“Today Jesus speaks those same words to you: ‘Take heart, I am here with you, allow me to enter and your life will change.'”
Pope Francis underscored this today, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, the first Sunday of the Word of God, since he instituted it in his letter Aperuit Illis. This liturgical feast is to annually fall on the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time.
The Holy Father’s homily reminded how the Lord sought out people, where they were, as they were, and then their lives changed. He also called for faithful to welcome this change in their own lives, regardless of where they find themselves, by letting the Lord reach us through His Word.
The Lord, Francis said, gives each person His Word, so we can receive it like “a love letter” addressed to us.
Jesus, Pope Francis underscored, “is not afraid to explore the terrain of our hearts and to enter the roughest and most difficult corners of our lives.” “He knows,” the Pope reminded, “that His mercy alone can heal us, His presence alone can transform us and His word alone can renew us.”
“Change your life, for a new way of living has begun. The time when you lived for yourself is over; now is the time for living with and for God, with and for others, with and for love,” he said.
Jesus Began By Expressing God Comes to Meet & Transform, Despite Us Not Deserving It
Asking how the Lord began, the Holy Father recalled the Lord’s frequent reminder to repent, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”
“Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, that God is near. Here is the novelty, the first message: God is not far from us. The One who dwells in heaven has come down to earth; he became man. He has torn down walls and shortened distances. We ourselves did not deserve this: he came down to meet us.
“This is a joyful message: God came to visit us in person, by becoming man. He did not embrace our human condition out of duty but out of love. For love, he took on our human nature, for one embraces what one loves. God took our human nature because he loves us and desires freely to give us the salvation that, alone and unaided, we cannot hope to attain.”
The Lord, the Holy Father reminded, wants to stay with us and give us the beauty of life, peace of heart, the joy of being forgiven and feeling loved.
“We can now understand,” the Pontiff said, “the direct demand that Jesus makes: “Repent”, in other words, ‘Change your life.'”
“Change your life,” Francis encouraged, “for a new way of living has begun. The time when you lived for yourself is over; now is the time for living with and for God, with and for others, with and for love.”
“That is why the Lord gives you his word, so that you can receive it like a love letter he has written to you, to help you realize that he is at your side. His word consoles and encourages us. At the same time it challenges us, frees us from the bondage of our selfishness and summons us to conversion.
“Today,” Francis said, “Jesus speaks those same words to you: “Take heart, I am here with you, allow me to enter and your life will change.” His Word, the Jesuit Pope emphasized, has the power to change our lives and to lead us out of darkness into the light.
Jesus Didn’t Seek Untouched, Clean & Safe Places, But Brought Message of Salvation to Obscurity & Darkness
If we consider where Jesus started his preaching, Francis observed, we see that he began from the very places that were then thought to be “in darkness.”
“Here,” he noted, “there is a message for us: the word of salvation does not go looking for untouched, clean and safe places. Instead, it enters the complex and obscure places in our lives.”
“Now, as then,” Francis continued, “God wants to visit the very places we think he will never go.”
He Stays to Transform, Even Though We Resist
“Yet,” the Pope recognized, “how often we are the ones who close the door, preferring to keep our confusion, our dark side and our duplicity hidden. We keep it locked up within, approaching the Lord with some rote prayers, wary lest his truth stir our hearts.”
Regardless, he reminded that today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus went anyway through Galilee preaching the Gospel and healing, passing “through all” of that varied and complex region.
“In the same way,” the Pope noted, he is not afraid to explore the terrain of our hearts and to enter the roughest and most difficult corners of our lives. He knows that his mercy alone can heal us, his presence alone can transform us and His word alone can renew us. So let us open the winding paths of our heart to Him, who walked “the road by the sea”; let us welcome into our hearts His Word.”
Jesus Called Fisherman Where & As They Where
Reflecting thirdly on to whom did Jesus begin to speak, Francis reminded that the first people to be called were fishermen, “not people carefully chosen for their abilities or devout people at prayer in the temple, but ordinary working people.”
Recalling how Jesus told them, ‘I will make you fishers of men,’ the Argentine Pontiff observed that Christ was speaking to fishermen, using the language they understood.
“Their lives changed on the spot,” Francis said, “He called them where they were and as they were, in order to make them sharers in his mission.”
To follow Jesus, he said, mere good works are not enough. Rather, he said, we have to listen daily to His call.
“He, who alone knows us and who loves us fully, leads us to put out into the deep of life. Just as he did with the disciples who heard him,” he said, noting that is why we need His Word, namely “so that we can hear, amid the thousands of other words in our daily lives, that one word that speaks to us not about things, but about life.”
Let’s Make Room for the Word of God
“Dear brothers and sisters,” Pope Francis appealed, “let us make room in our lives for the Word of God!”
“Each day,” he invited, “let us read a verse or two of the Bible. Let us begin with the Gospel: let us keep it open on our table, carry it in our pocket, read it on our cell phones, and allow it to inspire us daily.”
Pope Francis concluded, saying that when we do this, “we will discover that God is close to us, that he dispels our darkness and, with great love, leads our lives into deep waters.”
Full Text of Pope’s Homily in English on ZENIT: