FULL TEXT Homily of Pope Francis "... there is God. We must trust Him, because it is He our future , our strength." + Holy Mass Video from Greece
APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO CYPRUS AND GREECE
(2-6 DECEMBER 2021)
HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER
“Megaron Concert Hall” in Athens
Sunday, December 5th 2021
On this second Sunday of Advent the Word of God presents us with the figure of St. John the Baptist. The Gospel underlines two aspects of it: the place where it is found, the desert, and the content of its message, conversion. Desert and conversion: today's Gospel insists on this and so much insistence makes us understand that these words concern us directly. Let's welcome them both.
The desert . Luke the Evangelist introduces this place in a particular way. In fact, he speaks of solemn circumstances and great personalities of the time: he mentions the fifteenth year of Emperor Tiberius Caesar, the governor Pontius Pilate, King Herod and other " political leaders " of the time; then he mentions the religious ones, Anna and Caiaphas, who were near the Temple of Jerusalem (cf. Lk 3 : 1-2). At this point he declares: "The word of God came upon John, son of Zechariah, in the desert" ( Lk3.2).
But how? We would have expected God's Word to address one of the greats just listed. But no. A subtle irony emerges from the lines of the Gospel: from the upper floors where the holders of power live, one suddenly passes to the desert, to an unknown and lonely man. God surprises, his choices surprise: they do not fall within human predictions, they do not follow the power and greatness that man usually associates with him. The Lord prefers smallness and humility. Redemption does not begin in Jerusalem, Athens or Rome, but in the desert. This paradoxical strategy gives us a very beautiful message: having authority, being cultured and famous is not a guarantee to please God; indeed, it could lead to pride and to reject it. Instead, it is necessary to be poor inside, as poor is the desert.
Let's stay on the desert paradox. The Forerunner prepares the coming of Christ to this inaccessible and inhospitable place, full of dangers. Now, if you want to make an important announcement, you usually go to beautiful places, where there are a lot of people, where there is visibility. John, on the other hand, preaches in the desert. Precisely there, in the place of aridity, in that empty space that stretches as far as the eye can see and where there is almost no life, there the glory of the Lord is revealed, which - as the Scriptures prophesy (cf. Is 40: 3 -4) - change the desert into a lake, and the dry land springs of water (cf. Is41.18). Here is another heartening message: God, now as then, turns his gaze where sadness and loneliness dominate. We can experience it in life: He often fails to reach us while we are among the applause and think only of ourselves; he succeeds above all in the hours of testing. He visits us in difficult situations, in our voids that leave room for him, in our existential deserts. There the Lord visits us.
Dear brothers and sisters, in the life of a person or a people there is no lack of moments in which one has the impression of being in a desert. And here it is precisely there that the Lord makes himself present, who is often not welcomed by those who feel successful, but by those who feel they cannot succeed. And he comes with words of closeness, compassion and tenderness: «Do not be afraid, because I am with you; do not get lost, because I am your God. I make you strong and I come to your aid "(v. 10). Preaching in the desert, John assures us that the Lord comes to free us and give us life again in situations that seem irredeemable, with no way out: there he comes. There is therefore no place that God does not want to visit. And today we can only feel joy in seeing him choose the desert, to reach us in our littleness that he loves and in our aridity that he wants to quench our thirst! So, dear ones, do not fear littleness, because the question is not to be small and few, but to open up to God and to others. And do not even fear dryness, because God does not fear them, who comes there to visit us!
Let's move on to the second aspect, conversion . The Baptist preached it relentlessly and with vehement tones (cf. Lk 3 : 7). This too is an "uncomfortable" issue. Just as the desert is not the first place we would like to go, so the invitation to conversion is certainly not the first proposal we would like to hear. Talking about conversion can arouse sadness; it seems difficult to reconcile with the Gospel of joy. But this happens when conversion is reduced to a moral effort, as if it were only a fruit of our commitment. The problem lies precisely here, in basing everything on our strengths. This is wrong! Here spiritual sadness and frustration also lurk: we would like to convert, be better, overcome our defects, change, but we feel we are not fully capable and, despite the good will, we always fall back. We have the same experience of Saint Paul who, precisely from these lands, wrote: «In me there is the desire for good, but not the ability to carry it out; in fact, I do not do the good that I want, but the evil that I do not want "( Rom 7 : 18-19). If therefore, alone, we do not have the capacity to do the good we would like, what does it mean that we must be converted?
Your beautiful language, Greek, can help us with the etymology of the evangelical verb “to convert”, metanoéin . It is composed of the preposition metá , which here means beyond , and the verb noéin , which means to think . To convert is then to think beyond , that is to go beyond the usual way of thinking, beyond our usual mental schemes. I am thinking precisely of the schemes that reduce everything to our self, to our claim to self-sufficiency. Or to those closed by the rigidity and fear that paralyze, by the temptation of “it has always been done like this, why change?”, By the idea that the deserts of life are places of death and not of the presence of God.
By exhorting us to conversion, John invites us to go further and not stop here; to go beyond what our instincts tell us and our thoughts photograph, because reality is greater: it is greater than our instincts, our thoughts. The reality is that God is greater . Conversion, then, means not listening to what destroys hope, to those who repeat that nothing will ever change in life - the pessimists of all time. It is refusing to believe that we are destined to sink into the quicksand of mediocrity. It is not surrendering to inner ghosts, which appear above all in moments of trial to discourage us and tell us that we will not make it, that everything is wrong and that becoming holy is not for us. It is not like that, because there is God. We must trust Him, because it is He our future , our strength. Everything changes if the first place is left to him. Here is the conversion: our open door is enough for the Lord to enter and do wonders, just as a desert and John's words were enough for him to come into the world. He doesn't ask for more.
We ask for the grace to believe that with God things change, that He heals our fears, heals our wounds, transforms arid places into springs of water. We ask for the grace of hope . Because it is hope that revives faith and rekindles charity. Because it is hopeful that the deserts of the world are thirsty today. And while this meeting of ours renews us in the hope and joy of Jesus, and I rejoice in being with you, we ask our Mother, the All-Holy, to help us to be, like her, witnesses of hope., sowers of joy around us - hope, brothers and sisters, never disappoints, never disappoints -. Not only when we are happy and we are together, but every day, in the deserts we inhabit. Because it is there that, with the grace of God, our life is called to convert. There, in the many deserts of our interior or of the environment, there life is called to flourish. May the Lord give us the grace and courage to welcome this truth.
FULL TEXT Source: Vatican.va - Image Screenshot - Translation from Italian