Deeds

Pope Francis       

09.01.14 Holy Mass   Santa Marta         

1 John 4: 11-18   Mark 6: 45-52 

The Apostle John tells us many times that we should abide in the Lord. And he also tells us that the Lord abides in us. Essentially, St John sums up the Christian life as an abiding, as a mutual indwelling we in God and God in us. Do not abide in the spirit of the world, do not abide in superficiality, do not abide in idolatry, do not abide in vanity. No, abide in the Lord! And the Lord reciprocates this so that he remains in us. Indeed, he first remains in us even though many times we turn him away. Yet if we do, we cannot remain in him.

He who abides in love abides in God and God in him, St John writes further on. In practice, the Apostle tells us how this abiding is the same as abiding in love. And that it is beautiful to hear this said about love. Yet that the love of which John speaks is not the love of which soap operas are made! No, it is something else!.

In fact, Christian love always possesses one quality: concreteness. Christian love is concrete. Jesus himself, when he speaks of love, tells us concrete things: feed the hungry,     visit the sick. They are all concrete things for indeed love is concrete.

When this concreteness is lacking we end up living a Christianity of illusions, for we do not understand the heart of Jesus message. Love that is not concrete becomes an illusory love. Mark (6:45-52), the disciples had this sort of love when they looked at Jesus and believed they were seeing a ghost and an illusory love that is not concrete does not do us good.

But when does this occur? The Gospel could not be clearer. When the disciples believed they are seeing a ghost, they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. And if your heart is hardened, you cannot love. You think that to love is to imagine things. No, love is concrete!.

There is a basic criteria for truly living in love. The criteria is to abide in the Lord and the Lord in us, and the criteria of Christian concreteness is the same, always: The Word came in the flesh. The criteria is the Incarnation of the Word, God made Man and Christianity without this foundation is not true Christianity. The key to Christian life is faith in Jesus Christ, the Word of God made Man.

Concrete love criteria. The first is that love is found more in deeds than words. Jesus himself said: it is not those who call me Lord, Lord, who talk much, who shall enter the Kingdom of heaven; but those who do the will of God. The invitation set before us, then, is to be concrete by doing the deeds of God.

There is a question we must each ask ourselves: If I abide in in Jesus, if I abide in the Lord, if I abide in love, what do I do for God not what do I think or what do I say and what do I do for others? Therefore, the first criteria is to love with deeds, not with words. The wind carries away our words: today they are here and tomorrow they are gone.

The second criteria for concreteness is that in love it is more important to give than to receive. The person who loves, gives, gives things, gives life, gives himself to God and to others. Instead, the person who does not love and who is selfish always seeks to receive. He seeks always to have things, to have the advantage. Hence the spiritual counsel to abide with an open heart, and not like the disciples whose hearts were closed and who therefore did not understand. It is a matter of abiding in God and of God abiding in us. It is a matter of abiding in love.

The sole criteria of abiding in our faith in Jesus Christ the Word of God made flesh is the very mystery that we celebrate in this season. The two practical consequences of this Christian concreteness, of this criteria, are that love is found more in deeds than words, and that in love it is more important to give than to receive.

As we gaze on the Child in these final three days of the Christmas Season, let us renew our faith in Jesus Christ, who is true God and true Man. And let us ask for the grace to be granted this concreteness of Christian love so that we might always abide in love and that he might abide in us.


09.01.14


Pope Francis       

19.11.17  Holy Mass, Vatican Basilica, Rome  

World Day of the Poor 33rd Sunday  - Year A     

Proverbs 31: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31

Matthew 25: 14-30 

We have the joy of breaking the bread of God’s word, and shortly, we will have the joy of breaking and receiving the Bread of the Eucharist, food for life’s journey. All of us, none excluded, need this, for all of us are beggars when it comes to what is essential: God’s love, which gives meaning to our lives and a life without end. So today too, we lift up our hands to him, asking to receive his gifts.

The Gospel parable speaks of gifts. It tells us that we have received talents from God, “according to ability of each” (Mt 25:15). Before all else, let us realize this: we do have talents; in God’s eyes, we are “talented”. Consequently, no one can think that he or she is useless, so poor as to be incapable of giving something to others. We are chosen and blessed by God, who wants to fill us with his gifts, more than any father or mother does with their own children. And God, in whose eyes no child can be neglected, entrusts to each of us a mission.

