Pope Francis' Daily Homilies October 2014 -

Pope's Morning Homily: Consult Your Guardian Angels
They Are Companions on Our Life's Journey

By Staff Reporter

VATICAN CITY, October 02, 2014  - Guardian angels exist, they are not [the fruit of] imaginative doctrine, but companions that God has placed beside us on our life’s journey said Pope Francis Thursday morning at Mass at Casa Santa Marta, on the day when the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels.

Pope Francis said that the readings of the day present us with two images: the angel and the baby. God placed an angel by our side to watch over us: "If anyone believes that they can walk on their own, they would be greatly mistaken”, they would fall “into that terrible trap of arrogance: Believing we are great", self-sufficient. Jesus taught the apostles to be like children. "The disciples argued about who was the greatest among them, there was an internal dispute ... eh, careerism, eh?

These who were the first bishops, were tempted by careerism. 'Eh, I want to be greater than you ... The first bishops did not set a good example in this, but it is reality. Jesus teaches them the true attitude to have, that "of a child”: docility, the need for advice, the need for help, because the child is the very symbol of the need for help, of docility to keep going ... This is the path. Not the one of who is greater". Those who are closest to the attitude of a child, are "closer to the contemplation of the Father". They listen to their guardian angel with an open and docile heart:

"According to the tradition of the Church, we all have an angel with us, who protects us, helps us hear things. How often have we heard: 'I should do this, I should not do this, that’s not right, be careful ...': so often! It is the voice of our traveling companion. Be sure that he will guide us to the end of our lives with advice, and so listen to his voice, don’t rebel against it…because rebellion, the desire to be independent, is something that we all have; this is arrogance, the same arrogance of our father Adam in paradise: the very same. Do not rebel: follow his advice”.

"No one journeys alone and no one should think that they are alone" - continued the Pope - because “this companion” is always there:

"And when we do not want to listen to his advice, to listen to his voice, it's like saying, ‘Go away!'. It is dangerous to chase away our travelling companion, because no man no woman can advise themselves. I can give advice to others, but not to myself. The Holy Spirit advises me, the angel advises me.  This is why we need him. This is not an imaginative doctrine on the angels: no, it is reality. It is what Jesus said, God said: 'I send an angel before you to guard you, to accompany you on your journey, so you will not go wrong’".

“Ask yourself this question today: How is my relationship with my guardian angel? Do I listen to him? Do I say good morning to him in the morning? Do I ask him: Watch over me when I sleep?'. Do I speak with him? Do I ask his advice? He is by my side. We can answer this question today, each of us: how is our relationship with this angel that the Lord has sent to watch over me and accompany me on my journey, and who always sees the face of the Father who is in heaven."

---------------------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: Remembering Story of God's Love for Us
Holy Father's Words from Tuesday's Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Staff

VATICAN CITY, October 08, 2014- If we want to give glory to God, we must remember all He has done for us. But that also means remembering our sins. It means being honest with ourselves, said Pope Francis as he reflected on the Readings of the Day during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

The Lord "chose his people and accompanied them during their journey in the wilderness, throughout their lives", said Pope Francis commenting on the first reading in which St. Paul recalls his past life, without hiding his sins.

What "God did with His people - the Pope said - he has done and continues to do which each of us".  The Pope then asked "where we were chosen because Christian, and not that person over there, far away who has never even heard of Jesus Christ?". "It 'a grace," was the Pope’s answer: "A grace of love".

St. Paul’s  "concrete memory of this reality, is what makes Paul", who confesses to having ferociously persecuted the church.  Paul does not say "I am good, I am the son of this [family], I have a certain nobility ... ". No, Paul says, "I was a persecutor, I've been bad".  Pope Francis said that Paul remembers his journey, and he remembers it from the very beginning".

"This habit of remembering our life is not very common practice. We forget things, we live in the moment and then forget the past. And each of us has a story: a story of grace, a story of sin, a story of journey, so many things ... It is a good thing to pray with our history. [A prayer like] the one Paul does, where he tells a piece of his story, but in general says: 'He has chosen me! He called me! He saved me! He was my companion on the journey ... '.

Pope Francis continued : "[The act of ] remembering our own lives is to give glory to God. Remembering on our sins, by which the Lord has saved us, is to give glory to God”.  "Paul says that he has only two things: his sins, and the grace of the Crucified Lord, His grace”. Paul "remembered his sins, and boasted about them: 'I was a sinner, but Christ Crucified saved me' and he boasted about Christ. This was Paul’s memory. This is act of remembering that Jesus himself invites us to do ":

"When Jesus says to Martha: 'You are worried and troubled about many things, but you only need one thing. Mary has chosen the better part. 'What does he mean? [He means] Listening to the Lord and remembering. You cannot pray every day as if we did not have a story. Each of us has his or her own. And with this story in our heart we approach prayer, like Mary. Often we are distracted, like Martha, by work, by the day’s events, by those things that we have to do, and we forget this story".

Pope Francis said that our relationship with God, “does not begin on the day of Baptism: it is sealed there". [Our relationship] begins "when God, from eternity, looked upon us and chose us. It all begins in God’s heart:

"Remembering that we were chosen, chosen by God. Remembering our journey of covenant. Hve we respected this covenant, or not? No, we are sinners and we remember this, and we remember God’s promise to us which never disappoints, which is our hope. This is the true prayer”.

Pope Francis concluded his homily with an invitation to pray with Psalm 138: " LORD, you have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar". “This is to pray, to pray is to remember in God's presence because our story is the story of His love for us".

*** 

-----------------------------------------------------------

Pope Francis' Morning Homily: God Gives More and More
Reminds That God Is Three Persons, Not Some Vague Idea in the Clouds

By Staff

VATICAN CITY, October 09, 2014  - We ask for a lot of things when we pray, but the greatest gift that God can give us is the Holy Spirit.  

This was Pope Francis’ reflection Thursday morning at Mass in Santa Marta, commenting on the Gospel of the day, which presents the parable of the man who gets what he needs because of his persistence.

Pope Francis began his homily by noting that “God has so much mercy” and observing that in the Collect we begin by asking God for forgiveness and to "obtain what prayer does not dare to hope for."

"This got me thinking: it is precisely the mercy of God not only to forgive - we all know that - but to be generous and give more and more ... We asked: 'And obtain what prayer does not dare to hope for.' When we pray we might ask for this [intention] or that [intention] and He always gives us more, much more!”

The Pope underlined three key words in the Gospel: "Friend, the Father and gift." 

Jesus shows the disciples what prayer is. It is like a man who goes to a friend at midnight asking for something. In life, Francis observed, "There are truest friends" who really give their all. 

"Jesus goes a step further and speaks of the Father: What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? ... how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?'"

The Pope continued, "not only the friend who accompanies us on our journey of life helps us and gives us what we ask, but Our Father in heaven" who "loves us so much and of whom Jesus said that He cares about feeding the birds in the field. Jesus wants to awaken faith in prayer" and says: "Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."

"This," said Pope Francis, "is the prayer: ask, seek and knock at the heart of God." 

And the Father "gifts the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

"This is the gift, this is God’s added extra. God never gives you a gift, something that you ask for, without wrapping it up well, without adding something extra to make it even more beautiful. And that little bit more that the Lord, the Father gives us, is the Spirit. The true gift of the Father is the one that prayer does not dare to hope for. 'I ask for this grace; I ask for this, I knock and pray so much... I only hope that you will give me this.' And He who is Father, will give me that and more: He will give me the gift of the Holy Spirit."

"You pray," said the Pope, "with a friend, who is your companion on life's journey, you pray with the Father and you pray in the Holy Spirit. The friend is Jesus."

"He accompanies us and teaches us to pray. And our prayer should be Trinitarian. So often [people ask]: 'But do you believe?': 'Yes! Yes! '; 'What do you believe in?'; 'In God!'; 'But what is God for you?'; 'God, God'. But 'God' does not exist: Do not be shocked! So God does not exist! There is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, they are persons, they are not some vague idea in the clouds ... This God spray does not exist! The three Persons exist! Jesus is our companion on the journey who gives us what we ask; the Father who cares for us and loves us; and the Holy Spirit is the gift, the extra gift from the Father, that our consciousness does not dare to hope for."

---------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: Examination of Conscience Prevents Evil Entering the Heart
Recollect in Silence, Guard and Keep Watch to Ensure Demons Stay Away

By Staff Reporter

VATICAN CITY, October 10, 2014  - To prevent evil from entering into our hearts, there is an ancient, but very good, practice: the examination of conscience. That was Pope Francis’ message during the morning homily Friday at Santa Marta.

The Gospel of the day reminds us that the devil always comes back to us; he never stops tempting man. “The devil has patience,” Pope Francis said. “He never leaves that which he wants for himself,” that is, our souls:

“After the temptations, in the desert, when Jesus was tempted by the devil, in Luke’s version it says that the devil left Him for a time, but during the life of Jesus he returned again and again: when they put Him to the test, when they tried to trap Him, in the Passion, finally on the Cross. ‘But if you are the Son of God… but you come, you come from us, so we cannot believe.’ And we all know that these words touch the heart: ‘But can you do it? Let me see! No, you can’t.’ That’s how the devil even to the end [dealt] with Jesus… and likewise with us.”

We need to guard our hearts, where the Holy Spirit dwells, the Pope said, “so that other spirits do not enter. To guard the heart, as a house is guarded, with a key.” And then to watch the heart, like a sentinel: “How often,” he asked, “do wicked thoughts, wicked intentions, jealousy, envy enter in? So many things that enter in. But who has opened that door? Where do they enter from? If I do not realize [how much] enters into my heart, my heart becomes a piazza, where everything comes and goes. A heart without intimacy, a heart where the Lord cannot speak and cannot even be heard.”

“And Jesus says something else here – doesn’t He? – that sounds a little strange: ‘He who does not gather with me scatters.’ He uses the word ‘to gather.’ To have a gathering heart, a heart in which we know what happens, and here and there you can perform a practice as old as the Church, but good: the examination of conscience. Who of us, at night, at the end of the day, remains by himself, by herself, and asks the question: what happened today in my heart? What happened? What things have passed through my heart? If we don’t do this, we have truly failed to know how to watch and guard [our hearts] well.”

The examination of conscience “is a grace, because to guard our heart is to guard the Holy Spirit, Who is within us”:

“We know – Jesus says clearly – that the devil always returns. Even at the end of life, He, Jesus, gives us an example of this. And to guard, to watch, so that the demons don’t enter in, we must be able to gather ourselves, that is, to stand in silence before ourselves and before God, and at the end of the day ask ourselves: ‘What happened today in my heart? Did anyone I don’t know enter? Is the key in its place?’ And this will help us to defend ourselves from so much wickedness, even from that which we could do if these demons, who are very clever and at the end would cheat all of us, even if they enter.” 

------------------------------------------------

Pope Warns Against Being Closed in 'System of Law'
Says That God Will Never Contradict Himself, But Is Always a God of Surprises

VATICAN CITY, October 13, 2014  - Be open to God's surprises and remember holy law is not an end in itself.

This was Pope Francis’ message this morning at Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Vatican Radio reported. Commenting on the words of Jesus to the Doctors of the Law, the Pope urged the faithful not to cling to their own ideas, but to walk with the Lord, always finding new things.

Jesus speaks of the Doctors of the Law who demand a sign and describes them as an "evil generation." Basing himself on this Gospel passage, Pope Francis spoke about the "God of surprises.” He said these doctors repeatedly ask Jesus for a sign, and He replies that they are not able to "see the signs of the times":

"Why were these Doctors of the Law unable to understand the signs of the times? Why did they demand an extraordinary sign (which Jesus later gave to them), why did they not understand? First of all, because they were closed. They were closed within their system, they had perfectly systemized the law, it was a masterpiece. Every Jew knew what he could do and what he could not do, how far he could go. It was all systemized. And they were safe there."

Thus the Doctors of the Law saw Jesus' behavior (eating with tax collectors, associating with sinners) as strange.

The Pope noted that they "did not like” Jesus, he “was dangerous; doctrine was in danger, the doctrine of the law”, which the theologians had formulated over the centuries.

Pope Francis said that while they had  "done this out of love, to be faithful to God", they had become “closed", they had "simply forgotten history. They had forgotten that God is the God of the Law, but He is also the God of surprises".

On the other hand, said Francis, "God has often reserved surprises for His people" such as when He saved them "from slavery in Egypt":

"They did not understand that God is the God of surprises, that God is always new; He never denies himself, never says that what He said was wrong, never, but He always surprises us. They did not understand this and they closed themselves within that system that was created with the best of intentions and asked Jesus: 'But, give us a sign'. And they did not understand the many signs that Jesus did give them and which indicated that the time was ripe. Closure! Second, they had forgotten that they were a people on a journey. On a path! And when we set out on a journey, when we are on our path, we always encounter new things, things we did not know".

And, he added, "a path is not absolute in itself," it is a path towards "the ultimate manifestation of the Lord. Life is a journey toward the fullness of Jesus Christ, when He will come again".

This generation "seeks a sign", but the Lord says, "but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah", that is the sign of the Resurrection, the glory, of that eschatology towards “which we are journeying".

Pope Francis repeated, these doctors "were closed in on themselves, not open to the God of Surprises, they did not know the path nor this eschatology".  So, when before the Sanhedrin Jesus claims to be the Son of God, they were shocked saying that He had blasphemed. "The sign that Jesus gives to them - he said - was a blasphemy". And for this reason "Jesus says: an evil generation”.

Pope Francis added, "they failed to understand that the law they guarded and loved" was a pedagogy towards Jesus Christ.

"If the law does not lead to Jesus Christ - he said – if it does not bring us closer to Jesus Christ, it is dead. And Jesus rebuked them for this closure, for not being able to read the signs of the times, for not being open to the God of surprises”.

"And this should make us think: am I attached to my things, my ideas, [are they] closed? Or am I open to God's surprises? Am I at a standstill or am I on a journey? Do I believe in Jesus Christ - in Jesus, in what he did: He died, rose again and the story ended there - Do I think that the journey continues towards maturity, toward the manifestation of the glory of the Lord? Am I able to understand the signs of the times and be faithful to the voice of the Lord that is manifested in them? We should ask ourselves these questions today and ask the Lord for a heart that loves the law -  because the law belongs to God – but which also loves God’s surprises and the ability to understand that this holy law is not an end in itself".

Pope Francis concluded, this "journey” is a pedagogy "that leads us to Jesus Christ, the final encounter, where there will be this great sign of the Son of man."

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Praise Brings Joy, Says Pope in Morning Homily
Says Prayer of Praise Is More Difficult Than Asking or Thanking, But Arises When Remembering God's Work in Our Lives

VATICAN CITY, October 16, 2014  - It’s easy to pray for a grace, it’s far more difficult to pray in praise of the Lord, but this is the prayer of true joy, said Pope Francis at Mass on Thursday morning in Santa Marta.

Reflecting on St Paul's Letter to the Ephesians, which joyfully elevates a prayer of blessing to God, the Pope noted that this is something “we don’t normally do”: Instead giving "praise to God is pure gratuity" and in doing so we enter into "a great joy".

"We know very well how to pray when we want to ask for things, even when we want to thank the Lord, but a prayer of praise is a bit more difficult for us: we are not used to praising the Lord. We can do this better by remembering all of the things that the Lord has done for us in our lives: 'In Him - in Christ - He chose us before the creation of the world'. Blessed are you, Lord, because You chose me! It is the joy of a paternal and tender closeness”.

"Prayers of praise" - he continued - bring us this joy, [the joy of ] being happy before the Lord. Let’s make a real effort to rediscover this!”.

However, continued Pope Francis the "starting point" is "remembering” this choice: "God chose me before the creation of the world”.

"This is impossible to understand or even imagine: The fact that the Lord knew me before the creation of the world, that my name was in the Lord’s heart.  This is the truth! This is the revelation! If we do not believe this then we are not Christian!  We may be steeped in a theist religiosity, but not Christian! The Christian is a chosen one, the Christian is someone who has been chosen in God’s heart before the creation of the world. This thought also fills our hearts with joy: I am chosen! It gives us confidence".

"Our name - said the Pope - is in God’s heart, is in God’s bowels, just as the baby is inside its mother. Our joy lies in our being elected". Pope Francis continued that we cannot understand this with our head alone. [We cannot understand this] even with our heart. To understand this we must enter into the Mystery of Jesus Christ. The Mystery of His beloved Son: 'He has poured out his blood for us in abundance, with all wisdom and intelligence, making known to us the mystery of His will'. And this is a third attitude to have: entering into the Mystery":

"When we celebrate the Eucharist, we enter into this Mystery, that one cannot fully understand: the Lord is alive, He is with us, here, in His glory, in all His fullness and gives His life for us once again. We must learn this attitude of entering into the Mystery every day. The Christian is a woman, a man, who endeavors to enter into the Mystery. The Mystery cannot be controlled: this is the Mystery! I enter [into it]".

A prayer of praise – concluded the Pope - is therefore first and foremost a "prayer of joy", then a "prayer of remembrance: ‘How much the Lord has done for me! How tenderly He has accompanied me, how he has lowered Himself: like a father bows down over a child to help him walk”. 

And finally a prayer to the Holy Spirit that we may receive the grace “to enter into the Mystery, especially when we celebrate the Eucharist".

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Pope at Santa Marta: Jesus Renders Us Children of God
Says Without Christ, We Have No Identity

By Staff Reporter

VATICAN CITY, October 21, 2014  - Pope Francis reminded the faithful that God has given us an identity as his beloved children, and, therefore, we are to break down walls of division between our brothers and sisters.

Speaking to those gathered at morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta, the Holy Father stressed that “without Christ, we have no identity,” reported Vatican Radio.

Recalling the Gospel of Luke, the Pope explained that what Christ came to do “was to give us citizenship, a belonging to the people, a name and a surname.”

As a result, from “being enemies without peace,” Christ instead “has turned us into one by his blood, breaking down the walls that divide."

“We all know that when we are not in peace with others, there is a wall. There is a wall that divides us," he said, noting, however, that Jesus offers us his service to break down this wall so we can meet.

"And if we are divided, we are not friends: we are enemies. And he has reconciled us all in God. He has reconciled us as friends, as enemies, as strangers, as sons and daughters.”

The Holy Father also said we are to await Him, like servants awaiting their master.

“Waiting for Jesus. He who does not await Jesus, who closes his door to Jesus, does not allow him to go forward with his work of peace, of community, of citizenship," for Jesus, he noted, "gives us a name."

What he does, he noted, is “renders us children of God.”

Urging the faithful, he said, “We need to adopt an attitude that contains Christian hope. A Christian is a man or a woman of hope. He or she knows the Lord will come."

“We do not know when, we do not know at what time,” Francis continued, “but He will come and He must not find us divided.”

Rather, the Pope said, the Lord must find us as “He rendered us with His service: friends living in peace.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------  

Pope at Santa Marta: Our Own Forces Are Weak, We Need God
Reminds Faithful That God Has the Power 'To Do What We Do Not Dare to Think or Ask'

By Staff Reporter

VATICAN CITY, October 23, 2014  - At this morning’s Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis said that left to ourselves, we are weak, but he encouraged the faithful to turn to God and the Holy Spirit, who not only have the power to strengthen us, but also to do the unthinkable.

Reflecting on St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, the Pope recalled how St. Paul’s experience of Jesus “led him to leave everything behind" because "he was in love with Christ." 

According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reminded those present that, like the Apostle, when we bend our knees before the Father and humble ourselves before Him, He "has the power to do much more than we can ever think or ask."

“Our own forces are weak,” he said. “We cannot go forward without the power of the Spirit. Without the grace of the Spirit, we cannot be Christians.”

The Pope went on to say that the Spirit changes hearts and keeps Christians moving forward in virtue, to fulfill the commandments.

"This is a mystical experience of Paul and it teaches us the prayer of praise and the prayer of adoration. Before our pettiness, our many, selfish interests, Paul bursts out in praise, in this act of worship and asks the Father to send us the Holy Spirit to give us strength and to be able to move forward.”

Paul, he said, helps us understand the love of Christ and that Christ consolidates us in love, seen through his prayer to the Father: 'Thank you, because you are able to do what we do not dare to think.'

Reflecting on Paul’s inner life, the Holy Father said, we can understand how the Apostle "gave up everything and considered it all rubbish, in order to gain Christ and be found in Christ.”

“It does us good to think of this, it does us good to worship God,” he said. “It does us good to praise God, to enter this world of amplitude, of grandeur, generosity and love.”

Pope Francis concluded, noting that this active worship allows us “to move forward in the great commandment - the only commandment, which is the basis of all others - love. Love God and love your neighbor."

-------------------------------------------------

Pope Francis: Christians Are Called to Build the Unity of the Church
At Morning Mass, Encourages the Faithful to Be Living Stones

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, October 24, 2014 - The task of every Christian is to build “the unity of the Church.” This was the central theme of Pope Francis’ homily during his morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta today.

The Holy Father reflected on the first reading in which St. Paul calls on the Christian community of Ephesus “to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.”

Recalling St. Paul’s image of the Church as living stones, the Pope stressed that as Christians, we are also tasked with “building the unity of the Church."

“When constructing a temple or a building, the first thing ones does is find suitable land,” he explained.

“Then one lays the cornerstone, the Bible says. And the cornerstone of the unity of the Church, or rather the cornerstone of the Church, is Jesus and the cornerstone of the unity of the Church is Jesus' prayer at the Last Supper: 'Father, that they may be one!'. And this is its strength!”

The 77-year-old Pontiff went on to say that it is only through the grace of the Holy Spirit that one is capable of constructing this unity. The Spirit does this, he said, “in the diversity of nations, cultures and people.”

Contemplating St. Paul’s advice to be weak bricks, the Pope noted that in the eyes of the world, that is weak advice.

"Humility, gentleness, magnanimity: These are weak things, because the humble person appears good for nothing; gentleness, meekness appear useless; generosity, being open to all, having a big heart,” he said. “The weaker we are with these virtues of humility, generosity, gentleness, meekness, the stronger we become as stones in this Temple."

The Pope called on the faithful to follow the path of Jesus who “became strong” only after becoming weak and dying on the Cross.

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis encouraged those present to hold on to “the hope of journeying towards the Lord” and “the hope of living in a living Church made of living stones.”

“We have been called to a great hope. Let's go there!” he exclaimed. “But with the strength that Jesus prayer’ for unity gives us; with docility to the Holy Spirit, who is capable of making living stones from bricks; and with the hope of finding the Lord who has called us, to encounter Him in the fullness of time."

-----------------------------------------------------

Pope Francis at Casa Santa Marta: Are You a Child of Light or of Darkness?
Reflects on Calling to Be Imitators of God During Morning Mass

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, October 27, 2014  - “We should ask ourselves: Am I a Christian of light or a Christian of darkness?” This was the question posed by Pope Francis during his morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta today.

Reflecting on the first reading, in which Paul invites the Christians of Ephesus to be “imitators of God, as beloved children”, the Pope said that it helps to discern whether one is a child of light, of darkness or “grey areas”.

In order to understand whether one is a child of darkness, he continued, one must look at four types of words: hypocrisy, vulgar, trivial and worldly. “A dirty, obscene word? These four [types] of words are not of the children of light, they are not the Holy Spirit, they are not of Jesus, they are not words of the Gospel ... this way of talking, always talking about dirty things or of worldliness or emptiness or hypocrisy".

The Pope stressed that in order to “imitators of God” as St. Paul describes, one must be walk in humility and mercy. 'Be merciful - says Paul - forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. Be, then,  imitators of God and walk in love', that is, walk in mercy, forgiveness, love. And these are the words of a child of light”, the Pope said.

However, the Pope also noted a third type of Christian, one that is neither light nor dark, but gray, who he said were “lukewarm” Christians. The Holy Father cited the book of Revelations in regards to gray Christians, which says that the Lord “would vomit them out”.

“The Lord has strong words for these Christians of gray areas. 'I am a Christian, but without overdoing it!' they say, and in doing so cause so much harm, because their Christian witness is a witness that in the end only sows confusion, it sows a negative witness", he said.

Concluding his homily, the Holy Father called on the faithful to reflect on what kind of Christian we are.

"It would do us all good to reflect on our words today  and ask ourselves: "Am I a Christian of light? Am I a Christian of the dark? Am I a Christian of the gray areas? And thus we can take a step forward to meet the Lord", he concluded.

----------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: We Are Called to be Citizens of the Church
Recalls Jesus' Mercy in Choosing the 'Foundation of the Apostles'

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, October 28, 2014  - Jesus does not look at sins or faults, but rather looks at the heart of those he chooses to build his Church. Pope Francis reflected on this during his morning homily at Santa Marta today.

Today’s Gospel from St. Luke recalled the calling of the Twelve Apostles, which stated that before choosing them, Jesus "spent the night in prayer to God.”

The Holy Father stressed that the Church is “built upon the foundation of the Apostles with Jesus Christ himself as the cornerstone.” He also noted that this foundation is made up of men who were chosen despite their sins. 

“As St. Paul says, this Church is built on the foundation of the Apostles; he chose twelve of them,” he said. “All of them sinners. Judas was not the one who sinned the most: I don’t know who sinned the most… Judas, poor man, is the one who closed himself to love and that is why he became a traitor. And they all ran away during the difficult time of the Passion and left Jesus alone. They are all sinners. But He chose [them]”.

The Pope went on to say that Christ wants us in the Church not as spectators but as “fellow citizens of this Church.”

“If we do not enter into this temple,” he said, “to be a part of this building so that the Holy Spirit may live in us, we are not Church.”

“We are on the threshold and look inside: ‘How lovely… yes this is beautiful…’ Those Christians who do not go beyond the Church’s reception: they are there, at the door… ‘Yes, I am Catholic, but not too Catholic…’”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis said that one must have the attitude of Christ, who was merciful towards Peter without taking into account his sins. Even at the moment of his betrayal, Jesus was able to look into Peter’s heart and heal it.

“It is something he does for each of us,” the Pope concluded. “We cannot understand the Church without Jesus who prays and heals. May the Holy Spirit help us understand that this Church has its strength in Jesus’s prayer which can heal us all.”

----------------------------------------------------

Pope at Santa Marta: Don't Be a Hypocrite
To Follow Jesus' Loving Example, Follow His Merciful Example and Love

By Staff Reporter

VATICAN CITY, October 31, 2014  - The Pope has warned against the closed minded, saying those who are open and merciful are the ones following our Lord's loving path and example.

At his daily morning Mass in Casa Santa Marta, Francis warned against being hypocritical, Vatican Radio reported.

Recalling the day’s Gospel reading in which Jesus asked whether it was lawful to heal a sick person on the Sabbath, the Holy Father reflected on how the path to Christ is realized through love and justice, rather than attachment to the laws.

The Argentine Pontiff reminded those gathered how Jesus described the Pharisees as hypocrites for criticizing him behind his back after he healed a sick man on the Sabbath.   

“This way of life of being attached to the laws,” Francis noted, “distanced them from love and from justice.  They followed the laws and they neglected justice.”

"They followed the laws and they neglected love,” the Jesuit Pontiff continued, “They were the models.  And for these people, Jesus had only one word (to describe them):  hypocrites.

Francis went on to call them: “Closed-minded men, men who are so attached to the laws, to the letter of the law that they were always closing the doorway to hope, love and salvation… Men who only knew how to close doors.”

Citing St. Paul, Pope Francis said that the path in which one faithfully abides by the laws allows for one to, at the same time, be just and loving.

“This is the path that Jesus teaches us, totally opposite to that of the doctors of law," that which he said, is the path from love and justice that leads to God.  

Instead, the other path, the Pontiff noted, of being attached only to the laws, to the letter of the laws, leads to closure, leads to egoism. 

This path leads to egoism, the arrogance of considering oneself to be in the right, to that so-called holiness of appearances.

The Pope said there are the two different paths and Jesus shows us the right one. 

"Jesus draws close to us: his closeness is the real proof that we are proceeding along the true path. That’s because it’s the path which God has chosen to save us: through his closeness."

Pope Francis said Jesus’ flesh is the bridge that brings us closer to God and not the letter of the law, and concluded that these examples of Jesus’s closeness and love can help us from sliding into hypocrisy because a hypocritical Christian is a really negative thing.

----------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: Rivalry and Vainglory Weaken the Church
Invites Faithful to Place the Needs of Others Before Their Own

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, November 03, 2014  - When no one seeks his own interests and is genuinely grateful, then there is harmony in the Church. This was the main theme of Pope Francis' homily during his morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta today.

He reflected on the First reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, in which the Apostle says to “do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves."

According to Vatican Radio, the Pope noted that often in churches, parishes and schools, we can find rivalry and vainglory, referring to them as “two worms that eat the fabric of the Church, weakening Her.”

“Rivalry and vainglory go against this harmony, this agreement. Instead of rivalry and vainglory, what does Paul recommend? ‘Rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,’” the Pope said.  

“[St. Paul] felt this himself. He qualifies himself as ‘not worthy to be called an apostle,' the least one. He even strongly humbles himself there.”

Noting that the Church celebrates today the memorial of St. Martin de Porres, the Pope said that the example set by the “humble Dominican friar” is something that Christians should aspire to. St. Martin’s spirituality, he said, was in service; a spirituality that the first reading calls all to follow.

The Holy Father also spoke on today’s Gospel, in which Jesus invites one of the Pharisees to invite to a banquet those who “have no ability to repay you.” Jesus, the Pope said, urges to “not take the road of seeking repayment.”

"This is gratuity!” the Pope exclaimed. “When there is harmony in a Church, there is unity, no one seeks his or her own interests, and there is an attitude of gratefulness. I do good; I don't strike a deal with good.”

Concluding his homily, the Pope invited the faithful to ask themselves if they have a spirit of gratitude or of seeking vainglory.

“Is this spirit, this sentiment of love, unanimity, concord, without selfishness or vainglory, of humility, is this vision that others are superior to us, in our parish, in our community ... and perhaps we will find that there is something to improve. Now, how can I help to improve this?” he asked.

-----------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: It's Difficult to Listen to God's Voice When You're Self-Centered
Calls on Christians to Not Be Afraid of God's Generosity

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, November 04, 2014  - In his homily at Casa Santa Marta today, Pope Francis said that because of selfishness, Christians at times can be afraid of the gratuitousness of God.

Today’s Gospel from St. Luke spoke on the parable of the man who held a great banquet, only to be refused by his guests who were busy with other matters. Enraged, the master of the banquet commanded his servant to invite “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame” to his feast.

According to Vatican Radio, the Pope said that the guests who turned down the master’s invitation only had their own interests at heart rather than sharing a meal with a friend. Had they been invited to dine with businessmen, he said, “no one would have excused themselves.”

“It is so difficult to listen to the voice of Jesus, the voice of God, when you believe that that the whole world revolves around you: there is no horizon, because you become your own horizon.  And there is more behind all of this, something far deeper: fear of gratuity. We are afraid of God’s gratuity. He is so great that we fear Him”.

All Christians, he continued, have this fear of God’s generosity toward us, because many times, “we feel safer in our sins, in our limitations, but feel at home.” This fear, he noted, brings Christians to not answer God’s invitation in order to not leave that safety net.

“Catholics, but not too Catholic,” the Pope said. “Trusting in the Lord, but not too much. This 'but not too much' marks our lives, it belittles us."

Recalling the master’s order to invite the poor and crippled to the banquet, and even to force people to the feast, the 77-year-old Pontiff said that the Lord does the same with us “with trials, so many trials.”

"Compel that heart, that soul to believe in God's gratuity, that God’s gift is free, that salvation cannot be bought: it is a great gift, the love of God is the greatest gift! This is gratuity!,” he exclaimed.

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to accept the invitation to this banquet which was paid by Christ “with His humiliation unto death, death on a cross.”

“Today, the Church asks us not to be afraid of the gratuitousness of God,” he said. “Instead we must open our hearts, do our part as much as we can, because He will prepare the banquet.”

------------------------------------------------------

Pope at Santa Marta: A True Christian Isn't Afraid to Dirty His Hands With Sinners
Urges Faithful to Go to the Limit Like Jesus, Not to Fear Critics and Gossip

By Staff Reporter

VATICAN CITY, November 06, 2014  - Even if it means risking one’s reputation, true Christians must follow Jesus’ loving example and not be afraid to "get their hands dirty" with sinners. This was the theme of Pope Francis' morning homily today at Casa Santa Marta.

Vatican Radio reported that the Holy Father began by warning against being “half way” Christians and pastors, who go until a certain point, then stop, rather than doing as Jesus did, “going to the limit,” without fear of others' opinions.

Reflecting on the two parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, the Pope observed that the Pharisees and scribes were scandalized because Jesus "welcomes sinners and eats with them. It was quite a scandal at the time for these people."  

"Imagine if at that time there were newspapers," he jokingly added.

He went on to say that Christ came to look for those who strayed, while noting that the parables allow the faithful to see the heart of God. "God does not stop. God does not go up to a certain point, God goes all the way, always to the limit," the Pope said. 

Warning against being “half way” pastors, the 77-year-old Pontiff lamented that it was sad to see both pastors who wait for Christians to come and Christians who do not feel the need to "tell others that the Lord is good."

True shepherds and Christians don't allow anyone to be lost, to stray away, he stressed.

"They are not afraid to get their hands dirty. They are not afraid and go where they need to go. They’ll risk their lives, risk their reputation, even if it means risking their comfort and status.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis urged the faithful to not be silent out of fear of losing their comfort, reputation, and peace of mind. "Do not be afraid that they badmouth us because we go to visit our brothers and sisters who are distant from the Lord.," he said. 

------------------------------------------------

Pope Francis at Santa Marta: Worldly Christians Are Enemies of the Cross
Warns Against Falling Into a Mediocre Mentality

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, November 07, 2014 - "We must be careful not to slip toward the path of being pagan Christians, Christians in appearance," Pope Francis warned the faithful today during his Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

As reported by Vatican Radio, the Pope reflected on St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. In it, the Apostle warns against those Christians who “live like enemies of the cross of Christ.”

“Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their 'shame.' Their minds are occupied with earthly things,” St. Paul writes.

Calling them “pagan Christians,” the Pope described these people as those who identify themselves as Christians yet live a pagan life. He also said that like in the time of Paul, there are many today who are Christians only in appearance.

"The temptation to get used to mediocrity, the mediocrity of Christians, these Christians, it is their undoing because their hearts cool, they become lukewarm,” the Pope said. “And the Lord had strong words for these lukewarm [Christians]: 'because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth'. These are very strong words! They are enemies of the Cross of Christ. They take the name, but do not follow the requirements of Christian life.”

Echoing Paul’s words that the citizenship of Christians is in heaven, the Pope called on those present, including himself, to reflect on whether this worldliness exists within.

"Do I like to brag? Do I like money? Do I like pride, arrogance? Where are my roots, that is, where am I a citizen of? Heaven or earth? In the world or the worldly spirit?” the Pope asked.

“Our citizenship is in heaven, and we await heaven and Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. And theirs? Their ultimate fate will be destruction!”

Path towards corruption

Regarding today’s Gospel, which recalled the parable of the dishonest steward, the Pope said that like the steward, Christians do not become enemies of the cross immediately, but bit by bit.

"How did this steward in the Gospel arrive at this point of cheating, of stealing from his master?” he asked.

“How did he get there? From one day to the next? No! Little by little. One day a tip here, the next day a bribe there, and this is how little by little you arrive at corruption. The path of worldliness of these enemies of the Cross of Christ is like this, it leads you to corruption! And then you end up like this man, right? Openly stealing ... "

Concluding his homily, the Pope encouraged the faithful to follow the the cross of Christ, which he said included “humility, poverty, meekness, service to others, worship, prayer."

-----------------------------------------------------------

On the Feast of the Lateran Basilica
"With this feast, therefore, we profess, in the unity of the faith, the bond of communion that all the local Churches, spread throughouth the earth, has with the Church of Rome and with its Bishop, the successor to Peter."

VATICAN CITY, November 09, 2014  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address before and after praying the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square today.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today the liturgy recalls the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, the cathedral of Rome, that tradition defines as “the mother of all Churches of “Urbe et Orbe”[the City and the World]. The word “mother” refers not only to the sacred edifice of the Basilica, but to the work of the Holy Spirit that is manifested in this building, bearing fruit through the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, in all the communities that remain in unity with the Church which it presides over. This unity presents the nature of a universal family, and as there is a mother in a family, so does the venerated Cathedral of Lateran become a “mother” to the churches of all the communities of the Catholic world.

With this feast, therefore, we profess, in the unity of the faith, the bond of communion that all the local Churches, spread throughout the earth, has with the Church of Rome and with its Bishop, the successor to Peter.

Everytime we celebrate the dedication of a Church, one essential truth is recalled: the material temple made of bricks is a sign of the Church alive and active in history. Namely, it is that “spiritual temple”, as the apostle Peter says, of which Christ Himself is “the living stone, rejected by men but chosen and precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 2, 4-8). By virtue of Baptism, every Christian, as Saint Paul reminds us, is part of “God’s building” (1 Cor. 3,9). As a matter of fact, it becomes the Church of God!  The spiritual building, the Church community of men sanctified by the blood of Christ and by the Spirit of the Risen Lord, asks each one of us to be consistent with the gift of faith and to fulfill a path of Christian witness.

And it is not easy, we all know, the consistency in life between faith and witness; but we should go forward and have daily consistency in our lives. This is a Christian! Not so much for what he says, but for what he does, for the way in which he acts. This coherence, which gives us life, is a grace of the Holy Spirit that we should ask for.

The Church, in the beginning of its life and mission in the world, was nothing more than a community established to confess the faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Redeemer of mankind, a faith that works through charity. They go together!

Even today, the Church is called to be in the world a community that, rooted in Christ through Baptism, professes the faith in Him with humility and courage, while bearing witness to this in charity. Institutional elements, structures and pastoral organizations must be arranged to this fundamental purpose; to this essential aim: to give witness to faith through charity. Charity is precisely the expression of faith and faith is also the explanation and the foundation of charity!

Today’s feast invites us to reflect on the communion of all the Churches, that is of this Christian community.  By analogy it motivates us to strive so that humanity can overcome the barriers of hostility and indifference, to build bridges of understanding and dialogue, to make the whole world a family of people reconciled with each other, fraternal and harmonious.

The Church Herself is a sign and an anticipation of this new humanity, when it lives and spreads the Gospel with Her witness, a message of hope and reconciliation for all mankind. Let us invoke the intercession of the Most Blessed Mary, so that She may help us become like Her, a “house of God”, a living temple of His love.

After the Angelus, Pope Francis said the following: 

Dear brothers and sisters,

25 years ago, on November 9th, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, which for so long divided the city in two and was a symbol of the ideological division of Europe and of the whole world. The fall happened suddenly, but it was made possible by the long and arduous efforts of so many people who have fought, prayed and suffered for this, some even to the point of sacrificing their lives.

Among those, the saintly Pope John Paul II had a lead role. Let us pray so that, with the help of the Lord and the collaboration of all men and women of good will, a culture of encounter may continue to spread, capable of bringing down all the walls that still divide the world, and that never again will innocent people be persecuted and even killed because of their beliefs and their religion. Where there is a wall there is a closure of the heart. We need bridges, not walls!

Today, in Italy, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, with this year’s theme “Feeding the Planet: Energy for Life”, which refers to the upcoming Expo Milano 2015. I join the Bishops in expressing a renewed commitment so that no one lacks food daily, which God gives to all. I am close to the world of agriculture, and encourage them to cultivate the earth in a sustainable and harmonious way.

In this context, a diocesan Day for the Care of Creation will take place in Rome, an event that aims to promote lifestyles based on respect for the environment, reaffirming the covenant between mankind, the guardians of creation, and its Creator.

I greet all the pilgrims who have come from different countries, parish groups, associations on this beautiful day that the Lord gives us.

In particular, I greet the representatives of the Venezuelan community in Italy - I can see your flag there -; the youth of Thiene (Vicenza) who have received Confirmation; the university students of Urbino, the faithful of Pontecagnano, Sant’Angelo in Formis, Borgonuovo e Pontecchio.

I wish all of you on this beautiful day a good Sunday, Please, do not forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch and goodbye!

---------------------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: 'Scandal Destroys Faith!'
Says That Only Through Faith Can One Forgive and Live Without Scandal

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, November 10, 2014  - In his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning , Pope Francis warned that “scandals destroy faith” and that all Christians are “capable of scandalizing” others with our actions.

According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on today’s Gospel from St. Luke in which Jesus warns of those who cause others to sin through their scandal. “It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin,” Jesus says.

The Pope said that one common scandal is to say that one is Christian yet continue living like a pagan.

“When a Christian man or a Christian woman, who goes to church, is part of the parish, does not live in this way, they cause scandal. How often have we heard men and women say: ' I do not go to church because it is better to be honest at home and not go to church like that man or woman who then does this, this, this ...'”, he said.

“Scandal destroys, it destroys the faith! And that is why Jesus is so strong: 'Beware! Watch out!' It would do us good to repeat this today: ‘Be on your guard!'. All of us are capable of causing scandal.”

The Holy Father noted that Christ calls on all to forgive because it is that which identifies them as Christians. “A Christian who is not able to forgive,” he said, “causes scandal: he is not Christian.”

"We have to forgive, because we have been forgiven. This is in the Lord's Prayer, Jesus taught us about it there,” he continued. “Human logic is incapable of fathoming this. Human logic leads us not to forgive, to seek revenge; it leads to hate, division.”

The Pope went on to lament how families break apart because of their inability to forgive. If one does not forgive, he stressed, it means that he/she does not understand what it means to be forgiven by God.

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis told the faithful that only through the light of faith is one capable of living without scandal and always forgiving.

One doesn't get faith by reading books or going to conferences, he said. "Faith is a gift of God that comes to you and this why the Apostles asked Jesus, 'Increase our faith!'”

------------------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: Laziness Leads to Ease and Half-Hearted Service
Says that True Service is the Total Donation of Oneself

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, November 11, 2014 - In his homily at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis warned against the temptations that lead Christians away from serving others.

According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on today’s Gospel from St. Luke, in which Jesus speaks on the meaning of service through a parable in which a servant is asked to serve despite a long day working in the field. “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants, we have done what we were obliged to do,’” Jesus says.

Regarding the servant, the Pope said that while many in the world would advise the servant to seek justice, Jesus instead stresses the importance of service as a total donation of oneself.

Jesus, he said, “presents himself as a servant, the one who came to serve and not to be served: He says so clearly. And so, the Lord shows the Apostles the path of those who have received the faith, that faith which works miracles. Yes, this faith will do wonders on the path of service.”

While conveying the importance of this spirit of service, the 77 year old Pontiff said that Christians are often tempted to stray away from this through laziness and selfishness. However, Christians are called to give all of themselves in worship, prayer, praise to God and service to others completely.

Echoing Jesus’ words, the Pope said: “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants.’ Gratuitous service – service that asks for nothing in return".

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis encouraged the faithful to fight against the temptations against laziness, which he said, “leads to ease” and “half-hearted” service. Laziness also leads Christians to become the master instead of the service, thus giving way to arrogance, pride and treating others as inferiors.

“The Lord gives us these two great graces: humility in service, in order to be able to say, 'We are unprofitable servants - but servants - until the very end'; and hope while waiting for the manifestation, when the Lord will come to us,” the Pope concluded.

------------------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: The Kingdom of God Is Hidden in Everyday Holiness
Says God Also Manifests Himself in Ordinary Life

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, November 13, 2014  - The Kingdom of God is a humble seed that grows in greatness by the power of the Holy Spirit. This was the central theme of Pope Francis’ homily today at Casa Santa Marta.

As reported by Vatican Radio, Pope Francis reflected on today’s Gospel from St. Luke, which recounted Jesus' response to the Pharisees' questions on the coming of the Kingdom of God.

“The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’ For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you,” Jesus says in the Gospel.

"A spectacle! The Lord never says that the Kingdom of God is a spectacle,” the Pope noted. “It is a celebration! But that is different. Certainly it is a beautiful celebration. A great celebration. And Heaven will be a celebration, but not a spectacle. However, our human weakness prefers the spectacle.”

The Pope said that the Kingdom will show its power at the end of time at the coming of Christ. However, he also said that the Kingdom of God also manifests itself in ordinary life.

“When one thinks of the perseverance of many Christians, who struggle to raise their family - men, women - who care for children, care for grandparents and arrive at the end of the month with only half a euro, but who pray,” he said,

“There is the Kingdom of God, hidden, in the holiness of daily life, everyday holiness. Because the Kingdom of God is not far from us, it is near! This is one of its features: it is close to us everyday.”

Concluding his homily, the Pope reflected on Jesus’ words that before the coming of the Kingdom, the Son of Man “must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation.” Pope Francis said that like a seed, the Kingdom is humble yet “becomes great by the power of the Holy Spirit."

"It is up to us to to let it grow in us, without boasting about it,” he said. “Let the Spirit come, change our soul and carry us forward in silence, in peace, in tranquility, in closeness to God, to others, in worship of God, without spectacle.”

---------------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: Christians Must Pass Faith to the 'Little Ones'
Celebrates Mass With Children From Local Roman Parish

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

VATICAN CITY, November 14, 2014  - Christians must lead by example in order to transmit the faith to their children, who are the future and called to live as Jesus did. Pope Francis made these reflections during his morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta on Friday.

According to Vatican Radio, children from a local Roman parish were present in the chapel. During the Mass, the Pope stressed that actions speak louder than words.

Recalling today's first reading from the second letter of St. John, he asked: "Do we teach them what we heard in the First Reading: to walk in love and truth?” or "Do we teach them with words, and then allow our lives to go in another direction?”

Highlighting a key responsibility of parents and adults, he said: “A Christian has to take care of children, little ones and pass on the faith, pass on what he lives, what is in his heart. We cannot ignore the little plants that grow."

Despite the kids showing initial shyness and awkwardness, the Pope engaged the children in an interactive question-and-answer session. Regarding the presence of the children, the Pope said he was “looking at a promise, looking at the world to come."

Everything, he continued, depends on our having the right attitude towards children. He called on those present to examine whether their attitude is helpful and caring or detached.

"We all have a responsibility to give our very best, and the very best that we have is our faith. "Give it to them, but give it by example!” he exclaimed. 

Asking the children why they were at Mass, one child eventually answered: “To see you.”

"I like to see you all," the Pope responded.

While speaking with them on receiving the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation, he reminded them that it is the sacrament of Baptism that "opens the door to Christian life" and immediately after which “the journey of a lifetime begins.”

"Walking in truth and love" is the journey described in the letter of St. John in the first reading, he repeated, from which, he continued, other sacraments follow, such as marriage.

Given this, he continued, "it is important to know how to live this journey, to know how to live it like Jesus."

Posing a question to the little ones, he asked, “Is prayer a sacrament? ... Out loud now! ... No! That’s right, it is not! Prayer is not a sacrament, but we must pray,” while reminding them to turn to Jesus and Mary to help them pray.

“You have come to see me, who said that? You. But also to see Jesus. Right? Or do we just leave Jesus out?" the Pope asked, to which the children responded with a resounding "No!".

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis invited them to ask Christ to help them walk in truth and love.

"Will we all say it together?" he asked. "Walking in truth and love," the children responded. 

-----------------------------------------------------

Pope in Morning Homily Warns Against Feeling Spiritually Comfortable
Says Christians of Mere Appearances Are Dead Inside

By Staff

VATICAN CITY, November 18, 2014  - Feeling spiritually comfortable is a "state of sin," Pope Francis cautioned today during his morning homily at the Casa Santa Marta as he reflected on the problem of lukewarmness.

As reported by Vatican Radio, the Pope drew his homily reflections from the readings of the day taken from Revelation Chapter 3 and the Gospel according to St. Luke on the encounter of Jesus and Zacchaeus the tax collector.

In the first reading, he noted, the Lord asks Christians in Laodicea to convert because they have become "lukewarm." They live a "comfortable spirituality." They think: "I do what I can, but I am at peace and do not want to be disturbed with strange things."

Pope Francis noted that people who “live well think nothing is missing: I go to Mass on Sundays, I pray a few times, I feel good, I am in God's grace, I'm rich" and "I do not need anything, I'm fine." 

This "state of mind," he warned, "is a state of sin, feeling spiritually comfortable is a state of sin."

The Lord has harsh words for people like this, he said: "Because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth." 

Then, he added, "there is a second call" to "those who live by appearances, Christians of appearances." 

These believe they are alive but they are dead. And the Lord asks them to be vigilant. 

"Appearances," the Pope said, "are these Christians' shroud: they are dead." 

And the Lord "calls them to conversion."

"Am I one of these Christians of appearances? Am I alive inside, do I have a spiritual life? Do I hear the Holy Spirit, do I listen to the Holy Spirit, do I  move forward, or ...? But, if everything looks good, I have nothing to reproach myself about: I have a good family, people do not gossip about me, I have everything I need, I married in church ...I am 'in the grace of God', I am alright.

"Appearances! Christians of appearance ... they are dead! Instead [we must] seek something alive within ourselves, and with memory and vigilance, reinvigorate this so we can move forward. Convert: from appearances to reality. From being neither hot nor cold to fervor."

Change of heart

The third call to conversion is with Zacchaeus, "the chief tax collector, and a rich [man]." 

"He is corrupt," the Pope said, "he was working for foreigners, for the Romans, he betrayed his homeland."

"He was just like many leaders we know: corrupt. Those who, instead of serving the people, exploit the people to serve themselves. There are some like this in the world. And people did not want him. Yes, he wasn’t lukewarm; He was not dead. He was in a state of putrefaction. He was corrupt. But he felt something inside: 'This healer, this prophet who people say speaks so well, I would like to see him, out of curiosity.' The Holy Spirit is clever, eh! He sowed the seed of curiosity, and so in order to see him this man even does something a little 'ridiculous.' Think of an important leader, who is also corrupt, a leader of leaders – he was the chief - climbing a tree to watch a procession: Just think of it. How ridiculous!”.

Zacchaeus "had no shame," the Holy Father noted. He wanted to see Jesus and "the Holy Spirit was working in him."

Then "the Word of God came into the heart and with the Word, the joy." 

"Those of comfort and those of appearance," Francis reflected, "had forgotten what joy was; this corrupt man immediately gets it", "his heart changes, he converts."

And the tax collector promises to give back what he had taken.


"When conversion touches pockets, it's a certainty," the Pope declared. "Christians in heart? Yes, everyone is. Christians by blood? All of us. However, Christians with pockets, very few. But, conversion ... and here, it arrived straight away: the authentic word. He converted."


Pope Francis reiterated that these are "the three calls to conversion" that Jesus himself makes to "the lukewarm, the comfortable, to those of appearance, to those who think they are rich but are poor, who have nothing, who are dead.”

The Word of God, "is able to change everything," but "we don’t always have the courage to believe in the Word of God, to receive that Word that heals us within.” 

In the last weeks of the Liturgical Year, the Church wants us all to "think very, very seriously about our conversion," Francis added, "so that we can move forward on the path of our Christian life."

----------------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: Jesus Continues to Knock On the Door of Our Hearts
Explains the Fear of Being Led by God's Surprises

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, November 20, 2014  - “We are afraid of conversion because conversion means allowing the Lord to lead us.” Pope Francis said these words during his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning.

Today’s Gospel from St. Luke recalled Jesus weeping as he was overlooking the city of Jerusalem because they did not recognize the bringer of peace. “If this day you only knew what makes for peace– but now it is hidden from your eyes,” Jesus says in the Gospel.

According to Vatican Radio, the Pope said that the people of Jerusalem did not welcome Christ because they “were content with what they had.”

“The city was afraid to be visited by the Lord; afraid of the gratuity of the Lord’s visit,” he said. “The city felt safe in the knowledge of what it could handle. We all feel safe in the things that we can handle. But the visit of the Lord, its surprises, those we cannot handle.”

The Holy Father went on to say that many times, Christians fear the “surprises of the Lord. Although God brings joy and leads all to conversion, the Pope explained, “we all fear happiness – that joy that the Lord brings, because we cannot control it.”

“We are afraid of conversion because conversion means allowing the Lord to lead us,” he said.

Concluding his homily, the Pope called on the faithful to reflect on whether they truly believe they need God’s visits or if they are content with themselves.

The Lord, he said, “continues to knock on the door of each one of us and of His Church, the pastors of the Church. Yes, the door of our hearts, of the heart of the Church, of her pastors will not open: and the Lord weeps, even today.”

-------------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: A Church That Becomes a Place of Business Is Scandalous
Says It Is a Pastoral Responsibility to Keep the Temple Clean

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

VATICAN CITY, November 21, 2014 - “There are two things that the people of God cannot forgive: a priest attached to money and a priest who mistreats people. This they cannot forgive!" These were the words of the Holy Father during his morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis reflected on today’s Gospel, which recalled Jesus driving out the merchants from the Temple. “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves,” Jesus says to the merchants.

"People are good," he said, since "people went to the Temple and did not look at these things, they sought God and prayed ... but they had to change their money into coins to make offers."

Pope Francis said that those who sought to pray at the Temple were scandalized by the corruption of the merchants.

"When those who are in the Temple – be they priests, lay people, secretaries, [...] become businessmen," the Pope said, "people are scandalized."

Laity, he continued, have a role to play in informing their parish priest of things that would cause scandal to others. Speaking on the scandal of "doing business," he criticized wrong Church practices. "How often when we enter a church do we see – even today – do we see a price list hanging there "for baptism, blessings, Mass intentions. And people are scandalized."

"When the Temple, the House of God, becomes a place of business," this too is scandalous.

He clarified that "Jesus is not angry," rather it is God's wrath, because "either you worship the living God, or your worship money" and you cannot serve two masters.

Asking "Why does Jesus have an issue with money?" Francis responded: "Because redemption is free. It is God’s free gift, He comes to brings us the all-encompassing gratuity of God’s love."

So when the Church or churches start doing business, he explained, then it is said that salvation is not free.

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis noted that today's liturgy celebrates the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin in the Temple, and prayed that She "teach all of us, pastors and those who have pastoral responsibility, to keep the Temple clean, to receive with love those who come, as if each one were the Blessed Virgin."

----------------------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: Church Is to Boast of God, Not Itself
Tells 3 Ways How the Church Can Be, Is Faithful

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

VATICAN CITY, November 24, 2014  - During his daily morning Mass in Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis stressed how the Church must be poor, humble, and completely focused on God. If it is tempted into “ostentation” and “vanity,” he said, it will not accomplish its mission.

According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on how the “poor Church must have no riches other than her Spouse.”

Clarifying, he noted, it is appropriate for the Church to, in certain respects, shed its light.

"It's true,” the 77-year-old Pontiff admitted, that sometimes the Lord can ask his Church to take a bit of light itself, in the sense that, “If the Church's mission is to illuminate humanity, the light that is given must be only one received by Christ in an attitude of humility.”

All the services the Church does help us “to get that light,” he said. “A service without this light is not good.”

Although the Pontiff reminded faithful that over the centuries, the Church wanted to have its own light, he decried, “She was wrong.”

Recalling the widow in today’s Gospel and how she was unknown, humble, and focused on her lost spouse, he stressed the Church must be likewise be focused on her Spouse: Christ, the Eucharist.

"The great virtue of the Church," he said, “must not shine on its own, but to shine the light that comes from her spouse."

When the Church is faithful to her Spouse, he said, it is joyful to receive the light from Him, to be in this sense the 'widow,' completely devoted.

The Pope gave three ways the Church can do this.

"When the Church is humble, when the Church is poor, even when the Church confesses his misery,” the Holy Father stated, “the Church is faithful.”

The Church, the Pope said, must say, “I am dark, but the light comes from there!” and must be, “Humble. Without boasting of having its own light, always seeking the light that comes from the Lord."

Pope Francis concluded saying all faithful must throw away "everything we have from life," leaving nothing for ourselves, and instead must give “everything for the Lord and for others.”

--------------------------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: Even If Reality Is Ugly, Keep Heads Held High
Warns That Distancing From God Eventually Leads One to 'Rot'

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

VATICAN CITY, November 27, 2014  - Even at the worst of times, Christians cannot give into depression, but rather must live in hope.

During his morning Mass today in Casa Santa Marta, the Holy Father affirmed this, as he said that in order to be at peace, we must allow room for God to rescue and convert us from our worldly ways. He said we must welcome, not "close the door," to God, reported Vatican Radio. 

"When we think of the end of time, with all of our sins, with our history," he said, "let us think of the banquet which will be freely offered us and let us lift up our heads."

"Do not give way to depression. Hope!" the 77-year-old Pontiff exclaimed.

Admitting "reality is ugly," he noted that there are many people who are suffering: many wars, hatred, envy, spiritual worldliness and corruption. 

Since "all of this will fall" he again urged faithful to ask the Lord "for the grace to be prepared for the banquet that awaits us, always with our heads held high."

While warning against distancing ourselves from the Lord, he warned that “corruption” and “distraction” take us away from the Lord.

Recalling the cities of Babylon and Jerusalem, discussed in today’s reading and Luke’s Gospel, respectively, Francis reflected that both readings turn one’s attention to the end of the world by depicting how both cities “drifted away” from God and then collapsed.

The cities fell for different reasons, he said, stressing Babylon epitomized evil, sin, and falling to corruption, while Jerusalem didn't allow space for God.

Jerusalem, he noted, "made the Lord weep." Not only did Jerusalem fail to "welcome the Lord who comes to her rescue" and "not feel in need of salvation," it left no room for salvation: "Her door was closed to the Lord!"

"The Lord was knocking at her door," he added, "but there was no willingness to receive Him, to listen, to be rescued by Him. And so she falls," he said.

“When one accumulates sin,” he warned, “you lose your ability to react and you start to rot.” Even if corruption seems to give you some happiness, power and makes you feel satisfied with yourself, he said, it ultimately doesn't because it "leaves no room for the Lord, for conversion."

This word "corruption," the Pope noted, speaks not only in the economic sense, but that of many different sins. "The worst [form of] corruption," the Pontiff exclaimed, "is the spirit of worldliness!"

Even if this "corrupt culture" makes you feel "as if you were in Heaven, right here," it's an illusion because "the corrupt culture is a rotten culture."

“Every society, every culture, every person who has distanced themselves from God, who has distanced themselves from love of neighbor," he stated, "eventually leads to rot."

The Holy Father called for the faithful to not be scared or fearful, but to lift up their heads to see our Lord who is ready to "rescue."

------------------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: Only A Humble, Childlike Heart Knows God
Calls on Christians to Follow Christ's Path of Humility and Meekness During Advent

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, December 02, 2014  - “Only those whose hearts are like the young” are able to receive the revelation of God. This was the reflection given by Pope Francis during his morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

According to Vatican Radio, the Pope reflected on today’s Gospel from St. Luke, in which Christ praises God for revealing His will to the “childlike”.

“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see,” Jesus says to his disciples. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

Pope Francis said that through His prayer, Christ reveals to Christians the inner life He has. That revelation, he stressed, is given to “the humble of heart, the meek, who feel the need to pray, to open up to God, who feel poor; only he who goes forward with the first Beatitude: the poor in spirit."

While acknowledging that while some many the science behind theology, the Holy Father said that those who do not do “this theology on their knees, humbly” will not understand anything.

“Only with this poverty is one capable of receiving the revelation that the Father gives through Jesus,” the Pope said.

Referring to the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah, the Pope said that  Christ is not a captain or army general, but rather like a bud. “He is a bud that is humble, mild, and came to the humble, and to the meek, to bring salvation to the sick, the poor, the oppressed,” the Pope said.

Concluding  his homily, Pope Francis called on Christians to follow Christ’s path of humility, meekness and poverty during the Advent season, “so that he can come to save us, to free us.”

----------------------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: The Poor in Spirit Will Receive Salvation
Invites Christians to Firmly Ground Their Faith in Christ

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, December 04, 2014  - The joy of a Christian can be found if one is grounded upon the rock, which is Christ. This was the central theme of Pope Francis' homily this morning at Casa Santa Marta.

According to Vatican Radio, the Pope reflected on today's Gospel from St. Matthew, in which Jesus says that those who listen and act on his words "will be like a wise man who built his house on rock."  He said that the Word is an invitation to not lives as "Christians in appearance" but to live it in daily life.

The Holy Father recalled the children who suffer, offering their pains for the Church, as well as the elderly who are often alone and families continue to hope in Christ despite their struggles. He also remembered priests and those in religious life.

"We think of so many priests who are barely seen but work in their parishes with so much love: in giving catechism classes for children, the care for the elderly, of the sick, marriage preparations," he said. "They are not bored because there is rock in their foundation. It is Jesus, it is that which gives holiness to the Church, it gives hope."

The 77 year old Pontiff went on to say that the proud, the vain, and those who are Christian in appearance will be humbled, while the poor will triumph. "They are, he said, "the poor in spirit, those who in front of God and feel they are nothing, the humble, who bring forward salvation by putting the Word of the Lord into practice."

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to be firmly grounded on the rock, which is Christ.

"We are all sinners, we are weak," he said, "but if we place our hope in Him we can go forward. And this is the joy of a Christian: to know that in Him there is hope, there is forgiveness, there is peace, [and] there is joy- to not place our hope in things that are here today and gone tomorrow." 

------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: The Church is Joyful "When She Goes Out of Herself"
Reflects on the Church's Mission in Searching for the 'Lost Sheep'

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, December 09, 2014  - A Church closed in on Herself is a "hopeless Church that is more of a spinster than a mother". These were the words of Pope Francis during his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning.

According to Vatican Radio, the Pope reflected on today's Gospel from St. Matthew, in which Jesus tells the story of the shepherd who went in search of the lost sheep. "And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray," Jesus says. "In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.”

The Holy Father explained that the Church is joyful and happy "when she goes out of herself." He also explained that the shepherd in the Gospel could have taken a business approach and see losing one sheep as a small loss.

"No, he has the heart of a shepherd, he goes out and searches for [the lost sheep] until he finds it, and then he rejoices, he is joyful," the Pope said.

“The joy of going out to seek the brothers and sisters who are far off: This is the joy of the Church. Here the Church becomes a mother, becomes fruitful”

However, the Pope warned that when the Church closes in on herself, it becomes stagnant and disheartened. Without joy or peace, he said, it becomes "a Church that seems more like a spinster than a mother."

"The joy of the Church is to give birth; the joy of the Church is to go out of herself to give life; the joy of the Church is to go out to seek the sheep that are lost; the joy of the Church is precisely the tenderness of the shepherd, the tenderness of the mother," he said.

Concluding his homily, the Pope called on the faithful to pray for grace of being joyful Christians, who may have organizational perfection in the Church, yet are barren and do not give fruit.

"May the Lord console us with the consolation of a Mother Church that goes out of herself and consoles us with the consolation of the tenderness of Jesus and His mercy in the forgiveness of our sins," concluded.

---------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: God Is Like a Tender Mother
Says Throughout History, Christians Have Tried to 'Control' His Grace Rather Than Accept His Closeness

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

VATICAN CITY, December 11, 2014  - Just as a mother loves her baby, God loves us.

During his daily Mass at Casa Santa Marta this morning, the Holy Father affirmed this when reflecting on today’s reading from the prophet Isaiah, reported Vatican Radio.

The way God saves his people, Francis stated, is "not from afar, but being close, tenderly.”

“God is presented here as a mother," he observed, "as a mother talks to her baby: when a mother sings a lullaby to her baby, she takes the voice of the child ... She talks with the tone of the child, to the point of seeming ridiculous." 

Our heavenly Father, he also noted in the homily, loves us freely, caresses us, and coddles us. But rather than accept this grace, we try to "control" and “commodify” it.

"In this way," the Pope explained, "this beautiful truth of God's closeness slips into a kind spiritual book-keeping: 'I will do this because it will give me 300 days of grace ... I will do that because it will give me this, and doing so I will accumulate grace.'"

"But what is grace? A commodity? That’s what it appears. And throughout history, this closeness of God to his people has been betrayed by this selfish attitude, selfish, by wanting to control grace, to turn it into merchandise."

The Pope reminded those gathered of the groups during Jesus’ time which made this mistake, including the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and Zealots.

"The grace of God," he said, "is another matter: it is close, it is tenderness.”

Francis explained it involves God telling you "beautiful things with tenderness: this is our justice, this closeness of God, this tenderness, this love."

"At the risk of seeming ridiculous, our God is so good to us," he said.

“If we had the courage to open our hearts to this tenderness of God, how much spiritual freedom we would have! How much!"

Extending an invitation to those gathered, Pope Francis told those listening, “Today, if you have a little time, at home, take the Bible: Isaiah, Chapter 41, verses 13 to 20, seven verses. And read it.” 

Here, he noted, we see this tenderness of God, “this God who sings in each of us a lullaby, like a mother."

---------------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: No Gloomy, Rotting Hearts Allowed
Warns Against Hypocrisy, Being 'Weathervanes'

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

VATICAN CITY, December 15, 2014  - Pope Francis is warning against being rigid, noting that often it's a trait of hypocrisy.

According to Vatican Radio, during the Pope's daily Mass in Casa Santa Marta this morning, he said our hearts must be fixed on Christ and open to love and forgiveness, never closed and judgmental.

The Pontiff reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, which speaks of the chief priests asking Jesus by what authority he did his works.

Their insistence to find out from Jesus, Francis said, demonstrates the “hypocritical heart” of those authorities who were not interested in the truth, but only in seeking their own interests.

“This is the drama of these people,” he stressed, reminding those present that Jesus denounces hypocrisy and opportunism.

Such people, the Argentine Pontiff suggested, went where the wind blew: “You should go this way, you should go that way… They were weathervanes, all of them! All of them! Without consistency.”

Reflecting on those with "hearts without consistency," the Pope said, "They negotiated everything," including their interior freedom, faith, country.

The one thing they didn't negotiate, he said, was appearances. The most important thing for such people was getting the best and most out of every situation: "They were opportunists. They profited from the situations.”

“And yet,” he continued, “some of you might ask me: ‘But Father, these people were observers of the law.'"

Responding, Francis admitted, "they were a very observant people, very secure in their habits. Yes, it’s true – but only in appearance." He noted, "They were strong, but on the outside. The heart was very weak, they didn’t know what they believed."

Jesus, on the other hand, teaches us that the Christian should have a strong and firm heart, one "built on the rock, that is Christ." With that foundation, such a heart is not negotiable.

“This is the drama of the hypocrisy of this people," he repeated. The Pharisees were so rigid in their discipline, saying: ‘No, the discipline can’t be touched, it’s sacred.’”

He noted, they were "rigid on the outside, but, as Jesus said of them, ‘rotting in the heart,’ weak, weak to the point of rottenness. Gloomy in the heart.”

“Even our life can become like that," the Pope said, "And sometimes, I confess something to you, when I have seen a Christian, a Christian of that kind, with a weak heart, not firm, not fixed on the rock—Jesus – and with such rigidness on the outside.

"I ask the Lord: ‘But Lord, throw a banana peel in front of them, so that they will take a good fall, and feel shame that they are sinners, and so encounter You, [and realize] that You are the Saviour."

Many times a sin, Pope Francis said, "will make us feel shame, and make us encounter the Lord, Who pardons us, as the sick who were there and went to the Lord for healing.”

------------------------------------------------

Pope Francis at Morning Mass: God Asks Us to Trust Him, Give Him Our Sin
Says We Must Be Ready to Listen to His Voice, Accept Correction

By Staff Reporter

VATICAN CITY, December 16, 2014  - "When we will be able to say to the Lord: 'Lord, these are my sins. They are not his or hers, they are mine… They are mine. Take them and I will be saved.' When we will be able to do this, we will be that people, that meek and humble people, that trusts in the Lord's name. May the Lord grant us this grace."

This was a prayer made this morning by Pope Francis as he celebrated morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio.

The Pope drew his homily from today's reading from Zephaniah, Chapter 3, which includes the text: "On that day / You need not be ashamed / of all your deeds, / your rebellious actions against me; / For then will I remove from your midst / the proud braggarts, / And you shall no longer exalt yourself / on my holy mountain. / But I will leave as a remnant in your midst / a people humble and lowly, / Who shall take refuge in the name of the LORD: / the remnant of Israel."

He also drew from the Gospel reading of Matthew, Chapter 21, which relates the story of the man with two sons, one who tells his father he will not go work in the vineyard, but later repents and goes; and the other who says he will go but in fact does not.

The repentant group described by Zephaniah has "humility, poverty, and trust in the Lord," Francis said. But there are also those who "do not accept correction, they do not trust in the Lord." 

"These people cannot receive Salvation. They are closed to Salvation. ‘I will leave within you the meek and humble; they will trust in the name of the Lord throughout their lives.' And that is still valid today, isn’t it? When we look at the holy people of God that is humble, that has its riches in its faith in the Lord, in its trust in the Lord - the humble, poor people that trust in the Lord: these are the ones who are saved and this is the way of the Church, isn’t it? This is the path I must follow, not the path in which I do not listen to His voice, do not accept correction and do not trust in the Lord," the Pope said.

Francis proposed that the scandal provoked by Jesus in the Gospel when he says, "tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you," is felt today by those who feel "pure" because they go to Mass and receive Communion. 

God, Francis said, needs much more:"If your heart is not a repentant heart, if you do not listen to the Lord, if you don’t accept correction and you do not trust in Him, your heart is unrepentant," he said. "These hypocrites who were scandalized by what Jesus said about the tax collectors and the prostitutes, but then secretly approached them to vent their passion or to do business - but all in secrecy - were 'pure!' The Lord does not want them."

Jesus' message is one of hope, the Pope said, if we have the courage to give God our sins.

He recalled the story of a saint who thought he had given everything to the Lord:

"He listened to the Lord, he always followed His will, he gave to the Lord, and the Lord said to him: 'There is still one thing you have not given me.' And the poor man who was good said: 'But, Lord, what is it that I have not given you? I have given you my life, I work for the poor, I work for catechesis, I work here, I work there ...' 

"'But there is something you have not given me yet.'

"'What is it Lord?'

"'Your sins.'"

"When we will be able to say to the Lord: 'Lord, these are my sins. They are not his or hers, they are mine… They are mine. Take them and I will be saved.' When we will be able to do this we will be that people, that meek and humble people, that trusts in the Lord's name. May the Lord grant us this grace."

-------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: God Saves Us In Worst Moments
In Salvation History, God May Test His Elect, But Is There to Correct, Save

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

VATICAN CITY, December 18, 2014  - Pope Francis says even when we do not understand the difficulties of life, we must realize that God, our loving father, has a plan and is there to save his children.

According to Vatican Radio, during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis reminded those gathered that "God walks with us, makes history, tests us and saves us in the worst moments."

The Apostle St. Paul reminds us God is our Father, the Pontiff recalled, noting that "step by step" as God ‘makes’ history with us, he continues the history of salvation.

"Making history with his people," the Pope observed, "means for God to walk and to test his elect." But in the end God saves them, Francis stressed.

From the very beginning, Francis said, God made a journey through history with his people. Therefore, "there is no salvation without history. And to get to the point of today there was a long history, a long history."

Moreover, Francis pointed out that when we fail, "God corrects" and "brings us forward, forward, always walking with us." 

Saying some may ask: "Father, this story is over with Christmas?"

He responded, "No!" saying, "Even now the Lord saves us in history" and "walks with his people."

The Pope explained that we are the elect of God, those chosen by Him "to help his people to move forward," just as Abraham, Moses, and Elijah were chosen.

Yet, he noted this is not always a peaceful path, but sometimes calls for the elect to experience some bad times, and even dark, awkward, and even disturbing moments.

Moses and Elijah, he said, exemplify people who God tested, who the Lord took out of their comfort zone.

Turning to the day’s Gospel in which Joseph discovers that his betrothed, Mary, is pregnant, he said this marks another test and a big moment in salvation history.

Francis noted how Joseph suffered and would see village women gossiping, but knew Mary was “incapable of infidelity" and trusted her.

