* * *
Brothers and sisters, hello!
In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, which follows directly after the Beatitudes, Jesus says to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth ... You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13, 14). This surprises us a little bit when we think of the people to whom Jesus was speaking. Who were those disciples? They were fishermen, simple people... But Jesus looked upon them with the eyes of God, and his statement should be understood precisely as a consequence of the Beatitudes. He wishes to say: if you will be poor in spirit, if you will be meek, if you will be pure of heart, if you will be merciful... you will be the salt of the earth and the light of the world!
To better understand these images, let us bear in mind that the Jewish Law prescribed putting a little salt upon every offering presented to God, as a sign of the covenant. Light, for Israel, was a symbol of the messianic revelation that triumphs over the darkness of paganism. Thus, Christians, the new Israel, received a mission for all men: with faith and charity they can direct, consecrate and make humanity fruitful. All of us baptized are missionary disciples and we are called to become a living gospel in the world: with a holy life we will give “taste” to the different spheres [of society] and defend them from corruption, just as salt does; and we will bring the light of Christ with the witness of a genuine charity. But if we Christians lose our taste and extinguish our presence as salt and light, we will lose effectiveness. But how beautiful is this mission to give light to the world! It is a mission that we have. It is beautiful! It is also very beautiful to keep the light that we have received from Jesus, protect it, keep it. The Christian must be a shining person, who brings light, who always gives light! A light that is not his, but a gift from God, it is Jesus’ gift. And we carry this light. If the Christian extinguishes this light, his life has no meaning. He is a Christian in name only, he does not bring light with him, his light is without meaning. But I would like to ask you now, how do you want to live? Do you want to live like a light [“lampada”] that is on or one that is off? On or off? How do you want to live? [The people in St. Peter’s Square respond, “On!”]. A light that is on! It is God himself who gives us this light and we give it to others. A light that is on! This is the Christian vocation.
[Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father spoke further to those gathered in St. Peter’s Square:]
The day after tomorrow, February 11, we celebrate the memorial of the Blessed Virgin of Lourdes, and we will observe the World Day of the Sick. It is a propitious occasion to put the community of sick people at the center. Pray for them and with them, be close to them. The Message for this Day is inspired by an expression of St. John: “Faith and Charity: ‘We Ought to Lay Down Our Lives for One Another’ (1 Jn 3:16).” In particular, we can imitate the attitude of Jesus toward the sick, the sick of every sort: the Lord cares for them, shares their suffering and opens their heart to hope.
I also think of all the health workers. What precious work they do! Thanks so much for your precious work. Every day in the sick the encounter not only bodies marked by fragility, but persons to whom they offer attention and appropriate care. The dignity of the person is never reduced to his faculties or capacities, and it is not lessened, disabled and in need of help. I think also of the families, where it is normal to take care of those who are sick; but sometimes the situations can be more burdensome... Many people write to me, and today I want to assure all of these families of my prayers, and I say to them: do not be afraid of weakness [“fragilità”]! Do not be afraid of weakness! Help each other with love, and you will feel the consoling presence of God.
The attitude toward the sick that is generous and Christian is salt of the earth and light of the world. May Mary help us to practice it and obtain peace for all of those who are suffering.
The Winter Olympics are taking place now in Sochi, Russia. I would like to send my greetings to the organizers and all the athletes, with the wish that it be a true feast of sport and friendship.
I greet all of the pilgrims present today, the families, parish groups, associations. In particular I greet the teachers and students who have come from England; the group of women theologians from different European countries, who are in Rome for a scholarly conference; the faithful of the parishes of Santa Maria Immacolata and San Vincenzo de Paoli in Rome, those who have come from Cavallina and Montecarelli in Mugello, from Lavello and from Affi, the Comunità Sollievo, and the School of San Luca-Bovalino in Calabria.
I pray for those who are suffering from the damage and upheaval caused by natural disasters in different countries, and here in Rome too. I am close to them. Nature challenges us to be solidary and attentive to the protection of creation, and to prepare – as far as it is possible – for the worst situations.
And before I depart, the question I asked comes back to my mind. Light on or light off? What do you want? On or off? The Christian brings light! He is a light that is on! Always forward with the light of Jesus!
I wish you all a good Sunday and a good lunch. Goodbye!
[Translation by Joseph Trabbic]