Psalms

Psalm 1-89

Psalm 1

  Psalm 1

1-6



Pope Francis       

19.02.15   Holy Mass  Santa Marta    

Deuteronomy 30: 15-20

Psalms 1: 1-4,6            

Luke 9: 22-25 

At the beginning of the Lenten journey, the Church makes us reflect on the words of Moses and of Jesus: “You have to choose”. It is thus a reflection on the need we all have, to make choices in life. And Moses is clear: ‘See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil’: choose. Indeed the Lord gave us freedom, the freedom to love, to walk on his streets. We are free and we can choose. However,  “it’s not easy to choose”. It’s more comfortable “to live by letting ourselves be carried by the inertia of life, of situations, of habits”. This is why today the Church tells us: ‘You are responsible; you have to choose’”. 

Have you chosen? How do you live? What is your lifestyle, your way of living, like? Is it on the side of life or on the side of death?

Naturally the response should be to choose the way of the Lord. ‘I command you to love the Lord’. This is how Moses shows us the path of the Lord: ‘If your heart turns back and if you do not listen and you let yourself be drawn to prostrate yourself before other gods and serve them, you will perish’. Choose between God and the other gods, those who do not have the power to give us anything, only little things that pass.

We always have this habit of going where the people go, somewhat like everyone. But, today the Church is telling us: ‘stop and choose’. It’s good advice. And today it will do us good to stop during the day and think: what is my lifestyle like? Which road am I taking?

After all, in everyday life we tend to take the opposite approach. Many times, we live in a rush, we are on the run, without noticing what the path is like; and we let ourselves be carried along by the needs, by the necessities of the days, but without thinking. And thus came the invitation to stop: “Begin Lent with small questions that will help one to consider: ‘What is my life like?’”. The first thing to ask ourselves is: “who is God for me? Do I choose the Lord? How is my relationship with Jesus?”. And the second: “How is your relationship with your family: with your parents; with your siblings; with your wife; with your husband; with your children?”. In fact, these two series of questions are enough, and we will surely find things that we need to correct.

Why do  we hurry so much in life, without knowing which path we are on. Because we want to win, we want to earn, we want to be successful. But Jesus makes us think: “What advantage does a man have who wins the whole world, but loses or destroys himself?”. Indeed, “the wrong road" is that of always seeking success, one’s own riches, without thinking about the Lord, without thinking about family. Returning to the two series of questions on one’s relationship with God and with those who are dear to us, one can win everything, yet become a failure in the end. He has failed. That life is a failure. So are those who seem to have had success, those women and men for whom “they’ve made a monument” or “they’ve dedicated a portrait”, but didn’t “know how to make the right choice between life and death”.

It will do us good to stop for a bit — five, 10 minutes — and ask ourselves the question: what is the speed of my life? Do I reflect on my actions? How is my relationship with God and with my family?”. The Pope indicated that we can find help in “that really beautiful advice of the Psalm: ‘Blessed are they who trust in the Lord’”. And “when the Lord gives us this advice — ‘Stop! Choose today, choose’ — He doesn’t leave us on our own; He is with us and wants to help us. And we, for our part, need “only to trust, to have faith in Him”.

“Blessed are they who trust in the Lord”, be aware that God does not abandon us. Today, at the moment in which we stop to think about these things and to take decisions, to choose something, we know that the Lord is with us, is beside us, to help us. He never lets us go alone. He is always with us. Even in the moment of choosing. 

Let us have faith in this Lord, who is with us, and when He tells us: ‘choose between good and evil’ helps us to choose good”. And above all “let us ask Him for the grace to be courageous”, because it takes a bit of courage to stop and ask myself: how do I stand before God, how are my relationships in the family, what do I need to change, what should I choose?

19.02.15

Psalm 8

 Chapter 8

2-10




Pope Francis       

16.06.19 Holy Mass, Camerino  

Visit to the Earthquake affected areas 

Trinity Sunday Year C  

Psalm 8: 4-9

Romans 5: 1-5

John 16: 12-15      

“What is man that thou art mindful of him” we prayed during the Psalm (8:4). These words came to mind as I was thinking of you. Before what you have seen and suffered, before the crumbled houses and buildings reduced to ruins, this question comes to mind: What is man?. What is he if what he raises can crumble down in an instant? What is he if his hope can crumble to dust? What is man? The answer seems to lie in the continuation of the sentence: what is man that thou art mindful of him? God remembers us just as we are with all our frailties. In the uncertainty that we feel within and on the outside, the Lord gives us one certainty: He remembers us. He is re-mindful of us, that is, he returns to us with his heart because he cares for us. And while here on earth many things are quickly forgotten, God does not leave us in oblivion. No one is despicable in his eyes. Each of us has an infinite value for him: we are small beneath the sky and powerless when the earth trembles but to God we are more precious than any thing else.

Memory is a keyword for life. Let us ask for the grace to remember each day that we are not forgotten by God, that we are his beloved, unique and irreplaceable children. Remembering this gives us the strength not to surrender before life’s setbacks. Let us remember our worth when we are faced with the temptation to feel sad and to continue dredging up the worst, which seems to be never-ending. Bad memories also appear when we are not thinking of them. But they dole out pain: they leave behind only melancholy and nostalgia. But how difficult it is to free oneself from bad memories! That adage — according to which it was easier for God to take Israel out of Egypt than Egypt out of of Israel’s heart — has merit.

In order to free the heart from a past that keeps returning, from negative memories that imprison, from paralyzing regrets, we need someone to help us carry the burden we have within. Indeed, today Jesus says there are “many things that we cannot bear” (cf. Jn 16:12). And what does he do in the face of our weakness? He does not remove our burdens as we would like, we who are always seeking quick and superficial solutions; no, the Lord gives us the Holy Spirit. We need him because he is the Comforter, that is, the one who does not leave us on our own under life’s burdens. He is the One who transforms our enslaved memory into free memory, past wounds into memories of salvation. He accomplishes in us what he did through Jesus: his wounds — those terrible lesions hollowed out by evil — by the power of the Holy Spirit have become channels of mercy, luminous wounds in which God’s love shines, a love that is uplifting, that enables us to rise again. This is what the Holy Spirit does when we invite him into our wounds. He anoints the bad memories with the balm of hope because the Holy Spirit is the builder of hope.

Hope. What hope is this? It is not a passing hope. Earthly hopes are fleeting. They always have an expiration date. They are made with earthly ingredients which sooner or later spoil. The hope of the Holy Spirit has a long shelf life. It does not expire because it is based on God’s fidelity. The Holy Spirit’s hope is not even optimism. It is born deeper; deep in our heart it rekindles the certainty that we are precious because we are loved. It instils the trust that we are not alone. It is a hope that leaves peace and joy within, irrespective of what happens outside. It is a hope that has strong roots that none of life’s storms can uproot. It is a hope, Saint Paul says today, that “does not disappoint us” (Rm 5:5) — hope does not disappoint! —, that gives us the strength to bear every trial (cf. Rm 5:2-3). When we are suffering or wounded — and you know well what it means to be suffering, wounded — we are led to ‘build a nest’ around our sorrows and our fears. But the Spirit releases us from our nests, helps us take flight, reveals to us the marvellous destiny for which we are born. The Spirit nurtures us with living hope. Let us invite him. Let us ask him to come into us and be close to us. Come, Spirit Comforter! Come to give us some light, to give us the meaning of this tragedy, to give us the hope that does not disappoint. Come, Holy Spirit!

Closeness is the third and final word that I would like to share with you. Today we are celebrating the Most Holy Trinity. The Trinity is not a theological riddle, but rather the splendid mystery of God’s closeness. The Trinity tells us that we do not have a solitary God above in heaven, distant and indifferent; no, he is Father who gave us his Son, who became man like us, and who, in order to be even closer to us, to help us bear the burdens of life, sends us his very Spirit. He, who is Spirit, enters our spirit and thus comforts us from within, bringing God’s tenderness into our heart. With God the burdens of life do not rest on our shoulders: the Spirit, whom we name each time we make the sign of the Cross precisely as we touch our shoulders, comes to give us strength, to encourage us, to bear the burdens. Indeed, he is an expert in resuscitation, in raising up again, in rebuilding. It takes more strength to repair than to build, to recommence than to start from scratch, to reconcile than to just get along. This is the strength that God gives us. Therefore those who draw near to God do not lose heart, but go forward: they recommence, try again, rebuild. They also suffer, but manage to start over, to try again, to rebuild.

Dear brothers and sisters, I have come here today simply to be close to you; I am here with you to pray to the God who is mindful of us, so that no one forget those who are in difficulty. I pray to the God of hope that what is unstable on earth not cause our inner certainty to waver. I pray to the God-with-us, that he inspire concrete gestures of closeness. Nearly three years have passed and the risk is that, after the initial emotional media response, attention may subside and promises be forgotten, increasing the frustration of those who see the territory becoming increasingly less populated. But the Lord urges us to remember, to repair, to rebuild, and to do so together, while never forgetting those who are suffering.

What is man that thou art mindful of him? God who remembers us, God who heals our wounded memories, anointing them with hope, God who is close to us so as to raise us up again from within: may this God help us to be builders of good, comforters of hearts. Each one can do some good, without expecting others to begin. ‘I will begin; I will begin; I will begin’: each one must say this. Each one can comfort someone, without expecting his troubles to be resolved. Also by carrying my cross, I try to approach others to comfort them. What is man? He is your great dream, Lord, of whom you are always mindful. Man is your great dream, Lord, whom you always remember. It is not easy to understand it in these circumstances, Lord. Men and women forget about us; they do not remember this tragedy. But you, Lord, do not forget. Man is your great dream, Lord, of whom you are always mindful. Lord, enable us too to remember that we are in the world in order to give hope and closeness, because we are you children: “God of all comfort” (2 Cor 1:3).

16.06.19

 Psalm 8

2-10

cont.



Pope Francis       



20.05.20  General Audience, Library of the Apostolic Palace       


Catechesis: Prayer - The Mystery of Creation       


Psalm 8: 4-5 



Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Let us continue the catechesis on prayer, considering the mystery of creation. Life, the simple fact that we exist, opens the heart of man to prayer.

The first page of the Bible resembles a great hymn of thanksgiving. The story of creation is punctuated by refrains, in which the goodness and beauty of everything that exists is continually reaffirmed. God, with his word, calls into life, and everything enters existence. With the word, he separates light from darkness, alternates day and night, alternates the seasons, opens a colour palette with the variety of plants and animals. In this overflowing forest that quickly overcomes chaos, man finally appears. And this apparition causes an excess of exultation that amplifies satisfaction and joy: "God saw all that he had made, and he found it was very good"(Gen 1: 31). So good, but also beautiful: you see the beauty of all creation!

The beauty and mystery of creation generate in the heart of man the first movement that stirs prayer (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church,2566). This is how the Eighth Psalm, which we heard at the beginning, says: "When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man, that you care for him?" (Psalm 8: 4-5). Man in prayer contemplates the mystery of existence around him, he sees the starry sky that towers over him – and that astrophysics shows us today in all of its immensity – and wonders what the design of love must be behind such a wonderful work!... And, in this boundless vastness, what is man? "Almost nothing," says another Psalm (89: 48): a being who is born, a being that dies, a very fragile creature. Yet, throughout the universe, the human being is the only creature aware of so much profusion of beauty. A small being who is born, dies, here today and gone tomorrow, he is the only one aware of this beauty. We are aware of this beauty!

Man's prayer is closely linked with the feeling of wonder. Man's greatness is infinitesimal when compared to the size of the universe. His greatest achievements seem very little. But man is not nothing. In prayer, a feeling of mercy is overwhelmingly affirmed. Nothing exists by chance: the secret of the universe lies in a benevolent glance that catches our eyes. The Psalm states that we are made as little less than a god, we are crowned with honour and glory(cf. 8: 6). The relationship with God is the greatness of man: his enthronement. By nature we are almost nothing, today we are and tomorrow we are not, but by vocation, by our calling we are the children of the great King!

It's an experience that many of us have had. If the story of life, with all its bitterness, sometimes risks suffocating the gift of prayer in us, it is enough to contemplate a starry sky, a sunset, a flower, to rekindle the spark of thanksgiving. This experience is perhaps the basis of the first page of the Bible. 

When the great biblical account of Creation is written, the people of Israel were not going through happy days. An enemy power had occupied the land; many had been deported, and now they were slaves in Mesopotamia. There was no more homeland, no temple, no social and religious life, nothing.

Yet, starting from the great account of creation, someone begins to find reasons for thanksgiving, to praise God for existence. Prayer is the first force of hope. You pray and hope grows, it goes on. I would say that prayer opens the door to hope. Hope is there, but with my prayer I open the door. Because men of prayer guard the basic truths; they are those who repeat, first to themselves and then to all others, that this life, despite all its labours and trials, despite its difficult days, is filled with a grace at which to marvel. And as such it must always be defended and protected.

The men and women who pray know that hope is stronger than discouragement. They believe that love is more powerful than death, and that one day it will triumph, albeit in times and ways that we do not know. The men and women of prayer reflect light on their faces: because, even on the darkest days, the sun does not stop illuminating them. Prayer illuminates you: it brightens your soul, brightens your heart and brightens your face. Even in the darkest times, even in times of greatest pain.

We are all bearers of joy. Have you thought about this? That you are a bearer of joy? Or do you prefer to bring bad news, things that are sad? We are all capable of bringing joy. This life is the gift that God has given us: and it is too short to consume it in sadness, in bitterness. We praise God, content simply to exist. We look at the universe, we look at the beauties and we also look at our crosses and say, "But, you exist, you did it like this, for you." It is necessary to feel that restlessness of the heart that leads to thanking and praising God. We are the children of the great King, of the Creator, able to read his signature in all creation; that creation that we do not care about today, but in that creation there is the signature of God who did it out of love. The Lord makes us understand this more and more deeply and leads us to say "thank you": and that "thank you" is a beautiful prayer.

20.05.20

 Psalm 8

2-10

cont.




Pope Francis     

05.05.21  General Audience

Library of the Apostolic Palace     

Catechesis on prayer: 32. Contemplative Prayer           

Psalm 8: 2,4-6,10 

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

We continue the catechesis on prayer and in this catechesis, I would like to reflect on contemplative prayer.

The contemplative dimension of the human being – which is not yet contemplative prayer – is a bit like the “salt” of life: it gives flavour, it seasons our day. We can contemplate by gazing at the sun that rises in the morning, or at the trees that deck themselves out in spring green; we can contemplate by listening to music or to the sounds of the birds, reading a book, gazing at a work of art or at that masterpiece that is the human face… Carlo Maria Martini, when he was sent to be the Bishop of Milan, entitled his first Pastoral Letter The contemplative dimension of life: the truth is that those who live in a large city, where everything – we can say – is artificial and where everything is functional, risk losing the capacity to contemplate. To contemplate is not primarily a way of doing, but a way of being. To be contemplative.

And being contemplatives does not depend on the eyes, but on the heart. And here prayer enters into play as an act of faith and love, as the “breath” of our relationship with God. Prayer purifies the heart and, with it, also sharpens our gaze, allowing it to grasp reality from another point of view. The Catechism describes this transformation of the heart that prayer effects, citing a famous testimony of the Holy Curé of Ars who said this: “Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. ‘I look at him and he looks at me’: this is what a certain peasant of Ars used to say to the holy curé while praying before the tabernacle. […] The light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2715). Everything comes from this: from a heart that feels that it is looked on with love. Then reality is contemplated with different eyes.

“I look at Him and He looks at me!” It is like this: loving contemplation, typical of the most intimate prayer, does not need many words. A gaze is enough. It is enough to be convinced that our life is surrounded by an immense and faithful love that nothing can ever separate us from.

Jesus was a master of this gaze. His life never lacked the time, space, silence, the loving communion that allows one’s existence not to be devastated by the inevitable trials, but to maintain beauty intact. His secret is his relationship with his heavenly Father.

Let’s think, for example, about the Transfiguration. The Gospels place this episode at the critical point of Jesus’s mission when opposition and rejection were mounting all around Him. Even among his disciples, many did not understand him and left him; one of the Twelve harboured traitorous thoughts. Jesus began to speak openly of his suffering and death that awaited him in Jerusalem. It is in this context that Jesus climbs up a high mountain with Peter, James and John. The Gospel of Mark says: “He was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them” (9:2-3). Right at the moment in which Jesus is not understood – they were going away him, they were leaving him alone because they did not understand – in this moment that he is misunderstood, just when everything seems to become blurred in a whirlwind of misunderstanding, that is where a divine light shines. It is the light of the Father’s love that fills the Son’s heart and transfigures his entire Person.

Some spiritual masters of the past understood contemplation as opposed to action, and exalted those vocations that flee from the world and its problems to dedicate oneself entirely to prayer. In reality, Jesus Christ, in his person and the Gospel, there is no opposition between contemplation and action. No. In the Gospel and in Jesus there is no contradiction. This may have come from the influence of some Neoplatonic philosophy that creates this opposition, but it surely contains a dualism that is not part of the Christian message.

There is only one great call, one great call in the Gospel, and it is that of following Jesus on the way of love. This is the summit and it is the centre of everything. In this sense, charity and contemplation are synonymous, they say the same thing. Saint John of the Cross believed that a small act of pure love is more useful to the Church than all the other works combined. What is born of prayer and not from the presumption of our ego, what is purified by humility, even if it is a hidden and silent act of love, is the greatest miracle that a Christian can perform. And this is the path of contemplative prayer: I look at Him and He looks at me. It is that act of love in silent dialogue with Jesus that does so much good for the Church. Thank you. 

05.05.21

Psalm 10

 


Psalm 10

1-14





Pope Francis     

12.05.21  General Audience, San Damaso courtyard     

Catechesis on prayer: 33. The Struggle of Prayer         

Psalm 10: 1, 12-14 

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

I am happy to resume this face-to-face meeting, because I will tell you something: it is not nice to speak in front of nothing, to a camera. It is not nice. And now, after many months, thanks to the courage of Msgr. Sapienza, who said, “No, we’ll do it there”, we are gathered here again. Msgr. Sapienza is good! And finding people, finding you here, each one of you with your own story, people who come from all over, from Italy, from the United States, from Colombia… That little football team of four Swiss brothers, I think… who are over there… four. The little sister is missing, I hope she arrives… And seeing each one of you pleases me as we are all brothers and sisters in the Lord, and looking at each other helps us to pray for each other. Also people who are far away but always make themselves close to us. The ever-present Sister Geneviève who comes from Lunapark, people who work... So many. They are all here. Thank you for your presence and your visit. Take the Pope's message to everyone. The Pope's message is that I pray for everyone, and I ask you to pray for me, united in prayer.

And speaking of prayer, Christian prayer, like all Christian life, is not a “walk in the park”. None of the great people of prayer we meet in the Bible and in the history of the Church found prayer “comfortable”. Yes, one can pray like a parrot – blah, blah, blah, blah, blah – but that is not prayer. Prayer certainly gives great peace, but through inner struggle, at times hard, which can accompany even long periods of life. Praying is not something easy, and this is why we flee from it. Every time we want to pray, we are immediately reminded of many other activities, which at that moment seem more important and more urgent. This happens to me too! It happens to me. I go to pray a little… and no, I must do this and that… We flee from prayer, I don’t know why, but that is how it is. Almost always, after putting off prayer, we realise that those things were not essential at all, and that we may have wasted time. This is how the Enemy deceives us.

All Godly men and women report not only the joy of prayer, but also the tediousness and fatigue it can bring: at times it is a difficult struggle to keep to the time and ways of praying. Some saints continued it for years without finding any satisfaction in it, without perceiving its usefulness. Silence, prayer and concentration are difficult exercises, and sometimes human nature rebels. We would rather be anywhere else in the world, but not there, in that church pew, praying. Those who want to pray must remember that faith is not easy, and sometimes it moves forward in almost total darkness, without points of reference. There are moments in the life of faith that are dark, and therefore some saints call this “the dark night”, because we hear nothing. But I continue to pray.

The Catechism lists a long series of enemies of prayer, those that make it difficult to pray, that put us in difficulty (cf. nos. 2726-2728). Some doubt that prayer can truly reach the Almighty: why does God remain silent? If God is Almighty, He could say a couple of words and end the matter. Faced with the elusiveness of the divine, others suspect that prayer is a merely psychological operation; something that may be useful, but is neither true nor necessary: and one could even be a practitioner without being a believer. And so it goes on, many explanations.

However, the worst enemies of prayer are found within us. The Catechism describes them thus: “Discouragement during periods of dryness; sadness that, because we have ‘great possessions’, we have not given all to the Lord; disappointment over not being heard according to our own will; wounded pride, stiffened by the indignity that is ours as sinners; our resistance to the idea that prayer is a free and unmerited gift” (2728). This is clearly a summary that could be extended.

What should be done in time of temptation, when everything seems to waver? If we look at the history of spirituality, it is immediately seen that the masters of the soul were very clear about the situation we have described. To overcome it, each of them offered some type of contribution: a word of wisdom, or a suggestion for dealing moments fraught with difficulty. It is not a question of elaborate theories, of preconceived theories, no, but of advice born of experience, which shows the importance of resisting and persevering in prayer.

It would be interesting to review at least some of these pieces of advice, because each one deserves to be explored further. For example, the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola is a short book of great wisdom that teaches how to put one’s life in order. It makes us understand that the Christian vocation is militancy, it is the decision to stand beneath the standard of Jesus Christ and not under that of the devil, trying to do good even when it becomes difficult.

