Refusing Jesus

The parable of the man who gave a great banquet, and sent out many invitations. His servants told the guests, “‘Come: everything is now ready.’ But one by one they all began to excuse themselves. There is always an apology. They apologize. Apologizing is the polite word we use in order not to say, ‘I refuse.’

And so the master then told his servants to bring in here the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame.

This passage, ends with a second refusal, this one from the mouth of Jesus Himself. When someone rejects Jesus, the Lord waits for them, gives them a second chance, perhaps even a third, a fourth, a fifth… but in the end, He rejects them.

And this refusal makes us think of ourselves, of the times that Jesus calls us; calls us to celebrate with Him, to be close to Him, to change our life. Think about seeking out His most intimate friends and they refuse! Then He seeks out the sick… and they go; perhaps some refuse. How many times do we hear the call of Jesus to come to Him, to do a work of charity, to pray, to encounter Him, and we say: “Excuse me Lord, I’m busy, I don’t have time. Yes, tomorrow today I can’t…” And Jesus remains there.

How often do we, too, ask Jesus to excuse us when “He calls us to meet Him, to speak with Him, to have a nice chat.” “We, too, refuse Him."

Each one of us should think: In my life, how many times have I felt the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to do a work of charity, to encounter Jesus in that work of charity, to go to pray, to change your life in this area, in this area that is not going well? And I have always found a reason to excuse myself, to refuse.

In the end, those who do not reject Jesus, and are not rejected by Him, will enter the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Father had a warning for those who think to themselves “Jesus is so good, in the end He forgives everything”.

Yes, He is good, He is merciful – He is merciful, but He is also just. And if you close the door of your heart from within, He cannot open it, because He is very respectful of our heart. Refusing Jesus is closing the door from within, and He cannot enter.

It is Jesus Himself who pays for the feast. In the first Reading, St Paul reveals the cost of the banquet, speaking of Jesus, who “emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, humbling Himself to the point of dying on the Cross.” Jesus, paid for the feast with His life.”


Pope Francis

05.11.19 Holy Mass Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)

Tuesday of the Thirty-first week in Ordinary Time

Luke 14: 15-24

In Saint Luke’s Gospel today, Jesus tells the parable of a man who wants to give a great feast. But his guests offer various excuses and refuse his invitation. Instead, the man sends his servants to call the poor and the lame to fill his house and enjoy his hospitality.

This story both summarizes the history of salvation and describes the behaviour of many Christians.

The dinner, the feast, represents Heaven, eternity with the Lord. You never know whom you might meet at a dinner; you meet new people; you also find people you may not want to see; but the atmosphere of the feast is joy and lavishness. Because a true feast must be freely given. Our God always invites us this way, He doesn’t make us pay an entrance fee. At real celebrations, you don't pay to get in: the host pays, the one who invites you pays. But there are those who put their own interests first before that freely-given invitation:

Faced with that lavishness, that universality of the feast, there is an attitude that blocks the heart: "I'm not going. I prefer to be alone, with the people I like, closed up". And this is sin; the sin of the people of Israel, the sin of all of us. Closure. "No, this is more important to me than that. No, it’s mine". Always mine.

This refusal, is also a sign of contempt toward the one inviting us: It is like saying to the Lord: "Don’t disturb me with your celebration". It is closing ourselves off to what the Lord offers us: the joy of encountering Him.

And we will be faced with this choice, this option, many times along the journey of life: either the lavishness of the Lord, going to visit the Lord, encountering the Lord, or closing myself in on my own affairs, my own interests. That is why the Lord, speaking of one way of being closed, said it is very hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. But there are good rich people, saints, who are not attached to wealth. But most of them are attached to wealth, they are closed. And that's why they can't understand what the celebration is. But they have the security of things they can touch.

The Lord's reaction to our refusal is firm: he wants all sorts of people called to the feast, brought there, even forced to come, good people and bad. Everyone is invited. Everyone. No one can say, 'I am bad, I can’t ...'. No. The Lord is waiting for you in a special way because you are bad. The response of the father to the prodigal son who returns home: the son starts a speech, but the father stops him and embraces him. That’s the way the Lord is, He is gratuitous.

In the First Reading where the Apostle Paul warns against hypocrisy Jesus’ response to the Jews who rejected Him because they believed themselves to be just was: "I tell you that prostitutes and tax collectors will enter the kingdom of heaven before you". The Lord loves those who are most disregarded, but He calls us. Faced with our closure, however, He keeps His distance and becomes angry, as we heard in the Gospel.

Let us think about this parable the Lord tells us today. How is our life going? What do I prefer? Do I always accept the invitation of the Lord or close myself off in my interests, in my smallness? And let us ask the Lord for the grace always to accept to go to His feast, which is free.


