Following is Zenit’s translation of the Holy Father’s March 21, 2020, homily delivered at Mass at Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican. Original text provided by Vatican News.
That Word of the Lord, which we heard yesterday: “Return, return home” (Cf. Hosea 14:2); we also find the answer to it in the same Book of the prophet Hosea: “Come, let us return to the Lord” (Hosea 6:1). It’s the response when that “return home” touches the heart: “Let us return to the Lord: for He has torn, that he may heal us; He has stricken, and he will bind us up. [. . .] “Let us press on to know the Lord; His going forth is sure as the dawn” (Hosea 6:1.3). Trust in the Lord is sure. ”He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth” (v. 3). And, with this hope, the people set out on the way to return to the Lord. It’s one of the ways of finding the Lord in prayer. We pray to the Lord, we return to Him.
In the Gospel (Cf. Luke 18:9-14) Jesus teaches us how to pray. There are two men, one who is presumptuous who goes to pray, but to say that he is good as if he said to God: “Look, I’m so good: if you need anything, tell me I’ll solve your problem.” He turns to God thus. It is presumption. Perhaps he did everything that the Law said, in fact, he says it: “I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get” (v. 12) . . . I’m good.” This reminds us also of two other men. It reminds us of the elder son of the parable of the Prodigal Son, when he says to his father: “I who am so good don’t have a feast and <for> this one, who is a wretch, you have a feast . . . “ Presumptuous (Cf. Luke 15:29-30). The other, whose story we heard about in these days, is that rich man, nameless, but he was a rich man, unable to make a name for himself, but he was rich, he didn’t care at all about others’ misery (Cf. Luke 16:19-21). These are the ones that have security in themselves or in money or power . . . Then there is the other, the tax collector, who doesn’t go in front of the altar, no, he stays at a distance. “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to Heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’” (Luke 18:13). This also leads us to the memory of the prodigal son: he is aware of the sins committed, of the awful things he did. He also beat his breast: “ I will go to my father, and I [will say] to him, ‘Father, I have sinned” — humiliation (Cf. Luke 15:17-19). It reminds us of that other one, the beggar, Lazarus, at the rich man’s door, who lived his misery before that man’s presumption (Cf. Luke 16:20-21). There is always this combination of persons in the Gospel. In this case, the Lord teaches us how to pray, how to approach, how we must approach the Lord: with humility. There is a beautiful image in the liturgical hymn of the feast of Saint John the Baptist. It says the people drew near to the Jordan to receive Baptism “naked in soul and barefoot”: to pray with a naked soul, without makeup, without masquerading their virtues. He – we read at the beginning of the Mass – forgives all sins but He needs me to show Him my sins, with my nakedness. To pray thus, naked, with a naked heart, without covering up, without even trusting in what I learned on the way to pray. You and I must pray face to face, with a naked soul. This is what the Lord teaches us. Instead, when we go to the Lord a bit too sure of ourselves, we will fall into the presumption of this [Pharisee} or of the elder brother, or of the rich man who lacked nothing. We will have our security elsewhere. “I go to the Lord . . . , I want to go, to be educated . . . and I speak to Him practically familiarly. No, this isn’t the way. The way is to abase oneself — abasement. That way is reality. And in this parable, the only man that understood the reality was the tax collector. “You are God and I am a sinner.” This is the reality. However, I say I am a sinner not with the mouth <but> with the heart — to feel myself a sinner.
Let’s not forget this, which the Lord teaches us: to justify oneself is arrogance, pride; it’s to exalt oneself. It’s to masquerade being something that I’m not. And the miseries remain inside. The Pharisee justified himself. [It’s necessary] to confess one’s sins directly, without justifying them, without saying: “But no, I did this but it wasn’t my fault . . . “ Have a naked soul, a naked soul.
May the Lord teach us to understand this, this attitude, when we begin our prayer. When we begin prayer with our justifications, with our securities, it won’t be prayer: it will be to speak with the mirror. Instead, when we begin a prayer with the true reality — “I am a sinner, I am a sinner” — it’s a good step forward to let oneself be looked at by the Lord. May Jesus teach us this.
Today also, Pope Francis ended the celebration with Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction, inviting <the faithful> to make a Spiritual Communion.
Here Is the Prayer the Pope Recited
My Jesus, I believe you are really present in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the altar. I love You above all things and desire You ever in my soul. As I cannot receive You sacramentally now, come at least spiritually into my heart. And as You have now come I embrace You and unite myself wholly to You. Do not permit me to be ever separated from You.