In times of trial, it is good to remember that we are not alone, that someone is watching over us and protecting us. Saint Anthony the Abbot, the founder of Christian monasticism, also faced terrible times in Egypt, when prayer became a difficult struggle. His biographer, Saint Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, recounts one of the worst episodes in the life of the hermit saint when he was about the age of thirty-five, a time of middle age that for many people involves a crisis. Anthony was disturbed by the ordeal, but resisted. When he finally became serene again, he turned to his Lord with an almost reproachful tone: “But Lord, where were you? Why did you not come immediately to put an end to my suffering?” And Jesus answered: “Anthony, I was there. But I was waiting to see you fight” (Life of Anthony, 10). Fighting in prayer. And very often, prayer is combat. I am reminded of something I experienced close up, when I was in the other diocese. There was a married couple with a daughter aged nine, with an illness that the doctors were unable to diagnose. And in the end, in hospital, the doctor said to the mother, “Madam, call your husband”. And the husband was at work; they were labourers, they worked every day. And he said to the father, “The child will not survive the night. There is nothing we can do to stop this infection”. Perhaps that man did not attend Mass every Sunday, but he had great faith. He left, weeping; he left his wife there with the child in the hospital, he took the train and he travelled seventy kilometres towards the Basilica of Our Lady of Luján, Patroness of Argentina. And there – the Basilica was already closed, it was almost ten o’clock at night, in the evening – he clung to the grates of the Basilica and spent all night praying to Our Lady, fighting for his daughter’s health. This is not a figment of the imagination: I saw him! I saw him myself. That man there, fighting. At the end, at six o’clock in the morning, the Church opened, he entered to salute Our Lady, and returned home. And he thought: “She has left us. No, Our Lady cannot do this to me”. Then he went to see [his wife], and she was smiling, saying: “I don’t know what happened. The doctors said that something changed, and now she is cured”. That man, fighting with prayer, received the grace of Our Lady. Our Lady listened to him. And I saw this: prayer works miracles, because prayer goes directly to the heart of the tenderness of God, who cares for us like a father. And when He does not grant us a grace, He will grant us another which in time we will see. But always, combat in prayer to ask for grace. Yes, at times we ask for grace we are not in need of, but we ask for it without truly wanting it, without fighting… We do not ask for serious things in this way. Prayer is combat, and the Lord is always with us.

If in a moment of blindness we cannot see His presence, we will in the future. We will also end up repeating the same sentence that the patriarch Jacob said one day: “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it” (Gen 28:16). At the end of our lives, looking back, we too will be able to say: “I thought I was alone, but no, I was not: Jesus was with me”. We will all be able to say this. Thank you. 

12.05.21

Psalm 13






Psalm 13

2-6





Pope Francis          


14.10.20 General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall 

       

Catechesis on prayer - 10. The Prayer of the Psalms. 1 

           

Psalm 13: 2-3, 6 

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

As we read the Bible, we continually come across prayers of various types. But we also find a book made up solely of prayers, a book that has become the native land, gymnasium and home of countless men and women of prayer. It is the Book of Psalms. There are 150 Psalms to pray.

It forms part of the books of wisdom, because it communicates “knowing how to pray” through the experience of dialogue with God. In the Psalms we find all human sentiments: the joys, the sorrows, the doubts, the hopes, the bitterness that colour our lives. The Catechism affirms that every Psalm “possesses such direct simplicity that it can be prayed in truth by men of all times and conditions” (CCC, 2588). As we read and reread the Psalms, we learn the language of prayer. God the Father, indeed, with His Spirit, inspired them in the heart of King David and others who prayed, in order to teach every man and woman how to praise Him, how to thank Him and to supplicate; how to invoke Him in joy and in suffering, and how to recount the wonders of His works and of His Law. In short, the Psalms are the word of God that we human beings use to speak with Him.

In this book we do not encounter ethereal people, abstract people, those who confuse prayer with an aesthetic or alienating experience. The Psalms are not texts created on paper; they are invocations, often dramatic, that spring from lived existence. To pray them it is enough for us to be what we are. We must not forget that to pray well we must pray as we are, without embellishment. One must not embellish the soul to pray. “Lord, I am like this”, and go in front of the Lord as we are, with the good things and also with the bad things that no-one knows about, but that we inwardly know. In the Psalms we hear the voices of men and women of prayer in flesh and blood, whose life, like that of us all, is fraught with problems, hardships and uncertainties. The Psalmist does not radically contest this suffering: he knows that it is part of living. In the Psalms, however, suffering is transformed into a question. From suffering to questioning.

And among the many questions, there is one that remains suspended, like an incessant cry that runs throughout the entire book from beginning to end. A question that we repeat many times: “Until when, Lord? Until when?” Every suffering calls for liberation, every tear calls for consolation, every wound awaits healing, every slander a sentence of absolution. “Until when, Lord, must I suffer this? Listen to me, Lord!” How many times we have prayed like this, with “Until when?”, enough now, Lord!

By constantly asking such questions, the Psalms teach us not to get used to pain, and remind us that life is not saved unless it is healed. The existence of each human being is but a breath, his or her story is fleeting, but the prayerful know that they are precious in the eyes of God, and so it makes sense to cry out. And this is important. When we pray, we do so because we know we are precious in God’s eyes. It is the grace of the Holy Spirit that, from within, inspires in us this awareness: of being precious in the eyes of God. And this is why we are moved to pray.

The prayer of the Psalms is the testimony of this cry: a multiple cry, because in life pain takes a thousand forms, and takes the name of sickness, hatred, war, persecution, distrust... Until the supreme “scandal”, that of death. Death appears in the Psalter as man’s most unreasonable enemy: what crime deserves such cruel punishment, which involves annihilation and the end? The prayer of the Psalms asks God to intervene where all human efforts are in vain. That is why prayer, in and of itself, is the way of salvation and the beginning of salvation.

Everyone suffers in this world: whether they believe in God or reject Him. But in the Psalter, pain becomes a relationship, rapport: a cry for help waiting to intercept a listening ear. It cannot remain meaningless, without purpose. Even the pains we suffer cannot be merely specific cases of a universal law: they are always “my” tears,. Think about this: tears are not universal, they are “my” tears. Everyone has their own. “My” tears and “my” pain drive me to go ahead in prayer. They are “my” tears, that no one has ever shed before me. Yes, they have wept, many. But “my” tears are mine, “My” pain is my own, “my” suffering is my own.

Before entering the Hall, I met the parents of that priest of the diocese of Como who was killed: he was killed precisely in his service to others. The tears of those parents are their own tears, and each one of them knows how much he or she has suffered in seeing this son who gave his life in service to the poor. When we want to console somebody, we cannot find the words. Why? Because we cannot arrive at his or her pain, because her sorrows are her own, his tears are his own. The same is true of us: the tears, the sorrow, the tears are mine, and with these tears, with this sorrow I turn to the Lord.

All human pains for God are sacred. So prays the prayer of Psalm 56: “Thou hast kept count of my tossings; put thou my tears in thy bottle! Are they not in thy book?” (v. 9). Before God we are not strangers, or numbers. We are faces and hearts, known one by one, by name.

In the Psalms, the believer finds an answer. He knows that even if all human doors were barred, God’s door is open. Even if the whole world had issued a verdict of condemnation, there is salvation in God.

“The Lord listens”: sometimes in prayer it is enough to know this. Problems are not always solved. Those who pray are not deluded: they know that many questions of life down here remain unresolved, with no way out; suffering will accompany us and, after one battle, others will await us. But if we are listened to, everything becomes more bearable.

14.10.20 a

The worst thing that can happen is to suffer in abandonment, without being remembered. From this prayer saves us. Because it can happen, and even often, that we do not understand God’s plans. But our cries do not stagnate down here: they rise up to Him, He who has the heart of a Father, and who cries Himself for every son and daughter who suffers and dies. I will tell you something: it is good for me, in difficult moments, to think of Jesus weeping; when He wept looking at Jerusalem, when He wept before Lazarus’ tomb. God has wept for me, God weeps, He weeps for our sorrows. Because God wanted to make Himself man - a spiritual writer used to say - in order to be able to weep. To think that Jesus weeps with me in sorrow is a consolation: it helps us keep going. If we maintain our relationship with Him, life does not spare us suffering, but we open up to a great horizon of goodness and set out towards its fulfilment. Take courage, persevere in prayer. Jesus is always by our side. 

14.10.20 b



Psalm 13

2-6

cont.



Pope Francis       

07.02.24 General Audience,  Paul VI Audience Hall  

Cycle of Catechesis. Vices and Virtues. 7. Sorrow  

Psalms  13: 3-4, 6

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

In our itinerary of catechesis on the vices and virtues, today we will look at a rather ugly vice, sorrow, understood as a despondency of the soul, a constant affliction that prevents man for feeling joy at his own existence.

First and foremost, it must be noted that, with regard to sorrow, the Fathers drew an important distinction: it is this. There is, in fact, a sorrow that is appropriate to Christian life, and that with God’s grace can be changed into joy: obviously, this must not be rejected and forms part of the path of conversion. But there is a second type of sorrow that creeps into the soul and prostrates it in a state of despondency: it is this second kind of sorrow that must be fought, resolutely and with every strength, because it comes from the evil one. This distinction is found also in Saint Paul, who wrote to the Corinthians: “Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death” (2 Cor 7:10).

There is, therefore, a friendly sorrow, that leads us to salvation. Think of the prodigal son of the parable: when he reaches the depths of his degeneracy, he feels great bitterness, and this prompts him to come to his senses and to decide to return home to his father (cf. Lk 15:11-20). It is a grace to lament over one’s own sins, to remember the state of grace from which we have fallen, to weep because we have lost the purity in which God dreamed of us.

But there is a second sorrow, which is instead an ailment of the soul. It arises in the human heart when a desire or hope vanishes. Here we can refer to the account of the disciples of Emmaus, in the Gospel of Luke. Those two disciples leave Jerusalem with a disappointed heart, and they confide to the stranger who at one point accompanies them: “We had hoped that he – Jesus – was the one to redeem Israel” (Lk 24:21). The dynamic of sorrow is linked to the experience of loss, the experience of loss. In the heart of man, hopes arise that are sometimes dashed. It can be the desire to possess something that instead we are unable to obtain; but it can also be something important, such as an emotional loss. When this happens, it is as if man’s heart falls from a precipice, and the sentiments he feels are discouragement, weakness of the spirit, depression and anguish. We all go through ordeals that generate sorrow in us, because life makes us conceive dreams that are then shattered. In this situation, some, after a time of turmoil, rely on hope; but others wallow in melancholy, allowing it to fester in their hearts. Does one take pleasure in this? See: sorrow is like the pleasure of non-pleasure; it is like taking a bitter, bitter, bitter candy, without sugar, unpleasant, and sucking that candy. Sorrow is taking pleasure in non-pleasure.

The monk Evagrius recounts that all vices aim at a pleasure, however ephemeral it may be, while sadness enjoys the opposite: of lulling oneself into endless sorrow. Certain protracted griefs, where a person continues to expand the void of one who is no longer there, are not proper to life in the Spirit. Certain resentful bitterness, where a person always has a claim in mind that makes them take on the guise of the victim, do not produce a healthy life in us, let alone a Christian one. There is something in everyone’s past that needs to be healed. Sorrow, from being a natural emotion, can turn into an evil state of mind.

It is a devious demon, that of sorrow. The fathers of the desert described is as a worm of the heart, which erodes and hollows out its host. This is a good image: it lets us understand. A worm in the heart that consumes and hollows out its host. We must beware of this sorrow, and think that Jesus brings us the joy of resurrection. But what must I do when I am sad? Stop and look: is this a good sorrow? Is it a sorrow that is not so good? And react according to the nature of the sorrow. Do not forget that sorrow can be a very bad thing that leads us to pessimism, that leads us to a selfishness that is difficult to cure.

