Ezekiel

Chapter 34

Jesus wanted to show us his heart as the heart that loved so deeply. This is why we have this commemoration today, especially of God’s love. God loved us, he loved us with such great love. I am thinking of what St Ignatius told us.... He pointed out two criteria on love. The first: love is expressed more clearly in actions than in words. The second: there is greater love in giving than in receiving.

These two criteria are like the pillars of true love: deeds, and the gift of self. The shepherd close to his flock, to his sheep that he knows one by one. The Lord loves us tenderly. The Lord knows the beautiful science of caresses — God’s tenderness. He does not love us with words. He approaches us, and in being close to us gives us his love with the deepest possible tenderness.

More difficult than loving God is letting ourselves be loved by him. Lord, I want to love you but teach me the difficult science, the difficult habit of letting myself be loved by you.... Perhaps this is what we should pray for at Mass.


07.06.13

Chapter 34

11-16

cont.



Pope Francis

11.10.22 Holy Mass Saint Peter’s Basilica,

Memorial of Saint John XXIII, Pope,

60th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council

Ezekiel 34: 11-16,

John 21: 15-17

“Do you love me?” These are the first words that Jesus speaks to Peter in the Gospel that we have just heard (Jn 21:15). His final words are: “Feed my sheep” (v. 17). On the anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, we can sense that those same words of the Lord are also addressed to us, to us as Church: Do you love me? Feed my sheep.

First: Do you love me? It is a question, for Jesus’ style is not so much to offer answers as to ask questions, questions that challenge our lives. The Lord, who “from the fullness of his love, addresses men and women as his friends and lives among them” (Dei Verbum, 2), continues to ask the Church, his Bride: “Do you love me?” The Second Vatican Council was one great response to this question. To rekindle her love for the Lord, the Church, for the first time in her history, devoted a Council to examining herself and reflecting on her nature and mission. She saw herself once more as a mystery of grace generated by love; she saw herself anew as the People of God, the Body of Christ, the living temple of the Holy Spirit!

This is the first way to look at the Church: from above. Indeed, the Church needs first to be viewed from on high, with God’s eyes, eyes full of love. Let us ask ourselves if we, in the Church, start with God and his loving gaze upon us. We are always tempted to start from ourselves rather than from God, to put our own agendas before the Gospel, to let ourselves be caught up in the winds of worldliness in order to chase after the fashions of the moment or to turn our back on the time that Providence has granted us, in order to retrace our steps. Yet let us be careful: both the “progressivism” that lines up behind the world and the “traditionalism” – or “looking backwards” – that longs for a bygone world are not evidence of love, but of infidelity. They are forms of a Pelagian selfishness that puts our own tastes and plans above the love that pleases God, the simple, humble and faithful love that Jesus asked of Peter.

Do you love me? Let us rediscover the Council in order to restore primacy to God, to what is essential: to a Church madly in love with its Lord and with all the men and women whom he loves; to a Church that is rich in Jesus and poor in assets; to a Church that is free and freeing. This was the path that the Council pointed out to the Church. It led her to return, like Peter in the Gospel, to Galilee, to the sources of her first love; to rediscover God’s holiness in her own poverty (cf. Lumen Gentium, 8c; chapter 5. Each one of us also has his or her own Galilee, the Galilee of our first love, and certainly today we are all called to return to our own Galilee in order to hear the voice of the Lord: “Follow me”. And there, to find once more in the gaze of the crucified and risen Lord a joy that had faded; to focus upon Jesus. To rediscover our joy, for a Church that has lost its joy has lost its love. Towards the end of his life, Pope John wrote: “This life of mine, now nearing its sunset, could find no better end than in the concentration of all my thoughts in Jesus, the Son of Mary… a great and constant friendship with Jesus, contemplated as a Child and upon the Cross, and adored in the Blessed Sacrament” (Journal of a Soul). This is our view from on high; this is our ever-living source: Jesus, the Galilee of love, Jesus who calls us, Jesus who asks us: “Do you love me?”.

Brothers and sisters, let us return to the Council’s pure sources of love. Let us rediscover the Council’s passion and renew our own passion for the Council! Immersed in the mystery of the Church, Mother and Bride, let us also say, with Saint John XXIII: Gaudet Mater Ecclesia! (Address at the Opening of the Council, 11 October 1962). May the Church be overcome with joy. If she should fail to rejoice, she would deny her very self, for she would forget the love that begot her. Yet how many of us are unable to live the faith with joy, without grumbling and criticizing? A Church in love with Jesus has no time for quarrels, gossip and disputes. May God free us from being critical and intolerant, harsh and angry! This is not a matter of style but of love. For those who love, as the Apostle Paul teaches, do everything without murmuring (cf. Phil 2:14). Lord, teach us your own lofty gaze; teach us to look at the Church as you see her. And when we are critical and disgruntled, let us remember that to be Church means to bear witness to the beauty of your love, to live our lives as a response to your question: Do you love me? And not to act as if we were at a funeral wake.

