive way, he opens up a new horizon; he is a new word which sheds light on so many situations of exclusion, disintegration, loneliness and isolation. He is a word which breaks the silence of loneliness.
And when we are weary or worn down by our efforts to evangelize, it is good to remember that the life which Jesus holds out to us responds to the deepest needs of people. “We were created for what the Gospel offers us: friendship with Jesus and love of our brothers and sisters” (Evangelii Gaudium, 265).
On thing is sure: we cannot force anyone to receive us, to welcome us; this is itself part of our poverty and freedom. But neither can anyone force us not to be welcoming, hospitable in the lives of our people. No one can tell us not to accept and embrace the lives of our brothers and sisters, especially those who have lost hope and zest for life. How good it would be to think of our parishes, communities, chapels, wherever there are Christians, with open doors, true centers of encounter between ourselves and God.
The Church is a mother, like Mary. In her, we have a model. We too must provide a home, like Mary, who did not lord it over the word of God, but rather welcomed that word, bore it in her womb and gave it to others.
We too must provide a home, like the earth, which does not choke the seed, but receives it, nourishes it and makes it grow.
That is how we want to be Christians, that is how we want to live the faith on this Paraguayan soil, like Mary, accepting and welcoming God’s life in our brothers and sisters, in confidence and with the certainty that “the Lord will shower down blessings, and our land will yield its increase”. May it be so..
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