Indeed, as the loving and demanding Father that he is, he gives us responsibility. In the parable, we see that each servant is given talents to use wisely. But whereas the first two servants do what they are charged, the third does not make his talents bear fruit; he gives back only what he had received. “I was afraid – he says – and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours” (v. 25). As a result, he is harshly rebuked as “wicked and lazy” (v. 26). What made the Master displeased with him? To use a word that may sound a little old-fashioned but is still timely, I would say it was his omission. His evil was that of failing to do good. All too often, we have the idea that we haven’t done anything wrong, and so we rest content, presuming that we are good and just. But in this way we risk acting like the unworthy servant: he did no wrong, he didn’t waste the talent, in fact he kept it carefully hidden in the ground. But to do no wrong is not enough. God is not an inspector looking for unstamped tickets; he is a Father looking for children to whom he can entrust his property and his plans (cf. v. 14). It is sad when the Father of love does not receive a generous response of love from his children, who do no more than keep the rules and follow the commandments, like hired hands in the house of the Father (cf. Lk 15:17).

The unworthy servant, despite receiving a talent from the Master who loves to share and multiply his gifts, guarded it jealously; he was content to keep it safe. But someone concerned only to preserve and maintain the treasures of the past is not being faithful to God. Instead, the parable tells us, the one who adds new talents is truly “faithful” (vv. 21 and 23), because he sees things as God does; he does not stand still, but instead, out of love, takes risks. He puts his life on the line for others; he is not content to keep things as they are. One thing alone does he overlook: his own interest. That is the only right “omission”.

Omission is also the great sin where the poor are concerned. Here it has a specific name: indifference. It is when we say, “That doesn’t regard me; it’s not my business; it’s society’s problem”. It is when we turn away from a brother or sister in need, when we change channels as soon as a disturbing question comes up, when we grow indignant at evil but do nothing about it. God will not ask us if we felt righteous indignation, but whether we did some good.

How, in practice can we please God? When we want to please someone dear to us, for example by giving a gift, we need first to know that person’s tastes, lest the gift prove more pleasing to the giver than to the recipient. When we want to offer something to the Lord, we can find his tastes in the Gospel. Immediately following the passage that we heard today, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you that, just as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). These least of our brethren, whom he loves dearly, are the hungry and the sick, the stranger and the prisoner, the poor and the abandoned, the suffering who receive no help, the needy who are cast aside. On their faces we can imagine seeing Jesus’ own face; on their lips, even if pursed in pain, we can hear his words: “This is my body” (Mt 26:26).

In the poor, Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love. When we overcome our indifference and, in the name of Jesus, we give of ourselves for the least of his brethren, we are his good and faithful friends, with whom he loves to dwell. God greatly appreciates the attitude described in today’s first reading that of the “good wife”, who “opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy” (Prov 31:10.20). Here we see true goodness and strength: not in closed fists and crossed arms, but in ready hands outstretched to the poor, to the wounded flesh of the Lord.

There, in the poor, we find the presence of Jesus, who, though rich, became poor (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). For this reason, in them, in their weakness, a “saving power” is present. And if in the eyes of the world they have little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven; they are our “passport to paradise”. For us it is an evangelical duty to care for them, as our real riches, and to do so not only by giving them bread, but also by breaking with them the bread of God’s word, which is addressed first to them. To love the poor means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material.

And it will also do us good. Drawing near to the poor in our midst will touch our lives. It will remind us of what really counts: to love God and our neighbour. Only this lasts forever, everything else passes away. What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes. Today we might ask ourselves: “What counts for me in life? Where am I making my investments?” In fleeting riches, with which the world is never satisfied, or in the wealth bestowed by God, who gives eternal life? This is the choice before us: to live in order to gain things on earth, or to give things away in order to gain heaven. Where heaven is concerned, what matters is not what we have, but what we give, for “those who store up treasures for themselves, do not grow rich in the sight of God” (Lk 12:21).

So let us not seek for ourselves more than we need, but rather what is good for others, and nothing of value will be lacking to us. May the Lord, who has compassion for our poverty and needs, and bestows his talents upon us, grant us the wisdom to seek what really matters, and the courage to love, not in words but in deeds

19.11.17


Pope Francis       

18.06.23 Angelus,  Saint Peter's Square,   

11th Sunday of Year A  

Matthew 9: 36 - 10: 8


Dear brothers and sisters, good day!

I wish to express my gratitude to those who, during the days of my stay at the Gemelli Hospital, showed me affection, care and friendship, and assured me of the support of prayer. This human closeness and spiritual closeness were of great help and comfort to me. Thank you all! Thank you! Thank you from my heart!

Today, in the Gospel, Jesus calls by name – he calls by name - and sends out the twelve Apostles. By sending them, he asks them to proclaim just one thing: “Preach as you go, saying ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Mt 10:7). It is the same proclamation with which Jesus began his preaching: the kingdom of God, that is, his lordship of love, has come near, it comes in our midst. And this is not just one piece of news among others, no, but the fundamental reality of life: the vicinity of God, the vicinity of Jesus.

