Pope Francis I, General Audience 2023:
General Audience, 5 April 2023
Catechesis. "The Crucifix, well-spring of hope"
This past Sunday, the Liturgy had us listen to the Passion of the Lord (see Gospel Reading Matthew 26:14-27:66 or Matthew 27:11-54 from EWTN, USCCB). It ended with these words: “They sealed the stone” (cf. Matthew 27:66).
One image remained fixed in the minds of the disciples: the cross. That is where everything ended. That is where the end of everything was centred. But in a little while, they would discover a new beginning right there, in the cross. Dear brothers and sisters, this is how God’s hope germinates. It is born and reborn in the black holes of our disappointed expectations – and hope, true hope, instead, never disappoints. Let us think precisely about the cross: out of the most terrible instrument of torture, God wrought the greatest sign of his love. Having become the tree of life, that wood of death reminds us that God’s beginnings often begin with our ends. Thus, he loves to work wonders. So today, let us look at the tree of the cross so that hope might germinate in us – that everyday virtue, that silent, humble virtue, but also that virtue that keeps us on our feet, that helps us move forward. It is not possible to live without hope. Let us think: Where is my hope? Today, let us look at the tree of the cross so that hope might germinate in us…that we might be healed of our sadness. And how many sad people there are. When I used to be able to go out onto the streets, I cannot do it now because they do not allow me, but when I could go out onto the streets in another diocese, I used to like watching people’s faces. How many sad faces! Sad people, people talking to themselves, people walking alone with their cell phones, but without peace, without hope. And where is your hope today? It takes a bit of hope, right? to be healed from the sadness that makes us ill – there is so much sadness – to be healed from the bitterness with which we pollute the Church and world. Brothers and sisters, let us look there, at the crucifix. And what do we see? We see Jesus naked, Jesus stripped, Jesus wounded, Jesus tormented. Is it the end of everything? That’s where our hope is.
In these two aspects, let us then grasp how hope, which seems to have died, is reborn. Firstly, let us see Jesus stripped of his clothing. In fact, “And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots” (v. 35). God is stripped – He who has everything allowed Himself to be stripped of everything. But that humiliation is the path of our redemption. This is how God overcomes our appearances. Indeed, we find it difficult to bare ourselves, to be truthful. We always try to cover the truth because we do not like it. We clothe ourselves with outward appearances that we look for and take good care of, masks to disguise ourselves and to appear better than we are. This is a bit like the “make-up” attitude: interior make-up, to seem better than others…. We think it is important to show off, to appear like this so others will speak well of us. And we adorn ourselves with appearances, we adorn ourselves with appearances, with unnecessary things. But we do not find peace this way. Then the make-up goes away and you look at yourself in the mirror with the ugly, but true, face you have – the one that God loves – not the one with make-up on. And stripped of everything, Jesus reminds us that hope is reborn by being truthful about ourselves – to tell ourselves the truth – by letting go of duplicity, by freeing ourselves from peacefully co-existing with our falsity. Sometimes, we are so used to telling ourselves lies that we live with the lies as if they are truth, and we end up being poisoned by our own falsity. This is what is needed: to return to the heart, to the essentials, to a simple life, stripped of so many useless things that are surrogates of hope. Today, when everything is complex and we risk losing a sense of meaning, we need simplicity, we need to rediscover the value of sobriety, the value of renunciation, to clean up what is polluting our hearts and makes them sad. Each one of us can think of something useless that we can free ourselves from to find ourselves again. Think about how many things are useless. Here, fifteen days ago at Santa Marta, where I live – it is a hotel for a lot of people – the idea circulated that for this Holy Week it would be good to look in our closets and get rid of things, to give away the things we have that we don’t use. You cannot imagine the number of things! It’s good to get rid of useless things. And this went to the poor, to the people in need. We too, how many useless things we have inside our hearts – and outside as well. Look at your closets: look at them. This is useful, this is useless…and do some cleaning there. Look at the closet of your soul – you laugh, right? It’s true, it’s true. Look at the closet of your soul – how many useless things you have, how many stupid illusions. Let us return to simplicity, to things that are true, that don’t need to be made-up. What a good exercise!
Let us direct our second glance to the Crucifix and we see Jesus who is wounded. The cross displays the nails that pierce his hands and feet, his open side. But to the wounds in his body are added those of his soul. How much anguish, Jesus is alone, betrayed, handed over and denied by his own – by his friends and even his disciples – condemned by the religious and civil powers, excommunicated, Jesus even feels abandoned by God (cf. v. 46). In addition, the reason for his condemnation appears on the cross: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (v. 37). This is a mockery: He, who had fled when they wanted to make him king (cf. John 6:15), is now condemned for having made himself king. Even though he had committed no crime, he was placed in the middle of two criminals, and they prefer the violent Barabbas over him (cf. Matthew 27:15-21). In the end, Jesus is wounded in body and in soul. I ask myself: In what way does this help our hope? In this way, what does Jesus, naked, stripped of everything, of everything, say to my hope, how can this help me?
We too are wounded – who isn’t in life? And they are often hidden wounds we hide out of embarrassment. Who does not bear the scars of past choices, of misunderstandings, of sorrows that remain inside and are difficult to overcome? But also of wrongs suffered, sharp words, unmerciful judgements? God does not hide the wounds that pierced his body and soul, from our eyes. He shows them so we can see that a new passage can be opened with Easter: to make holes of lights out of our own wounds. “But, Your Holiness, you are exaggerating”, someone might say to me. No, it’s true. Try it, try it. Try doing it. Think about your wounds, the ones you alone know about, that everyone has hidden in their heart. And look at the Lord and you will see, you will see how holes of light come out of those wounds. Jesus does not incriminate on the cross, but loves. He loves and forgives those who hurt him (cf. Luke 23:34). Thus, he converts evil into good; thus, he converts and transforms sorrow into love.
… And I ask you: what do you do with your wounds, with the ones only you know about? You can allow them to infect you with resentment and sadness, or I can instead unite them to those of Jesus, so that my wounds too might become luminous…
And you, what is the drug you use to hide your wounds? Our wounds can become springs of hope when, instead of feeling sorry for ourselves or hiding them, we dry the tears shed by others; when, instead of nourishing resentment for what was robbed of us, we take care of what others are lacking; when, instead of dwelling on ourselves, we bend over those who suffer; when, instead of being thirsty for love, we quench the thirst of those in need of us. For it is only if we stop thinking of ourselves, that we will find ourselves again. But if we continue to think of ourselves, we will not find ourselves anymore. And it is by doing this, the Scriptures say, that our wound is healed quickly (cf. Isaiah 58:8), and hope flourishes anew. Think about this: What can I do for others? I am wounded. I am wounded by sin, I am wounded by my past, everyone has their own wound. What can I do? Lick my wounds for the rest of my life? Or can I look at the wounds others have and go with the wounded experience of my life to heal, to help others? This is today’s challenge for all of you, for each of you, for each one of us. May the Lord help us move forward.
Pope Francis I (General Audience, 5 April 2023)
General Audience, 29 March 2023
… In the first chapter of the Letter to the Galatians, as in the narration of the Acts of the Apostles, we can see that his zeal for the Gospel appears after his conversion, and takes the place of his previous zeal for Judaism. He was a man who was zealous about the law of Moses for Judaism, and after his conversion, this zeal continued, but to proclaim, to preach Jesus Christ. Paul loved Jesus. Saul – Paul’s first name – was already zealous, but Christ converts his zeal: from the Law the Gospel. His zeal first wanted to destroy the Church, whereas after it builds it up. We might ask ourselves: what happened, that passed from destruction to construction? What changed in Paul? In what way was his zeal, his striving for the glory of God, transformed? What happened there?
Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches that passion, from the moral point of view, is neither good nor evil: its virtuous use makes it morally good, sin makes it bad. In Paul’s case, what changed him is not a simple idea or a conviction: it was the encounter, this word, it was the encounter with the risen Lord – do not forget this, it is the encounter with the Lord that changes a life – it was the encounter with the risen Lord that transformed his entire being. Paul’s humanity, his passion for God and his glory was not annihilated, but transformed, “converted” by the Holy Spirit. The only one who can change our hearts, change, is the Holy Spirit. And it was so for every aspect of his life. Just as it happens in the Eucharist: the bread and wine do not disappear, but become the Body and Blood of Christ. Paul’s zeal remains, but it becomes the zeal of Christ. It changes direction but the zeal is the same. The Lord is served with our humanity, with our prerogatives and our characteristics, but what changes everything is not an idea, but rather the very life itself, as Paul himself says: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” – it changes you from within, the encounter with Jesus Christ changes you from within, it makes you another person – “the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). If one is in Christ, he or she is a new creation, this is the meaning of being a new creation. Becoming Christian is not a masquerade, that changes your face, no! If you are Christian, your heart is changed, but if you are a Christian in appearance, this will not do: masquerading Christians, no, they will not do. The true change is of the heart. And this happened to Paul.