Do you love me? Feed my sheep. With that second verb, feed, Jesus expresses the kind of love that he desires from Peter. So let us now reflect on Peter. He was a fisherman whom Jesus made a fisher of men (cf. Lk 5:10). Jesus assigns him a new role, that of a shepherd, something entirely new to him. This was in fact a turning point in Peter’s life, for while fishermen are concerned with hauling a catch to themselves, shepherds are concerned with others, with feeding others. Shepherds live with their flocks; they feed the sheep and come to love them. A shepherd is not “above” the nets – like a fisherman – but “in the midst of” his sheep. A shepherd stands in front of the people to mark the way, in the midst of the people as one of them, and behind the people in order to be close to the stragglers. A shepherd is not above, like a fisherman, but in the midst.

This is the second way of looking at the Church that we learn from the Council: looking around. In other words, being in the world with others without ever feeling superior to others, being servants of that higher realm which is the Kingdom of God (cf. Lumen Gentium, 5); bringing the good news of the Gospel into people’s lives and languages (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 36), sharing their joys and hopes (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 1). Being in the midst of the people, not above the people, which is the bad sin of clericalism that kills the sheep rather than guiding them or helping them grow. How timely the Council remains! It helps us reject the temptation to enclose ourselves within the confines of our own comforts and convictions. The Council helps us imitate God’s approach, which the prophet Ezekiel has described to us today: “Seek the lost sheep and lead back to the fold the stray, bind up the injured and strengthen the weak” (cf. Ezek 34:16).

Feed: the Church did not hold the Council in order to admire herself, but to give herself to others. Indeed, our holy and hierarchical Mother, springing from the heart of the Trinity, exists for the sake of love. She is a priestly people (cf. Lumen Gentium, 10ff.), meant not to stand out in the eyes of the world, but to serve the world. Let us not forget that the People of God is born “extrovert” and renews its youth by self-giving, for it is a sacrament of love, “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1). Brothers and sisters, let us return to the Council, which rediscovered the living river of Tradition without remaining mired in traditions. The Council rediscovered the source of love, not to remain on mountain heights, but to cascade downwards as a channel of mercy for all. Let us return to the Council and move beyond ourselves, resisting the temptation to self-absorption, which is a way of being worldly. Once more, the Lord tells his Church: feed! And as she feeds, she leaves behind nostalgia for the past, regret at the passing of former influence, and attachment to power. For you, the holy People of God, are a pastoral people. You are not here to shepherd yourselves, or to be on the climb, but to shepherd others – all others – with love. And if it is fitting to show a particular concern, it should be for those whom God loves most: the poor and the outcast (cf. Lumen Gentium, 8; Gaudium et Spes, 1). The Church is meant to be, as Pope John put it, “the Church of all, and particularly the Church of the poor” (Radio Message to the faithful worldwide a month prior to the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, 11 September 1962).

Do you love me? The Lord then says: “Feed my sheep”. He does not mean just some of the sheep, but all of them, for he loves them all, affectionately referring to them as “mine”. The Good Shepherd looks out and wants his flock to be united, under the guidance of the Pastors he has given them. He wants us – and this is the third way of looking at the Church – to see the whole, all of us together. The Council reminds us that the Church is a communion in the image of the Trinity (cf. Lumen Gentium, 4.13). The devil, on the other hand, wants to sow the darnel of division. Let us not give in to his enticements or to the temptation of polarization. How often, in the wake of the Council, did Christians prefer to choose sides in the Church, not realizing that they were breaking their Mother’s heart! How many times did they prefer to cheer on their own party rather than being servants of all? To be progressive or conservative rather than being brothers and sisters? To be on the “right” or “left”, rather than with Jesus? To present themselves as “guardians of the truth” or “pioneers of innovation” rather than seeing themselves as humble and grateful children of Holy Mother Church. All of us are children of God, all brothers and sisters in the Church, all of us making up the Church, all of us. That is how the Lord wants us to be. We are his sheep, his flock, and we can only be so together and as one. Let us overcome all polarization and preserve our communion. May all of us increasingly “be one”, as Jesus prayed before sacrificing his life for us (cf. Jn 17:21). And may Mary, Mother of the Church, help us in this. May the yearning for unity grow within us, the desire to commit ourselves to full communion among all those who believe in Christ. Let us leave aside the “isms”, for God’s people do not like polarization. The people of God is the holy faithful people of God: this is the Church. It is good that today, as during the Council, representatives of other Christian communities are present with us. Thank you! Thank you for being here, thank you for your presence!