Indeed, if the God of heaven is close, we are not alone on earth, and even in difficulty we do not lose faith. Here is the first thing to say to people: God is not far away, but he is a Father. God is not distant, he is a Father, he knows you and he loves you; he wants to take you by the hand, even when you travel on steep and rugged paths, even when you fall and struggle to get up again and get back on track. He, the Lord, is there with you. Indeed, often in the moments when you are at your weakest, you can feel his presence all the more strongly. He knows the path, he is with you, he is your Father! He is my Father! He is our Father!

Let us remain with this image, because proclaiming God as close to us is inviting you to think like a child, who walks held by his father’s hand: everything seems different. The world, large and mysterious, becomes familiar and secure, because the child knows he is protected. He is not afraid, and learns how to open up: he meets other people, finds new friends, learns with joy things that he did not know, and then returns home and tells everyone what he has seen, while within him there grows the desire to become grown up and to do the things he has seen his daddy do. This is why Jesus starts out from here, this is why God’s vicinity is the first proclamation: by staying close to God, we conquer fear, we open ourselves to love, we grow in goodness and we feel the need and the joy to proclaim.

If we want to be good apostles, we must be like children: we must sit “on God’s lap” and, from there, look at the world with trust and love, in order to bear witness that God is the Father, that he alone transforms our hearts and gives us that joy and that peace that we ourselves cannot attain.

To proclaim that God is near – but how can we do this? In the Gospel, Jesus recounts and recommends not saying many words, but performing many deeds of love and hope in the name of the Lord. Not saying many words, performing deeds! “Heal the sick”, says the Lord, “raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without pay, give without pay” (Mt 10:8). Here is the heart of proclamation: witness freely given, service. I will tell you something: I am always puzzled, very puzzled, by the “talkers” with their endless talk and no action.

At this point, let us ask a few questions: we, who believe in God who is close, I wonder: do we confide in him? Do we know how to look forward trustfully, like a child who knows he is held in his father’s arms? Do we know how to sit in the Father’s lap with prayer, by listening to the Word, partaking of the Sacraments? And finally, close to him, do we know how to instil courage in others, to make ourselves close to those who suffer and are alone, to those who are distant and even those who are hostile? This is the substance of faith. This is what counts.

And let us now pray to Mary; may she help us feel we are loved and transmit closeness and trust.

18.06.23


Pope Francis       

11.02.24 Angelus, Saint Peter's Square  

6th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B   

Mark 1: 40-45


Dear brothers and sisters, good day!

Today’s Gospel presents us with the healing of a leper (cf. Mk 1:40-45). To the sick man, who implores Him, Jesus answers: “I will; be clean!” (v. 41). He utters a very simple phrase, which He immediately puts into practice. Indeed, “immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean” (v. 42). This is Jesus’ style with those who suffer: few words, and concrete deeds.

Many times, in the Gospel, we see Him behave in this way towards those who suffer: deaf mutes (cf. Mk 7:31-37), paralytics (cf. Mk 2:1-12), and many others in need (cf. Mk 5). He always does this: He speaks little and His words are followed promptly by actions: He bows, takes by the hand, and heals. He does not waste time with discourses or interrogations, much less in pietism or sentimentalism. Rather, He shows the delicate modesty of one who listens attentively and acts with solicitude, preferably without being conspicuous.

It is a wonderful way to love, and how it would do us good to imagine it and assimilate it! Let us also think of when it we happen to encounter people who act like this: sober in words, but generous in action; reluctant to show off but ready to make themselves useful; effective in helping because they are willing to listen. Friends to whom one can say: “Do you want to listen to me? Do you want to help me?”, with the confidence of hearing them answer, almost with Jesus’ words: “Yes, I will, I am here for you, to help you!”. This concreteness is so much more important in a world such as our own, in which an evanescent virtuality of relationships seems to be gaining ground.

Let us listen instead to how the Word of God provokes us: “If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled’, without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?” (James 2:15-16). The Apostle James says this. Love needs tangibility, love needs presence, encounter, it needs to be given time and space: it cannot be reduced to beautiful words, to images on a screen, momentary selfies and hasty messages. They are useful tools that can help, but they are not enough for love; they cannot substitute real presence.

Let us ask ourselves today: do I know how to listen to people, am I ready to meet their requests? Or do I make excuses, procrastinate, hide behind abstract or useless words? In real terms, when was the last time I went to visit someone who was alone or sick – everyone can answer in their heart – or when was the last time I changed my plans to meet the needs of someone who asked me for help?

May Mary, solicitous in care, help us to be ready and tangible in love.

11.02.24 a