The passion for the Gospel is not a matter of comprehension or studies – you can study all the theology you want, you can study the Bible and all that, and become atheist or worldly, it is not a question of studies; in history there have been many atheist theologians, no! Study is useful but it does not generate the new life of grace; rather, to convert means going through that same experience of “fall and resurrection” that Saul/Paul lived and which is at the origin of the transfiguration of his apostolic zeal. Indeed, as Saint Ignatius says: “For it is not knowing much, but realizing and relishing things interiorly, that contents and satisfies”… If Jesus did not enter your life, it did not change. You can be Christian only from the outside. No, Jesus must enter and this changes you, and this happened to Paul. It is finding Jesus, and this is why Paul said that Christ’s love drives us, it is what takes you forward. The same thing happened, this change, to all the saints, who went forward when they found Jesus.
We can reflect further on the change that takes place in Paul, who from a persecutor became an apostle of Christ. We note that there is a sort of paradox in him: indeed, as long as he feels he is righteous before God, he feels authorized to persecute, to arrest, even to kill, as in the case of Stephen; but when, enlightened by the Risen Lord, he discovers he was a “blasphemer and persecutor” (cf. 1 Timothy 1:13) – this is what he says of himself, “I formerly blasphemed and persecuted” – then he starts to be truly capable of loving. And this is the way. If one of us says, “Ah, thank you Lord, because I am a good person, I do good things, I do not commit major sins…”, this is not a good path, this is the path of self-sufficiency, it is a path that does not justify you, it makes you turn up your nose… It is an elegant Catholic, but an elegant Catholic is not a holy Catholic, he is elegant. The true Catholic, the true Christian is one who receives Jesus within, which changes your heart. This is the question I ask you all today: what does Jesus mean for me? Did I let him enter my heart, or do I keep him within reach but so that he does not really enter within? Have I let myself be changed by him? Or is Jesus just an idea, a theology that goes ahead… And this is zeal, when one finds Jesus and feels the fire, like Paul, and must preach Jesus, must talk about Jesus, must help people, must do good things. When one finds the idea of Jesus, he or she remains an ideologue of Christianity, and this does not justify, only Jesus justifies us. May the Lord help us find Jesus, encounter Jesus, and may this Jesus change our life from within and help us to help others. Thank you.
Pope Francis I (General Audience, 29 March 2023)
General Audience, 22 March 2023
Catechesis. The passion for evangelization: the apostolic zeal of the believer 8. The first way of evangelization: witness" (cfr. Evangelii nuntiandi)
It is necessary to remember that witness also includes professed faith, that is, convinced and manifest adherence to God the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, who created us out of love, who redeemed us. A faith that transforms us, that transforms our relationships, the criteria and the values that determine our choices. Witness, therefore, cannot be separated from consistency between what one believes and what one proclaims, and what one lives. One is not credible just by stating a doctrine or an ideology, no. A person is credible if there is harmony between what he or she believes and lives. Many Christians only say they believe, but they live something else, as if they did not. And this is hypocrisy. The opposite of witness is hypocrisy. How many times have we heard, “Ah, this person goes to Mass every Sunday and then he lives like this, or that”: it is true, it is counter-witness.
Every one of us is called to respond to three fundamental questions, posed in this way by Paul VI: “Do you believe what you are proclaiming? Do you live what you believe? Do you preach what you live?” (cf. ibid.). Is there harmony: do you believe what you proclaim? Do you live what you believe? Do you proclaim what you live? We cannot be satisfied with easy, pre-packaged answers. We are called upon to accept the risk, albeit destabilizing, of the search, trusting fully in the action of the Holy Spirit who works in each one of us, driving us ever further: beyond our boundaries, beyond our barriers, beyond our limits, of any type.
In this sense, the witness of a Christian life involves a journey of holiness, based on Baptism, which makes us “sharers in the divine nature. In this way they are really made holy” (Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 40). A holiness that is not reserved to the few; that is a gift from God and demands to be listened to and made to bear fruit for ourselves and for others. Chosen and beloved by God, we must bring this love to others. Paul VI teaches that the zeal for evangelization springs from holiness, it springs from the heart that is filled with God. Nourished by prayer and above all by love for the Eucharist, evangelization in turn increases holiness in the people who carry it out (cf. EN, 76). At the same time, without holiness, the word of the evangelizer “will have difficulty in touching the heart of modern man”, and “risks being vain and sterile” (ibid.).