We thank you, Lord, for the gift of the Council. You who love us, free us from the presumption of self-sufficiency and from the spirit of worldly criticism. Prevent us from excluding ourselves from unity. You who lovingly feed us, lead us forth from the shadows of self-absorption. You who desire that we be a united flock, save us from the forms of polarization and the “isms” that are the devil’s handiwork. And we, your Church, with Peter and like Peter, now say to you: “Lord, you know everything; you know that we love you” (cf. Jn 21:17).

11.10.22

Chapter 37

Today’s Three Readings speak to us about the Resurrection, they speak to us about life. This beautiful promise from the Lord: “Behold I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves” (Ez 37:12), is the promise of the Lord who possesses life and has the power to give life, that those who are dead might regain life. The Second Reading tells us that we are under the Holy Spirit and that Christ in us, his Spirit, will raise us. And in the Third Reading of the Gospel, we saw how Jesus gave life to Lazarus. Lazarus, who was dead, has returned to life.

I would simply like to say something very briefly. We all have within us some areas, some parts of our heart that are not alive, that are a little dead; and some of us have many dead places in our hearts, a true spiritual necrosis! And when we are in this situation, we know it, we want to get out but we can’t. Only the power of Jesus, the power of Jesus can help us come out of these atrophied zones of the heart, these tombs of sin, which we all have. We are all sinners! But if we become very attached to these tombs and guard them within us and do not will that our whole heart rise again to life, we become corrupted and our soul begins to give off, as Martha says, an “odour” (Jn 11:39), the stench of a person who is attached to sin. And Lent is something to do with this. Because all of us, who are sinners, do not end up attached to sin, but that we can hear what Jesus said to Lazarus: “He cried out with a loud voice: ‘Lazarus, come out’” (Jn 11:43).

Today I invite you to think for a moment, in silence, here: where is my interior necrosis? Where is the dead part of my soul? Where is my tomb? Think, for a short moment, all of you in silence. Let us think: what part of the heart can be corrupted because of my attachment to sin, one sin or another? And to remove the stone, to take away the stone of shame and allow the Lord to say to us, as he said to Lazarus: “Come out!”. That all our soul might be healed, might be raised by the love of Jesus, by the power of Jesus. He is capable of forgiving us. We all need it! All of us. We are all sinners, but we must be careful not to become corrupt! Sinners we may be, but He forgives us. Let us hear that voice of Jesus who, by the power of God, says to us: “Come out! Leave that tomb you have within you. Come out. I give you life, I give you happiness, I bless you, I want you for myself”.

May the Lord today, on this Sunday, which speaks so much about the Resurrection, give us all the grace to rise from our sins, to come out of our tombs; with the voice of Jesus, calling us to go out, to go to Him.

And another thing: on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, those who are preparing for Baptism in the Church, used to receive the Word of God. In this community today, I will make the same gesture. And I would like to give you the Gospel, which you can take home. This Gospel is a pocket-size Gospel you can carry with you always, to read a short passage at a time; to open it like this and read a part of the Gospel, when I have to queue or when I am on the bus... but only when I am comfortable on the bus, because if I am not then I must guard my pockets! To read a little passage of the Gospel at a time. It will do us so much good, so much good! A little every day. It is a gift, which I brought for your entire community, so that, today, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, you might receive the Word of God and that, thus, you too might hear the voice of Jesus say to you: “Come forth! Come! Come out!”, and so prepare for the Easter Vigil.


06.04.14

Chapter 37

12-14

cont.




Pope Francis

02.04.17 Holy Mass, Piazza Martiri, Carpi

5th Sunday of Lent Year A

John 11: 1-45,

Ezekiel 37: 12-14

Today’s readings tell us of the God of life, who conquers death. Let us pause in particular on the last of the miraculous signs which Jesus performs before his Easter, at the sepulchre of his friend, Lazarus.

Everything appears to have ended there: the tomb is sealed by a great stone; there is only weeping and desolation there. Even Jesus is shaken by the dramatic mystery of the loss of a dear person: “He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (Jn 11:33). Then “Jesus wept” (v. 35) and went to the sepulchre, the Gospel says, “deeply moved again” (v. 38). This is God’s heart: far from evil but close to those who are suffering. He does not make evil disappear magically, but he endures the suffering; he makes it his own and transforms it; he abides it.

We notice, however, that amid the general despair over the death of Lazarus, Jesus does not allow himself to be transported by despair. Even while suffering himself, he asks that people believe steadfastly. He does not close himself within his weeping but, moved, he makes his way to the sepulchre. He does not allow the resigned, emotional atmosphere that surrounds him to seize him, but rather, prays with trust and says, “Father, I thank thee” (v. 41). Thus, in the mystery of suffering, before which thoughts and progress are crushed like flies against glass, Jesus offers us the example of how to conduct ourselves. He does not run away from suffering, which is part of this life, but he does not allow himself to be held captive by pessimism.

