St. Peter's Square
Sunday 11 November 2018
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today's Gospel episode (cf. Mk 12: 38-44) closes the series of teachings given by Jesus in the temple of Jerusalem and emphasizes two opposing figures: the scribe and the widow. But why are they opposed? The scribe represents important, rich, influential people; the other - the widow - represents the last, the poor, the weak. In reality, the resolute judgment of Jesus towards the scribes does not concern the whole category, but refers to those among them who flaunt their social position, they bear the title of "rabbi", ie teacher, they love being revered and occupying the first places (see verses 38-39). What is worse is that their ostentation is above all of a religious nature, because they pray - Jesus says - "for a long time to be seen" (v.40) and use God to be accredited as the defenders of his law. And this attitude of superiority and vanity leads them to contempt for those who count little or are in a disadvantageous economic position, such as the case of widows.
Jesus unmasks this perverse mechanism: denounces the oppression of the weak made instrumentally on the basis of religious motivations, clearly saying that God is on the side of the last. And to impress this lesson well in the minds of the disciples, he offers them a living example: a poor widow whose social position was irrelevant because she lacked a husband who could defend her rights, and which therefore became easy prey to some unscrupulous creditor, because these creditors persecuted the weak to pay them. This woman, who goes to lay in the treasury of the temple only two coins, all that remained and makes her offer trying to go unnoticed, almost ashamed. But, precisely in this humility, she performs an act charged with great religious and spiritual significance. That gesture full of sacrifice does not escape the gaze of Jesus, who indeed sees in it shine the total gift of self to which he wants to educate his disciples.
The teaching that Jesus offers us today helps us to recover what is essential in our life and fosters a concrete and daily relationship with God. Brothers and sisters, the scales of the Lord are different from ours. He weighs people and their gestures differently: God does not measure quantity but quality, searches the heart, looks at the purity of intentions. This means that our "giving" to God in prayer and to others in love should always shy away from ritualism and formalism, as well as from the logic of calculation, and must be an expression of gratuitousness, as Jesus did with us: he saved us for free; he did not make us pay redemption. He saved us for free. And we must do things as an expression of gratuitousness. This is why Jesus indicates that poor and generous widow as a model of Christian life to be imitated. We do not know the name of her, but we know her heart - we will find her in Heaven and we will go to greet her, surely -; and that is what counts before God. When we are tempted by the desire to appear and to account for our gestures of altruism, when we are too interested in the gaze of others and - allow me to speak - when we do "peacocks", we think of this woman. It will do us good: it will help us to get rid of the superfluous to go to what really matters, and to remain humble.
The Virgin Mary, a poor woman who gave herself totally to God, sustains us in the purpose of giving the Lord and our brothers not something of ourselves, but ourselves, in a humble and generous offering.
After the Angelus
Dear brothers and sisters,
Yesterday, in Barcelona, the Beatification of Father Teodoro Illera del Olmo and fifteen fellow martyrs took place. These are thirteen consecrated persons and three lay faithful. At the Congregation of San Pietro in Vincoli belonged nine religious and lay people; three religious were Capuchins of the Mother of the Divine Shepherd and a Franciscan era of the Sacred Heart. These new blesseds were all killed for their faith, in different places and dates, during the war and religious persecution of the last century in Spain. We praise the Lord for these courageous witnesses and applause for them!
Today is the centenary of the end of the First World War, which my predecessor Benedict XV called "useless slaughter". For this reason today, at 13.30 Italian time, bells will ring all over the world, even those of St. Peter's Basilica. The historical page of the First World War is a severe warning for everyone to reject the culture of war and to seek every legitimate means to put an end to the conflicts that still plague many regions of the world. It seems we do not learn. While we pray for all the victims of that terrible tragedy, let us say forcefully: invest on peace, not on war! And, as an emblematic sign, we take that of the great Saint Martin of Tours, which we remember today: he cut his cloak in two to share it with a poor man. This gesture of human solidarity indicates to all the way to build peace. Next Sunday the World Day of the Poor will be celebrated, with many initiatives of evangelization, prayer and sharing. Here too, in San Pietro Square, a health garrison has been set up which will offer treatment to those in need for a week. I hope that this Day will foster a growing attention to the needs of the last, the marginalized, the hungry. I thank all of you who have come from Rome, from Italy and from many parts of the world. I greet the faithful of Mengíbar (Spain), those of Barcelona, the group of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from Brazil, and that of the World Catholic Teachers Union. I greet the ACLI tourist center of Trento, the faithful of San Benedetto Po and the confirmers of Chiuppano. I also greet the many Poles I see here. There are many! I wish everyone a good Sunday. Please do not forget to pray for me. Good lunch and goodbye!