Pope Francis I (General Audience, 22 March 2023)
General Audience, 15 March 2023
Catechesis. The passion for evangelization: the apostolic zeal of the believer 7. The Second Vatican Council. 2. Being apostles in an apostolic Church
The experience of the Twelve apostles and the testimony of Paul also challenges us today. They invite us to verify our attitudes, to verify our choices, our decisions, on the basis of these fixed points: everything depends on a gratuitous call from God; God also chooses us for services that at times seem to exceed our capacities or do not correspond with our expectations; the call received as a gratuitous gift must be answered gratuitously.
The Council says: “the Christian vocation by its very nature is also a vocation to the apostolate” (Decree Apostolicam actuositatem [AA], 2). It is a calling that is common, just as “a common dignity [is shared] as members from their regeneration in Christ, having the same filial grace and the same vocation to perfection; possessing in common one salvation, one hope and one undivided charity” (Lumen gentium, 32).
… Who has more dignity in the Church: the bishop, the priest? No, we are all Christians in the service of others. Who is more important in the Church: the religious sister or the common person, the baptized, the child, the bishop…? They are all equal, we are equal and, when one of the parties thinks they are more important than the others, somewhat turning up their nose, they are making a mistake. That is not the vocation of Jesus. The vocation that Jesus gives, to everyone, but also to those who seem to be in the highest places, is service, serving others, humbling oneself. If you find a person in the Church who has a higher vocation and you see them as vain, you will say, “Poor soul”; pray for him, because he has not understood what God’s vocation is. God’s vocation is adoration of the Father, love for the community, and service. This is what being apostles is, this is the witness of apostles.
The matter of equality in dignity asks us to rethink many aspects of our relations, which are decisive for evangelization. For example, are we aware of the fact that with our words we can undermine the dignity of people, thus ruining relationships within the Church? While we try to engage in dialogue with the world, do we also know how to dialogue among ourselves as believers? Or in the parish, one person goes against another, one speaks badly of another in order to climb up further? Do we know how to listen to understand another person’s reasons, or do we impose ourselves, perhaps even with appeasing words? To listen, to be humble, to be at the service of others: this is serving, this is being Christian, this is being an apostle.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us not be afraid to ask these questions. Let us shun vanity, the vanity of positions. These words can help us to confirm how we live our baptismal vocation, how we live our way of being apostles in an apostolic Church that is at the service of others. Thank you.
Pope Francis I (General Audience, 15 March 2023)
General Audience, 8 March 2023
Catechesis. The passion for evangelization: the apostolic zeal of the believer. 6. The Second Vatican Council. 1. Evangelization as ecclesial service
… Apostolic zeal is not enthusiasm; it is another thing, it is a grace of God, that we must preserve. We must understand its meaning, because in the pilgrim and evangelizing People of God, there are no active or passive individuals. There are not those who preach, those who proclaim the Gospel in one way or another, and those who remain silent. “All the baptized”, says Evangelii gaudium, “whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 120). Are you Christian? “Yes, I have received Baptism”. And do you evangelize?” “But what does this mean?” If you do not evangelize, if you do not bear witness, if you do not give that witness of the Baptism you have received, of the faith that the Lord gave you, you are not a good Christian. By virtue of the Baptism received and the consequent incorporation in the Church, every baptized person participates in the mission of the Church and, in this, in the mission of Christ the King, Priest and Prophet. Brothers and sisters, this task “is one and the same everywhere and in every condition, even though it may be carried out differently according to circumstances” (AG, 6). This invites us not to become rigid or fossilized; it redeems us from that restlessness that is not of God. The missionary zeal of the believer also expresses itself as a creative search for new ways of proclaiming and witnessing, new ways of encountering the wounded humanity that Christ took on. In short, of new ways of serving the Gospel and serving humanity. Evangelization is a service. If a person says that he is an evangelizer, and does not have that attitude, that servant’s heart, and believes himself to be a master, he is not an evangelizer, no … he is wretched.
Returning to the fountainhead of the love of the Father and to the missions of the Son and the Holy Spirit does not close us up in spaces of static personal tranquillity. On the contrary, it leads us to recognize the gratuitousness of the gift of the fullness of life to which we are called, a gift for which we praise and thank God. This gift is not only for us, but rather it is to be given to others. And it also leads us to live ever more fully what we have received, by sharing it with others, with a sense of responsibility and travelling together along the roads, very often the tortuous and difficult ones of history, in vigilant and industrious expectation of its fulfilment. Let us ask the Lord for this grace, to take in hand this Christian vocation and to give thanks to the Lord for what he has given us, this treasure. And to try to communicate it to others.
