Swim against the tide

Pope Francis          

28.04.13 Holy Mass and Conferral of the Sacrament of Confirmation

St Peter's Square 5th Sunday of Easter  Year C 

Revelations 21: 1 - 5A   Acts 14: 21-27 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Dear Confirmands,

I would like to offer three short and simple thoughts for your reflection.

1. In the second reading, we listened to the beautiful vision of Saint John: new heavens and a new earth, and then the Holy City coming down from God. All is new, changed into good, beauty and truth; there are no more tears or mourning… This is the work of the Holy Spirit: he brings us the new things of God. He comes to us and makes all things new; he changes us. The Spirit changes us! And Saint John’s vision reminds us that all of us are journeying towards the heavenly Jerusalem, the ultimate newness which awaits us and all reality, the happy day when we will see the Lord’s face – that marvellous face, the most beautiful face of the Lord Jesus - and be with him for ever, in his love.

You see, the new things of God are not like the novelties of this world, all of which are temporary; they come and go, and we keep looking for more. The new things which God gives to our lives are lasting, not only in the future, when we will be with him, but today as well. God is even now making all things new; the Holy Spirit is truly transforming us, and through us he also wants to transform the world in which we live. Let us open the doors to the Spirit, let ourselves be guided by him, and allow God’s constant help to make us new men and women, inspired by the love of God which the Holy Spirit bestows on us! How beautiful it would be if each of you, every evening, could say: Today at school, at home, at work, guided by God, I showed a sign of love towards one of my friends, my parents, an older person! How beautiful!

2. A second thought. In the first reading Paul and Barnabas say that “we must undergo many trials if we are to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). The journey of the Church, and our own personal journeys as Christians, are not always easy; they meet with difficulties and trials. To follow the Lord, to let his Spirit transform the shadowy parts of our lives, our ungodly ways of acting, and cleanse us of our sins, is to set out on a path with many obstacles, both in the world around us but also within us, in the heart. But difficulties and trials are part of the path that leads to God’s glory, just as they were for Jesus, who was glorified on the cross; we will always encounter them in life! Do not be discouraged! We have the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome these trials!

3. And here I come to my last point. It is an invitation which I make to you, young confirmandi, and to all present. Remain steadfast in the journey of faith, with firm hope in the Lord. This is the secret of our journey! He gives us the courage to swim against the tide. Pay attention, my young friends: to go against the current; this is good for the heart, but we need courage to swim against the tide. Jesus gives us this courage! There are no difficulties, trials or misunderstandings to fear, provided we remain united to God as branches to the vine, provided we do not lose our friendship with him, provided we make ever more room for him in our lives. This is especially so whenever we feel poor, weak and sinful, because God grants strength to our weakness, riches to our poverty, conversion and forgiveness to our sinfulness. The Lord is so rich in mercy: every time, if we go to him, he forgives us. Let us trust in God’s work! With him we can do great things; he will give us the joy of being his disciples, his witnesses. Commit yourselves to great ideals, to the most important things. We Christians were not chosen by the Lord for little things; push onwards toward the highest principles. Stake your lives on noble ideals, my dear young people!

The new things of God, the trials of life, remaining steadfast in the Lord. Dear friends, let us open wide the door of our lives to the new things of God which the Holy Spirit gives us. May he transform us, confirm us in our trials, strengthen our union with the Lord, our steadfastness in him: this is a true joy! So may it be.


Pope Francis 

21.11.21  Holy Mass, Saint Peter's Basilica,  

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, World Youth Day, Year B

Daniel 7: 13-14

Revelations 1: 5-8

John 18: 33b-37  

Two images drawn from the word of God that we have heard, can help us approach Jesus as King of the Universe. The first, taken from the Book of Revelation and foreshadowed by the prophet Daniel in the first reading, is described in the words, “He is coming with the clouds” (Rev 1:7; Dan 7:13). The reference is to the glorious coming of Jesus as Lord at the end of history. The second image is from the Gospel: Christ who stands before Pilate and tells him: “I am a king” (Jn 18:37). Dear young friends, it is good to stop and think about these two images of Jesus, as we begin our journey towards the 2023 World Youth Day in Lisbon.

Let us reflect, then, on the first image: Jesus who comes with the clouds. The imagery evokes Christ’s coming in glory at the end of time; it makes us realize that the final word on our life will belong to Jesus, not to us. He is – so the Scriptures tell us – the one who “rides upon the clouds” (Ps 68:5), whose power is in the heavens (cf. ibid., v. 34). He is the Lord, the sun that dawns from on high and never sets, the One who endures while everything else passes away, our sure and eternal hope. He is the Lord. This prophecy of hope illumines our nights. It tells us that God is indeed coming, that he is present and at work, guiding our history towards himself, towards all goodness. He comes “with the clouds” to reassure us. As if to say: “I will not leave you alone when storms gather over your life. I am always with you. I come to bring back the bright sky”.