Brothers and sisters, we must beware of this sorrow and think that Jesus brings us the joy of resurrection.  However full life may be of contradictions, of defeated desires, of unrealized dreams, of lost friendships, thanks to Jesus’ resurrection we can believe that all will be saved. Jesus rose again not only for Himself, but also for us, to redeem all the happiness that has remained unfulfilled in our lives. Faith casts out fear, and the resurrection of Christ removes sadness like the stone from the tomb. Every Christian’s day is an exercise in resurrection. Georges Bernanos, in his famous novel Diary of a Country Priest, has the parish priest of Torcy say this: “The Church has joy, all that joy that is reserved for this sad world. What you have done against her, you have done against joy”. And another French writer, León Bloy, left us that wonderful phrase: “There is only one sadness, ... that of not being holy”. May the Spirit of the risen Jesus help us to defeat sorrow with holiness.

07.02.24

Psalm 23

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

 Psalm 23

1-6

cont.



Pope Francis          

02.11.14  Angelus, St Peter's Square  

All Souls  -  Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed

Wisdom 3: 1-9,        Psalm 23: 1-6,       

Romans 5: 5-11,        John 6: 37-40 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,

Yesterday we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints, and today the liturgy invites us to commemorate the faithful departed. These two recurrences are intimately linked to each other, just as joy and tears find a synthesis in Jesus Christ, who is the foundation of our faith and our hope. On the one hand, in fact, the Church, a pilgrim in history, rejoices through the intercession of the Saints and the Blessed who support her in the mission of proclaiming the Gospel; on the other, she, like Jesus, shares the tears of those who suffer separation from loved ones, and like Him and through Him echoes the thanksgiving to the Father who has delivered us from the dominion of sin and death.

Yesterday and today, many have been visiting cemeteries, which, as the word itself implies, is the “place of rest”, as we wait for the final awakening. It is lovely to think that it will be Jesus himself to awaken us. Jesus himself revealed that the death of the body is like a sleep from which He awakens us. With this faith we pause — even spiritually — at the graves of our loved ones, of those who loved us and did us good. But today we are called to remember everyone, even those who no one remembers. We remember the victims of war and violence; the many “little ones” of the world, crushed by hunger and poverty; we remember the anonymous who rest in the communal ossuary. We remember our brothers and sisters killed because they were Christian; and those who sacrificed their lives to serve others. We especially entrust to the Lord, those who have left us during the past year.

Church Tradition has always urged prayer for the deceased, in particular by offering the Eucharistic Celebration for them: it is the best spiritual help that we can give to their souls, particularly to those who are the most forsaken. The foundation of prayer in suffrage lies in the communion of the Mystical Body.

As the Second Vatican Council repeats, “fully conscious of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the pilgrim Church from the very first ages of the Christian religion has cultivated with great piety the memory of the dead” (Lumen Gentium, n. 50).

Remembering the dead, caring for their graves and prayers of suffrage, are the testimony of confident hope, rooted in the certainty that death does not have the last word on human existence, for man is destined to a life without limits, which has its roots and its fulfilment in God. Let us raise this prayer to God: “God of infinite mercy, we entrust to your immense goodness all those who have left this world for eternity, where you wait for all humanity, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ your Son, who died as a ransom for our sins. Look not, O Lord, on our poverty, our suffering, our human weakness, when we appear before you to be judged for joy or for condemnation. Look upon us with mercy, born of the tenderness of your heart, and help us to walk in the ways of complete purification. Let none of your children be lost in the eternal fire, where there can be no repentance. We entrust to you, O Lord, the souls of our beloved dead, of those who have died without the comfort of the sacraments, or who have not had an opportunity to repent, even at the end of their lives. May none of them be afraid to meet You, after their earthly pilgrimage, but may they always hope to be welcomed in the embrace of your infinite mercy. May our Sister, corporal death find us always vigilant in prayer and filled with the goodness done in the course of our short or long lives. Lord, may no earthly thing ever separate us from You, but may everyone and everything support us with a burning desire to rest peacefully and eternally in You. Amen” (Fr Antonio Rungi, Passionist, Prayer for the Dead).

With this faith in man’s supreme destiny, we now turn to Our Lady, who suffered the tragedy of Christ’s death beneath the Cross and took part in the joy of his Resurrection. May She, the Gate of Heaven, help us to understand more and more the value of prayer in suffrage for the souls of the dead. They are close to us! May She support us on our daily pilgrimage on earth and help us to never lose sight of life’s ultimate goal which is Heaven. And may we go forth with this hope that never disappoints! 

02.11.14

 Psalm 23

1-6

cont.




Pope Francis 

30.03.20 Holy Mass Casa Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)

Monday of the 5th Week of Lent - Lectionary Cycle II 

Daniel 13: 1-9,15-17, 19-30, 33-62,   

Psalm 23: 1-6,    

John 8: 1-11 

In the Psalm, we prayed: "The Lord is my shepherd: There is nothing I shall want. Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose, near restful waters he leads me to revive my drooping spirit. He guides me on the right path. He is true to his name. If I should walk in the valley of darkness, no evil will I fear. You are there with your crook and your staff. With these you give me comfort."

This is the experience that these two women had, whose story we read in the two Readings. An innocent woman, falsely accused, slandered, and a sinful woman. Both sentenced to death. The innocent and the sinner. Some Fathers of the Church saw in these women a figure of the Church: holy, but with sinful children. They said in a beautiful Latin expression: "The Church is the caste meretrix (chaste sinner)", the saint with sinful children.

Both women were desperate, humanly desperate. But Susanna trusts God. There are also two groups of people, of men; both had positions in the Church: the judges and the doctors of the Law. They were not ecclesiastical, but they were in the service of the Church, in the courthouse, and in the teaching of the Law. Different. The first, those who accused Susanna, were corrupt: the corrupt judge, an emblematic figure in history. Even in the Gospel, Jesus recounts, in the parable of the insistent widow, the corrupt judge who did not believe in God and did not care about others. The corrupt. The doctors of the law were not corrupt, but hypocrites.

And these women, one fell into the hands of the hypocrites and the other into the hands of the corrupt: there was no way out. "Even if I should walk in the valley of darkness no evil will I, because you are with me with your crook and staff, with these you give me comfort. " Both women were in a valley of darkness, they went there: a valley of darkness heading towards death. The first explicitly trusts God, and the Lord intervened. The second, poor woman, knows that she is guilty, shamed before all the people – because the people were present in both situations – the Gospel does not say it, but surely she prayed inside, asked for some help.

What does the Lord do with these people? He saves the innocent woman and does her justice. To the sinful woman, He forgives her. The corrupt judges, He condemns them; and the hypocrites, He helps them to convert and in front of the people Jesus says: "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone", and one by one they are gone. With what irony the Apostle John says: "When they heard this they went one by one, beginning with the elders." He gives them some time to repent; He does not forgive the corrupt, simply because the corrupt are incapable of asking for forgiveness, of going beyond. They were tired ... no, it's not that they were tired: they are not capable. Corruption has also taken away from them that capacity that we all have to be ashamed of, asking for forgiveness. No, the corrupt are sure of themselves, they go ahead, they destroy, they exploit people, like this woman, everything, everything ... goes on. They put themselves in God's place.

And the Lord responds to the women. To Susanna, He frees her from these corrupt people, and she goes ahead, and the other: "Neither do I condemn you. Go away and don't sin anymore." He lets her go. And this, before the people. In the first case, the people praise the Lord; In the second case, the people learn. Learn what God's mercy is like.

Each of us has our own stories. Each of us has our own sins. And if you don't remember them, think a little: you'll find them. Thank God if you find them, because if you don't find them, you're corrupt. Each of us has our own sins. Let us look at the Lord who does justice but who is so merciful. Let us not be ashamed of being in the Church: let us be ashamed of ourselves as sinners. The Church is the mother of all. We thank God that we are not corrupt, but are sinners. And each of us, looking at how Jesus acts in these cases, trusts God's mercy. And pray, with confidence in God's mercy, pray for forgiveness. "Because God guides me on the right path because He is true to His name. Even if I walk in the valley of darkness – the valley of sin – no evil will I fear you are there. With your crook and staff. With these you give me comfort."

30.03.20

 Psalm 23

1-6

cont.




Pope Francis       

03.05.20  Holy Mass Casa Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Martha)    

Fourth Sunday of Easter - Year A

1 Peter 2: 20b-25,     Psalm 23: 1-3a, 3b, 4-6,      

John 10: 1-10

Three weeks after the Lord's Resurrection, the Church today on the fourth Sunday of Easter celebrates the Sunday of the Good Shepherd, Jesus the Good Shepherd. This makes me think of so many shepherds in the world who give their lives for the faithful, even in this pandemic, many, more than 100 here in Italy have died. I also think of other shepherds who care for the good of the people, the doctors. We are talking about doctors, about what they do, but we must realize that, in Italy alone, 154 doctors have died, in an act of service. May the example of these pastors,   priests and medical pastors help us take care of the holy faithful people of God.

The First Letter of the Apostle Peter, which we have heard, is a passage of serenity. It's about Jesus. He says: "He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness; By his wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls." (1 Peter 2: 24-25) Jesus is the shepherd - as Peter sees him - who comes to save, to save the wandering sheep: it was us. And in Psalm 23 that we read after this reading, we repeated, "The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want." The presence of the Lord as a shepherd, as a shepherd of the flock. 

And Jesus, in chapter 10 of John, which we have read, presents himself as the shepherd. Indeed, not only the shepherd, but the "door" through which the flock enters. All those who came and did not enter through that door were thieves or robbers or wanted to take advantage of the flock: the false shepherds. And in the history of the Church there have been many of them who exploited the flock. They weren't interested in the flock, it was just a career or politics or money. But the flock knows them, they always know them and they go in search of God by their own paths.

But when there is a good shepherd, there is a flock that goes on, that carries on. The good shepherd listens to the flock, leads the flock, heals the flock. And the flock knows how to distinguish between shepherds, it is not wrong: the flock trusts the good shepherd, trusts Jesus. Only the shepherd who resembles Jesus gives confidence to the flock, because he is the door. The style of Jesus must be the style of the shepherd, there is no other. 

But even Jesus, the good shepherd, as Peter says in the first reading: "Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you would follow in his footsteps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When he was insulted, he returned no insult, when he suffered, he did not threaten", (1 Peter 2: 21-23) he was meek. One of the signs of a good shepherd is meekness, it is meekness. A good shepherd is meek. A shepherd who is not meek is not a good shepherd. He has something hidden, because meekness shows him as he is, without defending himself. And furthermore, the shepherd is tender, has that tenderness of closeness, knows the sheep one by one by name and takes care of each one as if it were the only one, to the point that when he comes home after a day's work, tired, he realizes that he is missing one, goes out to work again to look for it and he brings it back with him, he carries it on his shoulders. 