Pope Francis I (General Audience, 8 March 2023)
General Audience, 22 February 2023
Catechesis. The passion for evangelization: the apostolic zeal of the believer. 6. The protagonist of the proclamation: the Holy Spirit
In our catechetical itinerary on the passion for evangelizing, today we start from the words of Jesus that we have heard: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). “Go ”, says the Risen One, not to indoctrinate, not to make proselytes, no, but to make disciples, that is, to give everyone the opportunity to come into contact with Jesus, to know and love Him freely. Go and baptise : to baptise means to immerse; and therefore, before indicating a liturgical action, it expresses a vital action: to immerse one’s life in the Father, in the Son, in the Holy Spirit; to experience every day the joy of the presence of God who is close to us as Father, as Brother, as Spirit acting in us, in our very spirit. To baptise is to immerse oneself in the Trinity.
When Jesus says to His disciples — and also to us — “Go!”, He is not just communicating a word. No. He simultaneously communicates the Holy Spirit, because it is only thanks to Him, thanks to the Holy Spirit, that one can receive Christ’s mission and carry it out (cf. John 20:21-22). The Apostles, in fact, out of fear, remain closed up in the Upper Room until the day of Pentecost arrives and the Holy Spirit descends upon them (cf. Acts 2:1-13). And in that moment the fear leaves them, and, with His power, those fishermen, mostly unlettered, will change the world. “But if they can’t speak...”. But it is the word of the Spirit, the strength of the Spirit that bears them onward to change the world. The proclamation of the Gospel, therefore, is only realized in the power of the Spirit, who precedes the missionaries and prepares hearts: He is “the engine of evangelisation”.
… Be careful, for the Gospel is not an idea; the Gospel is not an ideology. The Gospel is a proclamation that touches the heart and makes you change your heart, but if you take refuge in an idea, in an ideology, whether right or left or centre, you are making the Gospel a political party, an ideology, a club of people. The Gospel always gives you this freedom of the Spirit that acts within you and carries you forward. And how necessary it is today that we take hold of the freedom of the Gospel and allow ourselves to be carried forward by the Spirit.
In this way the Spirit sheds light on the path of the Church, always. In fact, He is not only the light of hearts; He is the light that orients the Church: He brings clarity, helps to distinguish, helps to discern. This is why it is necessary to invoke Him often; let us also do so today, at the beginning of Lent. Because, as Church, we can have well-defined times and spaces, well-organised communities, institutes and movements, but without the Spirit, everything remains soulless. The organization is not enough; it is the Spirit that gives life to the Church. The Church, if she does not pray to Him and invoke Him, she closes in on herself, in sterile and exhausting debates, in wearisome polarisations, while the flame of the mission is extinguished. It is very sad to see the Church as if she were nothing more than a parliament. No. The Church is something else. The Church is the community of men and women who believe and proclaim Jesus Christ, but moved by the Holy Spirit, not by their own reason. Yes, you use your reason, but the Spirit comes to enlighten and move it. The Spirit makes us go forth, propels us to proclaim the faith in order to confirm ourselves in the faith, pushes us to go on mission to rediscover who we are. That is why the Apostle Paul recommends: “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Do not quench the Spirit. Let us pray to the Spirit often, let us invoke him, let us ask him every day to kindle his light in us. Let us do this before each encounter, to become apostles of Jesus with the people we find. Don’t quench the Spirit, either in the Christian communities or in each one of us.
Pope Francis I (General Audience, 22 February 2023)
General Audience, 15 February 2023
Catechesis. 4. The first apostolate
Scripture Reading: Extracted from Matthew 10.