"In these difficult moments," the Pontiff noted, God’s elect, to make history, must take the problem on their shoulders, even if they don’t understand why.

"Joseph does so. The man, in the worst moment of his life, the most obscure, takes the problem upon himself,” trusting in the Lord, the Holy Father said.

"Let us always remember, with confidence, even in the worst moments, even in times of illness, when we realize that we have to ask the last rites, because there is no exit, saying: 'But, Lord, the story did not start with me and will not end with me!'"

Rather, the Pope noted, "You must go ahead," saying, "I am willing," and put difficult moments and doubts in the hands of the Lord.

"May the Lord make us understand this mystery of his walk with his people in history, his testing his elect, and the greatness of the heart of his elect, who take upon themselves the pains, problems, even the appearance of sinners - we think of Jesus - to advance history," the Holy Father prayed.

-------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: Church Is Not Egocentric, Power-Driven
Warns When Wrong Impression Given, Church Becomes Sterile

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

VATICAN CITY, December 19, 2014 - Pope Francis is lamenting that characteristics such as power-hungry and egotistic at times are appropriate for describng people of the Church.

According to Vatican Radio, during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, the Pope reminded the faithful that the Church is instead a loving, tender mother

"Many times I think that in some places the Church is more like an entrepreneur than a mother," he said, noting this makes the Church sterile.

Recalling the two miraculous births of Samson and John the Baptist, both born to women who were formerly sterile, the Pope suggested that situations can be turned around and this should give us hope.

Since this symbol of sterility as recounted in the  Bible is seen as the sign of a human person incapable of moving forward, he noted the Church wants to make us reflect on the issue.

“From sterility, the Lord is able to restart a new lineage, a new life.  And that is the message of today," he said.

"When humanity is exhausted and can no longer go forward," Francis said, "grace comes."

Just as today's message reminds us how the second Creation comes when the earth is exhausted, the Pope added that we do the same as we await the newness of God.

"That's what Christmas is about," the Holy Father said.

"We must open ourselves to the Spirit of God because we cannot do it by ourselves," he added.

He explained that thr Church is a mother and only becomes a mother when she opens to the newness of God, to the strength of the Spirit.  

"When she says to herself: 'I do everything, but I’ve finished, I can’t go forward!'" then, the Pope said, "the Spirit comes.”

Let’s pray, the Holy Father said, that this Christmas "our Church may be open to the gift of God, that she may allow herself to be surprised by the Holy Spirit and be a Church that gives birth, a mother Church," never hypocritical.

-------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: 'True Love is Not Like a Soap Opera'
Reflects on Loving God and Neighbor During Morning Mass

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, January 08, 2015  - “God is love! And only through the path of love can you know God.” These were the words of Pope Francis during his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning.

According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father began his homily reflecting on today’s reading from John’s 1st Letter. If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen,” the reading states.

To know God through reason and intellect, he stressed, is insufficient. “Only through the path of love  can you know God,” he exclaimed.

“But how can I love someone I don’t know? Love the one close to you. And this is the doctrine of the two Commandments: The most important is to love God, because He is love. The second is to love your neighbor, but to arrive at the first we must climb the steps of the second. That is, through love of neighbor we come to know God, who is love.”

The 78 year old Pontiff reflected on the importance of knowing God through love. However, he clarified that true love is not like a “soap opera” but rather something powerful that is “manifested”. The Christmas season, he stressed, is characterized by the word “manifestation”, through which Jesus who “came to save us.”

“[It was God] who loved us and sent his Son as a victim of expiation for our sins. In the person of Jesus, we can contemplate the love of God,” he said. Following Christ’s example, he continued, "we arrive - step by step - to the love of God, to the knowledge of God who is love.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis explained to the faithful that “the love of God is always waiting for us, always surprising us.” This love, he said, is shown through the mercy and forgiveness of God, who forgives “not just once, but 70 times 7.”

“To know this God who is love, we must climb up the steps of love for neighbor, of works of charity, of the works of mercy that the Lord has taught us,” he said. “May the Lord, in these days in which the Church makes us reflect on the manifestation of God, give us the grace to know Him through the path of love.”

-------------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: 'Only the Holy Spirit Can Soften Your Heart'
Says Thousands of Courses Can't Give You the Freedom of a Son

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, January 09, 2015  - In his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning, Pope Francis said that true peace and freedom can only be found through the Holy Spirit.

According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on the Gospel of St. Mark, which recalled the Apostles being frightened upon seeing Jesus walking on water. The Holy Father said that despite seeing the miracles done by Christ, the Apostles were in fear because “their hearts were hardened.”

Among the reasons why one would have a “heart of stone,” the Pope said that it can easily happen to someone who has gone through a “painful experience.” The Apostle Thomas, who refused to believe in the Resurrection, was just such an example.

Another reason the Holy Father cited is to be closed in on one’s self. “To make a world in one’s self, closed. In himself, in his community or in his parish, but always closed,” he said.

“And being closed can turn into so many things: pride, sufficiency, to think myself better than others, also vanity, no? There are mirror-men and  women, who are closed in on themselves and constantly looking at themselves. These religious narcissists, no? But, they have a hard heart, because they are closed, they are not open. And they look to defend themselves with these walls that they have around them.”

Imprisoned heart

Pope Francis continued his homily explaining another reason for a hardened heart: that of “barricading” one’s self behind the letter of the law. The irony of this, he continued, is that those who seek security within the law end up becoming like a “man or a woman in the cell of a prison behind bars: a security without freedom.”

“The heart, when it is hardened, is not free and if it is not free it is because it does not love: that was how the Apostle John’s First Letter concluded. Perfect love chases away fear. In love there is no fear because fear presumes a punishment and he who fears is not perfect in love. He is not free,” the Pope said.

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis said that the only one who can "teach love and free mankind from this hardened heart is the Holy Spirit.”

“You can do thousands of courses of catechesis, thousands of spiritual courses, thousands of yoga courses, zen and all those things. But all of that will never be capable of giving you the freedom of a son,” he said.

“It is only the Holy Spirit that can move your heart to say ‘Father.'"

---------------------------------------------------------------

Pope Francis: 'Christ's Intercession and Salvation More Important Than Healing'

By Staff Reporter

VATICAN CITY, January 22, 2015 - Following his return from his Apostolic Visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, Pope Francis has resumed his daily morning Mass in Casa Santa Marta. In his homily today, the Holy Father reminded the faithful that physical healing is not what's most important, but the fact that Jesus saves and intercedes for those who seek Him.

According to Vatican Radio, the Pope drew today's homily from St. Mark's Gospel, in which a great multitude of people followed Jesus and his disciples to be healed.

"[Jesus] told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush Him; for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him," the Gospel states.

"The people feel this and see that the promises are fulfilled in Jesus; that in Jesus there is hope," the Pope explained.

"The people were a bit bored of the way faith is taught, from the doctors of the law of that time, who loaded on their shoulders many commandments, many precepts, but did not reach the heart of the people. And when they see and feel Jesus, His proposals, the Beatitudes…they feel something move within them – it is the Holy Spirit that awakens them! – and they go in search of Jesus."

The 78-year-old Pontiff noted that like the great multitude, "we never follow God with pure intentions in the beginning."

"It's always a little for us, a little for God," he said.

However, he added, what is most important is not the physical healing nor that Jesus' words touch the heart, although both help to "meet God."

Drawing from the Letter to the Hebrews, the Jesuit Pope explained that Jesus can save those who seek God and intercede for them.

"Jesus saves and Jesus is the intercessor!" he exclaimed. "These are the two key words!"

"Jesus saves! This healing, these words that reach the heart are the sign and the beginning of salvation. The journey of salvation of many who begin to walk, to hear Jesus or to ask for healing and then return to Him and feel the salvation. But is Jesus healing what is most important? No, it is not the most important! What does He teach us? ... That He saves! He is the Savior and we are saved by Him. And this is most important. This is the strength of our faith."

The Price of Salvation

Regarding Christ as an intercessor, the Holy Father said that Jesus intercedes for us to God every day, showing His wounds which are "the price of salvation."

"When we, for one reason or another, are a bit down, let us remember that it is He who prays for us, who intercedes continuously for us," he said.

"Many times we forget this: 'But Jesus…yes, it is finished, He has gone to Heaven, He has sent us the Holy Spirit, end of story.' No! Currently, in every moment, Jesus intercedes. In this prayer: 'Lord Jesus, have mercy on me'. Intercede for me. To turn to the Lord, asking for this intercession."

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to live their Christian life convinced that they have been saved, that they have a Savior: "Jesus, at the right hand of the Father, who intercedes."

"May the Lord, the Holy Spirit, help us understand these things," he said. 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: 'God Never Tires of Forgiving Us'

Reflects on the Importance of Confession During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, January 23, 2015 - In his homily as Casa Santa Marta this morning, Pope Francis said that the Sacrament of Confession is not like going to the dry cleaners to remove a stain, but an encounter with God who never tires of forgiving us.

According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on today’s first reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, which speaks of a new covenant made by God to his people.  “They will all know me, the least no less than the greatest, since I will forgive their iniquities and never call their sins to mind,” the reading states.

The Pope noted the aspect of forgiveness that encompasses this new covenant made by God through Jesus Christ. “First of all, God always forgives us.  He never tires of this.  It’s we who become tired of asking for forgiveness,” he said.

“But HE does not tire of pardoning us. When Peter asked Jesus: ‘How many times must I forgive? Seven times?’ – ‘Not seven times: seventy times by seven.’ Namely always. That’s how God forgives us: always.”

Emphasizing the mercy of God, the Holy Father went on to say that even if a person has lived a life of sin but in the end is repentant and asks for forgiveness, God, “will immediately pardon you!”

“He forgives everything. If you go (to confession) repentant, He will forgive everything,” he said. “So many times He doesn’t even let you speak! You start to ask for forgiveness and He lets you feel that joy of forgiveness before you have even finished confessing everything.”

The Jesuit Pope also spoke on the Sacrament of Confession, saying that while to some it may seem like a formality, it is actually a meeting with God who “pardons you, embraces you and rejoices.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis stressed the need for Christians to teach others, especially children and youth, the value of a good confession. “We too need to teach [others]: teach our children, our youth to make a good confession, because going to confession is not like going to the dry cleaners to get a stain removed,” he explained.  

“No! It’s about going to meet with our Father who reconciles, who forgives us and who rejoices.”  

------------------------------------------------------------ 

Pope's Morning Homily: Mothers and Grandmothers Are First in Transmitting Faith

Calls on Faithful to Not Dilute Faith During Daily Homily

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, January 26, 2015 - In his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning, Pope Francis stressed the importance of mothers and grandmothers in transmitting the faith to future generations.

The first reading of today's Memorial of Sts. Timothy and Titus recounts Paul's letter to Timothy, in which he recalls the faith of the latter's mother and grandmother.

"I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears, so that I may be filled with joy,  as I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and that I am confident lives also in you," St. Paul writes.

According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father said that mothers and grandmothers are the ones who first transmit faith.

"It is one thing to pass on the faith, and another to teach the matters of faith. Faith is a gift: it is not possible to study Faith. We study the things of faith, yes, to understand it better, but with study [alone] one never comes to Faith. Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, which surpasses all [“academic”] formation," the Pope said.

Reflecting on why it is mainly women who pass on the faith, the Holy Father noted that Jesus was brought into the world by a woman.

"It is the path chosen by Jesus. He wanted to have a mother: the gift of faith comes to us through women, as Jesus came to us through Mary." The Jesuit Pope went on to ask whether women today are aware of their duty to transmit the faith. He also stressed Paul's exhortation to guard the Faith so that it may remain strong.

“We have – all of us – received the gift of faith: we have to keep it, at least in order that it not become watered down, so that it remains strong, with the power of the Holy Spirit who gave it to us," he said.

If this faith becomes diluted, he warned, it becomes a "specialized kind of knowledge" and turns faith from something that is lived to something that is learned.

The Holy Father also said that being timid and ashamed is what dilutes faith and that it instead must be nourished with power, love and prudence.

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to pray for the grace of sincere Faith.

"A Faith that is not negotiable depending on the opportunities that come, a Faith that every day I try to revive or at least ask the Holy Spirit to revive it, and make it bear much fruit," he said. 

------------------------------------------------------------------ 

Pope's Morning Homily: Obeying God's Will is the Path to Holiness

Reflects on the Grace of Accepting the Will of the Father During Morning Mass

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, January 27, 2015  - Obedience to the will of God is the path of holiness. This was the main theme of Pope Francis' homily during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

Today's first reading from the Letter to the Hebrews explained that the sacrifices of old were not enough "for it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats take away sins."

The Holy Father said that Christ's death on the Cross showed that the sacrifice that pleases God is not of an animal but the offering of "one's own will to do the will of the Father."

The Pope also reflected on today's responsorial psalm, which stated: "Here I am Lord; I come to do your will."

"This is the path of holiness, of the Christian," he said. "That the plan of God may be done, that the salvation of God may be done."

"The opposite of this began in Paradise with Adam's disobedience. And that disobedience brought evil to the whole of humanity. Our sins are also acts of disobedience to God, of not doing his will. Instead, the Lord teaches us that this is the path, there is no other."

The Holy Father said that while this path began in Heaven, with Jesus' 'yes' in obeying the will of the Father, on earth it began with the Blessed Virgin Mary's 'yes' in accepting God's will to bring the Savior into the world.

However, the Jesuit Pope noted, accepting God's will "isn't easy". He recalled Jesus temptation in the desert as well as in the Mount of Olives, where Christ accepted the torments that awaited him. Saying that "many options are presented to us on a tray", the Holy Father said that in order to discover what the will of God is, one must ask for the grace.

Posing a question to the faithful present, the Pope asked whether one prays for the desire to do God's will or look for a compromise.

Pope Francis concluded his homily by highlighting three essential prayers: to pray to know God's will, to pray for the desire to do His will, and once known, to pray for the strength to do his will.

"May the Lord give us the grace, to all of us, that one day we may say that which He said to that group, that crowd that followed him, those who were sitting around him, as we heard in the Gospel: 'This is my mother and my brothers," he said. "Those who do the will of God are my brother, my sister and mother.' Doing the will of God makes us a part of Jesus' family, it makes us a mother, father, sister, brother." 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: 'We Cannot Privatize Salvation'

Says God Saves Us Not Just Individually, But Within a People

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, January 29, 2015  - "The privatization of salvation is the wrong path." These were the words of Pope Francis during his morning homily at Casa Santa Marta today.

The Holy Father reflected on the first reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, in which St. Paul encourages Christians to "not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another."

The Pope reminded those present that while God has saved us individually, it has always been within the context of a people throughout the history of salvation.

"The Lord always saves within the people," he said. "From the moment He called Abraham, He promises him to make a people. […] For this reason the author of this Letter says: "We must consider how to rouse one another ". There isn't salvation for only myself. If I understand salvation in that way, I am mistaken; I am on the wrong path."

"The privatization of salvation," he stressed, "is the wrong path."

Continuing his homily, the Jesuit Pope explained that there are three ways to prevent this "privatization of salvation" within the parish or community: faith, hope and works of charity.

"In order to not privatize salvation, I need to ask myself if I speak and communicate the faith, speak and communicate hope, speak, practice and communicate charity," he said. 

"If within a particular community there is no communication between people and no encouragement is given to everybody to practice these three virtues, the members of that community have privatized their faith. Each of them is looking for his or her personal salvation, not the salvation of everybody, the salvation of their people. And Jesus saved all of us but as part of his people, within a Church."

Regarding Paul's Letter to the Hebrews, the Pope said that the counsel given by the apostle can be applied to the parish and the communities within, where people can exclude themselves from everyone in order to seek salvation on their own.

“They scorn the others, they stay away from the community as a whole, they stay away from the people of God, they have privatized salvation," he explained. "Salvation is for me and my small group, but not for all the people of God.  And this is a very serious mistake.  It’s what we see and call: ‘the ecclesial elites.’ "

"When these small groups are created within the community of God’s people, these people believe they are being good Christians and also are acting in good faith maybe, but they are small groups who have privatized salvation.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis reminded the faithful once again that God saves within the people of God.

"May the Lord give us the grace to feel always as the people of God, saved personally. That is true: He saves us by first and last name, but saved within a people, not in the little group that I make for myself," he concluded.

--------------------------------------------------------------- 

 Pope's Morning Homily: Memory and Hope Preserves Salvation

Reflects on the Danger of Becoming 'Lukewarm Christians' During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, January 30, 2015 - In his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning, Pope Francis called on the faithful to never forget the memory of their first love, Christ, in order to not become lukewarm Christians.

The first reading of today continued from St. Paul's Letter to the Hebrews, in which he invites Christians to "remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a great contest of suffering."

The Pope noted that this memory of the first encounter with Christ is an important moment for Christians to remember. "Memory is so important, to remember the grace received, because if we drive away this enthusiasm that comes from the memory of the first love […], that great danger for so many Christians comes: to be lukewarm."

The Holy Father said that in becoming "lukewarm", many Christians have lost not only enthusiasm, but also patience and the will to "tolerate" difficulties in life with the same spirit of Christ.

"The lukewarm Christians, poor things, are in grave danger," he said.

Memory and hope, he went on to say, are the two parameters that Christians have. For a Christian to recall the memory of that first encounter with Christ, "feeds hope."

"These two parameters are precisely the framework in which we can preserve this salvation of the just that comes from the Lord," the Holy Father said.Referring to today's Gospel, the Pope said that salvation that is guarded and protected allows "that mustard seed to grow and give fruit"

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to pray "for the grace to preserve this gift, the gift of salvation."

------------------------------------------------------ 

Pope's Morning Homily: Keep Your Gaze Fixed on Christ, Not Soap Operas

Stresses the Importance of Contemplative Prayer During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, February 03, 2015 - Taking a few moments in contemplative prayer and keeping one's gazed fixed on Christ will "make hope grow."

This was the reflection given by Pope Francis this morning during his homily at Casa Santa Marta. The Holy Father reflected on today's reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, which calls on Christians to "persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith."

Referring also the Gospel from St. Mark, the Holy Father reflected on the importance of contemplating Jesus' life and works in order to find peace and hope.

"How should I contemplate with the Gospel today?" he asked. "I see that Jesus was in the midst of a crowd, around him there was a large crowd. This passage says the word 'crowd'" five times. But did Jesus rest? I could think: 'He's always with the crowd.'"

"But a great part of Jesus life," he continued, "was passed on the road, with the crowd. But did he rest? Yes, one time, the Gospel says, he slept on the boat but a storm came and the disciples woke him up. Jesus was continuously among the people. And if I look at Jesus this way, I contemplate Jesus that way, I imagine Jesus that way. And I tell Jesus what comes to my mind."

The Holy Father went on to recall the Gospel, in which Jesus healed the daughter of a synagogue official, imagining how Jesus was in the midst of those who doubted the girl's healing. This imagining, the Pope said, is a prayer of contemplation, to read and imagine the scene in which Christ found himself in. He then invited the faithful to do the same.

"Make this prayer of contemplation.'But I have so much to do!' 'But in your home, 15 minutes, take the Gospel, a small passage, imagine what happened and speak with Jesus about it. Thus your gaze will be fixed on Jesus and not on soap operas, for example. Your ears will be fixed on the words of Jesus and not so much on the gossip of the neighbors," he said.

By praying with the Gospel, as well as prayers like the Rosary, the Pope went on to say, one's Christian life can move toward memory and hope.

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis once again invited the faithful to make this prayer of contemplation in their daily lives.

"Today, for example, look for 10 minutes  -15, no more – read the Gospel, imagine and say something to Jesus. Nothing more; and in that way your knowledge of Jesus will be greater and your hope will grow. Do not forget, to have your gaze fixed on Jesus. And this is what the prayer of contemplation is for."

-------------------------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: Many in Pews Are 'Wounded' Waiting to Be Healed

Compares Church to Field Hospital During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

VATICAN CITY, February 05, 2015  - Pope Francis says there are many “wounded” waiting in the aisles of the Church for a minister of Christ to heal them from their pains and sorrows and liberate them from the demons that plague them. 

The Holy Father described the Church as a field hospital and explained what is proper service to those in need during his morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

“I sometimes describe the Church as a field hospital," Francis reaffirmed, saying, "There are many wounded, how many wounded! How many people who need their wounds to be healed!”

To heal and care for its people, the Pope said, is the mission of the Church. This requires, he said, “healing the wounded hearts, opening doors, freeing [people], and saying that God is good, forgives all, is our Father, is tender, and is always waiting for us ... "

Reflecting on today’s Gospel, in which Jesus sends his disciples out to the villages to preach, heal the sick and drive out "unclean spirits," the Pope stressed the disciples needed a certain attitude. The Gospel, Jesus said, must be proclaimed in poverty, and must be done for no reason other to bring the good news of liberty to the oppressed.

Although the Apostles preached with no food, sack, or money in their belts, the Pope stressed that the purity and simplicity of how they wished to help others made them happy and satisfied.

Francis added that Christ’s ministers must always remember, however, that they are simple “servants of the Kingdom.”

These proclaiming 'servants,' he stressed, must have alleviating the miseries of the poor as their sole aim and must never forget their service is not done through human hands, but through the Holy Spirit.

The Pope reminded those gathered that the nature of proclaiming the good news and bringing Christ to the poor, blind, and imprisoned must not take on the wrong form.

"It’s true, we have to help and create organizations that help in this: yes, because the Lord gives us the gifts for this. But when we forget this mission, forget poverty, forget the apostolic zeal and instead, place our hope in these [human] means, the Church slowly slips into becoming an NGO, it becomes a beautiful organization.”

This organization, the Pope concluded, is “powerful,” but not “evangelical,” because “it lacks that spirit, that poverty, that power to heal."

------------------------------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: 'Think of Our Present-Day Martyrs'

Reflects on Life, Death of John the Baptist, All Martyrs During Morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

VATICAN CITY, February 06, 2015 - Pope Francis says Christian martyrs are not limited to those in history, but exist today as Christians are being killed "under the authority of corrupt people who hate Jesus Christ."

According to Vatican Radio, the Pope stated, "The martyrdom of Christians is not a thing of the past, but many of them are victims even today," during his daily morning mass at Casa Santa Marta today.

After meditating on the life and death of John the Baptist, which was recounted in today's Gospel of St. Mark, Francis stressed how John never betrayed his vocation and was intent, even if it cost him his life, to proclaim the closeness of the Messiah.

Saying he gets 'emotional' when he reads this passage, the Holy Father denounced how John was killed by a corrupt king and how today many are slaughtered for their love of Christ.

The Pontiff lamented how John's life ended under the authority of "this mediocre, drunk and corrupt king, at the whim of a dancer and the vindictive hatred of an adulteress."

When reading this passage, the Pope said he thinks of "two things": our martyrs and how no one can buy their lives.

"I think of our martyrs, the martyrs of our times, men, women, children who are being persecuted, hated, driven out of their homes, tortured, massacred," he said, noting, "And this is not a thing of the past: this is happening right now."

The Pope said, "It would do us good to think of our martyrs. Today, we remember Paolo Miki, but that happened in 1600," he said, urging those present to, "Think of our present-day ones! Of 2015."

He went on to reflect on how no one's life can be bought. He said, “This abasement of John the Great, this ongoing slide into nothingness makes me think that all of us are on this road and we are travelling towards the land, where we will all end up."

"This makes me think of myself: I too will meet my end," Francis said, adding, "We all will."

"All of us, willingly or unwillingly, are travelling on the road of the existential annihilation of life, and this," the Holy Father concluded, "makes me pray that this annihilation is as similar as possible to that of Jesus Christ."

----------------------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: Christians Have a Duty to Care for Creation

Highlights the Responsibility of Preserving the Earth during Morning Mass

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, February 09, 2015 - Christians have a duty and a responsibility to care for the Earth. This was the theme of the Holy Father's homily today at Casa Santa Marta.

The Holy Father reflected on today's first reading, which recalled the story of Creation from the Book of Genesis, and the Gospel which recounted Jesus' ministry of preaching and healing. Jesus, he said, is a 'second creation' who comes "to re-create that which was ruined by sin."

As reported by Vatican Radio, the Pope explained that this second creation is even more wonderful than the first, and reveals the work of persevering in the faith. The first creation, which was born from the love of God, also reveals our work in caring for the Earth.

"To the 'first creation' we should respond with the responsibility that the Lord gives us: 'The Earth is yours, bring it forward; subdue it; make grow'. Even for us there is the responsibility to make the Earth grow, to make Creation grow, to take care of it and make it grow according to its laws. We are lords of Creation, not masters."

The Jesuit Pope went on to say that caring for creation is not just the concern of environmentalists, but of Christians.

"It is our response to the 'first creation' of God. It is our responsibility!" he exclaimed. "A Christian that does not care for creation, that does not make it grow, is a Christian who doesn't care about the work of God; that work born from the love of God for us. And this is the first answer to the first creation: to care for Creation, to make it grow."

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis stressed the importance of not grieving the Holy Spirit, who is "within us and works in us" as well as heeding the call of the Holy Trinity in maintaining and preserving Creation.

"To all three we respond: to care and make Creation grow, to let ourselves be reconciled with Jesus, with God in Jesus, in Christ, every day, and to not sadden the Holy Spirit, do not drive it away: it is the guest of our hearts, who accompanies us, who makes it grow."

----------------------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: Sedentary Christians Will Not Know the Face of God

Reflects on the Two Paths of Discovering One's Origins During Morning Mass

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, February 10, 2015 - The same restlessness that God placed in each of our hearts brings us to search for him. This was the reflection given by Pope Francis during his homily this morning at Casa Santa Marta.

Today's reading from the book of Genesis recalled the creation of Man, who was created in God's image. According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on the right path and the wrong path that man takes in the journey of searching for his origins.

"Those who never set out on this journey will never know the image of God, will never find the face of God," he said.

"Sedentary Christians, lethargic Christians will not know the face of God: They do not know Him. They say: 'God is like this...', but those who are lethargic do not know Him; the lethargic. You need a certain restlessness to set out on this path, the same restlessness that God placed in each of our hearts and that brings us forward in search of Him”.

He also reflected on the Gospel from St. Mark, in which the Pharisees reprimand Jesus because his disciples ate with unclean hands. The Pharisees who were reprimanded as hypocrites by Christ, the Pope said, "content themselves with a caricature of God."

"It is a fake ID," he said. These lethargic people have silenced the restlessness of their heart, they depict God with commandments and forget God: 'You, by neglecting the commandment of God, observe the tradition of men', and in doing so they turn away from God, they do not journey towards God and when they are insecure, they invent or make up another commandment."

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis said that today's readings present two distinct paths in searching for God. "One tells us: ‘Set out on the path and you will discover your identity, because you are the image of God, you are made in the likeness of God. Get up and seek God,'" he said.

"And the other: 'No, do not worry: fulfill all these commandments, and this is God. This is the face of God'. May the Lord give us all the grace of courage to always set out on the path, to seek the Lord's face, the face that one day we will see, but which we must seek here on Earth."

------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: 'Man is Capable of Destroying What God Has Made'

Offers Mass for 21 Egyptian Copts Beheaded by the Islamic State

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, February 17, 2015  - "We offer this Mass for our 21 brothers, beheaded for the sole reason of being Christian. Let us pray them, for my brother Tawadros, who suffers so much."

Pope Francis began his morning Mass, which he offered for the victims killed by the Islamic State last week in Libya. Yesterday afternoon, the Holy Father called Pope Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, to express his sympathy and solidarity "for the recent barbaric murder of Coptic Christians by Islamic fundamentalists."

Today's first reading was from the Book of Genesis, in which God "saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth, and how no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil." The Pope reflected on this saying that mankind's ability to "destroy everything that God has made" is recounted in many instances in the first book of the Bible.

"We are capable of also destroying brotherhood: Cain and Abel in the first pages of the Bible destroys brotherhood," he said. "It is the beginning of war. Jealousy, envy, so much greed for power, to have more power; yes, this seems negative, but it is realistic. Pick up a newspaper, any one – from the left, the center, the right…whichever one. And you will see that 90% of the news is news of destruction. More than 90%. And this we see everyday."

The Pope listed war and weapons trafficking as such examples of wickedness that come from the heart of man. Other ways include gossiping, jealousy, and envy, which, he noted, "have the capacity to destroy."

However, he said, "we also have the Holy Spirit who saves us! But we must choose. This is what the Church, at the doorway of Lent, makes us reflect on."

Turning to today's Gospel, the Pope reflected on Christ's warning to "watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod" as they argued over the lack of bread. The disciples, he said, did not understand Jesus "because of this wickedness of arguing amongst themselves to see who was guilty of forgetting the bread."

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis said that despite mankind's weakness, they are capable of doing good. "We are all capable of doing so much good, but we are also capable of destroying; destroying in great things and small things, even in the family; in destroying the children by not allowing them to grow in freedom, not helping them to grow up well."

"Let us ask the Lord, today, before starting Lent for this grace: to always choose well the path with His help and to not let ourselves be deceived by the seductions that bring us on the wrong path," he concluded.

-------------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: 'One Can Gain Everything and Still Be a Failure"

Calls on Christians to Stop and Reflect on Their Path in Life During Morning Mass

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, February 19, 2015  - Christians are faced with one choice: to choose the path that leads either to life or death. This was Pope Francis' reflection today during his morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

The Holy Father drew his homily from the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, in which Moses tells the people of Israel: "Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom. If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin on you today […] you will live and grow numerous."

The Pope said that Christians are faced with that same choice in their daily lives. However, this choice is not easy for many. Some, he said, find it easier to "become servants of 'other gods.'"

"To choose between God and other gods: those who do not have the power to give us anything, only little things that passes," he said. "And it is not easy to choose, we always have this habit of going a bit where the people go, a bit like everyone else. Like everyone."

"Today the Church tells us: 'But, stop! Stop and choose.' It is good advice. And today it would do us well to stop and during the day to think a bit: what is my lifestyle like? Which path am I walking on?"

'Gaining the World'

In today's Gospel from St. Luke, Christ says to his disciples that "whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”

The 78 year old Pontiff reiterated Jesus' words, stressing that the wrong path is that of always looking for one's own success without thinking of others, even family.

"One can gain everything, but in the end becomes a failure," he said.  

"'But no, they made a monument to him, they painted a portrait of him..." But he has failed: he didn't know how to choose between life and death."

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis said that today's responsorial psalm was the answer for mankind's fear in making a decision: "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord."

"Today, in the moment in which we stop to think of these things and make decisions, to choose something, we know that the Lord is with us, next to us, to help us. He never lets us go out alone, never! He is always with us. He is with us even in the moments when we make a choice," he concluded. 

------------------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: Lenten Fast Must Be Real and Not Formal

Says Fasting Must Come From the Heart During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, February 20, 2015 - To fast during Lent is not just an external observance, "rather it is a fast that comes from the heart." This was the reflection offered by Pope Francis during his morning homily at Casa Santa Marta.

The Holy Father began by speaking on today's first reading, in which the prophet Isaiah, conveying a message from God, questions the manner of fasting.

"Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bows his head like a reed and lie in sackcloth and ashes?" the prophet asks.

"This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own."

Reflecting on these words, the Pope stressed the need to distinguish between a "formal and a real" fast. For this reason, he explained, "Jesus condemned the Pharisees for making so many exterior observances, but without the truth of the heart."

The true fasting mentioned in the first reading, he continued, is what truly "comes from the heart" that fulfills the commandment of love towards God and neighbor.

"They are united: the love of God and the love of neighbor are united and if you want to do penance, real and not formal, you must do it in front of God and also with your brother, your neighbor," he said.

The Pope also stressed the importance of living this true fast in one's daily life, especially with employees and family members.

"How many, how many men and women of faith, have faith yet divide the tablets of the law: 'Yes, yes I do this' – "But do you give alms?' – Yes, yes, I always send a check to the Church' – Ah, well, that's good," he said.

"But to the Church, your home, with those who depend on you – be it children, grandparents, those who are dependents – are you generous, are you just?' You cannot make an offering to the Church on the shoulders of the injustice that you do to your dependents. This is a grave sin: it is using God to cover injustice."

The 78 year old Pontiff went on to say that the Lenten season encompasses this love for both God and neighbor and not just the physical act of fasting. "It isn't only about not eating meat on Fridays, to do some little thing and then make selfishness grow, the exploitation of others, and the ignorance of the poor," he said.

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis reminded the faithful that lent is a time to think about others, especially those who are forgotten. "In this Lent," he asked, "is there a place in your heart for those who have not fulfilled the commandments? Who made a mistake and are in prison."

"Do those imprisoned have a place [in your heart]?" he continued. "Do you pray for them, so that the Lord help them to change their life?' Accompany, Lord, on our Lenten path so that the exterior observance corresponds to a profound renewal in Spirit."

------------------------------------------------ 

Pope's Morning Homily: 'We Must Accuse Ourselves in Order to Be Merciful'

Reflects on Forgiving Others During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, March 02, 2015 - "When we learn to accuse ourselves of our sins, we can become merciful with others."

These were Pope Francis' words during his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning. According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on today's Gospel from St. Luke, in which Jesus preaches on being merciful with others.

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven," Jesus says.

The Pope said that mankind is "master…in justifying ourselves."

"We all have an alibi that explains out shortcomings, our sins, and many times we are capable of making that face of 'I don't know', a face that says 'I didn't do it, maybe somebody else did': to pretend to be innocent. And one cannot go forward in Christian life like this."

Continuing his reflection on mercy, the 78 year old Pontiff stressed that the first step in being merciful with others is to reflect on one's own sins instead of judging those who have sinned.

"Have you thought that you have been capable of doing those things they did, maybe even worse?', he asked. "This is to accuse oneself, to not hide from oneself the roots of sin that is in us, the many things that we are capable of doing, even if we don't see it."

The Holy Father went on to say that the Lenten season offers an opportunity to Christians to reflect and "accuse" themselves.

"The phrase – "Who am I to judge the other?" – he said, obeys Jesus' exhortation: "Do not judge and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven."

"May the Lord, in this Lent give us the grace to learn to accuse ourselves." 

--------------------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: God's Forgiveness is Given to Those with A Cleansed Heart

Reflects on the Nature of True Conversion and Hypocrisy During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, March 03, 2015 - In his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning, Pope Francis called on the faithful to follow Christ's invitation to conversion.

The Holy Father began by reflecting on the first reading from the prophet Isaiah in which he calls "the princes of Sodom" and the "people of Gomorrah" to turn from their evil ways.

"Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow," the reading states.

The Holy Father told those present that the reading is an invitation from God to conversion by learning to do right.

"You cannot remove the filth of the heart as you would remove a stain: we go to the dry cleaner and leave cleansed," he said. "This filth is removed by 'doing': taking a different path, a different path from that of evil. Learn to do right! That is, the path of doing good."

Citing the first reading, the Holy Father said that in order to good one must protect those most in need which will allow one to "cleanse your heart." Those whose hearts are cleansed, he stressed, are forgiven by God.

"If you do this, if you take this path to which I invite you - the Lord tells us - 'though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow'. It is an exaggeration, the Lord exaggerates: but it is the truth!" he exclaimed. "The Lord gives us the gift of His forgiveness. The Lord forgives generously. 'I forgive you this much, then we'll see about the rest....' No, no! The Lord always forgives everything! Everything! But if you want to be forgiven, you must set out on the path of doing good. This is the gift!'"

The 78 year old Pontiff went on to reflect on today's Gospel in which Christ denounces the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who like many today "say all the right things, but do the exact opposite."

"They pretend to convert, but their heart is a lie: they are liars! It 'a lie ... Their heart does not belong to the Lord; their heart belongs to the father of all lies, Satan. And this is fake holiness," he said.

"Jesus preferred sinners a thousand times to these. Why? Because sinners told the truth about themselves. 'Get away from me, Lord, I am a sinner!': Peter once said. One of those [the hypocrites] never says that! 'Thank you Lord, that I am not a sinner, that I am righteous."