This is the good shepherd, this is Jesus, this is the one who accompanies us on the journey of life, for everyone. And this idea of the shepherd, and this idea of the flock and the sheep, is an Easter idea. The Church in the first week of Easter sings that beautiful song for the newly baptized: "These are the new lambs", the hymn we heard at the beginning of Mass. It is an idea of community, of tenderness, of kindness, of meekness. It is the Church that loves Jesus and he guards this Church.

This Sunday is a beautiful Sunday, it is a Sunday of peace, it is a Sunday of tenderness, of meekness, because our pastor takes care of us. "The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want."

03.05.20 sm

Psalm 26

Psalm 26

2-12



Pope Francis          

02.07.13 Holy Mass  Santa Marta   

Genesis 19: 15-29,       Psalm 26: 2-3, 9-12,         

Matthew 8: 23-27 

To reflect on the four possible attitudes with which one may deal with difficult situations would do us good. The first attitude is illustrated by the “slowness” of Lot’s reaction when the angel tells him to leave the city, before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. He was determined to leave, but when the time came he was cautious and “lingered”, even when the angel had urged him to flee. It is very hard to cut ties with a sinful situation. It is hard!... But the voice of God tells us this word: Flee! You cannot fight here, because the fire, the sulphur will kill you. Flee!.

The angel told him: Flee for your life, do not look back, go forward. The Exodus of the People of God in the desert had everything, promises of the Lord, everything, and yet they continued to have nostalgia for the “onions of Egypt”, forgetting that they had eaten them on “the table of slavery”. The angel's advice is wise: Do not look back! Keep going!. We must leave behind all nostalgia, because there is also the temptation of curiosity.... We must flee and not look back, for we are all weak and must protect ourselves.

Matthew 8: 23-27. When there is a storm at sea, waves swamp the boat. “Save us, Lord, we are perishing!” they say. Fear is also a temptation of the devil: to be afraid to continue on the Lord’s path. Fear, however is not a good counsellor. Jesus said so many times: “Do not be afraid’”.

The fourth attitude “is the grace of the Holy Spirit”. When Jesus calms the sea, the disciples on the boat are filled with awe. When faced with sin, nostalgia, fear we must always “look at the Lord” and “contemplate the Lord”. We must say: “Save us Lord, we are perishing”. Yes we are weak, but we must be courageous in our weakness. 

02.07.13

Psalm 28

 




Psalm 28

1-7






Pope Francis          

09.12.20 General Audience, Library of the Apostolic Palace

Catechesis on prayer - 18. The Prayer of Petition           

Psalms 28: 1,2,6,7 

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Let us continue our reflections on prayer. Christian prayer is fully human - we pray as humans, as what we are - it includes praise and supplication. Indeed, when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He did so with the “Our Father”, so that we might place ourselves in a relationship of filial trust with God, and ask Him all our questions. We implore God for the highest gifts: the sanctification of His name among men, the advent of His lordship, the realisation of His will for good in relation to the world. The Catechism recalls that: “There is a hierarchy in these petitions: we pray first for the Kingdom, then for what is necessary to welcome it and cooperate with its coming” (no. 2632). But in the “Our Father” we also pray for the simplest gifts, for the most of everyday gifts, such as “daily bread” - which also means health, home, work, everyday things; and it also means for the Eucharist, necessary for life in Christ; and we also pray for the forgiveness of sins - which is a daily matter; we are always in need of forgiveness - and therefore peace in our relationships; and finally, that He may help us face temptation and free us from evil.

To ask, to supplicate. This is very human. Let us listen to the Catechism again: “By prayer of petition we express awareness of our relationship with God. We are creatures who are not our own beginning, not the masters of adversity, not our own last end. We are sinners who as Christians know that we have turned away from our Father. Our petition is already a turning back to Him” (no. 2629).

If one feels bad because he has done bad things - he is a sinner - when he prays the “Our Father” he is already approaching the Lord. At times we can believe we do not need anything, that we are enough for ourselves, and we live in total self-sufficiency. This happens at times! But sooner or later this illusion vanishes. The human being is an invocation, that at times becomes a cry, often withheld. The soul resembles a dry, parched land, as the Psalm says (see Psalm 63:2). We all experience, at some time or another in our existence, the time of melancholy, of solitude. The Bible is not ashamed of showing our human condition, marked by disease, injustice, the betrayals of friends, or the threat of enemies. At times it seems that everything collapses, that the life lived so far has been in vain. And in these situations, when it seems that everything is falling apart, there is only one way out: the cry, the prayer “Lord, help me!”. Prayer can open up a sliver of light in the densest darkness. “Lord, help me!”. This opens: it opens up the road, it opens up the path.

We human beings share this invocation of help with the rest of creation. We are not the only ones “praying” in this boundless universe: every fragment of creation bears the desire for God. And Saint Paul himself expressed it in this way. He says: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly” (Rom 8:22-24). This is good. There resounds in us the multiform cry of creatures: of trees, of rocks, of animals. Everything yearns for fulfilment. Tertullian wrote: “Every creature prays; cattle and wild beasts pray and bend their knees; and when they issue from the layers and lairs, they look up heavenward with no idle mouth, making their breath vibrate after their own manner. Nay, the birds too, rising out of the nest, upraise themselves heavenward, and instead of hands, expand the cross of their wings, and somewhat to seem like prayer” (De oratione, XXIX). This is a poetic expression commenting on what Saint Paul says: “the whole creation has been groaning”. But we are the only ones to pray consciously, knowing that we are addressing the Father, and entering into dialogue with the Father.

Therefore, we should not be shocked if we feel the need to pray, we should not be ashamed. And, especially when we are in need, to ask. Jesus, speaking of a dishonest man, who had to settle the accounts with his landlord, says this: “Ask, I am ashamed”. And many of us have this feeling: we are ashamed to ask, to ask for help, to ask something of someone who can help us, to reach our purpose, and we are also ashamed to ask God. “No, this can’t be done”. Do not be ashamed to pray. “Lord, I need this”, “Lord, I am in difficulty”, “Help me!”: the cry, the cry of the heart to God who is the Father. And also to do so in happy moments, not only in bad times, but also in happy ones, to thank God for everything that is given to us, and not to take anything for granted or as if it were owed to us: everything is grace. We must learn this. The Lord always gives to us, always, and everything is grace, everything. The grace of God. However, we must not suffocate the supplication that rises up in us spontaneously. Prayer of petition goes in step with acceptance of our limit and our nature as creatures. One may even not reach the point of belief in God, but it is difficult not to believe in prayer: it simply exists, it presents itself to us as a cry; and we all know this inner voice that may remain silent for a long time, but one day awakens and cries out.

And, brothers and sisters, we know that God will respond. There is no prayer in the Book of Psalms that raises a lament that remains unheard. God always answers: maybe today, tomorrow, but he always answers, in one way or another. He always answers. The Bible repeats it countless times: God listens to the cry of those who invoke Him. Even our reluctant questions, those that remain in the depths of our heart, that we are ashamed to express: the Father listens to them and wishes to give us the Holy Spirit, which inspires every prayer and transforms everything. Brothers and sisters, in prayer there is always a question of patience, always, of supporting the wait. Now we are in the time of Advent, a time that is typically of expectation; of expectation of Christmas. We are in waiting. This is clear to see. But all our life is also in waiting. And prayer is always in expectation, because we know that the Lord will answer. Even death trembles when a Christian prays, because it knows that everyone who prays has an ally stronger than it has: the Risen Lord. Death has already been defeated in Christ, and the day will come when everything will be final, and it will no longer scorn our life and our happiness.

Let us learn to stay in waiting; in expectation of the Lord. The Lord comes to visit us, not only in these great feasts - Christmas, Easter - but rather the Lord visits us every day, in the intimacy of our heart if we are in waiting. And very often we do not realise that the Lord is nearby, that He knocks on our door, and we let Him pass on by. “I am afraid of God when He passes”, Saint Augustine used to say. “I am afraid He will pass and I will not realise”. And the Lord passes, the Lord comes, the Lord knocks. But if your ears are filled with other noise, you will not hear the call of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters, staying in waiting: this is prayer. Thank you.

09.12.20

Psalm 30

 Psalm 30

2-13




Pope Francis          

14.04.13 Eucharistic celebration, Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls,  3rd Sunday of Easter Year C



Acts 5:27-32, 40B-41   Psalms 30:2,4,5-6,11-12,13

   

Revelations 5:11-14     John 21:1-19


Dear Brothers and Sisters! 

It is a joy for me to celebrate Mass with you in this Basilica. I greet the Archpriest, Cardinal James Harvey, and I thank him for the words that he has addressed to me. Along with him, I greet and thank the various institutions that form part of this Basilica, and all of you. We are at the tomb of Saint Paul, a great yet humble Apostle of the Lord, who proclaimed him by word, bore witness to him by martyrdom and worshipped him with all his heart. These are the three key ideas on which I would like to reflect in the light of the word of God that we have heard: proclamation, witness, worship.

1. In the First Reading, what strikes us is the strength of Peter and the other Apostles. In response to the order to be silent, no longer to teach in the name of Jesus, no longer to proclaim his message, they respond clearly: “We must obey God, rather than men”. And they remain undeterred even when flogged, ill-treated and imprisoned. Peter and the Apostles proclaim courageously, fearlessly, what they have received: the Gospel of Jesus. And we? Are we capable of bringing the word of God into the environment in which we live? Do we know how to speak of Christ, of what he represents for us, in our families, among the people who form part of our daily lives? Faith is born from listening, and is strengthened by proclamation.

2. But let us take a further step: the proclamation made by Peter and the Apostles does not merely consist of words: fidelity to Christ affects their whole lives, which are changed, given a new direction, and it is through their lives that they bear witness to the faith and to the proclamation of Christ. In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks Peter three times to feed his flock, to feed it with his love, and he prophesies to him: “When you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go” (Jn 21:18). These words are addressed first and foremost to those of us who are pastors: we cannot feed God’s flock unless we let ourselves be carried by God’s will even where we would rather not go, unless we are prepared to bear witness to Christ with the gift of ourselves, unreservedly, not in a calculating way, sometimes even at the cost of our lives. But this also applies to everyone: we all have to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel. We should all ask ourselves: How do I bear witness to Christ through my faith? Do I have the courage of Peter and the other Apostles, to think, to choose and to live as a Christian, obedient to God? To be sure, the testimony of faith comes in very many forms, just as in a great fresco, there is a variety of colours and shades; yet they are all important, even those which do not stand out. In God’s great plan, every detail is important, even yours, even my humble little witness, even the hidden witness of those who live their faith with simplicity in everyday family relationships, work relationships, friendships. There are the saints of every day, the “hidden” saints, a sort of “middle class of holiness”, as a French author said, that “middle class of holiness” to which we can all belong. But in different parts of the world, there are also those who suffer, like Peter and the Apostles, on account of the Gospel; there are those who give their lives in order to remain faithful to Christ by means of a witness marked by the shedding of their blood. Let us all remember this: one cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of one’s life. Those who listen to us and observe us must be able to see in our actions what they hear from our lips, and so give glory to God! I am thinking now of some advice that Saint Francis of Assisi gave his brothers: preach the Gospel and, if necessary, use words. Preaching with your life, with your witness. Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the Church’s credibility.