Pope Francis

02.01.22 Angelus, Saint Peter's Square

2nd Sunday after Christmas Year C

John 1: 1-18

Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!

Today’s Liturgy offers us a beautiful phrase, that we always pray in the Angelus and which by itself reveals to us the meaning of Christmas. It says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. These words, if we think about it, contain a paradox. They bring together two opposites: the Word and the flesh. “Word” indicates that Jesus is the eternal Word of the Father, infinite, existing from all time, before all created things; “flesh”, on the other hand, indicates precisely our created reality, fragile, limited, mortal. Before Jesus there were two separate worlds: Heaven opposed to earth, the infinite opposed to the finite, spirit opposed to matter. And there is another opposition in the Prologue of the Gospel of John, another binomial: word and flesh are a binomial; the other binomial is light and darkness (cf. v. 5). Jesus is the light of God who has entered into the darkness of the world. Light and darkness. God is light: in him there is no opacity; in us, on the other hand, there is much darkness. Now, with Jesus, light and darkness meet: holiness and sin, grace and sin. Jesus, the incarnation of Jesus is the very place of the encounter, the encounter between God and humanity, the encounter between grace and sin.

What does the Gospel intend to announce with these polarities? Something splendid: God’s way of acting. Faced with our frailties, the Lord does not withdraw. He does not remain in his blessed eternity and in his infinite light, but rather he draws close, he makes himself incarnate, he descends into the darkness, he dwells in lands that are foreign to him. And why does God do this? Why does he come down to us? He does this because he does not resign himself to the fact that we can go astray by going far from him, far from eternity, far from the light. This is God's work: to come among us. If we consider ourselves unworthy, that does not stop him: he comes. If we reject him, He does not tire of seeking us out. If we are not ready and willing to receive him, he prefers to come anyway. And if we close the door in his face, he waits. He is truly the Good Shepherd. And the most beautiful image of the Good Shepherd? The Word that becomes flesh to share in our life. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who comes to seek us right where we are: in our problems, in our suffering… He comes there.

Dear brothers and sisters, often we keep our distance from God because we think we are not worthy of him for other reasons. And it is true. But Christmas invites us to see things from his point of view. God wishes to be incarnate. If your heart seems too contaminated by evil, if it seems disordered, please, do not close yourself up, do not be afraid: he will come. Think of the stable in Bethlehem. Jesus was born there, in that poverty, to tell us that he is certainly not afraid of visiting your heart, of dwelling in a shabby life. And this is the word: to dwell. To dwell is the verb used in today’s Gospel to signify this reality: it expresses a total sharing, a great intimacy. And this is what God wants: he wants to dwell with us, he wants to dwell in us, not to remain distant.

And I ask myself, you, all of us: what about us, do we want to make space for him? In words yes, no-one will say, “I don’t!”; yes. But in practice? Perhaps there are aspects of life we keep to ourselves, that are exclusive, or inner spaces that we are afraid the Gospel will enter into, where we do not want God to be involved. Today I invite you to be specific. What are the inner things that I believe God does not like? What is the space that I believe is only for me, where I do not want God to come? Let each of us be specific, and answer this. “Yes, yes, I would like Jesus to come, but this, he mustn’t touch it; and this, no, and this...”. Everyone has their own sin - let us call it by name. And He is not afraid of our sins: He came to heal us. Let us at least let Him see it, let Him see the sin. Let us be brave, let us say: “But, Lord, I am in this situation but I do not want to change. But you, please, don’t go too far away”. That's a good prayer. Let’s be sincere today.

In these days of Christmas, it will do us good to welcome the Lord precisely there. How? For example, by stopping in front of the Nativity scene, because it shows Jesus who came to dwell in all our real, ordinary life, where not everything goes well, where there are many problems: we are to blame for some of them; others are the fault of other people. And Jesus comes: the shepherds who work hard, we see the shepherds there, Herod who threatens the innocent, great poverty… But in the midst of all this, in the midst of so many problems – and even in the midst of our problems – there is God, there is God who wants to dwell with us. And he waits for us to present to him our situations, that we are living. So, before the Nativity, let us talk to Jesus about our real situations. Let us invite him officially into our lives, especially in the dark areas: “Look, Lord, there is no light there, the electricity doesn’t reach there, but please don’t touch, because I don’t feel like leaving this situation”. Speak clearly and plainly. The dark areas, our “inner stables”; each one of us has them. And let us also tell him, without fear, about the social problems, and the ecclesial problems of our time, even personal problems, even the worst, because God loves to dwell: in our stable.

May the Mother of God, in whom the Word was made flesh, help us to cultivate greater intimacy with the Lord.