Below is a Zenit working translation of Pope Francis’ homily during his visit to a parish on the outskirts of the city of Rome, the afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 19, the second of this type since the end of the Jubilee of Mercy, and the 13th visit of this nature. The parish of Saint Mary Josephine of the Heart of Jesus in Castelverde di Lunghezza, is six kilometers east of the circular highway around Rome:
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Today, there is what I would call a unique message in the Readings. In the first Reading there is the Word of the Lord who says to us: “Be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy” Leviticus 19:2). God the Father says this to us. And the Gospel ends with that Word of Jesus: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”(Matthew 5:48) – the same thing. This is the program of life. Be holy, for He is holy; be perfect, for He is perfect. And you can ask me: But, Father, what is the way to holiness, what is the path to become saints?” Jesus explains it well in the Gospel: He explains it with concrete things.
First of all: “It was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil” (Matthew 5:38-39), namely, no revenge. If I have rancor in my heart for something that someone did to me and I want to revenge myself, this moves me away from the path to sanctity. No revenge. “You did it to me, you’ll pay for it!” Is this Christian? No. “You will pay for it” does not enter the language of a Christian. No revenge. No rancor. “But he makes my life impossible! …” That neighbor speaks badly about me every day! I also speak badly about her …” No. What does the Lord say? “Pray for her” – “But must I pray for her?” – “Yes, pray for her.” It’s the path of forgiveness, of forgetting offenses. You are slapped on the right cheek? Give the other too. Evil is overcome by good, sin is overcome with this generosity, with this strength. Rancor is awful. We all know it’s not a small thing. The great wars – we see it on the TV news, in the newspapers, this massacre of people, of children … How much hatred there is! But it is the same hatred, the same hatred you have in your heart for this man, for that woman, or for that relative or that mother-in-law, or for that other one, it’s the same. It’s greater, but it’s the same. Rancor, the desire to vindicate myself: “You’ll pay for it!” this isn’t Christian.
“Be holy as God is holy”; “be perfect as your Father is perfect,” who makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). He is good. God gives His goods to all. “But if he speaks badly of me, if he has done a bad thing to me, if he has …” Forgive, in your heart. This is the path of sanctity; and this dispels wars. If all the men and women of the world learnt this, there wouldn’t be wars, there wouldn’t be. War begins here, in bitterness, in rancor, in the desire for vengeance, to make one pay. But this destroys families, destroys friendships, destroys neighborhoods, destroys so much, so much …. “And what must I do, Father, when I feel this?” Jesus says it, I don’t say it: “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44). “Must I love that person?” – Yes – “I can’t” – Pray so that you can –. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Ibid.). “Must I pray for one who does me harm?” – Yes, so that he changes his life , so that the Lord forgives him. This is the magnanimity of God, the magnanimous God, the God of a great heart, who forgives everything, who is merciful. “It’s true, Father, God is merciful.” And you, are you merciful with persons who have harmed you? Or who do not love you? If He is merciful, if He is holy, if He is perfect, we must be merciful, holy and perfect like Him.
This is holiness. A man or a woman who does this merits to be canonized: they become saints. Christian life is that simple. I suggest that you begin somewhat. We all have enemies; we all know that he or she speaks badly of me; we all know it. And we all know that he or she hates me. We all know it. And we begin a little. “But I know he’s calumniated me, he has said awful things about me.” I suggest to you: take a minute, turn to God the Father: “He or she is your child, she is your daughter: change her heart. Bless him, bless her.” This is called praying for those who don’t love you, for enemies. It can be done with simplicity. Perhaps rancor remains; perhaps rancor remains in us, but we are making the effort to go on the path of this God who is so good, merciful, holy and perfect; who has the sun rise on the evil and on the good: He is for all, He is good to all. We must be good to all, and we must pray for those who aren’t good – for all.
Do we pray for those who kill children in war? It’s difficult, it’s very far away, but we must learn to do so, so that they convert. Do we pray for those persons who are closest to us and hate us or do us harm? Ah, Father, it’s difficult. I would like to ring his neck!” – Pray, pray so that the Lord changes their life. Prayer is an antidote against hatred, against wars, these wars that begin at home, that begin in the neighborhood, that begin in families. Think only of the wars in families over inheritance: how many families are destroyed, hate one another over inheritance. Pray so that there is peace. And if I know that someone wishes me evil, doesn’t love me, I must pray especially for him. Prayer is powerful, prayer overcomes evil; prayer brings peace.
The Gospel, God’s Word today is simple. This advice: “Be holy for I, the Lord your God am holy.” And then: “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Therefore, we must ask for the grace not to remain in rancor, the grace to pray for enemies, to pray for people who don’t love us, for the grace of peace.
I ask you, please, to have this experience: a prayer every day. ”Oh, he doesn’t love me, but Lord, I ask you …” One a day, thus one overcomes, thus we’ll go on this path of holiness and of perfection. So be it.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]