3. But all this is possible only if we recognize Jesus Christ, because it is he who has called us, he who has invited us to travel his path, he who has chosen us. Proclamation and witness are only possible if we are close to him, just as Peter, John and the other disciples in today’s Gospel passage were gathered around the Risen Jesus; there is a daily closeness to him: they know very well who he is, they know him. The Evangelist stresses the fact that “no one dared ask him: ‘Who are you?’ – they knew it was the Lord” (Jn 21:12). And this is important for us: living an intense relationship with Jesus, an intimacy of dialogue and of life, in such a way as to recognize him as “the Lord”. Worshipping him! The passage that we heard from the Book of Revelation speaks to us of worship: the myriads of angels, all creatures, the living beings, the elders, prostrate themselves before the Throne of God and of the Lamb that was slain, namely Christ, to whom be praise, honour and glory (cf. Rev 5:11-14). I would like all of us to ask ourselves this question: You, I, do we worship the Lord? Do we turn to God only to ask him for things, to thank him, or do we also turn to him to worship him? What does it mean, then, to worship God? It means learning to be with him, it means that we stop trying to dialogue with him, and it means sensing that his presence is the most true, the most good, the most important thing of all. All of us, in our own lives, consciously and perhaps sometimes unconsciously, have a very clear order of priority concerning the things we consider important. Worshipping the Lord means giving him the place that he must have; worshipping the Lord means stating, believing – not only by our words – that he alone truly guides our lives; worshipping the Lord means that we are convinced before him that he is the only God, the God of our lives, the God of our history.

This has a consequence in our lives: we have to empty ourselves of the many small or great idols that we have and in which we take refuge, on which we often seek to base our security. They are idols that we sometimes keep well hidden; they can be ambition, careerism, a taste for success, placing ourselves at the centre, the tendency to dominate others, the claim to be the sole masters of our lives, some sins to which we are bound, and many others. This evening I would like a question to resound in the heart of each one of you, and I would like you to answer it honestly: Have I considered which idol lies hidden in my life that prevents me from worshipping the Lord? Worshipping is stripping ourselves of our idols, even the most hidden ones, and choosing the Lord as the centre, as the highway of our lives.

Dear brothers and sisters, each day the Lord calls us to follow him with courage and fidelity; he has made us the great gift of choosing us as his disciples; he invites us to proclaim him with joy as the Risen one, but he asks us to do so by word and by the witness of our lives, in daily life. The Lord is the only God of our lives, and he invites us to strip ourselves of our many idols and to worship him alone. To proclaim, to witness, to adore. May the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Paul help us on this journey and intercede for us. Amen.

14.04.13



 Psalm 30

2-13

cont.



Pope Francis       

16.11.22 General Audience, Saint Peter's Square

Catechesis on Discernment. 8. "Why are we desolate?"  

Psalm 30: 7-9, 12

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning and welcome!

Today, let us resume the catecheses on the theme of discernment. We have seen how important it is to read what stirs within us, so as not to make hasty decisions, spurred by the emotion of the moment, only to regret them when it is too late. That is, to read what happens and then make decisions.

In this sense, even the spiritual state we call desolation, when in the heart everything is dark, it is sad, these things, this state of desolation can be an opportunity for growth. Indeed, if there is not a little dissatisfaction, a little healthy sadness, a healthy capacity to dwell in solitude and to stay by ourselves without fleeing, we risk always remaining on the surface of things and never making contact with the core of our existence. Desolation causes a “rousing of the soul”: when one is sad it is as if the soul were shaken; it keeps us alert, it fosters vigilance and humility, and protects us from the winds of fancy. These are indispensable conditions for progress in life, and hence also in the spiritual life. A perfect but “aseptic” serenity, without feeling, when it becomes the criterion for decisions and behaviour, makes us inhuman. We cannot ignore our feelings: we are human and sentiment is a part of our humanity. And without understanding feelings we are inhuman; without living our sentiments we will also be indifferent to the sufferings of others and incapable of accepting our own. Not to mention that such a “perfect serenity” cannot be reached by this path of indifference. This sterile distance: “I won’t get involved in things, I will keep my distance”: this is not life, it is as though we lived in a laboratory, shut away, so as not to have microbes and diseases. For many saints, restlessness was a decisive impetus to turn their lives around. This artificial serenity will not do. Yes, a healthy restlessness is fine, the restless heart, the heart that seeks its way. This is the case, for example, of Augustine of Hippo, Edith Stein, Joseph Benedict Cottolengo, or Charles de Foucauld. Important choices come at a price that life presents, a price that is within reach of everyone; or rather, the important choices do not come from the lottery, no; they have a price and you have to pay that price. It is a price that you must pay with your heart, it is the price of the decision, the price of making some effort. It is not free of charge, but it is a price within reach of everyone. We must all pay for this decision so as to leave behind the state of indifference. The state of indifference brings us down, always.

Desolation is also an invitation to gratuitousness, to not acting always and solely with a view to emotional gratification. Being desolate offers us the possibility of growth, of initiating a more mature, more beautiful relationship with the Lord and with our loved ones, a relationship that is not reduced to a mere exchange of giving and having. Let us think of our childhood, for example, think: as children, it often happens that we look for our parents to obtain something from them, a toy, some money to buy an ice cream, permission… And so, we look for them not for themselves, but for personal gain. And yet, the greatest gift is them, our parents, and we understand this gradually as we grow up.

Many of our prayers are also somewhat like this: they are requests for favours addressed to the Lord, without any real interest in him. We go to ask, to ask, to ask the Lord. The Gospel notes that Jesus was often surrounded by many people who sought him out in order to obtain something: healing, material assistance, but not simply to be with him. He was pushed by the crowds, yet he was alone. Some saints, and even some artists, have contemplated this condition of Jesus. It may seem strange, unreal, to ask the Lord: “How are you?” Instead, it is a beautiful way to enter into a true, sincere relationship, with his humanity, with his suffering, even with his singular solitude. With him, with the Lord, who wanted to share his life with us to the full.

It does us a great deal of good to learn to be with him, to be with the Lord, to learn to be with the Lord without ulterior motives, exactly as it happens with people we care for: we wish to know them more and more, because it is good to be with them.

Dear brothers and sisters, the spiritual life is not a technique at our disposal, it is not a programme for inner “wellbeing” that it is up to us to plan. No. The spiritual life is the relationship with the Living One, with God, the Living One who cannot be reduced to our categories. And desolation, then, is the clearest response to the objection that the experience of God is a form of wishful thinking, a simple projection of our desires. Desolation is not feeling anything, when everything is dark, but you seek God in the desolation. In that case, if we think that he is a projection of our desires, we would always be the ones to plan, and we would always be happy and content, like a record that repeats the same music. Instead, those who pray realize that the outcome is unpredictable: experiences and passages from the Bible that have often enthralled us, today, strangely, do not move us. And, equally unexpectedly, experiences, encounters and readings that we have never paid much attention to or preferred to avoid – such as the experience of the cross – bring immense peace. Do not fear desolation; face it with perseverance, do not evade it. And in desolation, try to find the heart of Christ, to find the Lord. And the answer will come, always.

Faced with difficulties, therefore, never be discouraged, please, but confront the test with determination, with the help of the grace of God, which is never lacking. And if we hear within us an insistent voice that wants to turn us away from prayer, let us learn to unmask it as the voice of the tempter; and let us not be influenced; let us simply do the opposite of what it tells us! Thank you.

16.11.22

Psalm 31

 


Psalm 31

2 - 25




Pope Francis       

10.04.24 General Audience, Saint Peter's  

Cycle of Catechesis. Vices and Virtues. 14. Fortitude  

Psalm 31: 2, 4, 25

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today’s catechesis is dedicated to the third of the cardinal virtues, namely fortitude. Let us begin with the description given in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions” (1808). This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about the virtue of fortitude.

Here, then, is the most “combative” of the virtues. If the first of the moral virtues, that is, prudence, was primarily associated with man's reason; and while justice found its abode in the will, this third virtue, fortitude, is often linked by scholastic authors to what the ancients called the “irascible appetite”. Ancient thought did not imagine a man without passions: he would be a stone. And the passions are not necessarily the residue of a sin; but they must be educated, they must be channelled, they must be purified with the water of Baptism, or better with the fire of the Holy Spirit. A Christian without courage, who does not turn his own strength to good, who does not bother anyone, is a useless Christian. Let us think about this! Jesus is not a diaphanous, ascetic God, who does not know human emotions. Quite the contrary. Faced with the death of His friend Lazarus, He breaks down in tears, and His impassioned spirit is apparent in some of His expressions, such as when He says: “I came to cast fire upon the earth, and would that it were already kindled!” (Lk 12:49); and confronted with the trade in the temple, He reacted with force (cf. Mt. 21: 12-13). Jesus had passion.

But let us now look for an existential description of this important virtue that helps us be fruitful in life. The ancients – both the Greek philosophers and Christian theologians – recognized a twofold development in the virtue of fortitude: one passive, the other active.

The first is directed within ourselves. There are internal enemies we must defeat, which go by the name of anxiety, anguish, fear, guilt: all forces that stir in our innermost selves and in some situations paralyse us. How many fighters succumb before they even begin the challenge! Because they are not aware of these internal enemies. Fortitude is first and foremost a victory against ourselves. Most of the fears that arise within us are unrealistic, and do not come true at all. It is better, then, to invoke the Holy Spirit and face everything with patient fortitude: one problem at a time, as we are able, but not alone! The Lord is with us, if we trust in Him and sincerely seek the good. Then in every situation we can count on God's providence to shield and armour us.

And then there is the second movement of the virtue of fortitude, this time of a more active nature. As well as internal trials, there are external enemies, which are the trials of life, persecutions, difficulties that we did not expect and that surprise us. Indeed, we can try to predict what will happen to us, but to a large extent reality is made up of imponderable events, and in this sea sometimes our boat is tossed about by the waves. Fortitude then makes us resilient sailors, who are not frightened or discouraged.

Fortitude is a fundamental virtue because it takes the challenge of evil in the world seriously. Some pretend it does not exist, that everything is going fine, that human will is not sometimes blind, that dark forces that bring death do not lurk in history. But it suffices to leaf through a history book, or unfortunately even the newspapers, to discover the nefarious deeds of which we are partly victims and partly perpetrators: wars, violence, slavery, oppression of the poor, wounds that have never healed and continue to bleed. The virtue of fortitude makes us react and cry out “no”, an emphatic “no” to all of this. In our comfortable Western world, which has watered everything down somewhat, which has transformed the pursuit of perfection into a simple organic development, which has no need for struggle because everything looks the same, we sometimes feel a healthy nostalgia for prophets. But disruptive, visionary people are very rare. There is a need for someone who can rouse us from the soft place in which we have lain down and make us resolutely repeat our “no” to evil and to everything that leads to indifference. “No” to evil and “no” to indifference; “yes” to progress, to the path that moves us forward, and for this we must fight.

Let us therefore rediscover in the Gospel the fortitude of Jesus, and learn it from the witness of the saints. Thank you.