A great “encounter-clash” thus occurred at that sepulchre. On the one hand, there is the great disappointment, the precariousness of our mortal life which, pierced by anguish over death, often experiences defeat, an interior darkness which seems insurmountable. Our soul, created for life, suffers upon hearing that its thirst for eternal good is oppressed by an ancient and dark evil. On the one hand, there is this defeat of the sepulchre. But on the other, there is the hope that conquers death and evil, and which has a name: the name of hope is Jesus.

He neither brings a bit of comfort nor some remedy to prolong life, but rather, proclaims: “I am the Resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live”, (v. 25). It is for this reason that he says decisively, “Take away the stone” (v. 39) and he calls to Lazarus, “Come out” (v. 43).

Dear brothers and sisters, we too are called to decide on which side to stand. One can stand on the side of the sepulchre or on the side of Jesus. There are those who allow themselves to be closed within their pain and those who open up to hope. There are those who remain trapped among the ruins of life, and those who, like you, with God’s help, pick up the ruins of life and rebuild with patient hope.

In facing life’s great ‘whys?’, we have two paths: either stay and wistfully contemplate past and present sepulchres, or allow Jesus to approach our sepulchres. Yes, because each one of us already has a small sepulchre, some area that has somewhat died within our hearts; a wound, a wrongdoing endured or inflicted, an unrelenting resentment, a regret that keeps coming back, a sin we cannot overcome. Today, let us identify these little sepulchres that we have inside, and let us invite Jesus into them. It is curious, but we often prefer to be alone in the dark caves within us rather than invite Christ inside them. We are tempted to always seek [solutions for] ourselves, brooding and sinking into anguish, licking our wounds, instead of going to him, who says, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”, (Mt 11:28). Let us not be held captive by the temptation to remain alone and discouraged, crying about what is happening to us. Let us not give in to the useless and inconclusive logic of fear, resignedly repeating that everything is going badly and nothing is as it once was. This is the sepulchral atmosphere. The Lord instead wishes to open the path of life, that of encounter with him, of trust in him, of the resurrection of the heart, the way of: “Arise, Arise, come out”. This is what the Lord asks of us, and he is by our side to do so.

Thus, we hear directed to each one of us Jesus’ words to Lazarus: “Come out”. Come out from the gridlock of hopeless sadness; unwrap the bandages of fear that impede the journey, the laces of the weaknesses and anxieties that constrain you; reaffirm that God unties the knots. By following Jesus, we learn not to knot our lives around problems which become tangled. There will always be problems, always, and when we solve one, another one duly arrives. We can however, find a new stability, and this stability is Jesus himself. This stability is called Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life. With him, joy abides in our hearts, hope is reborn, suffering is transformed into peace, fear into trust, hardship into an offering of love. And even though burdens will not disappear, there will always be his uplifting hand, his encouraging Word saying to all of us, to each of us: “Come out! Come to me!”. He tells all of us: “Do not be afraid”.

Today, just like then, Jesus says to us to: “take away the stone”. However burdensome the past, great the sin, weighty the shame, let us never bar the Lord’s entrance. Let us, before him, remove that stone which prevents him from entering. This is the favourable time to remove our sin, our attachment to worldly vanity, the pride that blocks our souls, so much hostility among us, in families.... This is the favourable time for removing all these things.

Visited and liberated by Jesus, we ask for the grace to be witnesses of life in this world that thirsts for it, witnesses who spark and rekindle God’s hope in hearts weary and laden with sadness. Our message is the joy of the living Lord, who says again today, as he did to Ezekiel, “Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people (Ez 37:12).

02.04.17

Chapter 47

Chapter 47

1-12




Pope Francis

09.11.19 St John's Basilica, Lateran

Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

Ezekiel 47: 1-2, 8-9, 12,

Psalms 46: 2-3, 5-6, 8-9,

1 Corinthians 3: 9c-11, 16-17,

John 2: 13-22

Tonight, in this celebration of dedication, I would like to take three verses from the Word of God and offer them to you, so that you can meditate and pray over them.

The first I feel is addressed to everyone, to the entire diocesan community of Rome. It is the verse of the Psalm: "A river and its streams gladden the city of God" (46:5). The Christians who live in this city are like the river that flows from the temple: they bring a Word of life and hope capable of fertilizing the deserts of hearts, as the stream described in the vision of Ezekiel (cf. 47) that fertilizes the desert of Araba and restores the salty and lifeless waters of the Dead Sea. The important thing is that the stream comes out of the temple and flows to hostile-looking lands. The city can only rejoice when it sees Christians become joyful announcers, determined to share with others the treasures of God's Word and to work for the common good. The land that seemed destined to remain dry forever, reveals an extraordinary potential: it becomes a garden with evergreen trees and leaves and fruits with healing power. Ezekiel explains the reason for so much fertility: "Their waters flow from the sanctuary" (47:12). God is the secret of this new life force!

May the Lord rejoice at seeing us on the move, ready to listen with our hearts to His poor who cry out to Him. May the Mother Church of Rome experience the consolation of seeing once again the obedience and courage of her children, full of enthusiasm for this new season of evangelization. Meeting others, entering into dialogue with them, listening to them with humility, graciousness and poverty of heart... I invite you to live all this not as something stressful, but with spiritual ease: instead of getting caught up in performance anxieties, it is more important to broaden our perception in order to grasp God's presence and action in the city. It is a contemplation born of love.

To you priests I want to dedicate a verse of the second Reading, of the First Letter to the Corinthians: "No-one can lay a foundation other than the one that is already there, which is Jesus Christ"(3:11). This is your task, the heart of your ministry: to help the community be always at the Lord's feet listening to His Word; to keep it away from all worldliness, from bad compromises; to guard the foundation and blessed roots of the spiritual building; to defend it from rapacious wolves, from those who would like to divert it from the way of the Gospel. Like Paul, you too are "wise architects" (cf. 3:10), wise because you are well aware that any other idea or reality we wanted to place at the base of the Church instead of the Gospel, might perhaps guarantee us more success, perhaps more immediate gratification, but it would inevitably lead to the collapse, the collapse of the whole spiritual building!

Since I have been Bishop of Rome, I have come to know many of you priests more closely: I have admired your faith and love for the Lord, your closeness to the people and generosity in caring for the poor. You know the city's neighbourhoods like no other and keep in your heart the faces, smiles and tears of so many people. You have set aside ideological differences and personal ambition to make room for what God asks of you. The realism of those who have their feet on the ground and know "how things are in this world" has not prevented you from flying high with the Lord and dreaming big. God bless you. May the joy of intimacy with Him be the truest reward for all the good you do on a daily basis.

And finally a verse for you, members of the pastoral teams, who are here to receive a special mandate from the Bishop. I could only choose him from the Gospel(John 2:13-22), where Jesus behaves in a divinely provocative way. In order to shake the dullness of people and induce them to radical changes, sometimes Jesus chooses to take strong action, to break through the situation. With his action Jesus wants to produce a change of pace, a turnaround. Many saints had acted in the same way: some of their actions, incomprehensible by human logic, were the result of insights that came from the Spirit and were intended to provoke their contemporaries and help them understand that "my thoughts are not your thoughts," as God says through the prophet Isaiah (55:8).

In order to understand todays Gospel passage, we need to stress an important detail. The merchants were in the courtyard of the pagans, the place accessible to non-Jews. This very courtyard had been turned into a market. But God wants his temple to be a house of prayer for all peoples (cf. Is 56,7). Hence Jesus' decision to overturn the tables of the money changers and drive out the animals. This purification of the sanctuary was necessary for Israel to rediscover its vocation: to be light for all people, a small nation chosen to serve to the salvation that God wants to give to everyone. Jesus knows that this provocation will cost him dearly. And when they ask him, "What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this ?" (v. 18), the Lord responds by saying, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it"( v. 19).

And tonight this is exactly the verse that I want to give to you, pastoral teams. You are entrusted with the task of helping your communities and pastoral workers reach all the inhabitants of the city, finding new ways to meet those who are far from the faith and the Church. But, in fulfilling this service, you carry within yourselves this awareness, this trust: that there is no human heart in which Christ does not want to be and cannot be reborn. In our lives as sinners, we often turn away from the Lord and extinguish the Spirit. We destroy the temple of God that is in each of us. Yet this is never a definitive situation: it takes the Lord three days to rebuild his temple within us!

No one, no matter how wounded by evil, is condemned to be separated from God on this earth forever. In a way that is often mysterious but real, the Lord opens new cracks in our hearts, the desire for truth, goodness and beauty, which make room for evangelization. We may sometimes encounter mistrust and hostility: but we must not allow ourselves to be blocked, rather to hold onto the belief that it takes God three days to raise His Son in someone's heart. It is also the story of some of us: profound conversions resulting from the unpredictable action of grace! I think of the Second Vatican Council: "Christ has died for all and since the ultimate vocation of humanity is in fact one, the divine one; therefore we must believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to everyone the possibility of being associated with the Easter mystery" (Cost. past. Gaudium et spes, 22).

May the Lord let us experience this in all our evangelizing action. May we can grow in faith in the Easter Mystery and be associated with His "zeal" for our house. And may you be blessed on your journey!

09.11.19

Chapter 47

1-12

cont.




Pope Francis

24.03.20 Holy Mass Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)

Tuesday of the 4th Week of Lent - Lectionary Cycle II

Ezekiel 47: 1-9, 12,

John 5: 1-16

Today's liturgy makes us reflect on water, water as a sign of salvation, because it is a means of salvation, but water is also a means of destruction: we think of the Flood ... But in these readings, water is for salvation.

In the first reading, that water that leads to life, that heals the waters of the sea, a new water that heals. And in the Gospel, the pool, that pool where the sick went, full of water, to heal themselves, because it was said that every now and then the waters moved, like a river, because an angel came down from the sky to move them, and the first, or the first, who threw themselves into the water were healed. And many – as Jesus says – many sick people, "lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled", there waiting for healing, for the water to move. There was a man who had been ill for 38 years. 38 years there, waiting for healing. It makes us think. It's a bit long isn't it? Because someone who wants to be healed arranges to have someone to help him move, quickly, even smartly ... but he was there 38 years, at a certain point we don't even know if he is alive or dead ... Jesus, seeing him lying there, and knowing the reality, that he had been there for a long time, said to him, "Do you want to be healed?" And the answer is interesting: he doesn't say yes, he complains. About the disease? No. The sick man said, "Sir, I don't have anyone to put me into the pool when the water is disturbed. While I'm about to go there – I'm about to make the decision to go – another gets down there before me." A man who always gets there late. Jesus says to him, "Get up, pick up your mat and walk." Instantly that man was cured.

It makes us think about this man's behaviour. Was he sick? Yes, maybe he had some paralysis, but it looks like he could walk a little. But he was sick in the heart, he was sick in the soul, he was ill with pessimism, he was ill with sadness, he was sick with spiritual laziness. This was this man's illness: "Yes, I want to live, but ...", he just stayed there. But the answer should have been, "Yes, I want to be healed!" But no, it's complaining, "It's the others who get there first, always the others." The response to Jesus' offering to heal is a complaint against others. And so, 38 years complaining about others. And doing nothing to get better.

It was a sabbath: we heard what the doctors of the law did. But the key is the encounter with Jesus, after. He found him in the Temple and said, "Look, you are healed. Don't sin anymore, so that nothing worse may happen to you." That man was in sin, but he wasn't there because he had done something really wrong, no. The sin of surviving on complaining about the lives of others: the sin of sadness that is the seed of the devil, of that inability to make a decision about one's own life, but yes, to look at the lives of others to complain. Not to criticize them: to complain. "They go first, I am the victim of this life": complaints, they breath complaints, these people.

If we make a comparison with the blind man from the birth that we heard about last Sunday, the other Sunday: how much joy, how decisive he had been about being healed, and also how decisively he went to discuss with the doctors of the Law! This one he just informs, "Yes it's him, that's it." Without involving himself in that life... It makes me think of so many of us, of so many Christians who live in this state of apathy, unable to do anything but complaining about everything. And apathy is a poison, it is a fog that surrounds the soul and does not make us live. And also, it's a drug because if you taste it often, you like it. And you end up "addicted to sadness", and "addicted to apathy" ... It's like air. And this is a quite habitual sin among us: sadness, apathy, I do not say melancholy but it is very similar.

It will do us good to reread this chapter 5 of John to see what this illness is like into which we may fall. Water is to save us. "But I can't save myself" – "Why?" – "Because it is the fault of others". And he remains there 38 years ... Jesus healed me: we don't see the reaction of others who are healed, who pick up their mat and dance, sing, give thanks, and say it to the whole world? No, he just goes ahead. The others say to him you shouldn't be doing that, he says: "But, the one who healed me told me to do it", and he just goes ahead. And then, instead of going to Jesus to thank he informs: "It was him." A grey life, grey because of this bad spirit that is apathy, sadness, melancholy.

Let us think of water, that water that is a symbol of our strength, of our life, of the water that Jesus used to regenerate us in Baptism. And let us also think of ourselves, if any of us have the danger of slipping into this apathy, into this neutral sin: the sin of neutral is this, neither white nor black, we do not know what it is. And this is a sin that the devil can use to drown our spiritual life and also our personal life. May the Lord help us understand how awful and how evil this sin is.

Spiritual Communion:

My Jesus, I believe you are truly present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. I love you above all things and I desire you in my soul. Because I cannot now receive you sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As I have come, I embrace you and unite myself to you. Don't ever let me be separated from You. Amen.

24.03.20

Chapter 47

1-12

cont.




Pope Francis

26.07.22 Participation in the “Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage” and Liturgy of the Word at the "Lac Ste. Anne", Canada

Ezekiel 47: 1-2,8-9,12

John 7: 37-39

Dear brothers and sisters, good evening!