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to reflect during this time of Lent on conversion, forgiveness and to beware of "pretending to convert, while choosing the path of hypocrisy."

--------------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: Worldliness Numbs the Soul

Reflects on the Parable of Lazarus During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, March 05, 2015  - "Worldliness is a sinful state of soul." These were the words of Pope Francis during his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning.

The Holy Father reflected on today's Gospel from St. Luke, which recalled the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, a poor man who would eat the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. The Pope noted that while the man is noted for his wealth and indifference towards Lazarus, there is no mention in the Gospel that he was a bad person.

“He was, perhaps, a religious man, in its own way: he prayed, perhaps, a few prayers and two or three times a year definitely went to the temple to make the sacrifices and gave large offerings to the priests, and they – with their clerical pusillanimity – gave him to sit in the place of honor," the Pope said.

“When he went about town, we might imagine his car with tinted windows so as not [to be] seen from without – who knows – but definitely, yes, his soul, the eyes of his soul were darkened so that he could not see out. He saw only into his life, and did not realize what had happened to [himself]. He was not bad: he was sick, sick with worldliness – and worldliness transforms souls."

The Pope went on to say that those caught up in worldliness live in an "artificial world" that numbs the soul, thus allowing people to be blind to the sufferings of others.

"With a worldly heart you can go to church, you can pray, you can do so many things. But Jesus, at the Last Supper, in the prayer to the Father, what did He pray? ‘But please, Father, keep these disciples from falling into the world, from falling into worldliness.’"

Worldliness – he said – "is a subtle sin. It is more than a sin: it is a sinful state of the soul.”

The Jesuit Pope added that the emptiness of the rich man's soul becomes a curse while the poor man's trust in the Lord turned into a blessing. He also noted that while the poor man was given a name in the Gospel, the rich man did not.

“[The rich man] had no name, because the worldly lose their name. They are just one of the crowd affluent, who do not need anything. The worldly lose their name.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis said that Abraham serves as a figure of God the Father. Despite the sins of the worldly, he added, they still have a father.

"We are not orphans, however: until the end, until the last moment there is the confidence that we have a Father who awaits us," he said. "Let us entrust ourselves to Him. ‘Son,’ he says: ‘son’, in the midst of that worldliness; ‘son.’ We are not orphans.”

----------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: The Lord Reveals Himself in Simplicity, Humility

Calls on Faithful to Reflect During Lenten Season on God's Simple Style

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, March 09, 2015 - God does things simply and speaks to the heart of mankind. These were the words of Pope Francis during his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning.

The Holy Father reflected on today's Gospel from St. Luke, in which the people of Nazareth drove Christ out of his native town after rebuking their lack of faith.

According to Pope Francis, the Pope compared the inhabitants to Naaman who wanted a spectacle, rather than God's humble way of doing things.

The first reading from the second book of Kings recalled the healing of Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, from his leprosy. Naaman his healed after the prophet Elisha told him to wash himself in the Jordan river seven times.  

The Pope said that this humble way of acting can be seen throughout the history of salvation.

“When He desired to free His people, He freed them through the faith and confidence of a man, Moses," he said.  

"When He desired to cause the fall of the powerful city of Jericho, He did so through a prostitute. And for the conversion of the Samaritans He required the work of another sinner. When He invited David to fight against Goliath, it seemed crazy: the little David standing before that giant, who had a sword, who had so many things, while David had only a sling and the stones. When He told the Magi that a King was born to them, the Great King, what did they find? A little child, a manger. The simple things, the humility of God… this is the divine style, never the spectacle.”

The Pope went on to say Christ also faced the temptation by Satan to make a spectacle, telling Him to perform a miracle so that people may believe. However, Jesus revealed Himself in simplicity and in humility.

“It would do us good this Lent to consider how the Lord has helped us in our lives, and how the Lord has led us onward. We will find that the Lord has always done this with simple things," he said.

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to remember the feeling of the Lord's humble and simple style. This is especially reflected in the sacraments.

"It would do us good to journey through our life and to consider the many times the Lord has visited us with His grace, and always with this humble style, the style He calls us, too, to have: humility," he said. 

-------------------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: 'Asking For Forgiveness is Not A Simple Apology'

Reflects On How to Seek Pardon During Morning Mass

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, March 10, 2015 - In order to experience forgiveness we must also know what it means to forgive others as Jesus taught. This was the central theme of Pope Francis' homily during his morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta today.

The Holy Father reflected on today's Gospel from St. Matthew in which Jesus is asked how often one should forgive.

“I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times," Jesus replied.  The Pope said that asking forgiveness is not merely saying 'excuse me' but something much more profound. To make a mistake and to sin are very different: "one has nothing to do with the other."

"Sin is not a simple mistake. Sin is idolatry: it is to worship the idol, the idol of pride, vanity, money, ‘my self’, my own ‘well-being’," he said.

The Pope also made reference to the first reading from the prophet Daniel, in which Azariah appeals for forgiveness to God on behalf of the people.

"So many idols do we have: and for this, Azariah does not apologize: he asks forgiveness," he said.

Reflecting on Jesus' teachings on forgiveness, the Pope said one cannot seek pardon if they at first have not pardoned.

“Jesus teaches us to pray to the Father in this way: ‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors', he said.

"If I am not able to forgive, then I am not able to ask for forgiveness. ‘But, Father, I confess, I go to confession ....’ And what do you do before you confess?’ ‘Well, I think of the things I did wrong.’ ‘Alright’ ‘Then I ask the Lord for forgiveness and promise not to do those things again.’ ‘Okay…and then go to the priest? Before you do, however, you’re missing something: have you forgiven those who have hurt you?’”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis stressed to the faithful present that true forgiveness is not just a mere apology but to be away of our sins and idolatries.

"God always forgives, always – but He asks me to forgive [others]. If I do not forgive, in a sense, I close the door to God’s forgiveness. ‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors'", he said. 

---------------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: 'You Are Either on the Path of Love or the Path of Hypocrisy'

Says There is No Path of Compromise in Following God During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, March 12, 2015 - There is no third path of compromise: either you are with the Lord in love or you follow your own will. This was the reflection offered by Pope Francis during his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning.

The Pope spoke on today's readings which recalled those who harden their hearts to the voice of God.

The Holy Father said that it seems as if God cries at the unfaithfulness of his people. The hearts of those who choose their own will instead of God's, he noted, harden.

"We do our own will, but going on this path in life we follow a path of hardening: the heart hardens, it petrifies," he said. "And the Word of the Lord does not enter. And the people depart. Even our personal history can become like this. And today, in this Lenten day, we can ask ourselves: 'Do I listen to the voice of the Lord, or do I do what I want, what I like?"

Today's Gospel from St. Luke recalled Jesus' response to those who rebuked Him after he freed a man possessed by the devil.

"Some of them said, 'By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.' Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven," the Gospel states.

The Jesuit Pope said that their argument is typical of those who are "legalistic", who "believe that life is regulated by the laws they create."

"Even this happened in the history of the Church!" the Pope exclaimed. "Think about poor Joan of Arc: today she is saint! Poor woman: these doctors burned her alive, because they said she was a heretic, accused of heresy…But they were doctors, those that surely knew doctrine, these Pharisees: far from the love of God."

"In the History of God with his people, the Lord would send them, to tell them that He love his people, the Prophets. In the Church, the Lord sends the saints. It is the saints who bring forward the life of the Church: they are the saints. Not the powerful, the hypocrites. No. The Saints!"

The Holy Father also commented on Jesus' words to those who criticized Him: Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

"Jesus says: 'Who is not with me, is against me.' But is there a way of compromise, a bit of this and a bit of that? No. Either you are on the path of love, or on the path of hypocrisy," he said.

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to ask themselves which path they find themselves on. However, he warned that there is not third path of compromise. "Either you are a saint or you go another way," he concluded. 

------------------------------------------------ 

Pope's Morning Homily: We Are in God's Heart and Mind

Reflects on the Lord's Joyful Plan During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, March 16, 2015  - God never forgets us; he thinks about us and wants us to be joyful. These were the words of Pope Francis during his morning homily at Santa Marta today.

According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on the first reading from the prophet Isaiah. In it, God says that he "will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people. No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there, or the sound of crying."

The Pope said that God speaks with enthusiasm in saying what he will do, as if it were a "dream of the Lord."

"The Lord dreams, He has His dreams. His dreams about us," the Pope said. "To give an example that will help us [understand]: it's like a woman with her fiancé or what a man with a fiancé would think: 'But when will we be together, when will we be married…' It is God's 'dream'.

The Holy Father went on to say that "we are in the mind and in the heart of God" and that he "dreams of the joy with which He will enjoy with us."

God, he continued, wishes to recreate the hearts of the faithful in order for joy to triumph.

"It is here that the Lord shows that he is in love with his people. And when he says to his people: 'But I have not chosen because you are the strongest, the most powerful. I have chosen you because you are smallest of all," he noted.

"The love that God has for us cannot be explained by any theologian."

Commenting on the Gospel, which recalled Jesus healing of a royal official's son, the Pope emphasized the importance of believing that God can change the hearts of the faithful in order to accept God's love.

Faith, Pope Francis concluded, "is to make space for this love of God, to make space for strength, the power of God but not in the strength of one that is very powerful, but in the power of one who loves me, who is in love with me and that wants to rejoice with me. This is faith. This is believing: to make space for the Lord so that he can come and change me."

-------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: The Church's Doors Are Always Open

Reflects on the Mercy of Jesus Towards The Wounded During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, March 17, 2015 - "Jesus not only receives people into His house, the Church, but goes out searching for them." These were the words of Pope Francis during his homily at Santa Marta this morning.

The Holy Father reflected on the first reading from the prophet Ezequiel, which recalled his vision of the temple and the river flowing near it.

"Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh," the angel says to Ezequiel.

That water, the Holy Father noted, is the same that flows in the pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed a man who was ill for 38 years. The criticism of the doctors of the law, who reproached Christ for healing on the Sabbath, is something that occurs many times.

"A man or a woman, who feel sick in their soul, sad, who have made many mistakes in life, at a certain moment feel the waters move, there is the Holy Spirit who moves something, or they hear a word. They take courage and go forward," he said.

"And how many times today in Christian communities, do they find the door shut: 'But you can't, no, you cannot enter. You have a mistake and you can't enter. If you want to come, go to the Sunday Mass, but stay there, you can't do anything else.' And that which the Holy Spirit does in the person is destroyed by Christians with the psychology of the doctors of the law."

The Holy Father went on to say that he is saddened by this attitude, stressing that the Church is the "house of Jesus" and Jesus not only receives those who enter, but "goes out searching for them."

"And if the people are wounded, what does Jesus do? Does he reproach them because they are wounded? No, He comes and carries them upon His shoulders. And this is called mercy. And when God reproaches His people – "I want mercy, not sacrifice!' – he speaks of this."

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful during the Lenten season to not commit the same mistake of denying Jesus' love towards those wounded solely because it is contrary to the law.

"Let us ask the Lord in the Mass for ourselves, for each one of us and for the whole Church, for a conversion towards Jesus, a conversion to Jesus, a conversion to the mercy of Jesus. And thus the Law will be fulfilled completely, because the Law is to love God and neighbor as ourselves."

---------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: No Mercy, No Justice

Denounces Corruption of Those Who Judge Unjustly During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, March 23, 2015 - The Word of God makes it clear that only through mercy can true justice can be delivered. This was the reflection given by Pope Francis during his morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta today.

Tthe Holy Father focused on today's readings as well as a different Gospel passage, which presented three different women in history. The first from the Book of Daniel is the wife of Joakim named Susanna, an innocent woman sentenced unjustly to death. The second, from the Gospel, was the adulterous woman sentenced to be stoned and the third, a poor widow in need.

The Pope said that all three are allegorical figures of the Church: the Holy Church, the Sinful Church and the Needy Church. Those who falsely accused, condemned or unjustly wronged them, he noted, were scribes or judges that Jesus denounced as 'hypocrites'.

"These weren't saints, they were corrupt, corrupt because such rigidity can only go forward in a double life and those that condemned these women would then look for her, in secret, to have some fun," he said. "The rigid ones are – I use the word that Jesus gave them – hypocrites: they live double lives. Those who judge, we think of the Church – all three women are allegorical figures of the Church – those who judge the Church with rigidity have double lives. With rigidity one can't even breathe."

Regarding the judges who unjustly sentenced Susanna rather than investigate the truth, the Pope said that their corruption brought them far from understanding the concept of mercy.

"The three women – the saint, the sinner and the needy, are allegorical figures of the Church – they suffer from this lack of mercy," he noted. "Also today, the people of God, when they find these judges, suffer a judgement without mercy, whether civil or ecclesiastical. And where there is no mercy there is no justice."

The 78 year old Pontiff went on to say that this lack of mercy can clearly be seen with those willing to stone the adulterous woman as well. This rigidity, he said, "is called a lack of mercy."

Pope Francis concluding his homily by Jesus response to the lack of mercy shown to the adulterous woman.

"I only want to say one of the most beautiful words of the Gospel that moves me so much: 'Has no one condemned you?' – 'No, no one, Lord' – 'Neither do I condemn you.' Neither I do condemn you: one of the most beautiful words because it is full of mercy," he said. 

----------------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: Christ Took the 'Poison' of Our Sin Upon Himself

Calls on Faithful to Flee From the Temptation of Becoming 'Yes, But' Christians

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, March 24, 2015 - In his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning, Pope Francis called on Christians to pray in this Holy Week for the grace to accept difficult moments.

According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on today's first reading from the Book of Numbers in which God punished the people of Israel for their complaining by sending fiery serpents that bit and poisoned them.

Drawing comparison from the reading to daily life, the Pope said that many times, even Christians have this tendency to rebel against God or try to seek salvation on their own terms. Calling them, "'Yes, but…' Christians", the Pope said that they do not open their hearts to God's salvation, but rather place conditions.

"'Yes, but this!' 'Yes, yes, yes, I want to be saved but through this path.' Thus the heart becomes poisoned," the Pope said.

However, the 78 year old Pontiff noted, Christ took upon Himself this poison that enters the heart when He was crucified on the cross.

"This tepidness of the soul, this being half-way Christians, 'Yes, but…' Christians…This enthusiasm at the beginning of the way of the Lord and then becoming discontent, can only be healed by looking at the Cross, looking at God who takes our sins: my sin is there."

Saying that many "die in the desert of their sadness" and murmuring, the Pope called on Christians to contemplate on Christ Crucified and ask for the grace to accept the difficult moments in life.

"To accept the divine style of salvation, to accept even this 'light' food of which the Hebrew people complained about, to accept thins…To accept the path through which the Lord takes me forward. May this Holy Week, which begins on Sunday, help us to escape from this temptation to become 'Yes, but…Christians'", Pope Francis concluded. 

------------------------------------------------ 

Pope's Morning Homily: The Joy of the Gospel is the Touchstone of One's Faith

Says That Without Joy, There is Only "Cold Doctrine"

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, March 26, 2015 - To be joyful is a grace that only comes from faith and not from doctrine or law that is detached from love. This was the central theme of Pope Francis' homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning.

According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on today's readings, both of which spoke on Abraham. In John's Gospels, Jesus tells the scribes and doctors of the law that "Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” 

The Pope said that the doctors of the law did not understand what Jesus meant because they did not understand the joy of hope, of promise and of the covenant.

"They did not know how to rejoice, because they lost the meaning of joy that only comes from faith," he said. "Our father Abraham was able to rejoice because he had faith: he was made just in faith. These lost their faith. They were doctors of the law, but without faith! But more so: they lost the law! Because the center of the law is love, love for God and for neighbor."

The Holy Father went on to say that the doctors of the law were so attached to doctrine that their often times their questions dealt in abstract circumstances.

"Should taxes be paid to Cesar, or should they not? This woman, who was married seven times, when she goes to Heaven will she be the wife of those seven? […] This was their world, an abstract world, a world without love, a world without faith, a world without hope, a world without trust, a world without God," he noted. "And this is why they could not rejoice!"

The 78 year old Pontiff continued saying that it was sad to be a believer without joy. Without joy, he said, there is no faith, only "cold doctrine."

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis said that the joy of faith and the Gospel is the touchstone of one's faith. Without it, one is not a "true believer."

"We return home, but first we make this celebration here with these words of Jesus: ' Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.' And ask the Lord for the grace to be joyful in hope, the grace to be able to see Jesus' day when we find ourselves with Him and the grace of joy," he concluded. 

-------------------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: Courage to Speak the Truth Is a Grace of the Holy Spirit

During Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Reflects on Announcing the Gospel Without Fear

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, April 13, 2015  - In preaching, the Church's message must always be spoken with frankness and courage, without fear of announcing the truth.

These were the words of Pope Francis in his morning homily at Casa Santa Marta. The Holy Father reflected on today's first reading in which Peter and John who continued to preach despite being jailed and threatened by the High Priests.

"And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness, as you stretch forth your hand to heal," the disciples prayed in the reading. That same courage, the Holy Father noted, is what the Church needs to announce the Good News.

"And today too, the Church's message is the message of the path of openness, the path of Christian courage,” he said.

“These two simple [men]- as the Bible says – with no education, had courage. A word that can be translated as 'courage,' 'straightforwardness,' 'freedom to speak,' ‘not being afraid to say things' ... It’s a word that has many meanings, in its original form. Parrésia, that frankness ... and their fear gave way to 'openness,’ to saying things with freedom."

The Holy Father's words on speaking out with openness and without fear come on the heels of criticism by the government of Turkey following the Pope's recognition of the events of 1915 as a genocide during his remarks to the Armenian faithful yesterday in St. Peter's Basilica.

Courage is a Grace

The Pope also reflected on today's Gospel, which recounted the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, in which Christ speaks of one being "born again."

"Unless one is born of water and Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit," Jesus says. The Holy Father said that even in this story, the courage to proclaim the truth comes from the Holy Spirit.

"And this courage of proclamation is what distinguishes us from simple proselytism. We do not advertise Jesus Christ, to have more 'members’ in our 'spiritual society', no? This is not necessary. There’s no need; it’s not Christian. What the Christian does is to announce with courage, and the proclamation of Jesus Christ causes, through the Holy Spirit, that astonishment that keeps us going."

Jesus' words on being "born again", he continued, means that it is only through the Holy Spirit that one can truly change.

"The path of Christian courage is a grace given by the Holy Spirit. There are so many paths that we can take that also give us a certain amount of courage. 'But look at that brave decision he has taken! And look at this one: look how he laid out this plan well, organized things, [bravo]!’ This helps, but it is an instrument of something bigger: the Spirit. If there is no Spirit, we can do many things, much work, but it is not of any use.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to prepare to receive the Holy Spirit during the Easter time leading to Pentecost. He also prayed that they may "ask for the grace to receive the Spirit to give us the true courage to announce Jesus Christ."

----------------------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: Don't Accumulate Riches, Be Generous to Those in Need

Speaks on Need for Harmony and Serving the Common Good at Casa Santa Marta

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

VATICAN CITY, April 14, 2015  - Pope Francis has said the Church is not for accumulating riches, but managing them with generosity.

During Francis' morning homily at his daily Mass at Casa Santa Marta, he made this observation, and reflected on the first Christian community guided by the Apostles and how that ties to the Church today.

The Pope recalled the passage from the Acts of the Apostles describing the life of the first Christian community and went on to stress two elements are signs of a community being 'reborn': harmony and the common good.

These two elements bring the Holy Spirit to a community, he said, noting that only the Spirit can bring harmony, since he "is the harmony between the Father and son" and the gift that makes harmony in the first place.

He also pointed out that to those who suffer and endure trials will one day rejoice, as is promised in the Beatitudes.

Turning to the common good, the Pope noted that Christians are not to hold on to wealth, but to put it to the service of others in need. The Pope said it is good if someone rich uses their wealth to help others.

Another theme the Pontiff underscored was how difficult it is to have patience in times of difficulty.

To those suffering, the Pope noted, "Jesus promises you many beautiful things and peace in abundance." If you've been persecuted, Francis said, "You will have a hundred times more."

The Holy Father noted that in spite of all the problems in the first community of Christians, the community was still reborn, by the Holy Spirit who purified it "in the midst of difficulties."

Given this, the Pope said, those who have patience and "bear problems, endure hardship, endure slander, withstand diseases, bear the pain" of the loss of a loved one, will one day have peace and be rewarded.

The Holy Father closed inviting the faithful to bring harmony, not internal division, to their parishes, dioceses, and lives.

Francis also reminded them to be at the service of others, especially the poor, and never to accumulate wealth, but use it to help the needy.

-------------------------------------------------- 

April 16, 2015 - If you are not willing to have dialogue, you are disobeying God, says Pope Francis.

During this morning's homily at his daily Mass at Casa Santa Marta, the Pope made this statement and warned against those who preach against the newness of God. The Holy Father offered today's Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who celebrates his 88th birthday.

Reflecting on the theme of dialoguing, the Pontiff said, "Obeying God means having the courage to change paths."

The Pope recalled the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, recounting the priests and leaders who ordered that Jesus' disciples stop preaching the Gospel to the people.

"They became infuriated and full of jealousy," as they saw miracles taking place in the disciples midst and the number of believers growing, Francis said.

"This is the drama of these teachers of Israel, of these theologians of the people of God: they didn’t know to listen, they didn’t know how to dialogue. Dialogue takes place with God and with the brethren."

The Pontiff said, "They did everything they could to not open themselves to the voice of God.

The Argentine Pope stressed that this resentment of those spreading the Gospel in Jesus' time increased as their egos were further offended, and expressed that similarly resentment exists today.

The Holy Father warned against those "who want to silence those who preach the newness of God."

In this Mass, the Pontiff urged, let us pray for the teachers, doctors, and those who teach the people of God, "that they would not be closed in on themselves" and "that they would dialogue."

Only if they open themselves in this way, he said, they will "save themselves from the wrath of God, which, if they do not change their attitude, will remain upon them."

----------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: Humiliation Isn't a Masochism, But an Imitation of Christ

Calls on Faithful to Not Give Into Wrath During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, April 17, 2015 - Humiliation is not masochism, but rather a path of imitating Jesus in His Suffering. These are the words of Pope Francis during his homily today at Casa Santa Marta.

The Pope began his homily reflecting on the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, in which a Pharisee by the name of Gamaliel who called on the members of the Sanhedrin to allow the Apostles to preach.

"For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God," Gamaliel says.

The Holy Father explained that Gamaliel's action of giving "time to time" is the correct way of acting instead of hatred.

"This is useful for us when we have wicked thoughts about others, wicked feeling, when we have hostility, hatred, to not allow it to grow, to stop it, to give time to time," he said.

"Time puts things in harmony, and makes us see things in the right light. But if you react in a moment of anger, it is certain you will be unjust. You will be unjust. And you will hurt yourself, too. Here’s some advice: time, time in the moment of temptation."

Holding on to anger, judgements and resentments, the Pope went on to say, ultimately leads the faithful in battling against God. The Jesuit Pope said that in giving time, one can give space to the Holy Spirit to act.

In the reading, the Apostles rejoiced that they were released after having been flogged and released. It was an act of humiliation, the Pope noted, that lead them to become like Jesus.

"Pride of being first leads you to want to kill others; humility, even humiliation, leads you to become like Jesus," he explained.

"And this is one thing that we don’t think. In this moment in which so many of our brothers and sisters are being martyred for the sake of Jesus’ Name, they are in this state, they have, in this moment, the joy of having suffered dishonor, and even death, for the Name of Jesus."

"To fly from the pride of being first," he continued, "there is only the path of opening the heart to humility, to humility that never arrives without humiliation. This is one thing that is not naturally understood. It is a grace we must ask for.”

The 78 year old Pontiff compared this humiliation to the sufferings of today's martyrs who suffer and are killed for bearing witness to Christ.

The pope said that humiliation gives joy not because of its beauty. "No, that would be masochism," he said.

"It is because with that humiliation, you imitate Jesus."

Concluding his homily, the Pope called on the faithful to imitate Jesus through two attitudes: closing what leads to hatred and wrath, and to be "open to God on the path of Jesus, that makes us accept humiliations, even very serious humiliations, with that interior joy that makes you of being on the path set out by Jesus." 

---------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: Follow the Examples of Saints to Avoid Temptation of Worldliness

Reflects on Danger of Material Interests During Homily at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, April 20, 2015 - In his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning, Pope Francis said that Christians are called to follow the example of the saints and martyrs, who did not give in to the temptation of seeking power.

The Holy Father reflected on today's Gospel of St. John, in which a crowd seeks Jesus "not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled."

This attitude of self-interests, the Pope said is often seen in the Gospels, even among Jesus' own disciples.

"The sons of Zebedee who wanted to be prime minister and the other the minister of the economy, to have power," he noted. "That unction to bring to the poor good news, the liberation to prisoners, sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed and announce a year of grace, as it becomes dark, it is lost and transforms into something of power."

This temptation, the Pope continued, was also given to Jesus by the devil in the desert. The danger lies in passing from religious wonder to profiteering from it.

"This was also a proposal of the devil to Jesus in the temptations," he said.

"One on bread, precisely. The other on the spectacle: 'Let us make a beautiful spectacle so that all the people will believe in you.' And the third, apostasy: that is, the adoration of the idols. And this is a daily temptation of Christians, ours, of all of us who are in the Church: the temptation not of the power, of the strength of the Spirit, but the temptation of worldly power. Thus one falls in that religious tepidness which brings you to worldliness, that tepidness that ends, when it grows, grows, grows, in that attitude that Jesus calls hypocrisy."

The 78 year old Pontiff went on to say that Jesus calls on all to awaken with the witness of martyrs and saints who remind us of our mission to follow in Jesus' footsteps.

"The people understand Jesus' reproach and tell him: 'But what should we fulfil to do the works of God? Jesus says to them: 'This is the work of God:  that you believe in the One who He has sent', that is, faith in Him, only in Him, trust in Him and not in other things that bring us far from Him. This is the work of God: that you believe in the One who He has sent, in Him," the Pope said.

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis prayed that Christ may give the faithful the grace to not fall into a spirit of worldliness. It is a spirit, he said, "that behind or under a varnish of Christianity, brings us to become pagans."

-------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: We Are a Church of Martyrs

Remembers Egyptian, Ethiopian Martyrs in Libya During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, April 21, 2015 - "Today, the Church is a Church of Martyrs: they suffer, they give their lives and we receive a blessing from God for their witness."

These were the words of Pope Francis during his morning homily at Casa Santa Marta today. The Pope reflected on today's first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, which recounts the martyrdom of St. Stephen.

"As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,'" the reading states.

The Pope commented on the reaction of those who stoned Stephen, which upon hearing the martyr "confess his vision of Jesus", covered their ears and promptly killed him.

"The Word of God always pains certain hearts. The Word of God bothers, when you have a hard heart, when you have a pagan heart, because the Word of God challenges you to move forward, to look for and nourish you with that bread of which Jesus spoke about. In the Book of Revelations, many martyrs were killed for their faithfulness to the Word of God, to the Truth of God."

The 78 year old Pontiff also took the occasion to remember today's martyrs who are killed today "by those who believe they have the 'truth.'"

"In these days, how many Stephens are there in the world!" he exclaimed.

"Let us think about our brothers who were slaughtered on the shores of Libya; let us think about that young boy burned alive by his companions because he was Christian; let us think about those migrants on the high seas who are thrown into the sea by others, because they are Christians; let us think about […] those Ethiopians, murdered because they were Christians…and so many others," the Pope lamented.

"And many others that we do not know about, who suffer in prisons, because they are Christians. Today, the Church is a Church of Martyrs: they suffer, they give their lives and we receive a blessing from God for their witness."

Concluding his homily, the Pope also prayed for the many "hidden martyrs" who suffer daily for the faith.

"Let us unite ourselves to Jesus in the Eucharist, and unite ourselves to so many brothers and sisters who suffer the martyrdom of persecution, of calumny and of murder for being faithful to the only bread that satisfies, that is, Jesus," he concluded. 

------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: 'Pray for the Grace of Memory'

Reflects on the Life-Changing Aspects of the Encounter with Christ During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, April 24, 2015 - The foundation of our faith rest on that first encounter with Jesus Christ. These were the words of Pope Francis during his homily at Casa Santa Marta.

According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on the impact an encounter with Christ has on one’s life. He drew from today’s first reading, which recounted St. Paul’s conversion from one who persecuted the early Christians to one chosen by God “to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel.”

The Pope noted that this first encounter, like many others in the Bible, is the one that changes one’s life. He called on the faithful to never forget their first encounter with Christ.

“He never forgets, but we forget the encounter with Christ,” he said. “And this would be a good assignment to do at home, to consider: ‘When have I really felt that the Lord was close to me? When have I felt the need to change my life, or to become better, or to forgive someone? When have I felt the Lord asking something of me? When have I encountered the Lord?’”

Our faith, the Holy Father continued, “is an encounter with Jesus.”

“This is the foundation of our faith: I have encountered Jesus, as Saul did.”

‘A Memory of Love’

Continuing his homily, the 78 year old Pontiff invited the faithful to pray daily, in order to remember that first encounter with Christ. He also said that by reading the Gospels daily, one can see the work of God in Jesus’ encounters with others.

So many encounters with Jesus are there. Maybe one of them is similar to mine. Each one of us has his own,” he said.

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis asked the faithful to pray for the “grace of memory...so that we might not hear the complaint the Lord makes in Revelation: ‘I have this against you, that you have forgotten your first love’.”

----------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: The Christian Life Is Not a Museum of Memories

During Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Says Be Open to God's Surprises

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

VATICAN CITY, April 28, 2015 - Thanks to the surprises of the Holy Spirit, the Church moves forward.

During his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning, Pope Francis reminded the faithful that God surprises us and that we must not be afraid of change and leaving old habits behind.

The Holy Spirit, Francis underscored, not only makes us understand, but makes the Church move forward.

"We can study the whole history of salvation and all theology, but without the Spirit we cannot understand," he said.

The Holy Father stressed it is the Spirit that makes us realize the truth or know Jesus' voice: 'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me. '

The Church's going forward, Francis highlighted, is the work of the Holy Spirit.

"And how do I do this - you ask the Pope - make sure that voice I hear is the voice of Jesus, that what I feel I have to do is done by the Holy Spirit?"

Responding, Francis said: "Praying.”

"Without prayer, there is no place for the Spirit.

He invited those gathered to ask God to send them the Holy Spirit so that we may discern at all times what we have to do.

We must discern, the Pope stressed, and to discern, he said we must pray and ask for grace. 

Francis warned against the mentality that if we do things the way we have always done, that we are safer, stressing, "The Christian life is not a museum of memories."

"But to do as you've always done," he warned, "is an 'alternative death.'"

The Holy Father concluded urging the faithful to "risk, with prayer, and then, with the humility, accepting what the Spirit asks us to change.

"This is the way," the Pope said.

----------------------------------------------------------------- 

Pope: Do We Let Others Serve Us Or Do We Serve?  in Morning Mass Homily

VATICAN CITY, May 01, 2015 - Pope Francis reflected on two traits of Christian identity on Thursday, saying that Christianity is marked by its concrete presence in history and its focus on service.

Vatican Radio reported on the Holy Father's homily given at morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta, where he spoke about "history and service" as "two traits of Christian identity.”

Beginning with “history,” Pope Francis said Saint Paul, Saint Peter, and the other disciples “did not proclaim a Jesus without a history: They proclaimed Jesus in the history of the people, a people God led through the centuries in order to arrive… at the fullness of time.” God enters into history and into the journey with His people:

“The Christian is a man or woman of history, because he does not pertain to himself alone – he is inserted into a people, a people that is on a journey. One cannot imagine a Christian selfishness, no, this won’t fly. The Christian is not a spiritual man or woman in a laboratory, [the Christian] is a spiritual man or woman inserted into a people, which has a long history and which continues to journey until the Lord returns.” It is a “history of grace, but also a history of sin”:

“So many sinners, so many crimes! Today, Paul mentions King David, a saint – but before he became a saint, he was a great sinner. A great sinner. Our history must take up both saints and sinners. My own personal history, the history of each one of us, must take up our sin, our own proper sin, and the grace of the Lord that is with us, accompanying us in our sin in order to forgive and accompanying us in grace. There is no Christian identity without history.”

Service

The second trait of Christian identity is service. “Jesus washes the feet of the disciples, inviting them to do as He has done: to serve”: “Christian identity is service, not selfishness. ‘But Father, we are all selfish.’ Ah, really? It is a sin, a habit we have to break away from. Ask for forgiveness, that the Lord will convert us. We are called to service. Being Christian is not about appearance, or even about social conduct, it’s not a little make-up for the soul, because it should be a little more beautiful. To be Christian is to do what Jesus did: serve!”

Pope Francis called us to ask ourselves, “In my heart, what more can I do? Do I have other people serve me, do I use others, the community, the parish, my family, my friends? Or do I serve, am I at the service of others?”

----------------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: To Bear Tribulations With Faith is Not Masochistic

Encourages Faithful to Remain Firm By Trusting God During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

Vatican City State, May 05, 2015

Christians are not masochistic, but rather trust in God when difficulties arise.  These were the words of Pope Francis during his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning.

The Pope reflected on today's first reading in which St. Paul encourages Christians to remain firm in the faith.

"It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God," St. Paul states in the reading.

The Holy Father said that in order to enter the Kingdom of God, is it necessary to go through "dark times." However, in bearing tribulations, he noted that it "is not a sadomasochistic attitude" but a struggle against evil.

"'To bear': is more than being patient; it means to carry on one’s shoulders, to carry the weight of tribulation," he said.

"And Christian life also has moments like that. But Jesus tells us: 'Have courage in that moment. I have overcome; you too will be victorious'. This first word enlightens us to go forward in the most difficult moments of life, those moments that make us suffer."

Trust in the Lord

Continuing his homily, the Pope said that Christians can face tribulations and persecutions by entrusting themselves to the Lord. It is only through Him that one receives the strength to persevere in the faith.

"To entrust something to the Lord, to entrust this difficult moment to the Lord, to entrust myself to the Lord, to entrust to the Lord our faithful, we priests, bishops, entrust to the Lord our families, our friends and say to the Lord," he said.

"'Take care of them; they are yours.' This is a prayer that we do not always say: the prayer of entrustment: 'Lord I entrust this to you; You help take care of it.’ It is a beautiful Christian prayer. It is 'the attitude of trust in the power of the Lord, and in the tenderness of God who is Father. "

Finally, the 78 year old Pontiff said that Christ gives peace in order to strengthen one in the faith. However it is not simply peace of mind, but one that "goes within and gives strength."

"Three words: tribulations, trust and peace. In life we ​​have to go down streets of tribulation but this is the law of life. But in those moments, [we must] rely on the Lord and He answers us with peace," he said.

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to pray that Christ may strengthen their faith and "to give us the confidence to overcome our trials because He has overcome the world, and gives us all his peace."

---------------------------------------- 

Pope’s Morning Homily: Gives 2 Criteria How to Distinguish True Love, From Not True Love

During Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Francis Stresses Love Requires Deeds, Communication

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Vatican City State, May 07, 2015

How can you tell it is true love? Pope Francis explored this topic during his daily Mass at Casa Santa Marta this morning.

Reflecting on today’s Gospel when Jesus 'asks us to remain in his love,' the Argentine Pontiff said, "There are two criteria that will help us to distinguish the true from the not-true love."

The first criterion is that love is "more in deeds than in words," he said, noting it is not "a saga of love", "a fantasy," or that which "make our hearts beat a little, but nothing more."

"In other words, true love is real," Francis said. "It is in the works, and is a constant love. It is not a simple enthusiasm. Also, many times it is a painful love: the love we think of in Jesus carrying the cross."

Works of love, the Jesuit Pope went on to stress, must be concrete, as Jesus taught us in the Chapter 25 of St. Matthew. "I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and so on. Concreteness.”

The second criterion of love, the Pope said, is that it "communicates" and "does not remain isolated." He pointed out the love and selfless giving and receiving between God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

"There is no love without communicating," he said, "There is no isolated love."

"For those who may wonder, 'But Father, monks and nuns are isolated,'" he said, it is different because they do communicate, especially with the Lord, and they are not selfish, closed in on themselves, seeking their own profit.

To remain in the love of Jesus, the Pope said, requires deeds and communication. Though it is simple, he said, it is not easy because "selfishness, self-interest attracts us.”

---------------------------------------------

Pope’s Morning Homily: A Church With Clashing Is One Without Holy Spirit

During Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Francis Says the Church Is About Unity, Not Forming Lobbies to Win

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Vatican City State, May 08, 2015

"A Church where its people are always arguing and there are lobbies and people are betraying their brothers and sisters, is a Church where there is no Holy Spirit!" 

Pope Francis made this strong statement today during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio.

In his homily, the Pope reflected on today's reading from the Acts of the Apostles, particularly how the Christian community clashed between those who called themselves Christians but remained attached to Jewish laws, wanting to impose them onto the early Christians, and Paul of Tarsus who opposed this.

Specifically, the Pope spoke about the First Council of Jerusalem's outcome in which the early Christian community succeeded, through the Holy Spirit, to dialogue, resolve differences of opinion and reach an agreement.

"They discuss this issue but like brothers and sisters and not like enemies. They don’t form external lobbies in order to win, they don’t go to the civil authorities in order to win and they don’t kill in order to triumph. They seek the path of prayer and dialogue."

Discussions within the Church are to seek unity, the Pope said, noting they should not be places where people are always clashing, betraying each other and forming lobbies to win their argument.

The Holy Spirit, he said, has the power to create unity among all the members of the Church, for the Spirit brings change and moves things forward in the Church.

While acknowledging that sometimes this movement may at first appear to be confusion, Francis said that if the change or movement is welcomed with prayer and a spirit of dialogue, it always generates unity between Christians. 

“A Church where there are never problems of this type makes me think that the Holy Spirit is not very present within it."

"It’s the Spirit which creates change, which creates the momentum for going ahead, that creates new spaces, that creates that wisdom which Jesus promised: ‘It will teach you!’" 

At the end, Francis said, the Holy Spirit "creates the harmonious unity between everyone.”

The Holy Father went on to invite those gathered to ask Jesus, "who will be present among us, to always send the Holy Spirit to us, to each one of us."

"May He send it to the Church and may the Church always know how to be faithful to the movement that the Holy Spirit creates,” Pope Francis prayed.

-------------------------------------------------- 

Pope’s Morning Homily: Jesus Gave Us Holy Spirit So We Can Face, Handle All

During Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Recalls How Today Many Witness Faith With Their Lives

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Vatican City State, May 11, 2015

Even today, they kill Christians in the name of God, but the Holy Spirit gives the strength to bear witness until martyrdom. Pope Francis made this reflection this morning during his daily Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father spoke on those who kill Christians for believing in and worshipping God, and how not only martyrs can bear witness with their lives, but all Christians can.

Reflecting on today’s Gospel in which Jesus announces the Holy Spirit to his disciples and how the Spirit will lead them to all truth, the Pontiff reflected how the Spirit also prepares faithful on how to properly give this witness.

Francis recalled Jesus saying,'I have many things to tell you, but right now you are not able to bear them.' Yet, the Pontiff pointed out how the Lord said there would be the right time: 'But when the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you into all truth.' 

The Lord "speaks of the future, of the Cross that awaits us and speaks to us of the Spirit, which prepares us to give Christian witness," Francis said.

Speaking of the recent and ongoing religious persecutions, the Pope said, "This is the Cross of Christ."

Turing to the faithful Copts slaughtered on the shores of Libya, the Pope recalled his telephone conversation yesterday with the Coptic Patriarch Tawadros. "I remembered his faithful, who have been slaughtered on the beach because they are Christians," the Pontiff said.

With the strength that the Holy Spirit had given him, Francis said, they were not offended. "They died with the name of Jesus on their lips."

"This is martyrdom, the supreme witness," Francis said.

There is also the testimony of every day, the Jesuit continued, for us to live out the fruitfulness of Easter.

For this reason, Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit, he said, "who guides us to the full truth, the whole truth, and makes us remember what Jesus tells us."

"A Christian who does not take seriously this dimension 'martyrdom' of life has not yet understood the way that Jesus taught us: the path of 'martyrdom' of each day.

He noted there are the martyrs who give witness, defending others' rights, children, and family.

Pope Francis concluded, praying, "We ask the Lord for the grace to receive the Holy Spirit that will make us remember the things of Jesus, who will guide us into all truth and prepare us every day to make this witness, to give this little martyrdom every day or a great martyrdom, according to the will of the Lord.”

------------------------------------------------ 

Pope's Morning Homily: Fear Is Not a Christian Attitude

Says that Christian Communities Who Are Fearful and Lack Joy Are 'Sick'

By Junno Arocho Esteves

Vatican City State, May 15, 2015

"Fear is not a Christian attitude," but rather an attitude "of a caged animal without freedom."

These were the words of Pope Francis today during his morning homily at Casa Santa Marta.

According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, in which Christ calls on St. Paul to preach in Corinth without fear.

“Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you. No one will attack and harm you, for I have many people in this city," Jesus says to Paul in a vision.

The Pope said that Christ invites Paul to not be afraid because fear is an attitude that can harm, weaken, and diminish. “A fearful Christian is a person who has not understood the message of Jesus," he said.

“This is why Jesus says to Paul: ‘Do not be afraid. Continue to speak.’ Fear is not a Christian attitude. It is an attitude, we could say, of a caged animal, without freedom, who does not have the freedom to look ahead, to create something, to do good… no, always: ‘No, but this is dangerous, there is something else, something else…’ And this is a vice. It is the fear of doing evil.”

The 78 year old Pontiff called on the faithful to ask for the grace of courage, so as not to become fearful.

“There are fearful communities that always go on the safe side: ‘No, no, we aren’t doing this… No, no, this can’t be done, this can’t be done.’ It seems they have written on the gateway: ‘Forbidden.’ Everything is forbidden because of fear. And you enter into this community and the air is stale, because it is a sick community. Fear makes a community sick. The lack of courage makes a community sick.”

The Pope went onto say that fear must not be confused with fear of the Lord, a grace that allows the faithful to "awe in adoration."

Turning to today's Gospel, Pope Francis said that the second word of the liturgy counter's fear: joy.

“Christian joy is not simply enjoyment, is not a fleeting cheerfulness," he explained.  "Christian joy is a gift, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. And having a heart that is always joyful because the Lord has triumphed, the Lord reigns, the Lord is at the right hand of the Father, the Lord has looked upon me and called me and has given me His grace, and has made me a Son of the Father… That is Christian joy. A Christian lives in joy.”

The Jesuit Pope said that a lack of joy in Christian communities also cause it to become sick. Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to pray to the Lord to "raise our spirit" and to "take away our every fear."

-------------------------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: Reflect on Your Last Goodbye

Remembers Flight of Persecuted Christians and Religious Minorities During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

Vatican City State, May 19, 2015

In his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning, Pope Francis remembered those forced to say 'goodbye' to their lives and homes, particularly Christians and religious minorities persecuted for the faith.

The Holy Father reflected on today's readings, which recall the final goodbyes made by both Paul and Jesus.

"Jesus takes his leave, Paul takes his leave and this helps us to reflect on when we take our leave," he said.  

"In our life there are many goodbyes, great and small and there is also much suffering, so many tears in some them."

The Pope remembered the Christian and Muslim minorities in Rohingya, Myanmar. Many have been forced to flee in the Buddhist majority country due to persecution by the government.

"In the moment that they left their land to flee persecution they did not know what would happen to them," he said. "For months, they were in a boat, there…They arrived in a city, where they were given water, food, and then told: 'Get out of here.' It is a goodbye."

The 78 year old Pontiff also recalled the persecution of Christians and Yazidis in the Middle East who have been forced to flee following attacks by the so-called 'Islamic State'.  

The Last Goodbye

Continuing his homily, Pope Francis told those present that in life there are both small and great goodbyes. One example, is "of a mother who says goodbye, gives her final hug to her son who is going to war; and wakes up every morning with feat that someone will come and say: 'Thank you for the generosity of your son who gave his life for his homeland.'"

Today's readings – he noted – are two goodbyes in which Paul entrusts to God his followers and Jesus entrusts to God his disciples who remain in the world.

"Entrust to the Father, to entrust to God: this is the origin of the word 'goodbye'. We say 'goodbye' only in those great departures, be it those in life, or the last one," he said.

The Jesuit Pope went onto say that both readings call us to think of our departure from this world.

"When will it be, we don't know, but the time will come for us in which 'see you later', 'see you soon', 'until tomorrow', 'see you again' becomes 'goodbye,'" he said. "Am I prepared to entrust myself to God?  To say that word that is the word of entrusting from the son to the Father."

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to contemplate on their final goodbye from this earth."

"May Jesus, dead and risen – send us the Holy Spirit so that we may learn that word, that we may learn to say it, but existentially, with all our strength: the last word: 'goodbye.'"

-------------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: Church Has Need for Unity

Reflects on Jesus' Prayer to Be 'One' During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

Vatican City State, May 21, 2015

"Jesus prays so that we may be one. And the Church has so much need of this prayer of unity."

These were the words said by Pope Francis during his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning.

The Holy Father reflected on Jesus' prayer for unity among his followers in St. John's Gospel.

“I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me," Jesus says.

The Pope noted that in his prayer, Christ not only prays for his disciples, but those who will follow after 'through their word'.

"Maybe we are not that attentive to these words: Jesus has prayed for me!" he said. "This is precisely a source of trust: He prays for me, He prayed for me…I imagine – but it is an image – how Jesus is in front of the Father in Heaven. Like this: He prays for us, He prays for me. And what does the Father see? The wounds, the price. The price He paid for us. Jesus prays for me with his wounds; with his wounded heart He continues to do so."

The Spirit of Division

However, Pope Francis lamented that the greatest challenge for Christians today is to not give way "to divisions among us." This spirit of division, he said, allows "the father of lies to enter into us."

"Always look for unity," he stressed. "Each one is like they are, but always look to live in unity. Has Jesus forgiven you? He forgives everyone. Jesus prays so that we may be one […]. And the Church has so much need of this prayer of unity."

This unity that Jesus prays for, the Jesuit Pope went on to say, is not some mere 'glue' that bonds people but "a grace of God".  

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis reminded the faithful of another piece of advice given by Christ: to remain in Him.

"He asks for this grace, that we all remain in Him. And here He tells us why, He says it clearly: 'Father […] I wish that where I am they also may be with me.' That is, that these remain there, with me. To remain in Jesus, in this world, ends in remaining with Him, so 'that they may see my glory.'"

----------------------------------------------------

Pope’s Morning Homily: Look to Jesus to Change Your Heart

During Mass at Santa Marta, Says Jesus' Gaze Enables Us to Know What to Do, Repent for Sin

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Vatican City State, May 22, 2015

To know what we must do to change our hearts, let Jesus gaze upon you. During Pope Francis' daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, he made this suggestion.

The Pontiff reflected on today's reading from the Gospel of John, and discussed the three different types of looks which Jesus gave to the Apostle Peter: those of choosing, forgiveness and mission.

Like the Apostles, each one of us, the Holy Father stressed, should consider whether Jesus looks at us with a call, with a pardon or with a mission.

Turning to the first look, the Pope recalled when the Apostle Andrew told his brother Peter that they had found the Messiah and took him to see Jesus. Christ looked at him and said, “You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Peter which means rock.” The Argentine Pontiff noted how enthusiastic Peter was after that first look and how he felt compelled to follow Jesus.

From this, the 78-year-old Pontiff, also noted how--the night before Jesus was crucified--the look by Jesus after Peter denied Him three times, "changed Peter's heart, more than before."

After that third denial, Jesus turned and looked directly at him and Peter wept. “The Gospel of Luke says: ‘He wept bitterly,'" Francis highlighted. "That earlier enthusiasm about following Jesus had turned to grief, because he had sinned: He denied that he knew Jesus."

That look by Jesus, the Successor of Peter said, “changed Peter’s heart, more than before.”

Jesus’ third look toward Peter was that of mission, evidenced when he asked Peter three times if he loved him and urged him to feed his sheep. Peter was hurt and saddened that the Lord would ask him a third time if he loved Him. To this Peter responded, "'Lord, You know everything: You know I love you.' Jesus replied: ‘Feed my sheep.’ This was the third look, a look of mission." 

This look comes with the Lord's exhortation to ‘Feed my lambs,’ ‘Look after my sheep,’ ‘Feed my sheep.’”

“We too can reflect: what look is Jesus giving me today?  How is Jesus looking at me?  With a call? With a pardon? With a mission?” 

Reminding those gathered how Jesus is now coming on the altar, he invited them to feel the Lord's presence and to ask Him to "Fix your gaze on me and tell me what I must do: how I must repent for my mistakes, my sins; what courage do I need to go forward on the path that You first created.”

As we live our lives, the Pontiff stressed, we are to realize we are always under Jesus' gaze. "He always looks at us with love. He asks us something, forgives us something and it gives us a mission."

-------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: Attachment to Wealth Leads to Corruption

Reflects on Christ's Call to Use Wealth for the Common Good During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Vatican City State, May 25, 2015

Not sharing wealth generates corruption and leads to an unfulfilled life. Pope Francis explored this theme during his daily Mass at Casa Santa Marta, reminding the faithful that detaching one's self from possessions is required in order to not put your final destination in jeopardy.

In his homily, the Pontiff underscored that only one who is generous with his wealth will achieve true and permanent satisfaction. The Holy Father began by recalling today's reading from the Gospel of Mark, which tells of a young man approaching Jesus, asking how he can inherit eternal life. "Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor," Jesus tells him. "At that statement, his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions," the Gospel states. 

"The attachment to riches," the Argentine Pontiff said, "is the beginning of all kinds of corruption, everywhere," including those in one's personal life, politics, business, and even education.

Francis went on to question why people are so attached to what they have. If they are are closed to giving, he warned, they have no hope and horizon. Living without a horizon and without hope is a sterile and sad life, the Pontiff said.

If they believe in Heaven, he also highlighted, they eventually have to leave everything.

"There is a mystery in the possession of wealth," said Francis. "Riches have the ability to seduce and make us believe that we are in a paradise on Earth." Instead, the Pope said, "That paradise is a place without horizon."

Wealth without generosity, insisted Pope Francis, "makes us believe That we are powerful as God." Rather than providing satisfaction, it leads to corruption and sadness, he said.

Jesus, in the Gospel, shows those with an abundance of goods how to live properly: detach yourself from the goods, use them for the common good.

"Open hands, open your heart, open the horizon," Pope Francis said. "But if you have a closed hand, you have a closed heart," and you will not find your way to God, he added.

------------------------------------------- 

Pope’s Morning Homily: Warns Against Worldly, Indifferent Christians

During Mass at Santa Marta, Speaks About 3 Types of Christians

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Vatican City State, May 28, 2015

Pope Francis is calling on the faithful to examine what type of Christians they are. During his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, the Holy Father stressed that there are three key groups of Christians and underscored that Christ's followers are to always bring others closer to him, never create distance.

The Pontiff reflected on today’s Gospel from Mark in which Jesus heals the blind man, who others tried to silence. Bartimaeus, approaches Jesus, who asks what can He do for him. After Bartimaeus told Jesus that he wished to see, the Lord said, ‘Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately, the blind man received his sight and followed Jesus.

The Pontiff suggested that from this reading, we can learn about three types of Christians.

The first group, Francis pointed out, is concerned with their own relationship with Jesus, but is indifferent to others around them.

“This group of people, even today, do not hear the cry of so many people who need Jesus. A group of people who are indifferent: they do not hear, they think that life is their own little group; they are content; they are deaf to the clamour of so many people who need salvation, who need the help of Jesus, who need the Church. These people are selfish, they live for themselves alone. They are unable to hear the voice of Jesus.”

The second group the Holy Father also criticized, saying they do "not want to hear the cry for help, but prefer to take care of their business, and use the people of God, use the Church for their own affairs.” Francis said they "do not bear witness.”

“They are Christians in name, parlour room Christians, Christians at receptions, but their interior life is not Christian, it is worldly. Someone who calls himself Christian and lives like a worldling drives away those who cry out for help from Jesus."

"And then there are the rigorists," he continued, "those whom Jesus rebukes, those who place such heavy weights on the backs of the people. Jesus devotes the whole of the 23rd chapter of St. Matthew to them: ‘Hypocrites,’ he says to them, ‘you exploit the people!’ And instead of responding to the cries of the people who cry out for salvation, they send them away.”

The group we ought to imitate is the third group of Christians, the Pope noted, namely that group which helps others approach the Lord, and draws people closer to Him.

"There is the group that has coherence among that which they believe and how they live, and help [people] approach Jesus, the people that shout, asking salvation, asking for grace, asking for spiritual health for their soul,” the Pope said.

The Holy Father concluded, calling on the faithful to make an examination of conscience and to see whether they draw people closer to Jesus or not.

--------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: 'Faith Creates Miracles'

Says Spiritual Sterility and Profiteering Lead to Selfish Lifestyle

By Junno Arocho Esteves

Vatican City State, May 29, 2015

There are three ways of living that Christ reveals in today's Gospel: spiritual sterility, profiteering and a life of faith. This was the central theme of Pope Francis' homily today at Casa Santa Marta.

The Holy Father reflected on St. Mark's Gospel, which recalled Jesus cursing the fig tree for not giving fruit. The Pope said that the tree represented the first lifestyle: a spiritual sterility that "does not bear fruit and is incapable of doing good."

"To live for one's self; easy, selfish, that does not want problems," he explained. "And Jesus curses the fig tree because it is sterile, because it did not do its part to give fruit. It represents the person who does nothing to help, who lives for himself, so that they lack nothing. Eventually, they become neurotic, all of them! Jesus condemns spiritual sterility, spiritual selfishness."

The second lifestyle, the Pope continued , is that of exploiting others. In the Gospel, Jesus throws out the money changers for turning the house of God "into a den of thieves".

The Jesuit Pope went on to explain that the people who would go on pilgrimage to offer sacrifices at the temple were exploited by the priests instead of being taught to pray or given catechesis.

“It was a den of thieves," he said. "Pay and come in … they were performing the rites in an empty way without piety. I don’t know… maybe we’d do well to reflect on whether we encounter similar things going on in some places.  It’s using God’s things for our own profit.” 

However, the third lifestyle Pope Francis noted in the Gospel is the life of faith. After Peter sees that the cursed fig tree has withered, Jesus encourages them to have faith.

"Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him," Christ says.

The 78-year-old Pontiff said that this is the lifestyle of a person who has faith.

"Ask the Lord who will help you to do good things and with faith," he said. "But there’s one condition: when you begin praying to ask for this thing, if you bear a grudge towards somebody, pardon that person. This is the sole condition because your Father who is in heaven also pardons us for our sins. This is the third way of living. It’s faith, a faith to help others to draw closer to God. This faith creates miracles."

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to pray in order to have this lifestyle of faith. He also urged them to pray that God "helps us to not fall again, us, each one of us, the Church…in sterility and profiteering."

--------------------------------------------------

Pope’s Morning Homily: In Failure, God’s Love Triumphs

Reflects on the Path of Redemption During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

Vatican City State, June 01, 2015

“The path of our redemption is a path of many failures. Even that last one, that of the cross, is one of scandal. But it is precisely there where love conquers.”

This was the reflection given by Pope Francis during his morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta today.

The Holy Father reflected on today’s Gospel from St. Mark, in which Jesus tells the parable of the vineyard owner’s son who was killed by the tenants when trying to obtain the fruits of the vineyard.

“Have you not read this Scripture passage: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes?’” Jesus says.

The Pope said that while the story seems to be a failure, it is in fact of history of love between God and his people. Recalling Jesus’ parable, the Holy Father said that it is precisely in that death where everyone finds life.

“The prophets, the men of God who spoke to the people, who have not been heard, who have been discarded, will be his glory,” he said. “The Son, the last one sent, who Himself has been discarded, judged, unheard and killed, has become the cornerstone. This history, that begins with a dream of love, and that seems to be a story of love, but then seems to end in a story of failure, ends with the great love of God who brings forth salvation from what is discarded; from His discarded Son, He saves us all.”

The 78 year old Pontiff said that the Bible contains countless events in history that show God’s love, despite the disobedience and rebelliousness of his people.

“The path of our redemption is a path of many failures. Even that last one, that of the cross, is one of scandal. But it is precisely there where love conquers. And that story that begins with a dream of love and continues with a history of failure, ends with the victory of love: the cross of Jesus.”

The Pope called on the faithful to not forget this difficult path by examining one’s conscience.

“If each one of us does an examination of conscience, we will see how many times, how many times the prophets have been cast aside. How many times we have said to Jesus: ‘Go away’, how many times we wanted to save ourselves, how many times we thought we were the just ones.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis encouraged those present to remember this history of love. This memory, he said, is “of that seed of the love that God has planted in us and how it has gone, and to do the same that Jesus did in our name: He humbled Himself.”

-------------------------------------------------

 

Pope's Morning Homily: Gives 3 Characteristics of True Christian Witness

Says If You Are Not Journeying to Serve, You Are Not Christian

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Vatican City State, June 11, 2015 Pope Francis has said true Christian witness requires three characteristics. 

During the Holy Father's daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Francis said the faithful must give witness in three ways:  “Journey, as a sending off  to announce [the Gospel]; Service: the life of a Christian is not for himself, but for others, as was the life of Jesus;" and “Freely.”

Journey

The Holy Father recalled today's Gospel reading in which Jesus sends out His disciples to proclaim the Good News. Being a disciple of the Lord, Francis said, requires setting forth not on 'a stroll,' but on a mission to proclaim the Gospel.

"If a disciple stays still and doesn’t go out and does not give back to others what he has received in Baptism," Francis said, "he is not a true disciple of Jesus. He lacks the missionary [spirit]; he can’t get out of himself [to be able] to bring something good to others."

Disciples of Christ are to go beyond limits to bring this Good News, the Jesuit Pope said, noting this entails an inner journey of constantly seeking the Lord, through prayer and mediation. If God is not sought in this way, the Gospel the disciple takes to others will be weak and watered down, Francis warned.

Service

The Pope then turned to the second element, saying one who doesn't serve is not Christian. “A disciple who does not serve others is not Christian. The disciple has to do what Jesus preached in those two pillars of Christianity: the Beatitudes and the 'protocol' on which we shall be judged, Matthew (chapter) 25." 

“If his life is not for service, there is no point in living the Christian life [it: non serve, per vivere, come Cristiano],” the Pope said, stressing true disciples serve others, especially the marginalized.

Freely

Pope Francis then spoke on the third characteristic of giving 'freely.' He recalled Jesus’ words to His disciples, 'Freely you have received, freely [you must] give.' 

"It 's sad when you find Christians who forget this Word of Jesus:' Freely you have received, freely give',” the Pope said.  “It's sad when you find Christian communities - whether it be parishes, religious congregations, dioceses – which forget this ‘gratuity’ because behind this…there is the deception [to assume] that salvation comes from riches, from human power."

“Our hope is in Jesus Christ [so that He] gives us such hope as [that which] never disappoints. " However, Francis warned, "when hope is in how comfortable the journey is.. in a selfish desire to get things for oneself and not to serve others or.... in riches or the small securities of this world, all this collapses."

"The Lord himself makes it collapse," Pope Francis said.

-------------------------------------- 

Pope Francis to World Seminar of Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains and Chaplaincy Members

“The airport chaplaincy is called to be a place of unity in diversity for all categories of people.”

By Staff Reporter

Vatican City State, June 12, 2015

Pope Francis received in audience the participants at the World Seminar of Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains and Chaplaincy Members, promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People on the theme: “Evangelii gaudium: What Support for the Pastoral Ministry of Civil Aviation?”

Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to those present at the meeting.

* * *

Lord Cardinal,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I receive you at the conclusion of the International Seminar of Catholic Chaplains of Civil Aviation and members of the Airport Chaplaincies, promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, on the subject: “Evangelii gaudium: What Help for the Pastoral Ministry of the Airport Chaplaincy?” I greet the President cordially and thank him for his courteous words. I greet all of you, who have taken part in these days of study to exchange ideas and pastoral experiences.

In particular, you reflected on how to receive the indications of the Apostolic Exhortation in the apostolate of airports, always beginning from witness, to help people to open their heart and life to Christ. Pastoral solicitude in the ambit of civil aviation is addressed to all those that, in different capacities, belong to the civil community, regardless of their nationality, religious creed or culture, with particular attention to those among them that are poorest, suffering or marginalized.

The airport is a place of meeting of so many people that travel, for work, for tourism, for other necessities; passing through them are migrants and refugees, children and elderly people, persons who are in need of care and special attention. And then there are persons who work there, every day, with their personal and professional situations. There is also the worrying number of passengers without documents -- often refugees requiring asylum --, who are detained in airport buildings for brief or long periods, sometimes without adequate human and spiritual assistance.

Sometimes tragic situations can be verified, as a result, for instance, of incidents or hijackings, with serious consequences for the safety or psychological state of people. In these circumstances the chaplain is also called and sought by those in need of comfort and encouragement.

In airports also Christ the Good Shepherd wants to take care of his sheep through the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, where the encounter with the infinite mercy of God opens unthought of ways of evangelization. In fact, to proclaim the Gospel in our days  implies relieving people of the burdens that weigh on their heart and life; it means proposing Jesus’ words as alternative to the promises of the world that do not give true happiness. Today it has become more urgent to rediscover the compassionate face of God, and, precious for this, will be the time of grace that the Holy Year of Mercy will offer us.

The airport chaplaincy is called to be a place of unity in diversity for all categories of people. Airports seem to be cities within cities, where multiple realities are intertwined and superimposed. As a great city, the airport is a cosmopolitan environment, multi-ethnic and multi-religious, and you, chaplains and members of the chaplaincies, are immersed in the life of this singular community. Therefore, it is important to collaborate docilely and to always be listening to the Holy Spirit, who creates unity in diversity (cf. Acts 2:1-13).

The mission in the airport also requires work so that people have the desire to listen to the Word of God. One who listens and takes to heart God’s voice becomes in turn capable of offering words of consolation and of helping others to trust in divine mercy, which is a sure shelter for one who is weak and does not have the presumption of saving himself on his own. Divine mercy opens to all and shows God’s will who wants to save all.

Dear brothers and sisters, I encourage you to work so that in these particular “frontier” places, which airports are, there is space to find and practice love and dialogue, which nourish fraternity among people and preserve a peaceful social climate. And, together with you,  I pray to the Lord that your apostolate, which participates in the universal mission of the Church, is an effective proclamation of the Good News.

I bless you all and your communities. May Our Lady protect you. And, please, do not forget to pray for me.

----------------------------------------------- 

Pope’s Morning Homily: Christians Who Live Like Pagans Cause Scandal

Calls on Faithful to “Guard Their Hearts” From Passions During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

Vatican City State, June 15, 2015

As Christians, we are called to be free from passions and to not be a cause of scandal for others.

These were the sentiments expressed by Pope Francis during his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning.

The Holy Father reflected on St. Paul’s Second letter to the Corinthians in which he exhorts Christians to not  “receive the grace of God in vain” and not be a cause of scandal for others.

“We cause no one to stumble in anything, in order that no fault may be found with our ministry,” St. Paul writes.

The Pope exhorted the faithful presence to not give a reason for scandal to no one.”

“It is the scandal of the Christian who says they are Christian, he even goes to Church, he goes on Sundays to Mass but doesn’t live like a Christian, he lives like a worldly person or like a pagan,” he said.  

“And when a person is like that, they scandalize. How many times we have heard in our neighbourhoods, in businesses: ‘Look at this one or that one, every Sunday at Mass and then does this, this, this, and this...;’ And the people are scandalized. This is what Paul says: ‘To no receive in vain. And how should we receive it? First of all, he says it is the ‘favorable moment. We should be attentive to understand the time of God, when God passes through our heart.”

Free from Passions

Continuing his homily, the 78 year old Pontiff exhorted the faithful to guard their hearts from “every noise that doesn’t come from the Lord.”

In today’s Gospel, he continued, Jesus explains the actions of one whose heart is free from passions.

“But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well,” Jesus says.

“The heart is guarded by humility, by meekness, never from fighting, from wars. No!” the Pope exclaimed.  

“This is noise: worldly noise, pagan noise or noise from the devil. The heart in peace; ‘We give no reason of scandal to no one, in order that no fault may be found with our ministry’, Paul says but he speaks of the ministry and also the Christian witness, so that it may not be criticized.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to guard their hearts in order to receive the gift of a heart free from passions.

“And how do I do it?” he asked.

“Paul continues: by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, with the spirit of holiness.’ Humility, kindness, patience, that God only looks upon, and the open heart to the Lord who passes by.”

-------------------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: Christian Poverty Is Not an Ideology, But at Heart of Gospel

Francis Says Speaking of Poverty Doesn't Mean Someone Is a Communist

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Vatican City State, June 16, 2015

Pope Francis says that if you remove poverty from the Gospel, you cannot understand the message of Jesus. According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father spoke of this theme during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta today.

In his homily, Francis reflected on the contrast between wealth and poverty, and reaffirmed how it is unfair to call priests or bishops who speak of the poor, "communists."

The Holy Father recalled how St. Paul organized a collection in the Church of Corinth for the Church of Jerusalem whose people were living in difficult times of poverty.

"Today, as then," Francis observed, poverty is "a word that always embarrasses."

"Many times," he said, "we hear: 'But this priest talks too much of poverty, this bishop speaks of poverty, this Christian, this nun talks about poverty ... But they're a bit 'communist,' right?" To this, Francis responded, "Poverty is at the very center of the Gospel. If we we remove poverty from the Gospel, you would not understand anything about the message of Jesus."

When St. Paul spoke to the Church of Corinth, the 78-year-old Pontiff said, the Apostle highlighted what was their real wealth.

Paul told them, "You are rich in everything, in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and love that we have taught you ... As you are rich, you are also great for this generous work" in "this collection."

"If you have much wealth in the heart, zeal, charity, the Word of God, the knowledge of God," the Pope noted, you need to give to the poor. "When faith does not come with pockets, [it is] not a genuine faith."

"There is this contrast between wealth and poverty," Francis said. "The Church of Jerusalem is poor, is in economic difficulty, but it is rich, because it has the treasure of the Gospel message. And this Church of Jerusalem, poor, has enriched the Church of Corinth with the Gospel message."

"From poverty comes wealth ," Francis added, saying, "It is a mutual exchange."

The foundation of the "theology of poverty," Francis stressed is this: "Jesus Christ was rich - from the wealth of God - and was made poor. He lessened himself for us." 

The Argentine Pontiff also pointed out that from here, we have the meaning of the first Beatitude, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." That is, "being poor is letting oneself be enriched by the poverty of Christ and not wanting to be rich with other riches that are not those of Christ."

The Pope stressed that simply helping the poor with the excess that one has is not what St. Paul had in mind. Instead, the Pontiff stressed, Paul is wishing that people truly give of themselves.

When one gives up something, he noted, "but which is not only from abundance," to give to the poor, the Pope said,  this "enriches me."

"Jesus is acting in me when I do this," Pope Francis said.

----------------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: We Are Weak, But Have Strength to Forgive

Francis Speaks on Weakness, Prayer, Forgiveness During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Vatican City State, June 18, 2015

The Christian is aware that, without the help of the Lord, he cannot walk through life. Pope Francis conveyed this during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta today.

In his homily, Francis developed three points, speaking on weakness, prayer, and forgiveness, and reiterated how we all carry weakness with us, ever since "the wound of Original Sin."

We are weak, the Argentine Pope stressed, "we slip into sins, we cannot move forward without the help of the Lord."

Not only are we weak because we are vulnerable to sin, but also because our faith often is weak.

"We all have faith, we all want to go forward in the Christian life, " the Pope said,  "but if we are not conscious of our weaknesses, we all will end up losers."

Given this, the Pope encouraged those gathered to remember a prayer which says: "Lord, I know that in my weakness, I cannot do anything without your help."

Turning to prayer, the Pope stressed that effective prayer can be simple. "Because we know that He is good and He knows everything about us and knows the things that we need, we begin to say that word: 'Father,' which is a human word, certainly, but that gives us life," Francis said.

The Holy Spirit, the Pope stressed, gives us the power to start our prayer, for the Spirit "prays in us, to pray simply."

With an open heart, we are to tell God what we need, Francis said, reminding those gathered that we are in His presence and that He is" Father" and "knows."

On the third point of forgiveness, the Pope recalled how Jesus taught His disciples to pray for forgiveness as we forgive. "We can only pray well and say 'Father' to God if our heart is at peace with others, with our brothers," the Pope stressed.

"But, Father, he did this to me, and he did this to me, and did that to me..."  Pope Francis said, reflecting on how we might try to defend our hesitation to forgive.

To this, Pope Francis responded simply: "Forgive. Forgive, as He will forgive you."

Once we do so, he explained, "the weakness that we have, with God's help in prayer, becomes a fortress because forgiveness is a great fortress." 

One must be strong to forgive, the Holy Father underscored, "but this strength is a grace which we must receive from the Lord because we are weak."

------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: Only Store Treasures That Count in 'Handbag of Heaven'

During Mass at Santa Marta, Warns Against Greed Which Corrupts, Destroys

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Vatican City State, June 19, 2015

Worldly attachment to wealth will not be carried with us to heaven and potentially could damage our lives on earth. During his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis warned against the corrupting effects of greed and accumulating wealth for ourselves, observing this is at the root of wars and family divisions, reported Vatican Radio. 

Recalling today’s Gospel reading where Jesus warned his disciples not to accumulate treasures on the earth but instead in heaven, Francis explored how greed and ambition pose many dangers.

They often corrupt and enslave our hearts, he said, when instead our hearts should be going toward the "common good."

“In the end, this wealth doesn't give us lasting security. Instead, it tends to reduce your dignity," the Pope underscored, lamenting this happens in families. 

This human ambition which destroys and corrupts, the Pontiff added, is also at the root of wars. "There are so many wars in our world nowadays because of greed for power and wealth. We can think of the war in our own hearts. As the Lord said, ‘Be on your guard against avarice of any kind.’ Because greed moves forward, moves forward, moves forward…   it’s like a flight of steps, the door opens and then vanity comes in --- believing ourselves to be important, believing ourselves to be powerful… and then in the end pride (comes). And all the vices come from that, all of them. They are steps but the first step is avarice, that desire to accumulate wealth.”

Pope Francis admitted that it’s not easy for a politician or administrator to use resources for the common good. An honest one, he suggested, can be considered a saint.   

“There’s one thing that is true, when the Lord blesses a person who has wealth, he makes him an administrator of those riches for the common good and for the benefit of everybody, not just for that person. And it’s not easy to become an honest administrator because there’s always that temptation of greed, of becoming important. Our world teaches you this and it takes us along that road. We must think about others and realize that what I own is for the benefit of others and nothing that I have now can be taken with me. But if I, as an administrator, use what the Lord gives me for the common good, this sanctifies me, it will make me a saint."

Francis stressed the only treasures we should be storing up are the ones that have value in "the handbag of Heaven."

“It’s difficult, it’s like playing with fire! So many people calm their consciences by giving alms and they give what they have left over. This is not an administrator," the Holy Father said, noting, "The administrator's job is to take (what is needed) for himself or herself and whatever is left over is given to others, all of it." 

Administering wealth, the Pope explained, requires a continual stripping away of our own interests and not believing that these riches will save us.

"It’s fine to accumulate riches, it’s fine to accumulate treasures," Pope Francis said, "but only those who have a value, let’s say, in ‘the handbag of Heaven.’ That’s where we should be storing them up!" 

----------------------------------------------------

Pope’s Morning Homily: A True Prophet Knows How to Listen

Warns of ‘Pseudo-Prophets’ Who Do Not Practice What They Preach 

By Junno Arocho Esteves

Vatican City State, June 25, 2015

“To do, to listen and to speak: these are the three signs of a true prophet.”

