ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
TO THE PILGRIMS OF THE DIOCESES OF UGENTO-SANTA MARIA DI LEUCA
Paul VI Hall
Saturday, 1 December 2018
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
I thank you for coming, so enthusiastic, so joyful. Thank you! I am grateful to Mons. Vito Angiuli and Mons. Domenico Cornacchia for the words that addressed me in your name. And also thanks to the bread: a nice bread, to make a sandwich!
The memory of Don Tonino Bello has joined our paths: my verse of you in April and your verse of me in these days. I would like to welcome you with a sentence full of affection, which Don Tonino pronounced at the end of the last Chrism Mass, just before living his Easter: «I would like to say one by one looking him in the eyes:" I love you "». And this is our way of life: brothers and sisters who, looking into their eyes, know how to say "I love you".
On that occasion Don Tonino made a recommendation. He said: "I beg you, tomorrow, do not be sorry for any bitterness of your home or any other bitterness. Do not grieve your life ". Those who believe in Jesus can not be sad; «The opposite of a Christian people is a sad people» (The Gospel of Courage, 2012, 145). We make our own the recommendation not to ever be sorry: if we put it into practice we will bring the treasure of God's joy into the poverty of the man of today. In fact, those who remain alone remain, talk about all, gossip here and there ... He has a sad heart. The chatty, the chatty, has a sad heart! This is the root. Even here, when they talk, it's because that man, that woman, is sad. In fact, those who contract remain alone, have no friends. Those who contract only see problems, see only the dark side of life. Maybe it's all beautiful, all white, all bright, but he or she sees the stain, sees the shadow, the negative. Sometimes, when I find people like that, they always live sad and criticizing, but it comes to think: "What do you have in your veins? Blood or vinegar? ". Those who put the Lord before the problems find joy again. Then he stops crying and, instead of grumbling, he begins to do the opposite: console, help.
Dear brothers and sisters, tonight begins a time of consolation and hope, the time of Advent: a new liturgical year begins, which brings with it the novelty of our God, who is the "God of all consolation" (2 Cor 1,3 ). If we look inside, we see that all the news, even those of today's continuous revenue, are not enough to satisfy our expectations. We always remain hungry, at this rate, of novelty, news ... And it does not satisfy you. "We tend to new things because we are born for great things," wrote Don Tonino (There is no loyalty without risk, 2000, 34). And it is true: we are born to be with the Lord. When we let God in, the real news comes. He renews, displaces, always surprises: he is the God of surprises. To live Advent is to "opt for the unpublished", for the new, is to accept the good havoc of God and his prophets, as was also Don Tonino. For him to welcome the Lord means to be available to change our plans (see ibid., 102). I like to think of Saint Joseph. He, a good man, fell asleep and changed his plans. He fell asleep again, and they still changed his plans. He goes to Egypt, falls asleep again, and returns from Egypt ... May God change our plans with our joy!
It is beautiful to await the novelty of God in life: not to live by expectations, which then maybe do not come true, but live on hold, that is to desire the Lord who always brings newness. Always! He never repeats. It is important to know how to wait. God does not wait with hands in hand, but active in love. "True sadness - recalled Don Tonino - is when you do not wait for anything from life" (Cyrene of Joy, 2004, 97). This is bad! Being dead in life, do not wait for anything from life. We Christians are called to preserve and spread the joy of waiting: we await God who loves us infinitely and at the same time we are awaited by Him. In this way, life becomes a great engagement. We are not left to ourselves, we are not alone. We are visited, already now. Today you came to me, I was waiting for you and I thank you, but God will visit you where I can not come: in your homes, in your lives. God visits us and waits to stay with us forever. Today, tomorrow, tomorrow, always. If you throw it away, the Lord remains at the door, waiting, waiting for you to let him enter again. We never drive the Lord from our life! He is always waiting to be with us.
I wish you to experience Advent as a time of consoling news and joyous waiting. "Here on earth is the man who awaits the return of the Lord. Up there in the sky is the Lord who awaits the return of man ". This is nice! God also waits for us to go there. Here is the Advent time. This is how Don Tonino spoke about it thirty years ago, commenting on the Gospel that we will hear this Sunday with words that seem written today. He noted that life is full of fear: "fear of one's neighbor. Fear of the neighbor ... Fear of the other ... Fear of violence ... Fear of not making it. Fear of not being accepted ... Fear that it is useless to commit oneself. Fear that, so much, the world can not change it ... Fear of not finding a job "(Homily, November 27, 1988). To this gloomy scenario, he used to say that Advent responds with "the Gospel of anti-Agora". Because while those who are afraid are on the ground, broken down, the Lord with his word solves. He does so through the "two verbs of the antiaura, the two verbs typical of Advent": stand up and raise your head (cf. Lk 21: 28). If fear makes you lie on the ground, the Lord invites you to get up; if negativity pushes to look down, Jesus invites us to turn our gaze to heaven, from where He will come. Because we are not children of fear, but children of God; because fear is defeated by winning with Jesus the withdrawal on oneself: going beyond this withdrawal.
You know the beauty of the sea well - your sea is beautiful! I tell you one thing: it is the bluest sea I have seen in my life. Beautiful! This sea embraces you in its grandeur. Looking at it, you can think of the meaning of life: embraced by God, infinite beauty, it can not remain anchored to safe harbors, but it is called to take off, always. The Lord calls each of us to go out into the open sea. It does not take controllers of the pier or guardians of the lighthouse, but confident and courageous sailors, who follow the unprecedented routes of the Lord, throwing the nets of life on his word. A "private" life, without risks and full of fear, which safeguards itself, is not a Christian life. It is a life without fruitfulness. We are not meant for peaceful dreams, but for daring dreams. Then we welcome the invitation of the Gospel, the invitation so often repeated by Don Tonino to stand up, to get up. From where? From the sofas of life: from the comfort that makes you lazy, from the mundanity that makes you sick inside, from the self-pity that darkens. "To rise up means to abandon the floor of wickedness, of violence, of ambiguity, because sin ages the earth" (ibid.). Stand up, we look up to the sky. We will also warn of the need to open our hands to others. And the consolation that we will be able to give will heal our fears.
Before giving you the blessing I would like to greet you with some words of hope, those of the last very short "homily" that Don Tonino spoke from his bed, waiting for Jesus: "My Lord and my God! I too want to see the Risen Lord and be a source of hope and joy for all. My Lord and my God! » So be it for us too. Thank you.