I am happy to be here among you and to see once again the faces of the various indigenous representatives who came to visit me in Rome several months ago. That visit meant a lot to me, and now I have come to visit your home, as a friend and pilgrim in your land, in this church where you gather to praise God as brothers and sisters. In Rome, after I listened to your stories, I stated that “any truly effective process of healing requires concrete actions” (Address to Representatives Indigenous Peoples in Canada, 1 April 2022). So I am pleased to see that in this parish, where people of different communities of the First Nations, the Métis and the Inuit come together with nonindigenous people from the local area and many of our immigrant brothers and sisters, this process has already begun. This place is a house for all, open and inclusive, just as the Church should be, for it is the family of the children of God, where hospitality and welcome, typical values of the indigenous culture, are essential. A home where everyone should feel welcome, regardless of past experiences and personal life stories. I also want to thank you for the concrete closeness you show to many poor people – it is very moving – for they are numerous, even in this rich country, through your works of charity. That is what Jesus asks of us, for as he tells us over and over in the Gospel: “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). Jesus is there present.

Yet we must not forget that in the Church too, the wheat is mixed with weeds. And precisely because of those weeds, I wanted to make this penitential pilgrimage, which I began this morning by recalling the wrong done to the indigenous peoples by many Christians and by asking with sorrow for forgiveness. It pains me to think that Catholics contributed to policies of assimilation and enfranchisement that inculcated a sense of inferiority, robbing communities and individuals of their cultural and spiritual identity, severing their roots and fostering prejudicial and discriminatory attitudes; and that this was also done in the name of an educational system that was supposedly Christian. Education must always start from respect and the promotion of talents already present in individuals. It is not, nor can it ever be, something pre-packaged and imposed. For education is an adventure, in which we explore and discover together the mystery of life. Thanks be to God, for in parishes like this, day by day, through encounter, foundations are being laid for healing and reconciliation. Here I would add another point. In a special way, I want to thank the Bishops for their work in making my visit possible, as well as your visit to Rome. A united Episcopal Conference is able to do great things and produce much fruit. Many thanks to the Episcopal Conference!

Reconciliation. This evening, I would like to share with you some reflections on this word. What does Jesus tell us when he speaks about reconciliation, or when he prompts us towards it? What does reconciliation mean for us today? Dear friends, the reconciliation brought by Christ was no agreement to preserve outward peace, a sort of gentlemen’s agreement meant to keep everyone happy. Nor was it a peace that dropped down from heaven, imposed from on high, or by assimilating the other. The Apostle Paul tells us that Jesus reconciles by bringing together, by making two distant groups one: one reality, one soul, one people. And how does he do that? Through the cross (cf. Eph 2:14). Jesus reconciles us with one another on the cross, on the “tree of life”, as the ancient Christians loved to call it.

You, my dear indigenous brothers and sisters, have much to teach us about the symbolism and vital meaning of the tree. Joined to the earth by its roots, a tree gives oxygen through its leaves and nourishes us by its fruit. It is impressive to see how the symbolism of the tree is reflected in the architecture of this church, where a tree trunk symbolically unites the earth below and the altar on which Jesus reconciles us in the Eucharist in “an act of cosmic love” that “joins heaven and earth, embracing […] all creation” (Laudato Si’, 236). This liturgical symbolism reminds me of the magnificent words spoken by Saint John Paul II in this country: “Christ animates the very centre of all culture. Thus, not only is Christianity relevant to the Indian people, but Christ, in the members of his Body, is himself Indian” (Liturgy of the Word with the Native Peoples of Canada, 15 September 1984). On the cross, Christ reconciles and brings back together everything that seemed unthinkable and unforgivable; he embraces everyone and everything. Everyone and everything! The indigenous peoples attribute a powerful cosmic significance to the cardinal points, seen not only as geographical reference points but also as dimensions that embrace all reality and indicate the way to heal it, as embodied by the so-called “medicine wheel”. This church appropriates that symbolism of the cardinal points and gives it a Christological meaning. Jesus, through the four extremities of his cross, has embraced the four cardinal points and has brought together the most distant peoples; Jesus has brought healing and peace to all things (cf. Eph 2:14). On the cross, he accomplished God’s plan: “to reconcile all things” (cf. Col 1:20).