This was the main theme of Pope Francis’ homily today at Casa Santa Marta. The Holy Father reflected on the Gospel of St. Matthew, in which Jesus warns of “pseudo-prophets.”

“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers’”, Jesus says.

The Pope said that there are three main criteria to distinguish true prophets from 'pseudo-prophets'; from true preachers of the Gospel and from "those who preach a Gospel that is not a Gospel.”

The three criteria, he said, were speaking, doing and listening. Referring to Jesus’ words that “not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven”, the Pope said that despite their ability to speak, they lack the ability to practice what they preach and to listen.

“When Jesus warns the people to watch out for the ‘pseudo-prophets’, he says: ‘By their fruits, you will know them’”, the Pope said. “And here, from their behavior: so many words, they speak, they do wonders, they do great things but do not have their hearts open to listen to the Word of God, they fear the silence of the World of God and these are the ‘pseudo-Christians’, the ‘pseudo-pastors’. It is true, they do good things, it’s true, but they lack the rock.”

This rock, he explained, is “the rock of the love of God, the rock of the Word of God. Without it, they cannot prophecy or build on solid foundation based on God: only on themselves.”

The 78 year old Pontiff invited the faithful to remember the three criteria as a way of discerning between a true and a false prophet.

“One that knows how to listen and from listening, with the strength of word of another and not from their own, can remain balanced. Though they may be a humble person, that does not seem important, but how many of these great ones there are in the Church! How many great bishops, how many great priests, how many great faithful who know how to listening and from listening, they act.”

The Pope noted the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta who knew how to listen in the midst of silence.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to follow the examples of these “great ones” who remained firm in the love of Christ.

“May the weakness of Jesus, who though strong made himself weak to make us strong, accompany us in this celebration and teach us to listen and to act from listening, not from our words,” he said.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: Faithful Are Called to 'Dirty' Their Hands Like Christ

During Mass at Santa Marta, Reminds Those Present How Jesus Touched, Healed Lepers

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Vatican City State, June 26, 2015

Pope Francis says Christians need to approach and reach out to those whom society tends to exclude, as Jesus did with the marginalized of his time. During his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, the Pope stressed this point, noting this makes the Church a true "community," reported Vatican Radio.

Francis recalled how the first to dirty himself was Jesus who--without shying away--approached the excluded of his time. In Jesus getting his hands dirty, touching and healing lepers, Francis stressed, we are taught that we must have this closeness in the Church.

The Pontiff reflected on today's Gospel in which the leper prostrates himself before the Lord and says, "Lord, if you want, you can make me clean," and Jesus touches and heals him. Francis noted how the miracle was observed by the doctors of law who considered the leper 'impure.' Leprosy, he explained, was a life sentence and healing a leper was considered as difficult as raising someone from the dead. 

"How many people were watching from afar and did not understand nor care," Francis said. Some, he continued, watched with bad hearts, ready to put Jesus to the test, to criticize, and to condemn him. Others, he noted, watched from a distance because they lacked courage. Jesus doing this and reaching out to the marginalized epitomizes Christian proximity. 

"So many times I think how it is--I would not say impossible--but very difficult to do good without getting your hands dirty," Francis said. "And Jesus is soiled."

Jesus never marginalizes anyone, but rather includes in His life the excluded and demonstrates the fundamental value of the word 'proximity.' Without proximity, the Pope stressed, one cannot make peace or do good. 

"This is the mystery of Jesus [who] takes upon himself our dirt, our impurities," Francis said, recalling how St. Paul described how Jesus emptied himself for us.

"Proximity," the Pope said, calls for an examination of conscience on behalf of "the Church, parishes, communities, consecrated persons, the bishops, priests, everyone."

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to ask themselves. "Do I have the spirit, the strength and the courage to touch the marginalized?" 

---------------------------------------------------------------

ANGELUS ADDRESS: On Who Is Jesus

''Each of us can ask ourselves now: 'Who is Jesus for me?''

By Staff Reporter

Vatican City, August 23, 2015

Below is a translation of Pope Francis’ address before and after the recitation of the Angelus prayer today at noon to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square:

***

Before the Angelus

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today, we conclude the reading from the Gospel of John’s sixth chapter, with the discourse on the "Bread of Life", which Jesus delivered in the aftermath of the miracle of multiplication of the loaves and fish. At the end of that discourse, the great enthusiasm of the day before faded because Jesus had said He was the Bread which came down from Heaven, and that He would give His flesh as food and His blood as drink, alluding very clearly to the sacrifice of His own life. Those words provoked disappointment in the people, who considered them unworthy of the Messiah, not "winning." So some watched Jesus as a Messiah who was supposed to speak and act in a way that His mission would be successful, right away! But right here, they make an error: on the understanding of the mission of the Messiah! Even the disciples failed to accept the language, the disturbing language of the Lord. And today's passage refers to their discomfort, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?” (Jn 6:60).

In reality, they have understood the words of Jesus. So well that they don’t want to listen to it, because it is a discourse which undermines their way of thinking.  And the words of Jesus always make us uncomfortable. They make us uncomfortable, for example, with regard to the spirit of the world, of worldliness. However, Jesus offers the key to overcome difficulties; a key made of three elements. First, His divine origin: He came down from Heaven and will go "to where He was before" (v. 62). Second, His words can be understood only through the action of the Holy Spirit, the One "that gives life" (v. 63).  And it is really the Holy Spirit that makes us understand well His words. Third, the real cause of misunderstanding of His words is lack of faith: "There are some of you who do not believe" (v. 64), says Jesus. From that time, the Gospel says, "many [of] His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him." (v. 66). Faced with these defections, Jesus does not take back or soften His words, in fact, He forces us to make a clear choice: either to be with Him or separated from Him--and He says to the Twelve: "Do you also want to leave?" (v. 67).

At this point, Peter makes his confession of faith in the name of the other Apostles: "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (v. 68). He does not say, "Where shall we go?," But "To whom shall we go?" He does not say “Where shall we go?” But “To whom shall we go!” The real problem here is not in going and abandoning the work that has been undertaken, but rather 'to whom' to go. From that question of Peter, we understand that loyalty to God is a matter of loyalty to a person with whom they are bound to walk together on the same road. And this person is Jesus. All that we have in the world does not satisfy our hunger for the infinite. We need Jesus: to be with Him, to nourish ourselves at His table, His words of eternal life! Believing in Jesus means to make Him the center, the meaning of our life. Christ is not an accessory element: He is the "living bread", the indispensable nourishment. Attaching ourselves to Him, in a real relationship of faith and love, does not mean being chained, but being profoundly free, always on a journey, open to the challenges of our time.

Each of us can ask ourselves now: “Who is Jesus for me?” A name? An idea? Only some historic person, or someone who loves me, who gave His life for me, and walks with me? Who is Jesus for you? Do you try to get to know Him? Do you remain with his word? … Do you bring your pocket-Gospel with you to read it in whatever place you are in?  Because the more we are with Him, the more our desire to be with Him grows.

Now let’s take a moment of silence and each in his heart, can pose the question: Who is Jesus for me? In silence, each in his heart… [Silence] 

May the Virgin Mary help us to always "go" to Jesus to experience the freedom that He offers us, and that allows us to purify our choices from worldly incrustations and fear.

-------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: Be Prepared If Lord Comes Like a 'Thief in the Night'

During Mass at Santa Marta, Says Stop Chattering, Start Comforting

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Vatican City, September 01, 2015

Christians are to comfort each other through good works and kind words and not with useless chatter.

In his first public daily Mass at his residence since his summer break, Francis called on Catholics to realize our God lives and will come to find us, and therefore, to live accordingly, reported Vatican Radio.

In the responsorial psalm, the Pope noted how we repeat the words, ‘I am sure I will see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living,’ and then posed a question to those present.

"Are you certain you will see the Lord?" he asked.

Like Job, Francis said, despite many misadventures, we are to firmly believe we'll see Christ with our own eyes and let this give us hope.

“It’s true, He will come to judge and when we go to the Sistine (Chapel) we see that beautiful scene of the Last Judgement," the Pope said. "But we must also believe that He will come to find me because I see Him with my eyes, I embrace Him and am always with Him.  This is the hope that the Apostle Paul tells us to explain to others through our life, to give witness to hope.  This is the true comfort, this is the true certainty: 'I am sure I will see the Lord’s kindness.'"

In today's letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul encourages early Christians to let hope grow in their hearts until the final day in which they meet him, the Pope recalled. Francis stressed how the Apostle also warned that this day could arrive without warning, like a "thief in the night."

Though the thought of lack of notice could be frightening, Francis reminded those gathered that Jesus is coming to bring salvation to those who believe in Him and to have hope, comfort and help each other.

“Let us ask the Lord for this grace: that seed of hope that he has planted in our hearts so it germinates and grows until our final meeting with Him."

"'I am certain that I will see the Lord.' 'I am certain that our Lord lives.' 'I am certain that our Lord will come to find me': This should be the horizon of our life.  Let us ask the Lord for this grace and let us comfort each other with good works and kind words, (let’s go) along this road.”

“This is my advice, ‘comfort each other.’ Speak about this: but I’m asking you: do we speak about this, that the Lord will come and will we meet Him? Or do we speak about so many things, including theology, things about the Church, priests, religious sisters, monsignors, all this?  And is this hope our comfort? ‘Comfort each other,’ comfort those in the community. In our community, in our parishes, are we speaking about this that we’re waiting for the Lord who comes?  Or are we instead chattering about this and that to help pass the time and not get too bored?”

The Pope concluded by exhorting the faithful to live lives they would be at peace with the day the Lord gives a surprise visit. 

------------------------------------------ 

Pope's Morning Homily: Admit You Are Sinner, Be Opened Up to Encounter With Christ

Francis Calls on Faithful to See What Is Possible When We Trust in Jesus

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Vatican City, September 03, 2015

When we can admit we are sinners, we are opened up to the astonishment of encountering Jesus. During his daily morning Mass at  Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis underscored this as he celebrated today's Eucharistic Celebration, which marks the feast of a doctor of the Church, St. Gregory the Great, reported Vatican Radio.

The Holy Father drew inspiration from today's Gospel reading which recounts the story of the miraculous catch of fish. Peter spent a night working in the sea without catching anything, but after trusting in Jesus' command, casts his net into the sea and has much success.

"This ability to say that we are sinners opens us to the astonishment of the encounter with Jesus Christ, the true encounter," the Jesuit Pontiff stressed. "Even in our parishes, in our societies, even among consecrated persons: How many people are capable of saying that Jesus is the Lord? So many! But how difficult it is to say sincerely: ‘I am a sinner,’" he said.

"It’s easier to say it of others, eh? When one is gossiping, eh? ‘This, that, the other thing…’ We’re all doctors in that, aren’t we? To come to a true encounter with Christ the two-fold confession is necessary: ‘You are the Son of God, and I am a sinner’ – but not theoretically: ‘[I am a sinner] because of this, because of this, because of this, and because of this.’”

Pope Francis stated upfront how much it pleases him to think of how Jesus spent much of his time in the street, with the people, and then later in the evening, separated Himself for prayer. While still having his quiet moments of prayer, Francis pointed out how Jesus "encountered the people, He sought the people.” 

Peter, Francis observed, quickly had forgotten the astonishment of his encounter with Jesus, and went on to deny him. However, because Peter was humble, the Holy Father noted, he was permitted to encounter the Lord: "When their eyes met, the Apostle wept and returned to the confession, saying, ‘I am a sinner.’”

Pope Francis concluded, praying the Lord grant us the grace "to encounter Him, but also to allow ourselves to encounter Him."

----------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: Bite Your Tongue

During Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Says Person Who Gossips Is Comparable to Terrorist Throwing Bombs

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Vatican City, September 04, 2015

Pope Francis has warned against gossiping, calling the faithful to realize the impact of their words and attitudes and what it does to the Church.

 

According to Vatican Radio, during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, the Pope said: “We’d do well to ask ourselves: Do I sow peace?  For example, when I speak, do I sow peace or do I sow discord?" 

Recalling St Paul’s letter to the Colossians where the Apostle spoke of how Christ was sent by God to sow reconciliation and peace among humanity, the Pontiff stressed that people, in their daily lives, must sow peace rather than discord.

"How many times have we heard this said about a person: He or she has a serpent’s tongue! This is because that person is always doing what the serpent did with Adam and Eve, namely destroying peace. And this is an evil, this is a sickness within our Church: sowing divisions, sowing hatred, not sowing peace. So this is a question that we should ask ourselves every day:  ‘Did I sow peace or did I sow discord today?'"

 

Francis said sowing divisions and discord is a sickness within the Church, and compared one who gossips to terrorists who throw bombs. Without Jesus, one cannot have peace or reconciliation, the Pope highlighted, reminding those gathered that it is our task to be men and women of peace and reconciliation in the midst of news about war and hatred, even within families. 

 

Like Jesus, Christians -- the Pope said -- are to be sources of reconciliation and peace. “If a person during his or her life does nothing else but reconcile and bring peace that person can be canonized: that person is a saint. But we need to grow that way, we need to have a conversion: never a word that divides, never, never a word that brings war, small wars, never gossip." 

"I’m thinking: what is gossip?  Oh it’s nothing -- just saying words against another person or telling tales: ‘This person did…’  No!  Gossiping is like terrorism because the person who gossips is like a terrorist who throws a bomb and runs away, destroying: with their tongue they are destroying and not making peace. But this person is cunning, right? He is not a suicide bomber, no, no, he takes good care of himself.”

Before concluding, Pope Francis suggested Christians bite their tongues rather than gossip. “Every day that I get the urge to say something that sows discord and division, to say bad things about another person… Bite your tongue!  I can assure you. If you do this and bite your tongue instead of sowing discord, the first few times the wound will cause your tongue to swell -- because the devil helps us do this because that’s his work, his job: to divide.”

"Therefore," Francis said, "my final prayer: “Lord, you gave your life, give me the grace to bring peace and reconciliation. You shed your blood, but what does it matter to me if my tongue gets swollen if I bite it before speaking badly about other people.” 

----------------------------------------- 

Pope’s Morning Homily: God Brings Peace and Reconciliation in the ‘Little Things’

Says God Uses Humble Means to Do Great Works During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

Rome, September 08, 2015

God brings peace and reconciliation to His people in the ‘little things’ and in accompanying them along the path of life.

This was the central theme of Pope Francis’ homily this morning during Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

Dressed in a white and blue chasuble to commemorate the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Father reminded the faithful that Christians are called to reflect on this aspect of humility in which God accompanies his people.

Through Jesus Christ, he said, God seeks to make peace and reconcile his people in a “special way”: by accompanying them through the little things in life that appear on on our path in life.

The 78 year old Pontiff referred to the first reading from the prophet Micah which states: “You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times.” God, he said, always uses the most humble things to do great works.

This however, he explained, is not done magically but through an extensive history of salvation, evidenced by today’s Gospel from St. Matthew with lists the genealogy of Jesus Christ.

“The Lord did not want to pacify and reconcile with a magic wand: today - boom! - all done!” the Pope exclaimed.

“No. He began to walk with his people and when we heard this passage from the Gospel of Matthew: that is a bit boring no? This one became the father of this, this one became the father of this one, this became the father of this one… It is a list: but it is the path of God! The path of God among men, good and evil, because in this list there are saints and there are criminal sinners as well.  There is so much sin here. But God is not frightened: He walks. He walks with his people.”

It is in this history, the Pope continued, that God begins to sow in His people the hope in the Messiah.
“The people dreamed of liberation. The people of Israel had this dream because it was promised to them, to be liberated, to be pacified and reconciled. Joseph dreams: Joseph’s dream is a bit like the summary of the dream of this whole history of God with his people. But Joseph is not the only one with dreams: God dreams. God our Father has dreams, and dreams beautiful things for his people, for each one of us, because He is a Father and in being a Father, He thinks and dreams of the best for his children.”

The Jesuit Pope said that today’s Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a decisive moment in the history of salvation. A feast, he concluded, that invites us to pray for the grace of unity, peace and reconciliation.
“We continue the celebration now, the remembrance of the Lord in the ‘little things’: a little piece of bread, a little bit of wine...in the ‘little things’. But in this little thing there is everything. There is the dream of God, there is His love, there is His peace, there is His reconciliation, there is Jesus. He

--------------------------------------------------------- 

Pope’s Morning Homily: ‘If You Can’t Forgive, You Are Not a Christian’

Reflects on Mercy, Peace and Reconciliation During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

Rome, September 10, 2015

Mercy, reconciliation and peace are the three aspects Pope Francis reflected on during his morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta this morning.

According to Vatican Radio, the Pope drew his homily from today’s readings. “Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful.” Jesus says in the Gospel from St. Luke.

The Pope noted, however, that while Christ brought peace, “it was not accepted.”

“Even today, every day on the newspapers, we see that there are wars, destruction, hate, enmity.”

He also took the opportunity to denounce those who manufacture or profit from arms and war.

“There are also many men and women who work hard --  really hard – in order to manufacture lethal weapons, arms that eventually become bathed in the blood of so many innocent people, so many of them,” he said.  

“There are wars (being waged)!  There are these wars and there is also that wickedness of preparing for war, of making weapons (to be used) against other people in order to kill! Peace saves us, peace makes you live, it makes you grow: war annihilates you, it drags you down.”

The 78-year-old Pontiff said that wars can also occur within the Christian community. Today’s reading, he said, stresses the importance of peace and forgiveness for each other.

“If you can’t forgive, you are not a Christian,” he said. “You may be a good man, a good woman…. but you are not doing what our Lord did.”

“What’s more,” he added, “if you can’t forgive, you cannot receive the peace of the Lord. And every day when we pray the ‘Our Father:’ Forgive us as we have forgiven those…...It’s a condition. We are trying to ‘convince’ God that we’re good, that we’re good by forgiving:  in reverse.  (It’s just) words, right? As that beautiful song went:  ‘Words, words, words,’ wasn’t it?  I think it was (the Italian singer) Mina who sung it. Words! Forgive one another! Just as the Lord has forgiven us, you do likewise.”

The Pope went on to praise the many men and women who endure trials and tribulations in order to support their families. These heroic men and women, he said, “are the just ones.”

Be Merciful

Continuing his homily, Pope Francis recalled another important aspect of today’s Gospel: mercy.

“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven,” Jesus says.

Reflecting on God’s mercy, the Jesuit Pope said that priests must also show this mercy, particularly in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“If you are a priest and you can’t manage to be merciful, tell your bishop who will give you a job in administration but please don’t go into the confessional!” the Pope exclaimed.

“A priest who is not merciful does a lot of harm in the confessional! He beats people. ‘No, Father, I am merciful but I’m a bit stressed….?' It’s true…. Before going to hear confessions, go to your doctor who will give you some pills to make you less stressed! But show mercy!  And also show mercy among ourselves. ‘But this person did that….  What have I done?’ ‘That person is more of a sinner than me!’  Which of us can say that, that the other person is more of a sinner than me?  None of us can say this!  Only our Lord knows this.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis said that Christians are called to convey feelings of tenderness, goodness, humility, meekness and magnanimity. This style, he said, “is the style in which Jesus made peace and reconciliation.”

“May the Lord give all of us the grace to support one another, to forgive, to be merciful, just as the Lord is merciful with us.”

----------------------------------------------------------------------- 

Pope’s Morning Homily: 'Accusing Yourself Is The First Step in Avoiding Hypocrisy'

Reflects on the Generosity of Forgiveness and Mercy During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

Rome, September 11, 2015

“Saint Paul teaches us to accuse ourselves. And the Lord, with that image of the speck that is in your brother’s eye and the beam in yours, teaches us the same.”

These were Pope Francis’ words during his homily this morning at Mass in Casa Santa Marta.

The Holy Father began by reflecting on today’s first reading from St. Paul’s 1st Letter to Timothy, in which the apostle praises God’s mercy on him despite his sins.

“I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry. I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief,” St. Paul says.

Commenting on the beauty of Paul’s words, the Holy Father explained that the first step in obtaining such humility is to accuse one’s self.

“The courage to accuse yourself, before accusing the others,” he said. “And Paul praises the Lord because He chose him and gives thanks ‘because He considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry. I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man’. But there was mercy.”

Like the first reading, the 78-year-old Pontiff noted, today’s Gospel also speaks on the importance of accusing ourselves.

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?” Jesus asks his disciples in Luke’s Gospel.

Jesus, the Holy Father explained, uses a specific word to describe those who are “two-faced”: hypocrite.

“The man and woman who do not learn to accuse themselves become hypocrites,” he said.

“Everyone, eh? Everyone. Beginning with the Pope all the way down: everyone. If one of us does not have the ability to accuse themselves and then says [...] things about others, they are not Christian, they do not enter into this beautiful work of reconciliation, of peace, of tenderness, of goodness, of forgiveness, of magnanimity, of mercy that Jesus Christ has brought to us.”

The Jesuit Pope called on the faithful to pray for the Lord’s grace of conversion and to pause before pointing out another’s defects. Recalling St. Paul’s words, the Pope said that first step to magnanimity is to save those comments about others and instead make comments about ourselves.

“The one who only knows how to look at the speck in another’s eye, ends up in pettiness: a petty soul, full of trivialities, full of gossip,” he warned.

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis exhorted the faithful to ask God for the grace to be generous in forgiveness and in mercy.
“To canonize a person,” he said, “there is a whole process, there is a need for a miracle and then the Church declares the person a saint. But, if a person who has never, never spoken ill of another is found, they can be canonized immediately.”

------------------------------------------------------------- 

Pope’s Morning Homily: Christ Took Upon Himself the Ugliness of Our Sins

Reflects on the Meaning of the Cross During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

Rome, September 14, 2015

In order to follow the path of Christian life, one must follow Christ, who humbled himself to save us.

This was the central theme of Pope Francis’ homily this morning at Casa Santa Marta. According to Vatican Radio, among those present at today's Mass were members of the Council of Cardinals who are advising the Holy Father in the governance of the Church and the reform of the Roman Curia.

The Pope, recalling today's Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, reflected on the suffering endured by Christ out of love for mankind.

Today’s first reading recalled the people of Israel in the desert, who after being poisoned by serpents, were cured after looking at a bronze serpent mounted by Moses. The Holy Father reflected on the biblical image of the serpent, known for “seducing and enchanting.” This image of the serpent wasn’t something new, the Pope said, but rather “it was in the consciousness of the people of Israel.”

The bronze serpent, the Holy Father continued, did not only serve as an image but also as a prophecy. In today’s Gospel, Jesus said to Nicodemus: "And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

“But why has the Lord taken this image that is so ugly, so evil?” the Pope asked. “Simply because He came to take upon Himself all of our sins and become the greatest sinner without having committed any [sin]. And Paul tells us: ‘He made Himself sin for us’, taking the image, ‘He made himself a serpent.’ It is ugly! He made Himself sin to save us, this is what the message of the today’s Liturgy of Word means, the path of Jesus.”

Humility: The Path of Christian Life

Continuing his homily, Pope Francis reflected on St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians in which the Apostle says that Christ “humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.”

This description, the 78-year-old Pontiff said, is the path of those who wish to follow a Christian life.  

“When we look at Jesus on the Cross, there are some beautiful paintings, but the reality is another: He was all torn, bleeding from our sins,” he explained.

“This is the path He has taken to conquer the serpent in his field. Look at the Cross of Jesus, but not those artistic crosses, beautifully painted: look at the reality, what the cross was at that time. And look at His path and at God, who destroyed Himself, who lowered Himself to save us. This is also the path of the Christian. If a Christian wants to go forward on the path of Christian life, he must lower himself, as Jesus lowered Himself. It is the path of humility, yes, but also to take upon himself the humiliation as Jesus carried it.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful present to pray for the grace to weep in gratitude “to our God who loved us so much that He sent His Son to lower Himself and destroy Himself to save us.”

-----------------------------------------------

Pope’s Morning Homily: Without Motherhood, Church Becomes ‘Rigid Association’

Reflects on the Maternal Care of the Church During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

Rome, September 15, 2015

The Church, without its motherhood, becomes a rigid association that lacks human warmth.

This was the central theme of Pope Francis’ homily today at Casa Santa Marta. According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on the motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary and that of the Church on today’s Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Today’s Gospel of St. John recounted Christ, in his final moments on the cross, entrusting his beloved disciple to His mother.

“Woman, behold, your son,” Jesus says to Mary. Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.”

Commenting on this, the Pope said that in this act, Christ does not leave us, His children, orphaned. He also said that Mary’s motherhood “extends in the figure of that new son, it extends to the whole Church and to all of humanity.”

“In these times where I don’t know if it’s the prevailing sense but there is a great sense in the world of being orphaned, it’s an orphaned world,” he noted. “This word has a great importance, the importance when Jesus tells us: ‘I am not leaving you as orphans, I’m giving you a mother.’ And this is also a (source of) pride for us: we have a mother, a mother who is with us, protects us, accompanies us, who helps us, even in difficult or terrible times.”

Continuing his homily, the 78-year-old Pontiff said that as a mother, the Church generates Christians through baptism and allows us to grow up, and experience “that motherly attitude, of meekness and goodness.”

“Our Mother Mary and our Mother Church know how to caress their children and show tenderness,” he said. “To think of the Church without that motherly feeling is to think of a rigid association, an association without human warmth, an orphan.”

The Holy Father warned that without this sense of motherhood in the Church, which brings life and joy, there only remains rigidity and unhappiness. People, he said, will "be unable to even smile.”

“One of the most beautiful and human things is to smile at a child and make him or her smile.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to pray so that the Lord “makse us feel his presence today as well, just as when He once more offered himself up to the Father on behalf of us: (saying) ‘Son, this is your mother!’”

 -----------------------------

Pope’s Morning Homily: ‘Listen and Respect Your Guardian Angel’

Celebrates Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

Rome, October 02, 2015

God has given each one of us a guardian angel that we are called to respect and listen. This was the theme of Pope Francis’ homily today at Casa Santa Marta.

The Pope, who celebrated the memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels, reflected on their role in the lives of the faithful. God, he said, gives each one of us an angel to accompany us who serves as “God’s ambassador.”

“When we - for example - do something bad and we think we are alone, there he is,” the Pope said Have respect for his presence. Listen to his voice, because he counsels us. When we feel that inspiration: ‘But do this...this is better...you shouldn’t do this…’ Listen! Don’t rebel against him.”

Guardian angels, he continued, are meant to counsel us as a friend, especially in difficult moments of trial or sin.

“A friend that we do not see, but that we feel,” he said. “A friend who one day will be with us in Heaven, in the eternal joy.”

“He only asks us  to listen to him, to respect him. Only this: respect and listen. And this respecting and listening to this companion on the road is called docility. A Christian should be docile to the Holy Spirit. Docility to the Holy Spirit begins with this docility to the counsel of this companion.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on those present to ask God for the grace of docility to be able to listen to the counsel of our angelic companions. Through them, Christ “does not leave us alone, he does not abandon us,” he said.

------------------------------------------------------ 

Pope’s Morning Homily: Stubbornness Can Stifle Mercy

Says Hardened Hearts Does Not Allow God’s Mercy to Enter During Mass at Casa Santa Marta

By Junno Arocho Esteves

Rome, October 06, 2015

“Where there is God, there is mercy.” This was the central theme of Pope Francis’ homily during morning Mass in the chapel of Casa Santa Marta.

The Pope drew his homily from today’s first reading which recalled the conversion of the city of Nineveh after listening to the preaching of the prophet Jonah.

Noting Jonah’s initial hesitance to preaching in God’s name, the Pope said that it was a miracle that he set aside his stubbornness and obeyed God’s will.

However, following their conversion, Jonah is angered that God forgives the people of Nineveh. The prophet, the Pope said, is “a man who is not docile to the spirit of God.” If one’s heart is hard, he said, “there is resistance to the mercy of God.”

“Those words: “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? Because You are a merciful and gracious God’, and I did all the work to preach, I have done my job well, and you forgive them? It is a heart with that hardness that does not allow the mercy of God to enter. My preaching is more important, my thoughts are more important, that whole list of commandments that I must observe are more important,” the Pope said.

The Holy Father also noted that Jesus also faced the same criticism from the Pharisees.

“Jesus as well lived this drama with the Doctors of the Law, who did not understand why He did not let them stone the adulterous woman, why He went to dine with publicans and sinners: they did not understand. They did not understand mercy.

The 78 year old Pontiff also noted that today’s Psalm is an invitation to wait for the Lord because there, one finds mercy.

“Where the Lord is, there is mercy,” he said. “And St. Ambrose would add: ‘And where there is rigidity there are his ministers’. The stubbornness that challenges the mission, that challenges mercy.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis reminded the faithful of the coming Jubilee Year of Mercy, as well as inviting them to pray in order to understand what mercy is and to reflect on God’s words: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice!”

-------------------------------------------------------

Pope’s Morning Homily: Why Do Good Things Happen to Bad People?

At Casa Santa Marta, Francis Says Fruits of the Suffering of the Just Are Often Yet to Be See

By Staff Reporter

Vatican City, October 08, 2015

Pope Francis today at his morning Mass in Casa Santa Marta confronted one of the perennial questions of the heart: Why do good things happen to bad people and the contrary for good people?

Echoing the questions posed in the first reading, from the Prophet Malachi, the Pope reflected: 

“How many times do we see this reality in bad people, in people who do evil, and seem to do well in life: they are happy, they have everything they want, they want for nothing. Why Lord? This is one of the many questions we have. Why does this brazen evildoer who cares nothing for God nor for neighbor, who is an unjust person – even mean – and things go well in his whole life, he has everything he wants, while we, who want to do good, have so many problems?”

The Holy Father drew from the Psalm of the Mass, Psalm 1, to consider that like the fruits of the Paschal Mystery, the fruits of the just are not always immediately seen.

“Now we do not see the fruits of this suffering people, this people carrying the cross, as on that Good Friday and Holy Saturday the fruits of the crucified Son of God, the fruits of His sufferings were yet to be seen: and whatever He does, turns out well; and what does the Psalm say of the wicked, of those for whom we think everything is going fine? ‘Not so the wicked, not so; they are like chaff which the wind drives away. For the Lord watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes.’”

Pope Francis considered this end as illustrated in the Gospel parable of Lazarus:

“It is curious: that the [rich] man’s name is never spoken. He is just an adjective: he is a rich man (It. ricco, Gr. πλούσιος). Of the wicked, in God’s record book, there is no name: he is an evil one, a con man, a pimp ... They have no name. They only have adjectives. All those, who try to go on the way of the Lord, will rather be with His Son, who has the name: Jesus Saviour. It is a name that is difficult to understand, inexplicable for the trial of the Cross and for all that He suffered for us.”

------------------------------------------------------------

Pope’s Morning Homily: God’s Love Is Free

During Mass at Santa Marta, Says Don’t Try to Control Salvation

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Vatican City, October 15, 2015

God’s love is free, so don’t try to be a controller of salvation. 

According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis stressed this during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta today, urging those gathered to not be fooled by those who want to limit God’s love.

"One of the hardest things for all Christians to understand,” the Pope said, “is the gratuitousness of salvation in Jesus Christ.”

The Holy Father observed that some of us have gotten too used to hearing that Jesus is the Son of God, who came to love, save, and die for us, to the extent that some “prefer not to understand this truth.”

Francis spoke on how Jesus and St. Paul were criticized for promoting this idea by those scholars who did not understand. St. Paul, the Pope pointed out, met great difficulty in making his people realize that the “gratuitousness of salvation”  is true doctrine.

In reference to today's feast day of St. Teresa, Pope Francis noted how this year marks the 500th anniversary of St. Teresa of Avila's birth. He noted how we celebrate this mystic today, but she was also was judged in her day.

"How many saints," the Holy Father lamented, "have been persecuted for defending love, the gratuitousness of salvation, the doctrine. Many saints. We think of Joan of Arc."

The Holy Father reminded those gathered that the Lord has given faithful the grace “to understand the horizons of love" and warned them against those who try to convince us otherwise.

The Pope concluded, posing two questions: “Do I believe that the Lord saved me gratuitously, freely? Do I believe that I have done nothing to merit salvation?”

“Let us ask ourselves these questions,” the Pope urged, adding that, “only in this way will we be faithful to this merciful love: the love of a father and a mother, because God also says He is like a mother with us; love, expanded horizons, without limits.  And let us not be fooled by scholars [of the Law] who limit this love.”

----------------------------------------------------------- 

Pope’s Morning Homily: Beware of 'Virus' of Hypocrisy

During Mass at Santa Marta, Warns Against Self-Righteous Attitude Which Seduces With Lies

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Vatican City, October 16, 2015

Pope Francis has prescribed the "medicine" for if one is "infected" by the "virus" of hypocrisy: praying.

During his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, the Holy Father warned against hypocrisy, calling it a self-righteous attitude "that seduces with lies that lurk in the shadows," reported Vatican Radio.

The Pope began by reflecting on today's Gospel from Luke, in which Jesus and His disciples are in the midst of a crowd who are trampling on each other. The Pontiff pointed out that Christ warned His disciples: "Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees." The Pope observed that yeast is "a very small thing," yet Jesus speaks about it as if it were a "virus."

Almost like a doctor, Jesus is warning his fellow partners about the risks of it becoming an epidemic, Francis said.

Hypocrisy, the Pontiff explained, does not have a color, rather it plays with halftones and creeps in, seducing with a lie.

"This yeast is a virus that will cause you to get sick and die. Beware! This yeast brings darkness. Beware! But there is one that is greater than this: it is the Father who is in heaven."

The Pontiff told those gathered that praying, as indicated by Christ, is the only way to avoid the infection. Francis concluded, saying that only with prayer can one avoid falling into that "self-righteous attitude" of hypocrisy.

-------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: Religion Isn't an Insurance Agency

At Casa Santa Marta, Says We Can't Put Our Security in Wealth

By Staff Reporter

Rome, October 19, 2015

Jesus is not against wealth, says Pope Francis, but he warns against putting one's security in money, and trying to make of religion an "insurance agency."

This was the theme of the Pope's homily this morning at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio.

We cannot serve two masters, the Holy Father reminded. Either a person serves God, or he serves money, Francis said and, drawing from the Gospel reading, he lamented that attachment to wealth is divisive.

“Let us consider how many families we know, whose members have fought, who are fighting, who don’t [even] say ‘Hello!’ to each other, who hate each other – all for an inheritance."

In these cases, he said, "the love of family, love of children, siblings, parents – none of these is the most important thing – no, it’s money – and this destroys ... even wars, wars that we see today: yes, sure there is an ideal [over which people fight], but behind that, there is money; money for arms dealers, the money of those who profit from the war."

The Pope reflected that all of us likely know a family divided over money.

"Jesus is clear," he said. "‘Be careful and stay away from all kinds of greed: it is dangerous.’"

Greed, he said, "gives us a security that is not true." 

Jesus tells the parable of a rich man, “a good entrepreneur,” whose “fields had yielded an abundant harvest,” and who was “full of riches,” and, “instead of thinking: ‘But I will share this with my workers, with my employees, that they also might have a little more for their families,’ thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, seeing that I have nowhere to put my crops? Ah, so I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones.’ More and more: the thirst that comes from attachment to riches never ends. If you have your heart attached to wealth – when you have so much – you want more. This is the god of the person who is attached to riches.”

Pope Francis went on to say that the road that leads to salvation is that of the Beatitudes. “The first is poverty of spirit,” he said, saying that if one has riches, he musn't be attached to them, but place them at the service of others, “to share, to help many people to make their way.” 

The sign that tells us we have not fallen into “this sin of idolatry” is almsgiving, giving to those in need – and not giving merely of our abundance, but giving until it costs me “some privation” perhaps because “it is necessary for me." 

“That's a good sign: it means that one’s love for God is greater than one’s attachment to wealth.” The Pope proposed that there are three questions that we can ask ourselves:

“First question: ‘Do I give?’

"Second: ‘How much do I give?’

"Third question: ‘How do I give?’ Do I give as Jesus gives, with the caress of love, or as one who pays a tax? How do I give?

"'But Father, what do you mean by that?’

