Pope’s Homily in Bologna: Sunday of the Word

‘In the Church’s journey, the question often arises: where to go, how to go forward? At the conclusion of this day, I would like to leave you three points of reference, three “Ps.”’

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Pope Francis presided over a Eucharistic Celebration for the faithful of the Archdiocese of Bologna during his one-day pastoral visit, Oct. 1, 2017.

During the course of the rite, after the proclamation of the Gospel, the Holy Father delivered the homily which Zenit has translated below:

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Pope Francis’ Homily

I celebrate with you the first Sunday of the Word, the Word of God makes the heart burn (Cf. Luke 24:32), because it makes us feel loved and consoled by the Lord. Our Lady of Saint Luke, Evangelist, can also help us to understand the maternal tenderness of the “living” Word which is, however, at the same time “cutting,” as in today’s Gospel: in fact, it penetrates the soul (Cf. Hebrews 4:12) and brings to light the secrets and the contradictions of the heart.

Today it questions us through the parable of the two sons who, to the father’s request to go to his vineyard, respond: the first says no, but then goes; the second says yes, but then doesn’t go. There is, however, a great difference between the first son, who is lazy, and the second, who is a hypocrite. Let’s try to imagine what was going on inside them. In the heart of the first, after his no, the father’s invitation still resounded; in that of the second, instead, despite his yes, the father’s voice was buried. The memory of the father awakened the first son from <his> laziness, while the second, who although he knew the good, denied what he said with what he did. He had in fact become impermeable to the voice of God and of his conscience, and thus embraced without problems a double life. With this parable Jesus puts two paths before us, which – we experience it – we are not always ready to say yes to with words and works, because we are sinners. However, we can choose to be sinners on the way, who remain listening to the Lord and when they fall repent and rise again, as the first son, or seated sinners, always ready to justify themselves and only in word according to what is convenient.

Jesus addresses this parable to some religious leaders of the time, who were like the son with the double life, while the ordinary people often behaved as the other son. These leaders knew and explained everything, in a formally unexceptionable way, of true intellectuals of religion. However, they didn’t have the humility to listen, the courage to question themselves, the strength to repent. And Jesus is very severe: He says that even publicans will precede them in the Kingdom of God. It’s a strong reproach, because publicans were corrupt betrayers of the homeland. What, then, was the problem of these leaders? They didn’t make a mistake in something, but in their way of living and thinking before God: in word and with others, inflexible custodians of human traditions, incapable of understanding that life, according to God, is to be on the way and He asks for the humility to open oneself, to repent and to begin again.

What does this say to us? That there is no Christian life by default, scientifically built, where it’s enough to fulfil some dictate to quieten the conscience: Christian life is the humble journey of a conscience that’s never rigid and always in relationship with God, which is able to repent and entrust itself to Him in its poverties, without ever presuming to be sufficient unto itself. Overcome thus are the reviewed and update editions of that ancient evil denounced by Jesus in the parable: hypocrisy, duplicity of life, clericalism that is accompanied by legalism, detachment from the people. The key word is to repent: it’s repentance that enables one not to become stiff, to transform the no to God in yes, and the yes to sin in no out of love for the Lord. The will of the Father, who speaks delicately every day to our conscience, is fulfilled only in the form of repentance and continual conversion. In the end, there are two roads in each one’s journey: to be repentant sinners or hypocritical sinners. However, what counts is not reasoning that justifies and tries to save appearances, but a heart that advances with the Lord, struggles every day, repents and returns to Him, because the Lord seeks the pure of heart, not the pure “on the outside.”

We see then, dear brothers and sisters, that the Word of God digs deep, “discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). But it’s also current: the parable reminds us also of the relations, not always easy, between parents and children. Today, given the speed with which there is change between one generation and another, the need is perceived more strongly of autonomy from the past, sometimes to <the point of> rebellion. However, after the closings and long silences from one side or the other, it’s good to recover encounter, even if it’s still inhabited by conflicts, which can become the stimulus for a new balance. As in the family, so in the Church and in society: never give up encounter, dialogue, seeking new ways to walk together.

In the Church’s journey, the question often arises: where to go, how to go forward? At the conclusion of this day, I would like to leave you three points of reference, three “Ps.” The first is the Parola [Word], which is the compass to walk humbly, to not lose the way of God and fall into worldliness. The second is the Pane [Bread] because everything begins from the Eucharist. . It’s in the Eucharist that the Church is encountered: not in gossip and chronicles, but here, in the Body of Christ shared by sinful and needy people, who, however, feel loved and then desire to love. One leaves from here and returns here every time; this is the indispensable beginning of our being Church. The Eucharistic Congress proclaims ii “in a loud voice”: the Church comes together thus, is born and lives around the Eucharist, with Jesus present and alive to be adored, received and given every day. Finally, the third P: the Poor. Unfortunately, still today many persons lack what is necessary. However, there are also so many poor of affection, persons who are alone, and poor of God. In all of them we find Jesus because, in the world, Jesus followed the way of poverty, of annihilation, as Saint Paul says in the Second Reading: “Jesus emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7). We go to encounter Jesus from the Eucharist to the poor. You have reproduced the writing that Cardinal Lercaro loved to see engraved on the altar: “If we share the Bread of Heaven, how can we not share that of earth?” It will do us good to remember this always. The Word, the Bread, the Poor: let us ask for the grace not to forget these basic goods, which support our journey.

[Original text: Italian]

© ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester

The Holy Mass having ended, the Holy Father went by helicopter to the “Corticelli” Sports Center to return to the Vatican.

The helicopter, with the Pope on board, landed at 8:10 pm.

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