10.04.24

Psalm 34

 Psalm 34

2 - 23



Pope Francis          

27.10.13 Holy Mass for the Family Day  Saint Peter's Square

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C

Sirach 35: 12-14,16-18    

2 Timothy 4: 6-8,16-18        

Psalms  34: 2-3,17-18,19,23       

Luke 18: 9-14 

The readings this Sunday invite us to reflect on some basic features of the Christian family.

1. First: the family prays.  The Gospel passage speaks about two ways of praying, one is false – that of the Pharisee – and the other is authentic – that of the tax collector.  The Pharisee embodies an attitude which does not express thanksgiving to God for his blessings and his mercy, but rather self-satisfaction.  The Pharisee feels himself justified, he feels his life is in order, he boasts of this, and he judges others from his pedestal.  The tax collector, on the other hand, does not multiply words.  His prayer is humble, sober, pervaded by a consciousness of his own unworthiness, of his own needs.  Here is a man who truly realizes that he needs God’s forgiveness and his mercy.

The prayer of the tax collector is the prayer of the poor man, a prayer pleasing to God.  It is a prayer which, as the first reading says, “will reach to the clouds” (Sir 35:20), unlike the prayer of the Pharisee, which is weighed down by vanity.

In the light of God’s word, I would like to ask you, dear families: Do you pray together from time to time as a family?  Some of you do, I know.  But so many people say to me: But how can we? As the tax collector does, it is clear: humbly, before God.  Each one, with humility, allowing themselves to be gazed upon by the Lord and imploring his goodness, that he may visit us.  But in the family how is this done? After all, prayer seems to be something personal, and besides there is never a good time, a moment of peace…  Yes, all that is true enough, but it is also a matter of humility, of realizing that we need God, like the tax collector!  And all families, we need God: all of us! We need his help, his strength, his blessing, his mercy, his forgiveness.  And we need simplicity to pray as a family: simplicity is necessary! Praying the Our Father together, around the table, is not something extraordinary: it’s easy. And praying the Rosary together, as a family, is very beautiful and a source of great strength!  And also praying for one another! The husband for his wife, the wife for her husband, both together for their children, the children for their grandparents….praying for each other.  This is what it means to pray in the family and it is what makes the family strong: prayer.

2. The second reading suggests another thought: the family keeps the faith.  The Apostle Paul, at the end of his life, makes a final reckoning and says: “I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).  But how did he keep the faith?  Not in a strong box!  Nor did he hide it underground, like the somewhat lazy servant.  Saint Paul compares his life to a fight and to a race.  He kept the faith because he didn’t just defend it, but proclaimed it, spread it, brought it to distant lands.  He stood up to all those who wanted to preserve, to “embalm” the message of Christ within the limits of Palestine.  That is why he made courageous decisions, he went into hostile territory, he let himself be challenged by distant peoples and different cultures, he spoke frankly and fearlessly.  Saint Paul kept the faith because, in the same way that he received it, he gave it away, he went out to the fringes, and didn’t dig himself into defensive positions.

Here too, we can ask: How do we keep our faith as a family?  Do we keep it for ourselves, in our families, as a personal treasure like a bank account, or are we able to share it by our witness, by our acceptance of others, by our openness?  We all know that families, especially young families, are often “racing” from one place to another, with lots to do.  But did you ever think that this “racing” could also be the race of faith?  Christian families are missionary families. Yesterday in this square we heard the testimonies of missionary families. They are missionary also in everyday life, in their doing everyday things, as they bring to everything the salt and the leaven of faith!  Keeping the faith in families and bringing to everyday things the salt and the leaven of faith.

3. And one more thought we can take from God’s word: the family experiences joy.  In the responsorial psalm we find these words: “let the humble hear and be glad” (33/34:2).  The entire psalm is a hymn to the Lord who is the source of joy and peace.  What is the reason for this gladness?  It  is that the Lord is near, he hears the cry of the lowly and he frees them from evil.  As Saint Paul himself writes: “Rejoice always … The Lord is near” (Phil 4:4-5).  I would like to ask you all a question today. But each of you keep it in your heart and take it home. You can regard it as a kind of “homework”.  Only you must answer.  How are things when it comes to joy at home?  Is there joy in your family?   You can answer this question.

Dear families, you know very well that the true joy which we experience in the family is not superficial; it does not come from material objects, from the fact that everything seems to be going well...  True joy comes from a profound harmony between persons, something which we all feel in our hearts and which makes us experience the beauty of togetherness, of mutual support along life’s journey.  But the basis of this feeling of deep joy is the presence of God, the presence of God in the family and his love, which is welcoming, merciful, and respectful towards all.  And above all, a love which is patient: patience is a virtue of God and he teaches us how to cultivate it in family life, how to be patient, and lovingly so, with each other. To be patient among ourselves. A patient love.  God alone knows how to create harmony from differences.  But if God’s love is lacking, the family loses its harmony, self-centredness prevails and joy fades.  But the family which experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally.  That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world, it is the leaven of society as a whole.

Dear families, always live in faith and simplicity, like the Holy Family of Nazareth!  The joy and peace of the Lord be always with you!

27.10.13

Psalm 36

 


Psalm 36

2-9





Pope Francis 

21.10.20 General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall        

Catechesis on prayer - 11. The Prayer of the Psalms. 2       

Psalm 36: 2-4, 6, 8, 9 

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today, we need to change a bit the way the audience is conducted because of the coronavirus. You are separated, with the protection of masks as well, and I am here, a bit distant and I cannot do what I always do, coming near you, because every time I do that all of you come together and do not maintain distance and there is the danger of contagion for you. I apologize for this, but it is for your safety. Instead of coming near you and shaking your hands and greeting you, we have to greet each other from a distance, but know that I am near you with my heart. I hope that you understand why I am doing this. Also, while the readers were reading the biblical passage, my attention was caught by that baby boy or girl over there who was crying, and I was watching the mamma who was cuddling and nursing the baby and I said: this is what God does with us, like that mamma. With what tenderness she was trying to comfort and nurse the baby. They are beautiful images. And when it happens that a baby cries in Church, listening to that and feeling that tenderness of a mamma there, like today, and thanks for your witnesses, and there is the tenderness of a mamma who is the symbol of God’s tenderness with us. Never silence a crying baby in Church, never, because it is the voice that attracts God’s tenderness. Thank you for your witness.

Today we will complete the catechesis on the prayer of the Psalms. Above all, we see how there often appears a negative figure in the Psalms, called the “wicked” person, that is, he or she who lives as if God does not exist. This is the person without any reference to the transcendent, whose arrogance has no limits, who fears no judgment regarding what he or she thinks or does.

For this reason, the Psalter presents prayer as the fundamental reality of life. The reference to the absolute and to the transcendent – which the spiritual masters call the “holy fear of God” – and which makes us completely human; it is the boundary that saves us from ourselves, preventing us from venturing into life in a predatory and voracious manner. Prayer is the salvation of the human being.

There certainly also exists a false prayer, a prayer said only for the admiration of others. The person or those persons who go to Mass only to show that they are Catholics or to show off the latest fashion that they acquired, or to make a good impression in society. They are recite a false prayer. Jesus strongly admonished against such prayer (see Mt 6:5-6; Lk 9:14). But when the true spirit of prayer is sincerely received and enters the heart, it then allows us to contemplate reality with God’s very eyes.

When one prays, everything acquires “depth”. This is interesting in prayer, perhaps something subtle begins but in prayer that thing acquires depth, it becomes weighty, as if God takes it in hand and transforms it. The worst service someone can give God, and others as well, is to pray tiredly, by rote. To pray like parrots. No, let us pray with our heart. Prayer is the centre of life. If there is prayer, even a brother, a sister, even an enemy becomes important. An old saying from the first Christian monks reads: “Blessed is the monk who, after God, regards every human being as God, ” (Evagrius Ponticus, Trattato sulla preghiera, n. 122). Those who worship God, love His children. Those who respect God, respect human beings.

And so, prayer is not a sedative to alleviate life’s anxieties; or, in any case, this type of prayer is certainly not Christian. Rather, prayer makes each of us responsible. We see this clearly in the “Our Father” that Jesus taught His disciples.

To learn how to pray this way, the Psalter is a tremendous school. We saw how the Psalms do not always use refined and gentle language, and how they often bring out the scars of existence. And yet, all these prayers were first used in the Temple of Jerusalem and then in the synagogues; even the most intimate and personal ones. The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way: “The Psalter’s many forms of prayer take shape both in the liturgy of the Temple and in the human heart” (n. 2588). And thus, personal prayer draws from and is nourished first by the prayer of the people of Israel, then by the prayer of the Church.

Even the Psalms in the first person singular, which confide the most intimate thoughts and problems of an individual, are a collective heritage, to the point of being prayed by everyone and for everyone. The prayer of the Christian has this “breath”, this spiritual “tension” holding the temple and the world together. Prayer can begin in the darkness of a church’s nave, but come to an end on the city streets. And vice versa, it can blossom during the day’s activities and reach its fulfilment in the liturgy. The church doors are not barriers, but permeable “membranes”, available to gather everyone's cry.

The world is always present in the prayer found in the Psalter. The Psalms, for example, voice the divine promise of salvation for the weakest:.. “ ‘Because the poor are despoiled, because the needy groan I will now arise,’ says the Lord; ‘I will place him in the safety for which he longs’ ” (12:5). Or again, they warn about the danger of worldly riches because... “Man cannot abide in his pomp, he is like the beasts that perish” (49:20). Or, they open the horizon to God’s view of history: “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nought; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations” (33:10-11).

In short, where there is God, the human person must be there as well. Sacred Scripture is categorical: “We love, because he first loved us”(1Jn 4:19). He always goes ahead of us. He always awaits us because He loves us first, He looks at us first, He understands us first. He always awaits us. “If any one says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God who he does not see (1Jn 4:20). If you pray many rosaries each day but then gossip about others, and nourish grudges inside, if you hate others, this is truly artificial, it is not true. “And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also” (1 Jn 4:19-21). Scripture acknowledges the case of the person who, even though he or she sincerely searches for God, never succeeds to encounter Him; but it also affirms that the tears of the poor can never be repudiated on pain of not encountering God. God does not support the “atheism” of those who repudiate the divine image that is imprinted in every human being. That everyday atheism: I believe in God but I keep my distance from others and I allow myself to hate others. This is practical atheism. Not to recognize the human person as the image of God is a sacrilege, an abomination, the worst offense that can be directed toward the temple and the altar.

Dear brothers and sisters, the prayers of the Psalms help us not to fall into the temptation of the “wicked”, that is, of living, and perhaps also of praying, as if God does not exist, and as if the poor do not exist.

21.10.20

Psalm 37

 Psalm 37

3-40




"The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord” (Ps 37[36]:39). This Psalm verse, reminds us of the truth that “salvation is a gift the Lord gives”: it can’t be bought nor obtained through study, for it is always a gift, a present. But the real question is: “How to protect this salvation? What to do so this salvation remains in us and bears fruit, as Jesus explains, like a seed or kernel of mustard?” Mark (4:26-35).

Hebrews (10:32-39), there are criteria to protect this present, this gift of salvation; in order to allow this salvation to go forth and bear its fruit in us.