"When you help someone, do you look that person in the eye? Do you touch that person’s hand? Theirs is Christ’s own flesh, that person is your brother, your sister. At that moment you are like the Father who does not leave the birds of the air to go without food. With what love the Father gives! Let us ask God for the grace to be free of this idolatry, the attachment to wealth: let us ask the grace to look at Him, so rich in His love and so rich in generosity, in His mercy; and let us ask the grace to help others with the exercise of almsgiving, but as He does it. ‘But, Father, He has not let Himself be deprived of anything!' Jesus Christ, being equal to God, deprived Himself of this: He lowered Himself, He made Himself nothing – [yes,] He too deprived Himself of something.”

------------------------------------------------------------ 

Pope's Morning Mass: God Isn't Petty

At Casa Santa Marta, Francis Says That God Won't Measure His Love, Even If Humans Do

 

By Staff Reporter

Rome, October 20, 2015

There is no pettiness in God, and he gives his love freely, with an unbounded generosity, says Pope Francis.

This was the theme of the Pope's homily at morning Mass today in the Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio.

Noting that the word "abundance" is found three times in the reading today from Paul's letter to the Romans, the Holy Father reflected, "God gives in abundance up to the point as Paul wrote in his final summing up: 'But however much sin increased, grace was always greater.' It abounds everything.  And this is God’s love for us, without limits. All of Himself.”

Pope Francis went on to explain that God’s heart is always open, like that of the Prodigal Son's father.

“God is not a petty God. He doesn’t know pettiness. He gives everything.  God is not somebody who stays still: He is watching and waiting for us to convert. God is a God who goes out. He goes out to search, for each one of us.

"But is this true? Every day he searches, he is searching for us. As he already has done and already said, in the Parable of the lost sheep or the lost coin:  He is searching. He is always doing this.”

Recognizing that for human beings, this love is difficult to understand, the Pope shared a recollection of an 84-year-old religious sister that he knew in his home diocese who, he said, still goes out to visit ill people in the hospital and speaks to them with a smile about God’s love. Pope Francis said this sister received the grace to understand the mystery of God’s boundless love, a grace that so many do not receive. 

“It’s true, we always tend to weigh up the situation or things with the measurements that we have, and our measurements are small. For this reason, we’d do well to ask the Holy Spirit for this grace. Pray to the Holy Spirit for the grace to draw closer, at least a little bit, in order to understand this love and have the desire to be embraced and kissed with that boundless love.” 

----------------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: 'Every Day, Another Step' Is Way to Reach Our Conversion

At Casa Santa Marta, Says We Must Make Constant Effort to Open Door to Holy Spirit

By Staff Reporter

Rome, October 22, 2015

"Conversion is a duty" that takes daily effort, says Pope Francis, so that the door of our heart is opened more and more to the Holy Spirit.

The Pope made this point during his morning homily today at the Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio.

Pope Francis commented on the reading from St Paul to the Romans to emphasize that in order to pass from a life of iniquity to a life of sanctity, we must work at it every day.

Saint Paul, the Pope said, uses the image of the athlete, the man who “trains in order to prepare himself for game, and makes a great effort.”

Also in our effort to reach the victory of Heaven, Saint Paul, the Pope said, “exhorts us to go forward with this effort."

“Ah, Father, are we able to think that sanctification comes through the effort I make, like the victory that comes to sportsmen through training? No. The efforts we make, this daily work of serving the Lord with our soul, with our heart, with our body, with our whole life only opens the door to the Holy Spirit. It is He who enters into us and saves us! He is the gift in Jesus Christ! Otherwise, we would make ourselves like fakirs: No, we are not fakirs. We, with our efforts, open the door.”

Pope Francis acknowledged that this is a difficult task, “because our weakness, original sin, the devil” are always trying to get us to turn back. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews, he said, “warns us against this temptation to turn back”; he warns us “not to go back, not to fall.” We need to continue to go forward,“a little bit each day,” even “when there is great difficulty."

“A few months ago, I met a woman. Young, the mother of a family – a beautiful family – who had cancer. An ugly cancer. But she moved with happiness, she acted like she was healthy. And speaking about this attitude, she told me, 'Father, I would do anything to beat the cancer!' It’s that way with the Christian. We have received this gift in Jesus Christ and we have passed from sin, from the life of iniquity to the life of the gift in Jesus, in the Holy Spirit; we must do the same. Every day a step. Every day a step.”

Pope Francis pointed out some obstacles, such as the “desire to gossip." And in that case, he said, you need to make the effort to be silent. Otherwise, if we don’t work to overcome temptations, “there comes a little bit of slumber,” and we won’t have the “will to pray” - but then we try to pray a little bit anyway.

These small efforts, the Pope said, “help us not to fall, not to go back, not to return to iniquity but to go forward toward this gift, this promise of Jesus Christ which is precisely the encounter with Him. Let us ask this grace from the Lord: to be strong, to be strong in this training of life towards the encounter, that we might receive the gift of justification, the gift of grace, the gift of the Spirit in Christ Jesus.”

---------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: We Need to Know What's Happening and to Think About It

Christians are called to read the signs of the times, Pope Francis says, drawing a lesson from today's Gospel reading. And to do this, we must have silence, observe, and reflect.

The Pope offered this reflection today during his morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio.

"We have this freedom to judge whatever is happening around us.  But in order to judge, we must have a good knowledge of what is happening around us. And how can we do this? How can we do this, which the Church calls ‘recognizing the signs of the times?’ Times are changing.  And it’s precisely Christian wisdom that recognizes these changes, recognizes the changing times and recognizes the signs of the times. What one thing and another thing means. And do this freely, without fear.”

Pope Francis admitted that it's easier to seek comfort in doing nothing.

“We stick with conformity, we reassure ourselves with (words like) ‘they told us, I heard, people said they read….’ In this way we are reassured.  But what is the truth?  What is the message that the Lord wants to give me with this sign of the times? First of all, in order to understand the signs of the times we need silence: to be silent and observe. And afterwards we need to reflect within ourselves. One example: why are there so many wars nowadays?  Why did something happen? And pray… silence, reflection and prayer.  It’s only in this way that we can understand the signs of the times, what Jesus wants to tell us.”

Understanding the signs of the times, noted the Pope, is not only for an elite cultural group. He recalled how Jesus didn’t tell us to look at how the professors, the doctors and the intellectuals do things but instead urged us to look at the farm labourer who knows how to “separate the wheat from the chaff.”

“Times are changing and we Christians must change continually. We must change whilst remaining fixed to our faith in Jesus Christ, fixed to the truth of the Gospel but we must adapt our attitude continuously according to the signs of the times. We are free. We are free thanks to the gift of freedom given to us by Jesus Christ. But our job is to look at what is happening within us, discern our feelings, our thoughts and what is happening around us and discern the signs of the times – through silence, reflection and prayer.”

------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: God Is All-Powerful But He Can't Sever Himself From Us

Rome, October 29, 2015

Though God is all-powerful, there is something he can't do and that is to sever himself from us, says Pope Francis.

The Pope made this reflection today during morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio.

Drawing from the reading from St. Paul, the Holy Father explained Christian victory, since “if God is for us, who can be against us.”

This gift from God, he continued, is being held by Christians in their own hands and it’s almost as if they could say in a triumphalistic manner, “now we are the champions!”  But the meaning is another: we are the victors not because we are holding this gift in our hands but for another reason.  And that is because “nothing can ever separate us from God’s love which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

“It’s not because we are the victors over our enemies, over sin. No! We are so closely bound to God’s love that no person, no power, nothing can ever separate us from this love. Paul saw beyond the gift, he saw more, [he saw] who is giving that gift: it is a gift of re-creation, it’s a gift of regeneration in Jesus Christ. He saw God’s love. A love that cannot be explained.”

Pope Francis noted that we can refuse this gift by preferring our own sin, but that even still, God’s gift is always there for us.

“The gift is God’s love, a God who can’t sever himself from us. That is the impotence of God.  We say: ‘God is all powerful, He can do everything!” Except for one thing: Sever Himself from us!"

Pope Francis took up the Gospel image of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem to further emphasize his point.

"Jesus wept! He wept over Jerusalem and that weeping is all about God’s impotence: his inability to not love (us) and not sever himself from us.”

“It’s impossible for God to not love us!  And this is our safeguard. I can refuse that love, I can refuse just like the Good Thief did, until the end of his life.  But that love was waiting for him there. The most wicked and the most blasphemous person is loved by God with the tenderness of a father.  And just as Paul said, as the Gospel said, as Jesus said: ‘Like a hen with her brood.’  And God the all-powerful, the Creator can do everything: God weeps!  All of God’s love is contained in this weeping by Jesus over Jerusalem and in those tears.  God weeps for me when I move away from him: God weeps for each one of us: God weeps for the evil people who do so many bad things, cause so much harm to mankind… He is waiting, he is not condemning (us) and he is weeping.  Why?  Because he loves (us)!” 

---------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: A Good Priest Knows How to Empathize

Rome, October 30, 2015

A good priest must be able to empathize with his flock, to become involved in their struggles and lives, says Pope Francis.

The Holy Father said this today in his homily at the morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio.

“It’s interesting that in the parable that we all know of the Prodigal Son, it’s said that when the father - who's the figure of a forgiving God – sees his son arriving he feels compassion," the Pope said. "God’s compassion isn’t about feeling pity: it’s nothing at all to do with that."

“I can feel pity,” he explained, “for a dog that is dying,” but God’s compassion is different, it means “empathizing with another person’s problem, empathizing with that person’s situation.”

“Jesus healed people but he is not a healer. No!  He healed people as a sign, as a sign of God’s compassion, to save that person, to bring back the lost sheep to the fold, the money that went missing from the woman’s purse. God has compassion. God loves us like a Father. He does this for each one of us. And when God forgives, he forgives like a Father and not like an official in the law court who reads out the verdict saying: ‘Acquitted for lack of evidence.’ He forgives us from within his heart. He forgives because he loved that person.”

Jesus, continued the Pope, was sent to bring the good news, “to free those who are oppressed” and “to enter the heart of each one of us, to free us from our sins and evil.”

“This is what a priest does: he feels empathy towards others and becomes involved in the life of people because he is a priest, like Jesus is a priest.  How many times – and then we must go to confession – do we criticize those priests who are not interested in what is happening to those in their congregation, who don’t care about them. He is not a good priest!  A good priest is one who empathizes.”

Pope Francis said a good priest is somebody who gets involved in all human problems.

He concluded his homily by paying tribute to Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, who was present at the Mass, to celebrate his 60 years of priesthood. He praised the Cardinal’s work on behalf of the Church when he headed the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, and said let us give thanks to God for these 60 years and for God’s compassion. 

---------------------------------------------------- 

Pope's Morning Homily: Christians Can't Be Cliquey

Rome, November 05, 2015

Christians shouldn't be cliquey, says Pope Francis, who in today's morning Mass warned against the Pharisees' tendency to exclude others.

Vatican Radio reported on the Pope's homily at the Casa Santa Marta, which he drew from today's readings from St. Paul and the Gospel of Luke.

In the Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul exhorts us not to judge and not to despise our brothers, because, the Pope said, this leads to excluding them from “our little group,” to being selective, "and this is not Christian.” Christ, in fact, “with His sacrifice on Calvary” unites and includes “all men in salvation.” In the Gospel, publicans and sinners draw near to Jesus – “that is, the excluded, all those that were outside,” – and “the Pharisees and the scribes complained”:

“The attitude of the Scribes and the Pharisees is the same, they exclude. [They say,] ‘We are the perfect, we follow the law. These people are sinners, they are publicans’; and the attitude of Jesus is to include. There are two paths in life: the path of exclusion of persons from our community and the path of inclusion. The first can be little but is the root of all wars: all calamities, all wars, begin with an exclusion. One is excluded from the international community, but also from families, from friends – How many fights there are! – and the path that makes us see Jesus and teaches us Jesus is quite another, it is contrary to the other: to include.”

“It is not easy to include people,” Pope Francis said, “because there is resistance, there is that selective attitude.” For this reason, Jesus tells two parables: the parable of the lost sheep, and the parable of the woman and the lost coin. Both the shepherd and the woman will do anything to find what they have lost, and when they find it, they are full of joy:

“They are full of joy because they have found what was lost and they go to their neighbours, their friends, because they are so happy: ‘I found, I included.’ This is the ‘including’ of God, against the exclusion of those who judge, who drive away people, persons: ‘No, no to this, no to that, no to that…’; and a little of circle of friends is created, which is their environment. It is a dialectic between exclusion and inclusion. God has included us all in salvation, all! This is the beginning. We with our weaknesses, with our sins, with our envy, jealousies, we all have this attitude of excluding which – as I said – can end in wars.”

Jesus, the Pope said, acts like His Father, Who sent Him to save us; “He seeks to include us,” “to be a family.”

“We think a little bit, and at least – at least! – we do our little part, we never judge: ‘But this one has acted in this way…’ But God knows: it is his life, but I don’t exclude him from my heart, from my prayer, from my greeting, from my smile, and if the occasion arises I say a good word to him. Never excluding, we have no right! And how Paul finishes the Letter: ‘We shall all stand before the judgment seat of God . . .  then each of us shall give an account of himself to God.’ If I exclude I will one day stand before the judgment seat of God, I will have to give an account of myself to God. Let us ask the grace of being men and women who always include, always, always! in the measure of healthy prudence, but always. Not closing the doors to anyone, always with an open heart: ‘It pleases me, it displeases me,’ but the heart is open. May the Lord grant us this grace.”

----------------------------------------------------

Who Gives the Pope Joy?

Rome, November 06, 2015

In his morning homily today, Pope Francis reiterated one of his favorite points about the Church: that it must be a poor Church at the service of others.

The Pope spoke of poverty today at Casa Santa Marta, Vatican Radio reported, as the issue of poverty and finances is in Vatican news for two other reasons.

An interview the Pope gave to a Dutch newspaper produced by the homeless was published today, and this week in Rome, two books were released rehashing accusations of Vatican financial mismanagement.

In the Pope’s homily, he said there are people in the Church who “instead of serving, of thinking of others, of laying the foundations, are served by the Church: ‘climbers,’ those who are attached to money. And how many priests and Bishops like this have we seen? It’s sad to speak of it, isn’t it? The radical character of the Gospel, of the call of Jesus Christ: to serve, to be at the service [of others], of not stopping for oneself, going out to others always, being forgetful of oneself. 

“And the comfort of the state: I have reached a certain state and I live comfortably, without integrity, like those Pharisees Jesus spoke about, who go out into the public square to be seen by others.”

But, the Pope said that he is given great joy by meeting the many people in the Church who are dedicated to serving like Christ.

“I tell you how much joy I have,” Pope Francis said, “what moves me, when in this Mass some priests come up and greet me: ‘O Father, I have come here to find my own people, because for 40 years I have been a missionary in the Amazon.’ Or a sister who says, ‘I have worked for 30 years in a hospital in Africa.’ Or when I find a little sister who for 30, 40 years is working in the department of the hospital with the disabled, always smiling. This is called ‘serving,’ this is the joy of the Church: going out to others, always; going out to others and giving life. This is what Paul did: serving.”

Jesus, the Pope said, “makes us see this model in Paul,” this “Church that never stops” that “always goes forward and shows us the path.”

Saint Paul “boasts of serving Him, of being chosen, of having the strength of the Holy Spirit.”

He was the servant who served, the Pope said, “he ministered, laying the foundation, that is, announcing Jesus Christ” and “he never stopped to take advantage of his position, of his authority, of being served. He was a minister, a servant in order to serve, not to be served.”

 “Instead,” the Pope said, “when the Church is tepid, closed in on itself, businesslike, it cannot be said to be a Church that serves, that is at the service [of others], but rather [it must be said] that it is using others. May the Lord give us the grace He gave to Paul, that point of pride of always going forward, always, renouncing, time and again, its own comfort; and may He save us from temptations, from those temptations which at their base are temptations to a double life: I see myself as a minister, that is, as one who serves, but at the base I am served by others.”

-------------------------------------------------

Pope’s Morning Homily: It’s Idolatry to Be Attached to the Here and Now

Rome, November 13, 2015

Pope Francis today warned against a certain “idolatry” that inordinately focuses on the beauties of this life, forgetting that earthly things are passing away and that, anyway, their Creator is so much more beautiful.

According to Vatican Radio, the Pope today in Casa Santa Marta considered the transitory nature of our earthly life and the glory of God, reflected in the psalm, “The heavens proclaim the Glory of God.” 

People are too often incapable of looking beyond the beauty of earthly things towards the transcendent, he said, describing this attitude as the idolatry of immanence.

“They are attached to this idolatry: they are astonished by the power and energy (of these things). They haven’t thought about how much greater is their Sovereign because He created them, He who is the origin and the author of this beauty.”

“It’s an idolatry to gaze at all these beautiful things without believing that they will fade away,” he said. 

“And,” he remarked, “the fading too has its beauty…”

Pope Francis said we all run the risk of “this idolatry of being attached to the beauty of the here and now, without (a sense of) the transcendence.”

“It’s the idolatry of immanence,” he said. “We believe that these things are almost gods and they will last forever. We forget about that fading away.”

The other trap or idolatry into which many people fall, warned the Pope, is that of our daily habits which make our hearts deaf. He said Jesus illustrated this when he described the men and women during the time of Noah or Sodom who ate and drank and got married without caring about anything else until the flood came or the Lord rained down burning sulphur. 

“Everything is according to habit. Life is like that: We live in this way, without thinking about the end of this way of living. This too is an idolatry: to be attached to our habits, without thinking that this will come to an end. But the Church makes us look at the end of these things. Even our habits can be thought of as gods. The idolatry? Life is like this and we go forward in this way… And just as this beauty will finish in another (kind of) beauty, our habits will finish in an eternity, in another (kind of) habit. But there is God!”

Pope Francis went on to urge his listeners to direct their gaze toward the one God who is beyond “the end of created things” so as not to repeat the fatal error of looking back, as Lot’s wife did. We must be certain, he stressed, that if life is beautiful then its end will be just as beautiful as well. 

“We believers are not people who look back, who yield, but people who always go forward.”  

“We must always go forward in this life,” the Holy Father said, “looking at the beautiful things and with the habits that we all have but without deifying them. They will end. Be they these small beauties, which reflect a bigger beauty, our own habits for surviving in the eternal song, contemplating the glory of God.”

------------------------------------------------------------

Pope's Morning Homily: Don't Auction Off Your Identity

Rome, November 16, 2015

Pope Francis today drew from the First Book of Maccabees to warn against worldliness and apostasy, saying that a Christian musn't put his identity up for auction, or do things just because everyone else is doing it. 

The Pope made this reflection during his morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, according to Vatican Radio.

The First Reading of today's Mass speaks of King Antiochus Epiphanes, referring to him as a "sinful offshoot" or a root of evil, who imposes pagan customs on the Chosen People.

Pope Francis commented that, "the image of the root is under the ground." The "phenomenology of the root" is this: "What is not seen does not seem to do any harm, but then it grows and shows its true nature."

The Holy Father noted that it was a "rational root," pushing the Israelites to ally with neighboring nations for protection. 

“Let us go and make an alliance with the Gentiles all around us; since we separated from them, many evils have come upon us," the reading says.

The Pope explained this reading with three words: "Worldliness, apostasy, persecution."

Worldliness in life is to do what the world does. It’s saying: "We put up for auction our identity card; we are equal to everyone. " Thus, as the reading recounts, many Jews "disowned the faith and 'abandoned the holy covenant.'" And what "seemed so rational - 'we are like everyone else, we are normal' - became their destruction."

"Then the king recommended that his whole kingdom should be one people - the one thought; worldliness - and each abandoned their own customs. All peoples adapted themselves to the orders of the king; also many Jews accepted his worship: they sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath. Apostasy. That is, worldliness that leads you to one unique thought, and to apostasy. No differences are permitted: all are equal. And in the history of the Church, the history we have seen, I think of a case, where religious feasts were renamed - the birth of the Lord has another name – in order to erase its identity."

In Israel the books of the law were burned "and if someone obeyed the law, the judgment of the king condemned him to death." That's "persecution," initiated by a "root of bitterness," Francis said.

"I have  always been struck," the Pope remarked, "that the Lord, at the Last Supper, in that long prayer, praying for unity [asks] the Father that he would deliver them from every spirit of the world, from all worldliness, because worldliness destroys identity; worldliness leads to the single thought."

"It starts from a root, but it is small, and ends up an abomination of desolation, in persecution. This is the deception of worldliness, and why Jesus asked the Father, at that Supper: 'Father, I do not ask you to remove them from the world, but keep them from the world,' this mentality, this humanism, which is to take the place of the true man, Jesus Christ, that comes to take away the Christian identity and brings us to the single thought: 'They all do it, why not us?' This, in these times, should make us think: what is my identity? Is it Christian or worldly? Or do I say to myself, 'Christian because I was baptized as a child or was born in a Christian country, where everyone is Christian?' Worldliness that comes slowly, it grows, it justifies itself and infects: it grows like the root, it defends itself - 'but, we do as others do, we are not so different' - always looking for a justification, and eventually it becomes contagious, and many evils come from there."

"The liturgy, in these last days of the liturgical year," said the Pope, exhorts us to beware of "poisonous roots" that "lead away from the Lord."

"And we pray to the Lord for the Church, that the Lord will guard it from all forms of worldliness. That the Church will always have the identity given to it by Jesus Christ; that we will all have the identity that we received in baptism. May the Lord give us the grace to maintain and preserve our Christian identity against the spirit of worldliness that always grows, justifies itself and is contagious. "

-------------------------------------------

Pope’s Morning Mass: “Lord, Keep Me From Pretending to Be a Christian”

Rome, November 17, 2015

Here is Vatican Radio’s report of Pope Francis’ homily from his morning Mass today:

The importance of safeguarding our Christian identity and not living double lives: that was the theme at the heart of Pope Francis’ homily at the Santa Marta Mass on Tuesday morning. The Pope based his words on the daily readings which focus on the need for coherence between our spiritual and our temporal lives.

Pope Francis began by reflecting on the elderly Jewish Rabbi Eleazar who chose to be martyred rather than submit to the unjust laws that we read about in the second book of Maccabees. The 90-year-old Eleazar refused to eat pork meat and rejected the offer of his “worldly” friends to compromise his integrity, choosing instead to die a martyr’s death.

Spiritual worldliness, Pope Francis said, tempts us towards an inconsistent lifestyle, in which we pretend to be one thing but live in another way. It may be difficult to recognize, he said, but just as woodworm slowly destroys things, so worldliness slowly leads us to lose our Christian identity.

Worldliness, he went on, leads to inconsistency between the things we say – “Oh, I’m a good Catholic Father, I go to Mass every Sunday” – and the things we do at work, such as offering or receiving bribes for example. This is not being consistent, the Pope said, rather it leads to a double life which distances us from God and destroys our Christian identity.

For this reason, Pope Francis continued, Jesus strongly pleads with his Father to save his disciples from such a worldly spirit. The Christian spirit, on the other hand, the Christian identity, he said, is never egoistic, but always tries to be consistent, avoiding scandal, helping others and showing a good example.

The Pope responded to objections such as, “It’s not easy Father, to live in this world where there are so many temptations and we are lured by the attractions of a double life every single day!” For us it is impossible, he said, and only God can help us avoid such worldliness, which is why we pray in the Psalms, “The Lord, upholds me.” He is our support against that spirit which destroys our Christian identity.

That is why we pray with humility, saying “Lord, I am a sinner — all of us are sinners — but I ask You to uphold me so that I don’t pretend to be a Christian while living like a pagan, worldly person.”

Pope Francis concluded by urging his listeners to pick up a Bible and read the story of Eleazar in chapter six of the book of Maccabees. It will do you good, he said, and give you courage to be an example to others. It will give you strength and support to uphold your Christian identity, without compromise and without leading a double life.

------------------------------------------- 

Pope’s Morning Mass November 19: Jesus Weeps Today Too, Because We’ve Chosen the Way of War

 Just as Jesus wept over Jerusalem, today too he is weeping over the world, because we have chosen the way of war, and have not understood peace.

This was the message Pope Francis gave this morning during his Mass at Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio.

Drawing from the Gospel reading, which recounts how Jesus wept at seeing Jerusalem, the Pope said: “Today Jesus weeps as well: because we have chosen the way of war, the way of hatred, the way of enmities.”

“We are close to Christmas: There will be lights, there will be parties, bright trees, even Nativity scenes – all decked out – while the world continues to wage war,” the Holy Father reflected. “The world has not understood the way of peace.”

Pope Francis went on to recall the recent commemorations of the Second World War and the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as his visit to Redipuglia last year on the anniversary of the Great War.

These conflicts were “useless slaughters,” the Pontiff said, repeating the words of Pope Benedict XV. “Everywhere there is war today, there is hatred.”

“What shall remain in the wake of this war, in the midst of which we are living now?” Francis asked. “What shall remain? Ruins, thousands of children without education, so many innocent victims: and lots of money in the pockets of arms dealers.”

The Holy Father reiterated something he has said on other occasions: that war is waged to bring economic gain to a few.

“Jesus once said: ‘You can not serve two masters:  either God or riches.’ War is the right choice for him who would serve wealth: 'Let us build weapons, so that the economy will right itself somewhat, and let us go forward in pursuit of our interests.’”

But those who choose money over human life face Jesus’ judgement, Francis warned. “There is an ugly word the Lord spoke: ‘Cursed!’ Because He said: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers!.’ The men who work war, who make war, are cursed, they are criminals.”

Just war?

The Pope also remarked: “A war can be justified – so to speak – with many, many reasons, but when all the world is as it is today, at war – piecemeal though that war may be – a little here, a little there, and everywhere – there is no justification – and God weeps. Jesus weeps.”

The Holy Father went on to say that, while the arms dealers go about their business, there are poor peacemakers who, in order to help others, spend themselves utterly, and even give their lives – as did Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The cynical or worldly might ask, “But what did she ever accomplish? She wasted her life helping others on their way to death?” the Pope said, adding, “We do not understand the way of peace.” 

“It will do us well to ask the for the grace of tears, for this world that does not recognize the path of peace, this world that lives for war, and cynically says not to make it. Let us pray for conversion of heart. Here before the door of this Jubilee of Mercy, let us ask that our joy, our jubilation, be this grace: that the world discover the ability to weep for its crimes, for what the world does with war.”

------------------------------------------ 

Pope’s Morning Homily: ‘Worldly’ People Can’t Truly Celebrate

Rome, November 20, 2015

Just as we ready for a season of celebrations, Pope Francis is reminding that those who indulge in worldliness are unable to truly celebrate, since the best the spirit of the world can offer is mere amusement.

True joy comes from the Covenant, the Holy Father said this morning at Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio.

The Holy Father reflected on the reading from Maccabees (below), which tells of the people’s joy following the reconsecration of the Holy Temple, and the rekindling of their identity as a people.

In contrast, those “who indulge in worldliness do not know how to celebrate – they can’t celebrate!” the Pope said.

“At most, the worldly spirit can provide amusement; it can provoke excitement, but true joy can only come from faith in the Covenant,” he explained.

The Gospel reading from today (below) recounts the cleansing of the temple, with the attitudes of the money-changers in stark opposition to the rejoicing of the Maccabees.

“The Gospel says the chief priests and scribes had changed things,” the Pontiff said. “They had dishonored and compromised the Temple. They had dishonored the Temple!"

The Temple is a symbol of the Church, the Holy Father said, and the Church “will always – always! – be subject to the temptation of worldliness and power. Jesus did not say ‘No, do not do this inside. Go outside instead.’ He said ‘You have made it a den of thieves!’ And when the Church enters into such a state of decline, the end is bad. Very bad indeed.”

Pope Francis said the danger of corruption within the Church arises when “the Church, instead of being devoted to faith in Our Lord, in the Prince of Peace, in joy, in salvation, becomes dominated by money and power. This is exactly what happens here, in this Gospel reading. These priests, chief priests and scribes were driven by money, power and they ignored the Holy Spirit. And in order to be able to justify their actions, they poisoned the free spirit of the Lord with hypocrisy.”

The Pope said that in the 23rd chapter of St. Matthew, Jesus speaks of their hypocrisy: “These were people who had lost their sense of godliness, and even the ability to rejoice, to praise God. They did not know how to worship the Lord because they were too distracted by money and power, and by a form of worldiness.”

“Jesus did not chase the priests and scribes away from the Temple; he chased away those who were doing business there, the businessmen of the Temple. The chief priests and scribes were involved in their dealings: this is ‘holy bribery’! The Gospel is very clear. It says ‘The chief priests and scribes wanted to kill Jesus, along with the elders of the people’. The same thing happened under the rule of Judas Maccabeus.”

But where Jesus is, there is no room for worldliness, the Pope said. 

“There is no room for corruption! This is a challenge for each and every one of us; this is the struggle the Church has to face every day. We must always heed Jesus’ words;  we must never seek comfort from another master. Jesus told us that we cannot serve two masters. God or riches; God or power.”

The Pope concluded, saying “We ought to pray for the Church. We must hold in our hearts today’s martyrs, who suffer and die, so as not to be ensnared by worldly desires, by obsession, by apostasy. Today! Today, there are more martyrs of the Church than there ever were before. Let’s think about that. It does us good to think about them. And also to pray that we may never fall into the trap of worldliness, where we will be obsessed only by money and power.”

--------------------------------------------------------

Pope’s Morning Homily: Widows Are an Image of the Church Seeking to Stay Faithful

Rome, November 23, 2015

The Church remains faithful if she keeps her eyes fixed on Jesus, but she becomes lukewarm and mediocre if she seeks comfort in worldly things. That was Pope Francis’ message today as he reflected on the Gospel reading at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta.

Pope Francis noted that the reading from St Luke’s Gospel tells the story of the widow who puts her two coins in the temple treasury box, while other wealthy worshippers make a great show of the money they're putting in. Jesus says that “this poor widow put in more than all the rest” because the others were giving away money from their surplus wealth, while she, in her poverty, “has offered her whole livelihood.”

In the Bible, Pope Francis said, the widow is the woman who is alone, who has no husband to look after her, who has to manage on her own, who survives on charity. The widow in this Gospel passage, he said, was “a widow who had placed her trust only in the Lord.” I like to look at the widows in the Gospel, he said, as an image of the “widowed” Church who is waiting for Jesus to return.

The Church is the bride of Christ, Pope Francis said, but her Lord has gone and her only treasure is in her Lord. If the Church remains faithful, then she leaves everything while waiting for her Lord to return. If she does not have so much faith in the love of her Lord, then she tries to get by in other ways, seeking security in things that are more of this world than of God.

The widows of the Gospels, the Pope continued, speak beautifully to us about Jesus and His Church. There is the widow of Nain who was crying as she accompanied her son to be buried outside the city gates. There is the widow who goes to the unjust judge in order to defend her sons, knocking on his door every day and bothering him continuously until he delivers a just sentence for her. This is the widowed Church who prays and intercedes for her children, Pope Francis explained. But the heart of the Church is always with Jesus, the Bridegroom in heaven.

According to the desert fathers, the Pope said, our souls also resemble the Church, and the closer our souls, our lives, are to Jesus, the more we are able to avoid worldly, useless things that lead us away from Christ. While the ‘widowed’ Church waits for Jesus, he said, she can be faithful, trusting that her husband will return, or she can be unfaithful to her widowhood, a lukewarm, mediocre, worldly Church seeking comfort in other things.

In these last days of the liturgical year, Pope Francis concluded, we would do well to ask ourselves if our souls are searching for the Lord, or if they’re looking for comfort in things which do not please the Lord. Let our souls say “Come Lord Jesus! Come!” And may we leave behind all those useless things which stop us from staying faithful.

-----------------------------------------------

At Casa Santa Marta, Says God Welcomes Us Like a Parent Welcomes a Child Who's Had a Nightmare  Dec 10

During morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta today, Pope Francis spoke of God’s love and encouraged the congregation to allow themselves to be “embraced by God’s mercy."

The Holy Father based his homily on a passage from Isaiah in which we are told that God chose His people out of love. He explained that he chose them “not because they were big and powerful but because they were the smallest and most wretched of all."

He compared God’s love to that of a mother or father when they speak to their child after he or she has woken after a nightmare. Just as our parents reassured us, saying, “don’t be scared, I’m here,” so God says “do not be afraid of your sins, I love you; I am here to forgive you."

“This is the mercy of God," the Pope explained.

Pope Francis exemplified the extent of God’s mercy by referring to the passage in Matthew in which Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

He went on to say, “We are all so nervous when something does not go to plan; we scream and shout, we are impatient… He, however, says 'Calm down; yes, you’ve made a mistake but don’t worry, don’t be afraid. I forgive you.'"

The Pope concluded by inviting those present to ask God to “renew in all people faith in our Father and in his mercy."

------------------------------------ 

Morning Mass on December 14|

“Hope is a Christian virtue that is a great gift from God and that allows us to see beyond problems, pain, difficulties, beyond our sins. It allows us to see the beauty of God".

According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis stressed this during his daily morning Mass at his residence Casa Santa Marta, underscoring that those who have hope have the freedom and strength to see beyond the bad times, as well as opens up horizons and gives us freedom.

Reflecting on today’s Gospel, in which the chief priests question Jesus and ask with which authority does He act, the Pope said: "They have no horizons, they are men who are locked in their calculations, they are slaves to their rigidity”

“Human calculations,"  the Pontiff warned, “close hearts and shut out freedom", while “hope gives us levity."

Drawing inspiration from today’s first reading from the Book of Numbers, which tells of Balaam, a prophet hired by a king to curse Israel, the Pope observed that Balaam “had his faults, and he had sins as well, because we all have sins. We are all sinners”.

Don’t Panic

Pope Francis told those gathered not to panic, and reminded them, “God is greater than our sins”.

The Holy Father noted that at a certain point, Balaam meets the angel of the Lord and has a change of heart, and understands what his error is. Balaam opens his heart, repents and sees the truth, Francis noted, because "with good will one always sees the truth. Truth that gives hope."

While Francis reflected on the beauty of freedom, of the hope of men and women of the Church, he also criticized the rigidity of others in the Church and “that clerical stiffness that contains no hope.”

2 Paths

“In this Year of Mercy,” the Pope said, “there are these two paths: one of those who hope in God’s mercy and know that God is the Father; and then there are those who take refuge in the slavery of rigidity and know nothing of God's mercy.”

Before concluding, Pope Francis recalled an event that occurred during a Mass for the ill, in Buenos Aires in 1992. He recalled that he had been confessing for many hours when he received a very old woman "with eyes that were full of hope.

"I said: 'Grandma, are you coming to confession?' Because I was about to leave. ‘Yes’ she answered and I said: ‘you have not sinned’.  She said: 'Father: we have all sinned – But God forgives all’. ‘How do you know?' I asked, and she said: 'Because if God did not forgive all, the world would not exist.'”

Therefore, Pope Francis highlighted, before these two types of people, “the free one, the one with hope who brings God's mercy,”  and “the closed, legalistic slave of his own rigidity,” we are to “remember the words of the old lady and the lesson she gave me: 'God  forgives all, He is  just waiting for you to get close to Him.'"

--------------------------------------- 

Morning Homily January 8: Even if we can't count our sins, God is waiting for us to open the doors of our hearts to Him. Even if we don't feel we deserve it yet, He wishes to embrace us as we are.

Pope Francis stressed this during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, as he drew inspiration from John's Gospel reading and reflected on various meanings of the word 'love,' reported Vatican Radio.

“This word ‘love’ is a word that is used so many times and when we use it we don’t know exactly what it means. What is love? Sometimes we can think of the love in the soap operas, but that doesn’t appear to be love. Or else love can seem like having a crush on a person, but then it fades away. Where does true love come from? Whoever loves has been created by God because God is love. Don’t say: ‘Every love is God,’ No, God is love.”

The Apostle John, the Pope stressed, underscores how God loves us first, without limits, and there are many examples of this in the Gospel, including the parable of the prodigal son and the multiplication of the loaves of bread by Jesus.

Not all love, Francis warned, comes from God, but He is the true love. He also directed those gathered to remember the two most important commandments for a Christian, namely loving God and our neighbour.