The prophet Daniel, on the other hand, tells us that he saw the Lord coming with the clouds as he “watched in the night visions” (Dan 7:13). Night visions: God also comes in the night, amid the often dark clouds that gather over our life. We all know such moments. We need to be able to recognize him, to look beyond the night, to lift our gaze in order to see him amid the gloom.

Dear young people, may you too “watch in the night visions”! What does this mean? It means letting your eyes remain bright even amid the darkness. Never stop seeking the light amid whatever darkness we may often bear in our hearts or see all around us. Lift your gaze from earth to heaven, not in order to flee but to resist the temptation to remain imprisoned by our fears, for there is always the danger that our fears will rule us. Do not remain closed in on ourselves and our complaints. Lift up your eyes! Get up! This is the word of encouragement that the Lord speaks to us, the invitation to lift up our eyes, to get up, and I wanted to repeat it in my Message to you for this year of journeying together. You have been entrusted with an exciting but also challenging task: to stand tall while everything around us seems to be collapsing; to be sentinels prepared to see the light in night visions; to be builders amid the many ruins of today’s world; to be capable of dreaming. This is crucial: a young person unable to dream, has sadly become old before his time! To be capable of dreaming, because this is what people who dream do: they do not remain in the darkness, but light a candle, a flame of hope that announces the coming of the dawn. Dream, make haste, and look to the future with courage.

I would like to tell you something: we, all of us, are grateful to you when you dream. “But really? When young people dream, sometimes they make a din…”. Make a noise, because your noise is the fruit of your dreams. When you make Jesus your life’s dream, and you embrace him with joy and a contagious enthusiasm, it means you do not wish to live in the night. This does us good! Thank you for all those times when you work courageously to make your dreams come true, when you keep believing in the light even in dark moments, when you commit yourselves passionately to making our world more beautiful and humane. Thank you for all those times when you cultivate the dream of fraternity, work to heal the wounds of God’s creation, fight to ensure respect for the dignity of the vulnerable and spread the spirit of solidarity and sharing. Thank you above all, because in a world that thinks only of present gain, that tends to stifle grand ideals, you have not lost the ability to dream in this world! Do not live your lives numbly or asleep. Instead, dream and live. This helps us adults, and the Church as well. Yes, as a Church too, we need to dream, we need youthful enthusiasm in order to be witnesses of the God who is always young!

Let me tell you another thing: many of your dreams are the same as those of the Gospel. Fraternity, solidarity, justice, peace: these are Jesus’ own dreams for humanity. Don’t be afraid to encounter Jesus: he loves your dreams and helps you to make them come true. Cardinal Martini used to say that the Church and society need “dreamers who remain ever open to the surprises of the Holy Spirit” (Conversazioni notturne a Gerusalemme, Sul rischio della fede, p. 61). Dreamers who keep us open to the surprises of the Holy Spirit. This is beautiful! I hope and pray that you will be one of these dreamers!

Now we come to the second image, to Jesus who says to Pilate: “I am a king”. We are struck by Jesus’ determination, his courage, his supreme freedom. Jesus was arrested, led to the praetorium, interrogated by those who had the power to condemn him to death. In such a situation, he had every right to defend himself, and even “make an arrangement” by coming to a compromise. Instead, Jesus did not hide his identity, he did not mask his intentions, or take advantage of the opening that even Pilate had left for him. With the courage born of truth, he answered: “I am a king”. He took responsibility for his own life: I have a mission and I will carry it to fulfilment in order to bear witness to my Father’s Kingdom. “For this”, he says, “I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth” (Jn 18:37). This is Jesus, who came without duplicity, in order to proclaim by his life that his Kingdom is different from the kingdoms of the world; that God does not reign in order to increase his power and to crush others; he does not reign by force of arms. His is the Kingdom of love: “I am a king”, but of this Kingdom of love; “I am a king” of the Kingdom of those who give their lives for the salvation of others.

Dear young people, Jesus’ freedom draws us in. Let us allow it to resonate within us, to challenge us, to awaken in us the courage born of truth. Let us ask ourselves this: Were I in Pilate’s place, looking Jesus in the eye, what would I be ashamed of? Faced with the truth of Jesus, the truth that is Jesus, what are the ways I am deceitful or duplicitous, the ways I displease him? Each of us will find such ways. Look for them, seek them out. We all have these duplicities, these compromises, this “arranging things” so that the cross will go away. It is good to stand before Jesus, who is truth, in order to be set free from our illusions. It is good to worship Jesus, and as a result, to be inwardly free, to see life as it really is, and not be deceived by the fashions of the moment and the displays of consumerism that dazzle but also deaden. Friends, we are not here to be enchanted by the sirens of the world, but to take our lives in hand, to “take a bite out of life”, in order to live it to the full!