Dear brothers and sisters, what meaning does this have for people who bear within their hearts such painful wounds? I can only imagine the effort it must take, for those who have suffered so greatly because of men and women who should have set an example of Christian living, even to think about reconciliation. Nothing can ever take away the violation of dignity, the experience of evil, the betrayal of trust. Or take away our own shame, as believers. Yet we need to set out anew, and Jesus does not offer us nice words and good intentions, but the cross: the scandalous love that allows his hands and feet to be pierced by nails, and his head to be crowned with thorns. This is the way forward: to look together to Christ, to love betrayed and crucified for our sake; to look to Christ, crucified in the many students of the residential schools. If we truly want to be reconciled with one another and with ourselves, to be reconciled with the past, with wrongs endured and memories wounded, with traumatic experiences that no human consolation can ever heal, our eyes must be lifted to the crucified Jesus; peace must be attained at the altar of his cross. For it is precisely on the tree of the cross that sorrow is transformed into love, death into life, disappointment into hope, abandonment into fellowship, distance into unity. Reconciliation is not merely the result of our own efforts; it is a gift that flows from the crucified Lord, a peace that radiates from the heart of Jesus, a grace that must be sought.

There is another aspect of reconciliation that I would like to mention. The Apostle Paul explains that Jesus, by means of the cross, has reconciled us in one body (cf. Eph 2:14). What body is he talking about? He is talking about the body of the Church. The Church is this living body of reconciliation. If we think of the lasting pain experienced in these places by so many people within ecclesial institutions, we feel nothing but anger, nothing but shame. That happened because believers became worldly, and rather than fostering reconciliation, they imposed their own cultural models. This attitude, brothers and sisters, dies hard, also from the religious standpoint. Indeed, it may seem easier to force God on people, rather than letting them draw near to God. This is contradictory and never works, because that is not how the Lord operates. He does not force us, he does not suppress or overwhelm; instead, he loves, he liberates, he leaves us free. He does not sustain with his Spirit those who dominate others, who confuse the Gospel of our reconciliation with proselytism. One cannot proclaim God in a way contrary to God himself. And yet, how many times has this happened in history! While God presents himself simply and quietly, we always have the temptation to impose him, and to impose ourselves in his name. It is the worldly temptation to make him come down from the cross and show himself with power. Yet Jesus reconciles us on the cross, not by coming down from the cross. At the foot of the cross, were those who thought only of themselves and kept tempting Christ, telling him to save himself (cf. Lk 23:35.36) and not think of others. Brothers and sisters, in the name of Jesus, may this never happen again in the Church. May Jesus be preached as he desires, in freedom and charity. In every crucified person whom we meet, may we see not a problem to be solved, but a brother or sister to be loved, the flesh of Christ to be loved. May the Church, the Body of Christ, be a living body of reconciliation!

The word “reconciliation” is in fact practically synonymous with the word “Church”. It comes from the word “council”, and it means “meet again in council”. The Church is the house where we “conciliate” anew, where we meet to start over and to grow together. It is the place where we stop thinking as individuals and acknowledge that we are brothers and sisters of one another. Where we look one another in the eye, accept the other’s history and culture, and allow the mystique of togetherness, so pleasing to the Holy Spirit, to foster the healing of wounded memories. This is the way: not to decide for others, not to pigeonhole everyone within our preconceived categories, but to place ourselves before the crucified Lord and before our brothers and sisters, in order to learn how to walk together. That is what the Church is, and should always be – the place where reality is always superior to ideas. That is what the Church is, and always should be – not a set of ideas and precepts to drill into people; the Church is a welcoming home for everyone! That is what the Church is, and ever should be: a building with doors always open. We heard from our brother and sister that this parish is just that: a building with doors always open, where all of us, as living temples of the Spirit, encounter one another, serve one another and are reconciled with one another. Dear brothers and sisters: gestures and visits can be important, but most words and deeds of reconciliation take place at the local level, in communities like this, where individuals and families travel side-by-side, day by day. To pray together, to help one another, to share life stories, common joys and common struggles: this is what opens the door to the reconciling work of God.

One final image can help us in this. Here, in this church, above the altar and tabernacle, we see the four poles of a typical indigenous tent, a teepee. This teepee has deep biblical symbolism. When Israel journeyed in the desert, God dwelt in a tent that was set up every time that the people stopped and camped: it was the Tent of Meeting. The teepee reminds us that God accompanies us on our journey and loves to meet us together, in assembly, in council. And when he became man, the Gospel tells us, he literally “pitched his tent among us” (cf. Jn 1:14). God is a God of closeness, and in Jesus he teaches us the language of compassion and tender love. That is what we should call to mind every time that we enter a church, where Jesus is present in the tabernacle, a word that itself originally meant “tent”. Therefore, God has placed his tent in our midst; he accompanies us through our deserts. He does not dwell in heavenly mansions, but in our Church, which he wants to be a house of reconciliation.

Lord Jesus, crucified and risen, you dwell here, in the midst of your people, and you want your glory to shine forth through our communities and in our cultures. Jesus, take us by the hand, and even through the deserts of history, continue to guide our steps on the way of reconciliation. Amen.

25.07.22 e