We must not be afraid to contemplate the cross as a moment of defeat, of failure. When Paul reflects on the mystery of Jesus Christ, he says some powerful things. He tells us that Jesus emptied himself, annihilated himself, was made sin to the end and took all our sins upon himself, all the sins of the world: he was a ‘rag’, a condemned man. Paul was not afraid to show this defeat and even this can enlighten our moments of darkness, our moments of defeat. But the cross is also a sign of victory for us Christians.

The Book of Numbers tells of the moment during the Exodus when the people who complained “were punished by serpents”. This, refers to the ancient serpent, Satan, the “Great Accuser”. But, the Lord told Moses that the serpent that brought death would be raised and would bring salvation. This is a prophecy. In fact, having been made sin, Jesus defeated the author of sin, he defeated the serpent. And Satan, was so happy on Good Friday that he did not notice the great trap of history in which he was to fall.

As the Fathers of the Church say, Satan saw Jesus in such a bad state, and like a hungry fish that goes after the bait attached to the hook, he swallowed Him. But in that moment, he also swallowed His divinity because that was the bait attached to the hook. At that moment, Satan was destroyed forever. He has no strength. In that moment the cross became a sign of victory.

Our victory is the cross of Jesus, victory over our enemy, the ancient serpent, the Great Accuser. We have been saved by the cross, by the fact that Jesus chose to sink to the very lowest point, but with the power of divinity.

Jesus said to Nicodemus: When I am lifted up I will draw all people to myself. Jesus was lifted up and Satan was destroyed. We must be attracted to the cross of Jesus: we must look at it because it gives us the strength to go forward. And the ancient serpent that was destroyed still barks, still threatens but, as the Fathers of the Church say, he is a chained dog: do not approach him and he will not bite you; but if you try to caress him because you attracted to him as if he were a puppy, prepare yourself, he will destroy you.

Our life goes on, with Christ victorious and risen, and who sends us the Holy Spirit; but also with that chained dog, the devil, whom I must not draw close to because he will bite me.

The cross teaches us that in life there is failure and victory. We must be capable of tolerating defeat, of bearing our failures patiently, even those of our sins because He paid for us. We must tolerate them in Him, asking forgiveness in Him, but never allowing ourselves to be seduced by this chained dog. It will be good if today, when we go home, we would take 5, 10, 15 minutes in front of the crucifix, either the one we have in our house or on the rosary: look at it, it is our sign of defeat, it provokes persecutions, it destroys us; it is also our sign of victory because it is where God was victorious.


Pope Francis

06.02.22 Angelus, St Peter's Square

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Luke 5: 1-11

Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!

The Gospel of today’s Liturgy takes us to the banks of the Sea of Galilee. The crowd is gathering around Jesus, while some disappointed fishermen, including Simon Peter, are washing their nets after a night of fishing that went badly. And so it is that Jesus climbs into Simon's boat; then he invites him to go out to sea and cast his nets again (cf. Lk 5:1-4). Let us pause on these two actions of Jesus: first he climbs into the boat and then, the second, he invites him to put out into the open water. It was a night that went badly, without fish, but Peter is trustful and sets out into open water.

First of all, Jesus gets into Simon’s boat. To do what? To teach. He asks for that very boat, which is not full of fish but rather has returned to the shore empty, after a night of toil and disillusionment. It is a beautiful image for us too. Every day the boat of our life leaves the shores of our home to sail out into the sea of daily activities; every day we try to “fish from the sea”, to cultivate dreams, to pursue projects, to experience love in our relationships. But often, like Peter, we experience the “night of empty nets” – the night of empty nets – the disappointment of trying so hard and not seeing the desired results: “We toiled all night and took nothing” (v. 5), says Simon. How often we too are left with a sense of defeat, while disappointment and bitterness arise in our hearts. Two very dangerous woodworms.

What does the Lord do then? He chooses to climb into our boat. From there he wants to proclaim the Gospel. It is precisely that empty boat, the symbol of our incapacity, that becomes Jesus’ “cathedra”, the pulpit from which he proclaims the Word. And this is what the Lord loves to do – the Lord is the Lord of surprises, of miracles in surprises: to climb into the boat of our lives when we have nothing to offer him; to enter our voids and fill them with his presence; to make use of our poverty to proclaim his wealth, our miseries to proclaim his mercy. Let us remember this: God does not want a cruise ship: a poor “ramshackle” boat is enough for him, as long as we welcome him. This yes, to welcome him; the boat doesn’t matter, but that we welcome him. But, I wonder, do we let him into the boat of our lives? Do we make available to him the little we have? Sometimes we feel unworthy of Him because we are sinners. But this is an excuse that the Lord does not like, because it distances Him from us! He is the God of closeness, compassion, tenderness, and he does not seek perfectionism: he seeks our welcome. He says to you too: “Let me get into the boat of your life”, “But Lord, look..” – “Like that, let me in, just as it is”. Think about this.

In this way, the Lord reconstructs Peter’s trust. When he climbs into the boat, after preaching, he says: “Put out a little from the land” (v. 4). It was not a good time of the day for fishing, in broad daylight, but Peter trusts in Jesus. He does not base his trust on the strategies of fishermen, which he knows well, but rather he founds it on the newness of Jesus. That wonder that moved him to do what Jesus told him. It is the same for us too: if we welcome the Lord into our boat, we can put out to sea. With Jesus, we navigate the sea of life without fear, without giving in to disappointment when we catch nothing, and without giving up and saying “there is nothing more to be done”. Always, in personal life as well as in the life of the Church and society, there is something beautiful and courageous that can be done, always. We can always start again – the Lord always invites us to get back on our feet because He opens up new possibilities. So let us accept the invitation: let us chase away pessimism and mistrust, and put out to sea with Jesus! Our little empty boat, too, will witness a miraculous catch.

Let us pray to Mary: who like no other welcomed the Lord into the boat of her life. May she encourage us and intercede for us.