“When we have something on our mind and we want to ask God to forgive us, it’s He who is waiting for us – to forgive us," Francis said. 

The Pontiff also asserted that this Jubilee Year of Mercy, to some extent, is also about us realizing that the Lord is waiting for us, each one of us.

"Why?" he asked, "To embrace us.  Nothing more.  To say to us: son, daughter, I love you. I let my Son be crucified for you: this is the price of my love, this is the gift of my love.”

Francis continued, stressing, “The Lord is waiting for me, the Lord wants me to open the door of my heart” and that we are to realize God waits for us as we are now, not just as we are to be.

“We must go to the Lord and say: ‘You know Lord how much I love you.’ Or, if you don’t feel able to say it in that way: ‘You know Lord that I would like to love you but I am such a bad sinner,’ Francis said.

Pope Francis concluded, stressing that God then will do the same for his people as the father in the prodigal son: "He won’t let you finish your speech and with an embrace will silence you. The embrace of God’s love.”

---------------------------------------------- 

January 12: At his morning Mass today in the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis assured that prayer does bring miracles and that it keeps hearts from growing hard.

“It’s the prayer of the faithful that brings change to the Church,” the Pope said, as reported by Vatican Radio. “It’s not us popes, bishops or priests who carry the Church forward, but the saints.”

The Pope focused his homily on the First Reading, which relates the story of Hannah as she prays to God about her infertility and Eli, who assumes she is drunk.

“Hannah was praying silently, her lips moved but her voice was not heard. Hers is the courage of a woman of faith who is weeping and grieving and asks the Lord for his grace,” the Pope explained.

He continued, “There are many good women in the Church, many! They place all their trust in prayer... Let us think of one of them, Saint Monica, who was able with her tears to be granted the grace of conversion for her son, Saint Augustine. There are so many!”

So easy to judge

Meanwhile, the Holy Father described Eli as a poor man, with whom he said he feels a “certain sympathy” because, he explained, “I find faults in myself that allow me to understand him well and feel close to him.” 

“How easily do we judge people and lack the respect to say: 'I wonder what he has in his heart? I do not know, but I will say nothing,’” the Pope reflected. “When the heart lacks compassion one always thinks evil" and does not understand those who pray “with pain and anguish” and “entrust that pain and anguish to the Lord.”

“Jesus knows this kind of prayer. When he was in Gethsemane and was so anguished and hurt he sweated blood; He did not accuse the Father,” Francis reflected, drawing a parallel between Jesus’ response and that of Hannah, since both prayed with meekness.

“Sometimes, we pray, we ask things of God, but often we do not know how to engage with the Lord, to ask for grace,” he added.

Daring to believe

The Pope also recalled the story of a man in Buenos Aires whose 9-year-old-daughter was dying. He said he spent the night at the shrine of the Virgin of Luján clinging to the gate and praying for the grace of healing. The next morning, when he returned to the hospital, his daughter was healed:

“Prayer works miracles; it works miracles for Christians, whether they be faithful laypeople, priests, bishops who have lost compassion. The prayers of the faithful change the Church: It’s not us popes, bishops, priests or nuns who carry the Church forward, but saints,” the Pontiff concluded. “Saints are those who dare to believe that God is the Lord and that He can do everything.”

—----------------

January  2016

During his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis stressed that those who have this mentality of–‘but this is how it’s always been done’–deprive themselves of having meaningful lives and close themselves to the Holy Spirit’s surprises, reported Vatican Radio.

The sin, he said, “is a closed heart,” that “does not hear the voice of the Lord, that is not open to the newness of the Lord, to the Spirit that always surprises us.”

“It’s always been done this way’ is a closed heart, and Jesus tells us, ‘I will send you the Holy Spirit and He will lead you into the fullness of truth.”

The Pontiff drew inspiration from today’s reading in which Saul was rejected by God as King of Israel because he disobeyed, preferring to listen to the people rather than the will of God. After winning a battle, the people wanted to offer a sacrifice of the best animals to God, because, he said, “it’s always been done that way.” But God, this time, did not want that.

Also in the Gospel, the Pope added, Jesus teaches us the same thing. When the doctors of the law criticized Him because His disciples did not fast “as had always been done,” Jesus responded with examples from daily life which illustrated that to continue certain habits doesn’t make sense.

Francis clarified that this is not Jesus changing the law, and that man must have an open heart because the law is at the service of man, who is at the service of God.

If you have a heart closed to the newness of the Spirit, you will never reach the full truth, and this was Saul’s sin, the Pope stressed.

Being Stubborn = Sin of Idolizing Self

The Prophet Samuel, the Pope highlighted, calls this rebellion of a closed heart, “the sin of divination,” and obstinacy, “the sin of idolatry.”

“Christians who obstinately maintain ‘it’s always been done this way,’ this is the path, this is the street—they sin: the sin of divination,” he said.

“It’s as if they went about by guessing: ‘What has been said and what doesn’t change is what’s important; what I hear—from myself and my closed heart—more than the Word of the Lord.’ Obstinacy is also the sin of idolatry: the Christian who is obstinate sins! The sin of idolatry.”

‘And what is the way, Father?’ Open the heart to the Holy Spirit, discern what is the will of God.”

Habits Must Be Renewed

Given this, an “open heart” is what is needed, “a heart that will not stubbornly remain in the sin of idolatry of oneself,” imagining that my own opinion is more important than the surprise of the Holy Spirit.

“This is the message the Church gives us today. This is what Jesus says so forcefully: ‘New wine in new wineskins.’ Habits must be renewed in the newness of the Spirit, in the surprises of God.”

Pope Francis concluded, praying that the Lord grant us the grace of an open heart, “of a heart open to the voice of the Spirit, which knows how to discern what should not change, because it is fundamental, from what should change in order to be able to receive the newness of the Spirit.”

---------------------------------- 

January 18: Morning Homily:   In order to understand Jesus, we cannot have closed hearts, but rather need those that are courageous and forward-looking.

Pope Francis stressed this during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta as he asked those gathered to ask themselves to consider their own faith in Christ, reported Vatican Radio.

“How is my faith in Jesus Christ?” he urged them to reflect, as he reflected on today’s readings.

Recalling today’s Gospel from St. Mark, which recounted the miraculous healing of a paralytic in Capernaum, Francis stressed that ‘no one can buy faith,’ for it is ‘a gift that changes our life.’

Must Open Our Hearts

In order to really understand Jesus, he underscored, we cannot have a “closed heart,” and rather, need to follow the path of forgiveness and humiliation.

To illustrate what it means to really have faith, the Pope turned to the people of Capernaum, who were ready to do anything to get closer to Jesus, taking whatever risks may have come their way. So confident they were in Him and His healing, they overcrowded and surrounded the home where the Lord would heal. He also reminded them that the roof had to be opened for the paralyzed man to be lowered into the home.

Need for Courageous, Forward-looking Hearts

“They had faith,” the Pope exclaimed, “the same faith as that lady who, also in a crowd, arranged to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, Jesus’ robe, when He was going to the house of Jairus, that she too might be healed.” He observed this was the same faith of the centurion, who wished for his servant to be healed.

“Strong faith, courageous, forward – looking,” the Holy Father said, “hearts to faith.”

Closed Hearts Cannot Understand Jesus

In the paralytic’s story, the Jesuit Pope said, “Jesus goes a step further,” of not just healing, but forgiving.

“There were those there who had their hearts closed, but accepted – up to a point – that Jesus was a healer – but forgiving sins is strong! This man is over the top! He has no right to say this, because only God can forgive sins.”

Only Jesus knew what they were thinking, the Pope reflected, and said: ‘I am God’? – No, He did not say that. [He said,] ‘Why are you thinking these things? Because you know that the Son of Man has the power – this is what makes him special [It. è il passo avanti] – to forgive sins: ‘Arise, take up your mat and be healed.’”

The Holy Father observed that here, “Jesus begins to speak the language that at some point will discourage people, some of disciples who followed him – for, hard is this language, when he speaks of eating his body as a way of salvation.”

All doubt: but are you a disciple that stays, or goes away?

He urged those gathered to reflect whether Jesus does, really, change their lives.

When Jesus shows up with a power greater than that of a man, “To give that forgiveness, to give life, to recreate humanity, even His disciples doubt, and [some of them] go away.” Jesus asked a small group, ‘Do you also want to go away?’”

“Faith in Jesus Christ: how is my faith in Jesus Christ? Do I believe that Jesus Christ is God, the Son of God? And has this faith been life-changing? Does my faith make this year of grace begin in my heart, this year of pardon, this year of growing in nearness to the Lord?”

No One Deserves Faith

Faith is a gift, the Pope stressed, noting, No one ‘deserves’ faith nor can buy it. Therefore, we are to always be humble, repent and pray: ‘Forgive me, Lord. You are God. You ‘can’ forgive my sins.”

The Pontiff prayed that the Lord “make us grow in faith.”

The people, he noted, “sought Jesus in order that they might hear Him, because he spoke “with authority, not as the scribes speak.”

Also, he added, they followed Him because He healed people, because he performed miracles – but in the end, “these people, after seeing this, went away and they were all amazed, and glorified God.”

Praise

“Praise: the proof that I believe that Jesus Christ is God in my life, that He was sent to me to ‘forgive me,’ is praise; if I have the ability to praise God. Praise the Lord. This is free – praise is gratis.”

He noted the Holy Spirit gives us this feeling and ability to express this, bringing us to say: ‘You are the only God.’

The Pontiff concluded, praying that the Lord “makes us grow in our faith in Jesus Christ, God, who forgives us, who gives us a year of grace – and this faith leads us to praise.”

--------------------------------------------------- 

January 19, 2016

Pope Francis offered this reflection during his morning homily today in Casa Santa Marta, Vatican Radio reported.

The Pope drew his homily from the reading from 1 Samuel, which recounts God instructing the prophet to choose David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons.

The Pope pointed out that God did not choose according to human standards, since David was only a youth.

But the Lord made it clear to the prophet Samuel that he looks beyond appearances: “The Lord looks into the heart.”

“We are often the slaves of appearances and allow ourselves to pursue appearances: ‘But God knows the truth.’ And that is so in this story,” the Holy Father said. “Jesse’s seven sons are presented and the Lord does not choose any of them, he lets them pass by. Samuel is in a bit of difficulty and says to Jesse: ‘The Lord has not chosen any of them, are these all the sons you have? And Jesse replied that there was still the youngest, who is tending the sheep’. To the eyes of man this boy did not count.”

Nevertheless, David was God’s chosen one and the “Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David” and from that day on “the whole of David’s life was the life of a man anointed by the Lord, chosen by the Lord,” the Pope said.

Life’s journey

But did this mean that God immediately made David a saint, the Pope asked.

No, he answered. “King David is saint King David, this is true, but he became a saint after living a long life” a life during which he sinned:

“A saint and a sinner. A man who managed to unite the Kingdom; he was able to lead the people of Israel. But he fell into temptation … he committed sins: he was also a murderer. To cover up his lust, the sin of adultery… he commissioned a murder. He did! Did saint King David commit murder? When God sent the prophet Nathan to point this reality out to him, because he was not aware of the barbarity he had ordered, he acknowledged his sin and asked for forgiveness.”

The Holy Father noted how David’s life continued with suffering over the betrayal of his son, but how he “never used God for his own purpose.” When he was insulted, the Pope pointed out, David would say to himself: “It’s what I deserve.”

And then, Francis noted, “he was magnanimous”: he could have killed Saul “but he did not do so.” Saint King David, a great sinner, but a repentant one.

“The life of this man moves me,” the Pope said.

“We have all been chosen by the Lord to be baptized, to be part of His people, to be saints; we have been consecrated by the Lord on the path towards sainthood. Reading about this life, the life of a child – no… not a child, he was a boy – from boyhood to old age, during which he did many good things and others that were not so good. It makes me think that during the Christian journey, the journey the Lord has invited us to undertake, there is no saint without a past and no sinner without a future.”

—-------------------------------------------  

January 22, 2016

This morning during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis reminded those gathered of the bishop’s two required jobs: praying and proclaiming the Gospel, and warned that if these tasks are neglected, God’s people suffer.

According to Vatican Radio, the Pontiff drew inspiration from today’s Gospel of Mark which recalls Jesus’ choosing the 12 Apostles, and how, today, the “bishops are pillars of the Church,” called to be witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus.

“We bishops have this responsibility to be witnesses: witnesses to the fact that the Lord Jesus is alive, that the Lord Jesus is risen, that the Lord Jesus walks with us, that the Lord Jesus saves us, that the Lord Jesus gave his life for us, that the Lord Jesus is our hope, that the Lord Jesus always welcomes us and forgives us. Giving witness. Our life must be this: a testimony. True witness to the Resurrection of Christ.”

2 Jobs of a Bishop

The first task of a bishop, the Pontiff stressed, is to be with Jesus in prayer, “not to prepare pastoral plans … no, no!   Prayer: this is the first task.”

The second task, he continued, is to be a witness, which means preaching the salvation that the Lord Jesus has brought.

“Two tasks that are not easy, but it is precisely these two tasks that are the strong pillars of the Church. If these columns are weakened because the bishop does not pray or prays little, forgets to pray; or because the bishop does not announce the Gospel and instead takes care of other things, the Church also weakens; it suffers. God’s people suffer. Because the columns are weak. ”

“The Church without the bishop doesn’t work,” said the Pope.  Therefore, we must all pray for our bishops, he concluded, as an “obligation of love, an obligation of children in reverence to the Father, an obligation of brothers so that the family remains united in its witness to Jesus Christ, living and risen.”

With your heart, pray for your bishop

The Holy Father went on to invite faithful to pray for “us bishops, because we too are sinners;  we too have weaknesses.”

“In every Mass, we pray for the bishops,” the Pope recalled. “We pray for Peter, the head of the college of bishops, and we pray for our local bishop. But this is not enough:  we say the name, and many times we say it out of habit, and then we go on. Pray for the bishop with your heart!”

Pope Francis concluded, saying,”Ask the Lord: Lord, take care of my bishop; take care of all the bishops, and send us bishops who are true witnesses – bishops who pray and bishops who help us through their preaching to understand the Gospel, so that we may trust that you, Lord, are alive and that you’re with us.”

----------------------------------------------- 

January 21, 2016

The Pope said this today during morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta, on the Feast of St. Agnes.

Drawing from the 1st Reading, which tells of Saul’s jealousy of David, the Pope noted: “How ugly envy is! It is an attitude, it is an ugly sin. And jealousy or envy grows in the heart like a weed: it grows, but it doesn’t allow good plants to grow. It harms everything that its shadow seems to fall upon.”

The Holy Father reflected that an envious person can never feel peace: “There is no peace! It is a tormented heart, it is an ugly heart!”

What’s more, the Pontiff continued, envy leads to killing, to death. “And Scripture says clearly: through the envy of the devil, death entered the world.”

“Envy kills,” the Pope explained. “It does not tolerate others having something that I do not have. And it always suffers, because the heart of an envious or jealous person suffers. It is a suffering heart!”

It is a suffering that desires “the death of others.”

“But how many times,” he asked, “in our communities – and we don’t have to look too far to see this – are people killed, through jealousy, with the tongue? Someone is envious of this, of the other, and they begin to gossip – and gossip kills”:

“I too, thinking and reflecting on this passage, invite myself – and everyone – to see if, in my heart, there is any jealousy, any envy, which always leads to death and doesn’t make me happy; because this sickness always leads us to regard the good others possess as if it were against us. And this is an ugly sin. It is the beginning of many, many crimes. Let us ask the Lord to give us the grace not to open the heart to jealousy, not to open the heart to envy, because these things always lead to death.”

Jesus handed over out of envy 

Pope Francis concluded by noting that Jesus was handed over to Pontius Pilate because of the envy of the chief priests and the scribes:

“According to the interpretation of Pilate – who was very intelligent, but a coward – envy was what lead to the death of Jesus: the instrument, the ultimate instrument. They handed him over out of envy. Let us also ask the Lord the grace never, because of envy, to hand over to death a brother, a sister of the parish, of the community, or even someone in our neighbourhood. Everyone has their sins, everyone has their virtues. They are specific to each individual. Look at the good, and do not kill with gossip through envy or jealousy.”

-------------------------------------------

January 28, 2016   Pope Francis noted today that a true Christian must give witness to Christ since giving testimony is one of the peculiarities of Christian behavior.

The Pope said this during his morning homily today at the Casa Santa Marta, according to Vatican Radio.

Part of the congregation was made up of a number of priests who celebrated with the Pope their 50th year of ordination.

“The mystery of God is light,” the Pope said, drawing from today’s Gospel.

“And this is one of the traits of a Christian who has received the light in Baptism and must give it. That is, the Christian is a witness. Testimony. One of the peculiarities of Christian behavior. A Christian who brings this light, must show it because he is a witness.”

A Christian who does not give witness to Christ isn’t a true Christian, Francis continued.

“When a Christian would prefer not to show the light of God but prefers his own darkness, this enters his heart because he is afraid of the light. And the idols, which are dark, he likes best. So he lacks: he’s missing something and is not a true Christian. Witness: a Christian is a witness. Of Jesus Christ, the Light of God. He has to put that light on the lampstand of his life.”

The Bishop of Rome also considered the phrase from the Gospel, “The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”

“Another trait of the Christian,”  he reflected, “is magnanimity, because he is the child of a magnanimous father, of great heart.”

“The Christian heart is magnanimous.  It is open, always. It is not a heart that is closed in on its own selfishness. Or one that’s calculating: ‘up to this point, up to here.’ When you enter this light of Jesus, when you enter into Jesus’ friendship, when you let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit, the heart becomes open, magnanimous… The Christian, then, does not gain, but loses. But he loses to gain something else, and in this — quote — ‘defeat’ of interests, he gains Jesus; he gains by becoming Jesus’ witness.”

Pope Francis then addressed those present who are celebrating 50 years of service in the priesthood:

“For me it is a joy to celebrate with you today, as you mark the 50th anniversary of your priesthood: 50 years on the path of light and giving witness, 50 years of trying to be better, trying to bring light to the lampstand.  Sometimes we fall, but we get up again, always with the desire to give light, generously, that is, with a magnanimous heart. Only God and your own memory know how many people you have received generously with the kindness of fathers, of brothers … to how many people whose heart was a bit ‘dark’ have you given light, the light of Jesus. Thank you. Thank you for what you have done in the Church, for the Church and for Jesus.”

“May the Lord give you joy, this great joy,” the Pope concluded, “of having sown well,  of ---having shown light well and of having opened your arms to receive all with magnanimity.”

---------------------------------------- 

January 29, 2016

Even if one sins often, whenever one returns to God seeking forgiveness, he never needs to doubt he will be forgiven.

Pope Francis made this point during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta this morning, as he distinguished sinners from the corrupt, who “no longer see the need to be forgiven” and “don’t feel they need God,” reported Vatican Radio.

The Pontiff drew his inspiration from today’s first reading, which raccounted the story of David and Bathsheba. David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and when he learned she was pregnant, he tried to cover it up, including having arranged the death of Basheba’s husband, an army officer and good man, in battle.

“David is a saint, but also a sinner,” the Pope stressed, who fell on account of lust, but who God still loves him very much.

However, he pointed, we observe that when he arranges this murder, we see “a moment through which we all can pass in our life: it is the passage from sin to corruption.”

Corruption, the Pope acknowledged, “is a very easy sin for all of us who have some power, whether it be ecclesiastical, religious, economic, political… Because the devil makes us feel certain: ‘I can do it.’”

The Holy Father went on to warn against this moment in which the “attitude of sin, or a moment where our situation is so secure and we see well and we have so much power’ that sin ‘stops’ and becomes ‘corruption.’”

“One of the ugliest things” about corruption, the Pontiff underscored, is that the one who becomes corrupt thinks he has “no need for forgiveness.”

“Today, let us offer a prayer for the Church, beginning with ourselves, for the Pope, for the Bishops, for the priests, for consecrated men and women, for the lay faithful: ‘Lord, save us, save us from corruption.”

Pope Francis concluded, saying, “We are sinners, yes, O Lord, all of us, but [let us] never [become] corrupt!’ Let us ask for this grace.”

-----------------------------------------

January 28, 2016

Pope Francis noted today that a true Christian must give witness to Christ since giving testimony is one of the peculiarities of Christian behavior.

The Pope said this during his morning homily today at the Casa Santa Marta, according to Vatican Radio.

Part of the congregation was made up of a number of priests who celebrated with the Pope their 50th year of ordination.

“The mystery of God is light,” the Pope said, drawing from today’s Gospel.

“And this is one of the traits of a Christian who has received the light in Baptism and must give it. That is, the Christian is a witness. Testimony. One of the peculiarities of Christian behavior. A Christian who brings this light, must show it because he is a witness.”

A Christian who does not give witness to Christ isn’t a true Christian, Francis continued.

“When a Christian would prefer not to show the light of God but prefers his own darkness, this enters his heart because he is afraid of the light. And the idols, which are dark, he likes best. So he lacks: he’s missing something and is not a true Christian. Witness: a Christian is a witness. Of Jesus Christ, the Light of God. He has to put that light on the lampstand of his life.”

The Bishop of Rome also considered the phrase from the Gospel, “The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”

“Another trait of the Christian,”  he reflected, “is magnanimity, because he is the child of a magnanimous father, of great heart.”

“The Christian heart is magnanimous.  It is open, always. It is not a heart that is closed in on its own selfishness. Or one that’s calculating: ‘up to this point, up to here.’ When you enter this light of Jesus, when you enter into Jesus’ friendship, when you let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit, the heart becomes open, magnanimous… The Christian, then, does not gain, but loses. But he loses to gain something else, and in this — quote — ‘defeat’ of interests, he gains Jesus; he gains by becoming Jesus’ witness.”

Pope Francis then addressed those present who are celebrating 50 years of service in the priesthood:

“For me it is a joy to celebrate with you today, as you mark the 50th anniversary of your priesthood: 50 years on the path of light and giving witness, 50 years of trying to be better, trying to bring light to the lampstand.  Sometimes we fall, but we get up again, always with the desire to give light, generously, that is, with a magnanimous heart. Only God and your own memory know how many people you have received generously with the kindness of fathers, of brothers … to how many people whose heart was a bit ‘dark’ have you given light, the light of Jesus. Thank you. Thank you for what you have done in the Church, for the Church and for Jesus.”

“May the Lord give you joy, this great joy,” the Pope concluded, “of having sown well,  of having shown light well and of having opened your arms to receive all with magnanimity.”

—-------------------  

February 5, 2016

John the Baptist lived his attitude of “he must increase, I must decrease” until the end, even suffering in prison the “interior torture of doubt,” says Pope Francis.

The Pope offered this reflection on Jesus’ cousin today during Mass at Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio.

The Gospel reading of today relates John’s beheading.

The Holy Father reflected that it was Jesus who “canonized” John the Baptist, in referring to him as the “the greatest man born of woman.”

“The greatest saint: Thus Jesus canonized him. And he ended his life in jail, beheaded, and the final phrase [of the Gospel reading] seems almost one of resignation: ‘When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.’ This is the end of ‘the greatest man born of a woman.’ A great prophet. The ultimate, the last of the prophets. The only one to whom it was granted to see the hope of Israel.”

The Holy Father invited the congregation to enter into John’s cell, to look into the soul of the “voice crying out in the desert,” of the one who baptized the crowds in the name of Him who was to come.

“But he also suffered in prison – let us say the word – the interior torture of doubt: ‘But maybe I made a mistake? This Messiah is not how I imagined the Messiah would be.’ And he invited his disciples to ask Jesus: ‘But tell us, tell us the truth: are you He who is to come?’ because that doubt made him suffer. ‘Was I mistaken in proclaiming someone who isn’t [who I thought]?’ The suffering, the interior solitude of this man. ‘I, on the other hand, must diminish, but diminish thus: in soul, in body, in everything…”

“To diminish, diminish, diminish.” That “was the life of John,” Pope Francis repeated. “A great man who did not seek his own glory, but the glory of God”; a man who died in such a prosaic manner, in anonymity.

But with this attitude, the Pope concluded, John “prepared the way for Jesus,’ who, in a similar manner, “died in agony, alone, without the disciples’:

“It does us good to read this passage from the Gospel, the Gospel of Mark, chapter 6. Reading this passage, seeing how God triumphs: the style of God is not the style of man. Asking the Lord for the grace of humility that John had, and not leaning on our own merits or the glory of others. And above all, the grace that our life might always be a place that Christ might grow greater, and we might come down, even to the very end.”

-------------------------

Pope’s Morning Homily: Christians Have to Walk the Walk

“How many parents say they are Catholics, but never have time to talk to their children, to play with their children, to listen to their children”

February 23, 2016

Christians cannot claim to be “very Catholic” and then not live in accordance with what Christ teaches, Pope Francis said today in his morning homily at Casa Santa Marta.

Drawing from the mention of the Pharisees in today’s readings, the Holy Father sought to explain once again the “evangelical dialectic between saying and doing,” Vatican Radio reported. He placed emphasis on the words of Jesus, which unmask the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees, calling the disciples and crowds to do as they say, though not as they do:

“The Lord teaches us the way of doing: and how many times we find people – ourselves included – so often in the Church, who say, ‘Oh, we are very Catholic.’ ‘But what do you do?’ How many parents say they are Catholics, but never have time to talk to their children, to play with their children, to listen to their children. Perhaps they have their parents in a nursing home, but always are busy and cannot go and visit them and so leave them there, abandoned. ‘But I am very Catholic: I belong to that association,’ [they say]. This is the religion of saying: I say it is so, but I do according to the ways of the world.”

What God wants

The way of “saying and not doing,” says the Pope, “is a deception.”

“The mercy of the Lord goes out to meet those who dare to argue with Him, but to argue about the truth, about the things one does or does not do, [and He argues] in order to correct me. This, then, is the great love of the Lord, in this dialectic between saying and doing. To be a Christian means to do: to do the will of God – and on the last day – because all of us will have one – that day what shall the Lord ask us? Will He say: ‘What you have said about me?’ No. He shall ask us about the things we did.”

The Holy Father pointed to the lines from Matthew’s Gospel, which foretell the Last Judgment, when God will call men to account for what they have done to the hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, strangers. “This,” said the Holy Father, “is the Christian life: mere talk leads to vanity, to that empty pretense of being Christian – but no, that way one is not a Christian at all.”:

“May the Lord give us this wisdom to understand well where lies the difference between saying and doing, and teach us the way of doing and help us to go down that way, because the way of saying brings us to the place where were these teachers of the law, these clerics, who liked dressing up and acting just like if they were so many Majesties – and this is not the reality of the Gospel. May the Lord teach us this way.”

----------------------------------------- 

February 25, 2016 Morning homily at Casa Santa Marta 

We cannot let our hearts be closed, nor focus only on that which affects our personal world.

During his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis stressed this, noting we are called to welcome love and mercy into our hearts, especially that which the Lord longs to give us, and to show our love to others, reported Vatican Radio.

In his homily, the Pope reminded those present that we are in Lent and we should ask ourselves on what path we are traveling.

“‘Am I on the road of life, or on the road of lies? How many ways is my heart still closed? Where is my joy: in doing, or in speaking? In going out of myself to meet others, to help them? The works of mercy, eh?

“Or is my joy in having everything organized, closed in on myself?’

“Let us ask the Lord, while we’re thinking about it – no, throughout our life – for the grace of always seeing the Lazarus at our door, the Lazarus who knocks at our heart, and [the grace] to go out of ourselves with generosity, with the attitude of mercy, so that the mercy of God can enter into our hearts.”

The Pontiff noted that this involves helping the poor, through whom Jesus channels us.

‘Religiosity’ doesn’t count

Francis drew inspiration from today’s Gospel in which Jesus tells the parable of the rich man “who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day,” and who did not notice that at his door was the poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores.

The Holy Father said this exhorts us to ask ourselves: “Am I a Christian in name only, on the path of lies; or am I a Christian on the path of life, that is, of works, of actions.” The rich man of the parable, he said, “knew the commandments, surely went every Saturday to the synagogue, and once a year to the Temple.” He had “a certain religiosity”

“But he was a closed man, closed in his own little world – the world of banquets, of clothes, of vanity, of friends – a closed man, truly in a bubble of vanity. He didn’t have the ability to see others, only his own world. And this man did not recognize the things that happened beyond his closed world,” Francis said.

For example, the Pope noted, this man didn’t think of the needs of so many people, or of the necessity of accompanying the sick, rather “he thought only of himself, of his wealth, of his good life: he was given to the good life.”

The rich man, Francis explained, had the appearance of being religious, but did not know the “peripheries,” for “he was completely ‘closed in on himself.’”

“It is precisely the “peripheries” on his very doorstep that he could not see,” he said.

Don’t be closed in on self

Because he only “trusted in himself” and “in his things,” rather than trust in God, Francis said the man took “the way of falsehood.

He was a man who wasn’t able to properly receive his inheritance, or live his life, because “he was closed in on himself.”

“It is curious,” the Pope pointed out, “that the man had lost his name. It says only that he was a rich man, and when your name is only an adjective, it is because you have lost [something], you have lost substance, you have lost strength.”

“This wealth, this power, this can accomplish anything, this is a priest with a career, a bishop with a career… How many times [do] we [do this]?… It amounts to naming people with adjectives, not with names, because they have no substance.

“But I ask myself, ‘Did not God, who is a Father, have mercy on this man? Did He not knock on his heart to move him?” But yes, he was at the door, in the person of that man Lazarus, who had a name. And Lazarus, with his needs and his sorrows, his illnesses – it was the Lord Himself who was knocking at the door, so that this man would open his heart and mercy would be able to enter. But no, he did not see, he was simply closed: for him, outside the door there was nothing.”

----------------------------------------- 

Pope’s Morning Homily: Salvation Doesn’t Come Through Power and Riches

February 29, 2016

God is not interested in the great accomplishments of the rich and powerful, but in the loving fidelity of day-to-day.

According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father said this at his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, as he recalled how Jesus has taught us this.

“Jesus never spoke of great things,” but about “little things,” the Pope said.

Christ, Francis explained, shows us this through the “the two pillars of the Gospel” found in Matthew: the Beatitudes and Chapter 25, the Final Judgment, where He says: ‘Come, come with me because you have done these things, simple things.’

Highlighting Christ’s appreciation for the simple, Francis said, how Jesus was glad that the faithful did not seek salvation or your hope in power, in political parties, or in negotiations.

“No! You have simply done these things,” Francis said, lamenting how “so many people look down on this!”

“God’s salvation does not come from great things, from power or wealth, nor from clerical or political parties, but from the small and simple things of God.”

The Pope noted how the people of Jesus’ time did not have confidence in these simple little things. He said they believed Jesus as he spoke ‘with authority,’ but had ‘contempt’ for him.

“Why this contempt?” Francis asked.

“Because in our imagination, salvation should come from something great, something majestic; only the powerful, those who have strength or money or power, can save us. These people can save us. And the plan of God is different!

“They felt contempt because they could not understand that salvation only comes from the small things, the simplicity of the things of God.”

As a preparation for Easter, the Pope invited those present to read the Beatitudes and Matthew 25, and to think and to see if there is something that they  ‘look down on’ or ‘disturbs my peace.’

Francis said, ‘I’ll do it, too.’

Pope Francis concluded, calling on them to not ignore his homework, noting, “It would do us good to take some time – today, tomorrow – to read the Beatitudes, to read Matthew 25, and to pay attention to what happens in our heart: if there is some feeling of contempt,” and then seek grace to challenge these sentiments.

-------------------------------------------------------

Pope’s Morning Homily: Forgive As Though You Have Forgotten

At Casa Santa Marta, Says Lent Is a Privileged Time to Prepare Our Hearts to Imitate God’s Infinite Forgiveness

March 1, 2016

Lent is a privileged time to prepare our hearts to receive God’s forgiveness, and to show it to others, by forgetting their faults.

According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis stressed this during his daily morning Mass in Casa Santa Marta, as he discussed God’s infinite capacity to forgive as a perfection of his nature.

Francis also pointed out how greatly this contrasts with the inability of fallen human nature to admit our own frailty.

The Jesuit Pope drew inspiration from today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew in which the Apostle Peter asks Jesus how many times we are to forgive a brother who has sinned against us, and the Lord responds, seventy-seven times, which represents ‘always.’

Forgiving, the Pope stressed, means opening our hearts so that God’s mercy might come and forgive us, “for, we all have need of pardon, need to ask forgiveness.”

Stressing that we are to trust in God’s mercy and goodness, Francis noted, “When God forgives, his forgiveness is so great that it is as though God forgets.”

The Argentine Pontiff said this is “quite the opposite” of what we do, “as we chatter: ‘But so-and-so did such-and-such.’ He stressed how much history we have of this and noted we do this because we don’t have merciful hearts.

Francis invited those present to have mercy on others, so they shall feel God’s mercy, who, when “He forgives,” He also “forgets.”

“In the Our Father,” the Pope recalled, “we pray: ‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.’ It is an equation: the two sides go together.

“If you are not able to forgive, how will God forgive you? He wants to forgive you, but He will not if you have closed hearts, where mercy cannot enter.”

‘But, Father, I forgive, but I cannot forget the bad turn that so-and-so did me …’. Well, ask the Lord to help you to forget.”

Francis also criticized when we people say ‘I forgive you,’ but mean, ‘You’ll pay me later.’

“This, never!” Francis said. “Forgive as God forgives – to the utmost.”

The Holy Father reminded those gathered that heartfelt pardon, given and received, is always an act of Divine mercy.

Pope Francis concluded, saying, “May Lent prepare our hearts to receive God’s forgiveness – but let us receive it and then do the same with others: forgive heartily.”

----------------------------------------------- 

Pope’s Morning Homily: We Can’t Have Hardened, Closed Hearts

By Deborah Castellano Lubov on Mar 03, 2016 08:01 pm

Only with open hearts and admitting we are sinners, we can receive God’s mercy.

Pope Francis stressed this during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio.

Drawing inspiration from today’s reading from the Book of Jeremiah, the Pontiff stressed that “God is always faithful, for he cannot deny himself,” but people don’t listen to Him.

God does many things “to attract the hearts of His people,” the Pope stressed, yet they remain unfaithful, he added.

“This unfaithfulness of God’s people,” the Pope warned, is  “also ours.” It is our own infidelity, he said, which “hardens the heart, closes the heart!”

“It does not allow [us to hear] the voice of the Lord who, as a loving father, always asks us to open ourselves to His mercy and His love.

‘Hear now the voice of God. Do not harden your hearts!’ the Pope  said.

Francis noted how the Lord always speaks with us in this way, “with the tenderness of a father who says: ‘Return to me with all your heart, for I am compassionate and merciful.’”

“But when the heart is hardened, you don’t understand this. God’s mercy can only be understood when you are able to open your heart to let it enter. ”

The Pope pointed to the learned men who studied Scriptures and confronted Jesus to make his point.

They were “teachers of the law who knew theology, but they were very, very closed,”  whereas the crowd was amazed and had faith in Jesus.

“Their hearts were open:  imperfect, sinful, but open hearts.”

“But these theologians,” adds the Pope, “had a closed attitude! They always sought an explanation so as not to understand the message of Jesus.”

“They asked Him for a sign from heaven.  Always closed!  It was Jesus who had to justify his actions.”

“This is the story, the story of this failed fidelity. The story of closed hearts, of hearts that do not let in the mercy of God, which have forgotten the word forgiveness:  ‘Forgive me Lord!’ – simply because they do not [see themselves as] sinners [but see themselves as] judges of others.

The Pope called on faithful to pray for the grace of fidelity, noting the first step is to admit you are a sinner.

“If you do not feel sinful, you have begun badly,” he said.

If you acknowledge that you are a sinner, the Pope explained, “the heart opens and God’s mercy is allowed to enter and you begin to be faithful.”

“We ask for grace so that our hearts do not harden – that they are open to God’s mercy – and for the grace of faithfulness. And when we find ourselves unfaithful, for the grace to ask for forgiveness.”

---------------------------