In this way, with the freedom of Jesus, we find the courage we need to swim against the current. I would like to emphasize this: swimming against the current, having the courage to swim against the current. Not the daily temptation to swim against other people, like those perpetual victims and conspiracy theorists who are always casting blame on others; but rather against the unhealthy current of our own selfishness, closed-mindedness and rigidity, that often seeks like-minded groups to survive. Not this, but swimming against the tide so as to become more like Jesus. For he teaches us to meet evil only with the mild and lowly force of good. Without shortcuts, without deceit, without duplicity. Our world, beset by so many evils, does not need any more ambiguous compromises, people who move back and forth like the tide – wherever the wind blows them, wherever their own interests take them – or swing to the right or left, depending on what is most convenient, those who “sit on the fence”. A Christian like that seems more of an “equilibrist” than a Christian. Those who are always performing a balancing act are looking for ways to avoid getting their hands dirty, so as not to compromise their lives, not to take life seriously. Please, be afraid of being young people like that. Instead, be free and authentic, be the critical conscience of society. Don’t be afraid to criticize! We need your criticism. Many of you, for example, are critical of environmental pollution. We need this! Be free in criticism. Be passionate about truth, so that, with your dreams, you can say: “My life is not captive to the mindset of the world: I am free, because I reign with Jesus for justice, love and peace!” Dear young people, it is my hope and prayer that each of you can joyfully say: “With Jesus, I too am a king”. I too reign: as a living sign of the love of God, of his compassion and his tenderness. I am a dreamer, dazzled by the light of the Gospel, and I watch with hope in the night visions. And whenever I fall, I discover anew in Jesus the courage to continue fighting and hoping, the courage to keep dreaming. At every stage in life.

21.11.21 m

Pope Francis          

25.06.23 Angelus, St Peter's Square   

12th Sunday of Year A  

Matthew 10: 26-33

Dear brothers and sisters, Good Day, Good Sunday!

In today’s Gospel, Jesus repeats to his disciples three different times: “have no fear” (Mt 10:26, 28, 31). Shortly prior to this, he had spoken to them about the persecutions they would have to undergo for the Gospel, a fact that is still a reality. Since its beginning, in fact, the Church has experienced, together with joys – of which she has had many – many persecutions. It seems paradoxical: the proclamation of the Kingdom of God is a message of peace and justice, founded on fraternal charity and on forgiveness; and yet it meets with opposition, violence, persecution. Jesus, however, says not to fear, not because everything will be all right in the world, no, but because we are precious to his Father and nothing that is good will be lost. He therefore tells us not to let fear block us, but rather to fear one other thing, only one. What is the thing Jesus tells us we should fear?

We discover what it is through an image Jesus uses today: the image of “Gehenna” (cf. v. 28). The valley of “Gehenna” was a place the inhabitants of Jerusalem knew well. It was the city’s large garbage dump. Jesus speaks about it in order to say that the true fear we should have, is that of throwing away one’s own life. Jesus says, “Yes, be afraid of that”. It was like saying: you do not need so much to be afraid of suffering misunderstanding and criticism, of losing prestige and economic advantages to remain faithful to the Gospel, no, but of wasting your existence in the pursuit of trivial things that do not fill life with meaning.

This is important for us today. Even today, in fact, some are ridiculed or discriminated against for not following certain fads, which, however, place second-rate realities at the centre – for example, to follow after things instead of people, achievement instead of relationships. Let us give an example: I am thinking of some parents who need to work to maintain their family, but who cannot live for work alone – they need enough time to be with their children. I am also thinking of a priest or a sister who need to dedicate themselves to their service, without, however, forgetting to dedicate time to be with Jesus, otherwise, they will fall into spiritual worldliness and lose the sense of who they are. And again, I am thinking of a young man or woman who have thousands of commitments and passions – school, sports, various interests, cell phones and social networks – but who need to meet people and achieve great dreams, without losing time on passing things that do not leave their mark.

All of this, brothers and sisters, requires some renunciation regarding the idols of efficiency and consumerism. But this is necessary so as not to get lost in things that end up getting thrown out, as they threw things out in Gehenna back then. And people often end up in today’s Gehenna’s, instead. Let’s think, of the least who are often treated like waste products and unwanted objects. There is a cost to remain faithful to what counts. The cost is going against the tide, the cost is freeing oneself from being conditioned by popular opinion, the cost is being separated from those who “follow the current”. But it does not matter, Jesus says. What matters is not to throw away the greatest good: life. This is the only thing that should frighten us.

So let us ask ourselves: I, what do I fear? Not having what I like? Not reaching the goals society imposes? The judgement of others? Or rather of not pleasing the Lord, and not putting his Gospel in first place? Mary, ever Virgin, Mother most Wise, help us to be wise and courageous in the choices we make.