First of all, there is no going without staying : before sending the disciples forth on mission, Christ — the Gospel says — “calls them to himself” (cf. Matthew 10:1). The proclamation is born from the encounter with the Lord; every Christian activity, especially the mission, begins from there. Not from what is learnt in an academy. No, no! It begins from the encounter with the Lord. Witnessing him, in fact, means radiating him; but, if we do not receive his light, we will be extinguished; if we do not spend time with him, we will bear ourselves instead of him — I am bringing myself and not him — and it will all be in vain. So only those who remain with him can bring the Gospel of Jesus. Anyone who does not remain with him cannot bear the Gospel…
Why proclaim: The motivation lies in a few words of Jesus, which it is good for us to remember: “Freely you have received, freely give” (v. 8). They are just a few words. But why proclaim? Because I have received freely, and I should give freely. The proclamation does not begin from us, but from the beauty of what we have received for free, without merit: meeting Jesus, knowing him, discovering that we are loved and saved. It is such a great gift that we cannot keep it to ourselves, we feel the need to spread it; but in the same style, right? That is, in gratuitousness. In other words: we have a gift, so we are called to make a gift of ourselves; we have received a gift and our vocation is to make a gift of ourselves to others; there is in us the joy of being children of God, it must be shared with our brothers and sisters who do not yet know it! This is the reason for the proclamation. Going forth and bringing the joy of what we have received.
Second: What , then, to proclaim. Jesus says: “Preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (v. 7). This is what must be said, first and foremost: God is near. So, never forget this: God has always been close to the people. He said it to the people himself: He said, “Look, what God is as close to the nations as I am to you?” This closeness is one of the most important things about God. There are three important things: closeness, mercy, and tenderness. Don’t forget that. Who is God? The One Who is Close, the One Who is Tender, the One Who is Merciful. This is the reality of God. In preaching, we often urge people to do something, and that is fine; but let’s not forget that the main message is that he is near: closeness, mercy, and tenderness. Accepting God’s love is more difficult because we always want to be in the centre, we want to be protagonists, we are more inclined to do than to let ourselves be moulded, to speak than to listen. But, if what we do comes first, we will still be the protagonists. Instead, the proclamation must give primacy to God: to give the primacy to God, the first place to God, and to give to others the opportunity to welcome him, to realise that he is near. And me in the background.
The third point: how to proclaim. This is the aspect Jesus dwells on most: how to proclaim, what is the method, what should be the language for proclaiming. It’s significant: He tells us that the manner, the style is essential in witnessing. Witnessing does not just involve the mind and saying something, the concepts. No. It involves everything, mind, heart, hands, everything, the three languages of the person: the language of thought, the language of affection, and the language of work. The three languages. One cannot evangelise only with the mind or only with the heart or only with the hands. Everything is involved. And, in style, the important thing is testimony, as Jesus wants us to do. He says this: “I send you out as sheep among wolves” (v. 16). He does not ask us to be able to face the wolves, that is, to be able to argue, to offer counter arguments, and to defend ourselves. No, no. We might think like this: let us become relevant, numerous, prestigious, and the world will listen to us and respect us and we will defeat the wolves. No, it’s not like that. No, I send you out as sheep, as lambs. This is important. If you don’t want to be sheep, the Lord will not defend you from the wolves. Deal with it as best you can. But if you are sheep, rest assured that the Lord will defend you from the wolves. Be humble. He asks us to be like this, to be meek and with the will to be innocent, to be disposed to sacrifice; this is what the lamb represents: meekness, innocence, dedication, tenderness. And he, the Shepherd, will recognise his lambs and protect them from the wolves. On the other hand, lambs disguised as wolves are unmasked and torn to pieces. A Church Father wrote: “As long as we are lambs, we will conquer, and even if we are surrounded by many wolves, we will overcome them. But if we become wolves — ‘Ah, how clever, look, I feel good about myself’ — we will be defeated, because we will be deprived of the shepherd’s help. He does not shepherd wolves, but lambs” (St John Chrysostom, Homily 33 on the Gospel of Matthew). If I want to be the Lord’s, I have to allow him to be my shepherd; and he is not the shepherd of wolves, He is the shepherd of lambs, meek, humble, kind as the Lord is.
… The Lord makes you lighten your load. “Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff” (vv. 9-10). Don’t take anything. He says not to lean on material certainties, but to go into the world without worldliness. That is to say, I am going into the world, not with the style of the world, not with the world’s values, not with worldliness — for the Church falling into worldliness is the worst thing that can happen. I go forth with simplicity. This is how one should proclaim: by showing Jesus rather than talking about Jesus. And how do we show Jesus? With our witness. And finally, by going together, in community: the Lord sends all the disciples, but no one goes alone. The apostolic Church is completely missionary and in the mission it finds its unity. So: going forth, meek and good as lambs, without worldliness, and going together. Here is the key to proclamation, this is the key to success in evangelization. Let us accept these invitations from Jesus. Let his words be our point of reference.
Pope Francis I (General Audience, 15 February 2023)
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