The first criterion is that of memory. In fact, we read in the text: “Brethren, recall the former days, after you received the light of Christ”. Those are “the days of the first love”, as the prophets say: it is “the day of the encounter with Jesus”. Because, when we encountered Jesus, or better yet, when “He let Himself be encountered by us, for it is He who does all” — “it brought great joy, the will to do great things”, as the same author of the Letter explains. Therefore, the first criterion to protect the gift of salvation is “not to forget those first days” marked by “certain enthusiasm”: most of all, “do not forget” that “first love”.

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews then goes on, emphasizing the “joy that enabled you to bear all things”, to a point when “all seemed meagre in those former days, and one went forth with enthusiasm”. The Letter exhorts us not to abandon that courage — namely ‘this honesty’ — that parrhesìa of those former days. It is indeed that “first love” which made grow within us that courage, that ‘let’s go on!’, that enthusiasm.

The call, however, is to not abandon honesty. But, “abandon” is not even the right word, if we go to the original text we find a powerful expression: “Do not throw away, do not waste, do not reject honesty”. It is like a rejection: do not push away this honesty, this courage, the courage of the former days.

This is why memory is so important, to remember the grace received. Indeed, if we push away this enthusiasm which comes from our memory of that first love, this enthusiasm which comes from the first love then what comes is that serious danger to Christians: warmth. For lukewarm Christians stay there, idle; and yes, they are Christians, but they have forgotten that first love, they have lost their enthusiasm. What’s more, lukewarm Christians have also lost patience, that ‘tolerating’ things in life with the spirit of Jesus’ love; that ‘tolerating’, that bearing difficulties “on one’s shoulders’. This is why, lukewarm Christians, the poor souls, are in grave danger.

In this regard, there are two images which really strike me, and of which each person should be warned: “But you are lukewarm, be careful!”. St Peter, in his Second Letter, uses the image of the dog who turns back to its own vomit. And this image is distasteful, however, it is a fitting example of “the lukewarm Christian” who returns to that “first love, as if that love never existed”.

The second image, also unpleasant is the one that Jesus recounts of the person who wants to follow Him, and does follow Him, and then He casts out the demon. This demon, who has gone out of the man, passes through the desert with the intention of returning to that man, to that woman from which he came. And when he returns, he finds the house in order, clean and nice. Thus he gets angry, goes, looks for seven demons worse than him and returns to take possession of that house. And in this way the person isn’t wounded, because it involves ‘polite’ demons: who even knock on the door to come in, but they do come in. The same happens to a lukewarm Christian who doesn’t know who is knocking at the door and opens it, even saying come in! But, Jesus says, in the end, that soul ends up even worse than before.

These two images of the warmth of the Christian make us think. This way we must never forget our first love; rather, we should always remember that first love. This is why the answer to the question how do I go on? is: “with hope”. That is what the Letter to the Hebrews says to every Christian: For yet a little while, and the coming one shall come and shall not tarry.

And thus there are two parameters available to the Christian: “memory and hope”. Ultimately it means reclaiming the memory so as not to lose that most beautiful experience of the first love which nourishes our hope. So often, hope is dark. But the Christian goes forward. He believes. He goes, for he knows that hope does not disappoint, to find Jesus.

These two parameters are the very framework in which we are able to protect this salvation of the righteous which comes from the Lord, this gift of the Lord. We must protect this salvation, for the little mustard seed to grow and bear its fruit. However, many Christians, cause pain, create heartache — so many Christians!. They are the many Christians who go halfway and fail along this path toward the encounter with Jesus. Even if the journey began with the encounter with Jesus, in the middle of the road, they have lost the memory of that first love and have no hope.

Ask the Lord for the grace to protect the present, the gift of salvation. It is a gift that each Christian must protect on this journey that always reclaims the memory and hope. But, He alone can give us this grace: may He send us the Holy Spirit to walk on this path. 

30.01.15

Psalm 42

Dear Catechumens,

This concluding moment of the Year of Faith sees you gathered here, with your catechists and family members, also representing many other men and women around the world who are in your same walk of faith. Spiritually, we are all connected at this moment. You come from many different countries, from different cultural traditions and experiences. Yet this evening we feel we have so many things in common among us. We especially have one: the desire for God. This desire is evoked by the words of the Psalmist: “As a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?” (Ps 42 [41]: 1-2). It is so important to keep this desire alive, this longing to behold the Lord and to experience him, to experience his love, to experience his mercy! If one ceases to thirst for the living God, faith is in danger of becoming a habit, it risks being extinguished, like a fire that is not fed. It risks becoming “rancid”, meaningless.

The Gospel account (cf. Jn 1:35-42) showed us John the Baptist who points out Jesus as the Lamb of God to his disciples. Two of them follow the Master, and then, in turn, become “mediators” who enable others to encounter the Lord, to know him and to follow him. There are three moments in this narrative that recall the experience of the catechumenate. First, there is the moment of listening. The two disciples listened to the witness of the Baptist. You too, dear Catechumens, have listened to those who have spoken to you about Jesus and suggested that you follow him by becoming his disciples through Baptism. Amid the din of many voices that echo around you and within you, you have listened and accepted the voice that points to Jesus as the One who can give full meaning to our life.

The second moment is the encounter. The two disciples encounter the Teacher and stay with him. After having encountered him, immediately they notice something new in their hearts: the need to transmit their joy to others, that they too may meet him. Andrew, in fact, meets his brother Simon and leads him to Jesus. What good it does us to meditate on this scene! It reminds us that God did not create us to be alone, closed in on ourselves, but in order to be able to encounter him and to open ourselves to encounter others. God first comes to each one of us; and this is marvellous! He comes to meet us! In the Bible God always appears as the one who takes the initiative in the encounter with man: it is he who seeks man, and usually he seeks him precisely while man is in the bitter and tragic moment of betraying God and fleeing from him. God does not wait in seeking him: he seeks him out immediately. He is a patient seeker, our Father! He goes before us and he waits for us always. He never tires of waiting for us, he is never far from us, but he has the patience to wait for the best moment to meet each one of us. And when the encounter happens, it is never rushed, because God wants to remain at length with us to sustain us, to console us, to give us his joy. God hastens to meet us, but he never rushes to leave us. He stays with us. As we long for him and desire him, so he too desires to be with us, that we may belong to him, we are his “belonging”, we are his creatures. He, too, we can say, thirsts for us, to meet us. Our God is thirsty for us. And this is God’s heart. It is so beautiful to hear this.

The last part of the narrative is walking. The two disciples walk toward Jesus and then walk a stretch of the road together with him. It is an important teaching for us all. Faith is a walk with Jesus. Remember this always: faith is walking with Jesus; and it is a walk that lasts a lifetime. At the end there shall be the definitive encounter. Certainly, at some moments on the journey we feel tired and confused. But the faith gives us the certainty of Jesus’ constant presence in every situation, even the most painful or difficult to understand. We are called to walk in order to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of the love of God, which reigns over us and permits us to live in serenity and hope.

Dear catechumens, today you begin the journey of the catechumenate. My wish for you is to follow it with joy, sure of the entire Church’s support, who is watching over you with great trust. May Mary, the perfect disciple, accompany you: it is beautiful to have her as our Mother in faith! I invite you to guard the enthusiasm of that first moment in which he opened your eyes to the light of faith; to remember, like the beloved disciple, the day, the hour in which for the first time you stayed with Jesus, felt his gaze upon you. Never forget the gaze of Jesus upon you; upon you, upon you... never forget his gaze! It is a gaze of love. And thus you shall be forever certain of the Lord’s faithful love. He is faithful. Be assured: he will never betray you!

23.11.13

Psalm 46

 Psalm 46

2-9




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

Psalm 62 & 63

 


Psalm 62

2-6





Pope Francis       

23.11.22 General Audience, Saint Peter's Square   

Catechesis on Discernment. 9. Consolation  

Psalm 62: 2-4, 6


Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

We continue the catechesis on the discernment of spirits and how to discern them when they take place in our hearts and in our souls. After having considered several aspects of desolation – that darkness in the soul – today let us talk about consolationwhich is light in the soul and another important element in discernment, which is not to be taken for granted, because it can lend itself to misunderstandings. We must understand what consolation is, just as we have tried to understand well what desolation is.

What is spiritual consolation? It is an experience of interior joy, consisting in seeing God’s presence in everything. It strengthens faith and hope, and even the ability of doing good. The person who experiences consolation never gives up in the face of difficulties because he or she always experiences a peace that is stronger than any trial. It is, therefore, a tremendous gift for the spiritual life as well as life in general…and to live this interior joy.

Consolation is an interior movement that touches our depths. It is not flashy but soft, delicate, like a drop of water on a sponge (cf. St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, 335). The person feels enveloped in God’s presence in a way that always respects his or her own freedom. It is never something out of tune, that tries to force our will; neither is it a passing euphoria. On the contrary, as we have seen, even the suffering – caused for example by our own sins – can become a reason for consolation.

Let’s recall the experience Saint Augustine lived when he spoke with his mother Monica about the beauty of eternal life; or of the perfect joy of Saint Francis that was associated with very difficult situations he had to bear; and let’s think of the many saints who were able to do great things not because they thought they were magnificent or capable, but because they had been conquered by the peaceful sweetness of God’s love. This is the peace that Saint Ignatius discovered in himself with such amazement when he would read the lives of the saints. To be consoled is to be at peace with God, to feel that everything is settled in peace, everything is in harmony within us. This is the peace that Edith Stein felt after her conversion. A year after she received Baptism, she wrote – this is what Edith Stein says: “As I abandon myself to this feeling, little by little a new life begins to fill me and – without any pressure on my will – to drive me toward new realizations. This living inpouring seems to spring from an activity and a strength that is not mine and which, without doing me any violence, becomes active in me” (Psicologia e scienze dello spirito, Città Nuova, 1996, 116). So, genuine peace is one that makes good feelings blossom in us.

Above all, consolation affects hope, and reaches out toward the future, puts us on a journey, allows us to take the initiative that had always been postponed or not even imagined, such as Baptism was for Edith Stein.

Consolation is that type of peace, but not that we remain sitting there enjoying it, no…. It gives you peace and draws you toward the Lord and sets you off to do things, to do good things. In a moment of consolation, when we are consoled, we want to do so much good, always. Instead, when there is a moment of desolation, we feel like closing in on ourselves and doing nothing…. Consolation pushes us forward in service to others, society, other people.

Spiritual consolation is not “piloted” – you cannot say now that consolation will come – no, it is not it cannot be “piloted”, programmed at will. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It allows a familiarity with God that seems to cancel distances. When she visited the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome at the age of fourteen, Saint Therese of the Child Jesus tried to touch the nail venerated there, one of the nails with which Jesus was crucified. Therese understood her daring as a transport of love and confidence. Later, she wrote, “I truly was too audacious. But the Lord sees the depths of our hearts. He knows my intention was pure […] I acted with him as a child who believes everything is permissible and who considers the Father’s treasures their own” (Autobiographical Manuscript, 183). Consolation is spontaneous. Consolation leads you to do everything spontaneously,