FULL TEXT - Pope Francis' Homily "When Jesus calls, even to marriage and the family, he asks us to look ahead and always precedes us on the journey, always precedes us in love.." + Video

St. Peter's Square
Saturday, June 25, 2022
As part of the X World Meeting of Families, this is the moment of thanksgiving. With gratitude today we bring before God - as in a great offertory - all that the Holy Spirit has sown in you, dear families. Some of you have participated in the moments of reflection and sharing here in the Vatican; others animated and lived them in their respective dioceses, in a sort of immense constellation. I imagine the wealth of experiences, intentions, dreams, and there are also worries and uncertainties. Now let us present everything to the Lord, and ask him to sustain you with his strength and with his love for him. You are fathers, mothers, children, grandparents, uncles; you are adults, children, young people, the elderly; each with a different family experience, but all with the same hope made prayer: may God bless and protect your families and all the families of the world.
St. Paul, in the second reading, spoke to us about freedom. Freedom is one of the most appreciated and sought after assets by modern and contemporary man.

Everyone wants to be free, not to be conditioned, not to be limited, and therefore they aspire to free themselves from any kind of "prison": cultural, social, economic. And yet, how many people lack the greatest freedom: the inner one! The greatest freedom is inner freedom. The Apostle reminds us Christians that this is above all a gift, when he exclaims: "Christ has set us free for freedom!" (Gal 5: 1). Freedom has been given to us. We are all born with many internal and external conditionings, and above all with a tendency to selfishness, that is, to put ourselves at the center and to pursue our own interests. But from this slavery Christ freed us. For the avoidance of doubt, St. Paul warns us that the freedom given to us by God is not the false and empty freedom of the world, which in reality is "a pretext for the flesh" (Gal 5:13). No, the freedom that Christ bought for us at the price of his blood is entirely oriented towards love, so that - as the Apostle said and says to us today - "through love you may instead be at the service of one another" ( ibid.).
All of you spouses, in forming your family, with the grace of Christ have made this courageous choice: not to use freedom for yourselves, but to love the people God has placed beside you. Instead of living as "islands", you have placed yourselves "at the service of one another". This is how freedom is lived in the family! There are no "planets" or "satellites" each traveling in its own orbit. The family is the place of encounter, of sharing, of going out of oneself to welcome the other and be close to him. It is the first place where you learn to love. Never forget this: the family is the first place where you learn to love.
Brothers and sisters, while we reiterate this with great conviction, we know well that in fact this is not always the case, for many reasons and many different situations. And then, just as we affirm the beauty of the family, we feel more than ever that we must defend it. We do not allow it to be polluted by the poisons of selfishness, individualism, the culture of indifference and the throwaway culture, and thus lose its "DNA" which is hospitality and the spirit of service. The trace of the family: welcome, the spirit of service within the family.
The relationship between the prophets Elijah and Elisha, presented in the first reading, makes us think of the relationship between generations, of the "passing of the baton" between parents and children. This relationship in today's world is not simple and is often a cause for concern. Parents fear that their children will not be able to orient themselves in the complexity and confusion of our societies, where everything seems chaotic, precarious, and that in the end they will lose their way. This fear makes some parents anxious, others overprotective, and sometimes even ends up blocking the desire to bring new lives into the world.
It does us good to reflect on the relationship between Elijah and Elisha. Elijah, in a moment of crisis and fear for the future, receives from God the command to anoint Elisha as his successor. God makes Elijah understand that the world does not end with him and commands him to transmit his mission to another. This is the meaning of the gesture described in the text: Elijah throws his cloak on Elisha's shoulders, and from that moment the disciple will take the place of the master to continue his prophetic ministry in Israel. God thus shows that he has faith in young Elisha. The old Elijah passes the function, the prophetic vocation to Elisha. He trusts a young man, he trusts the future. In that gesture there is all hope, and hopefully passes the baton.
How important it is for parents to contemplate God's way of acting! God loves young people, but this does not mean that he protects them from every risk, from every challenge and from every suffering. God is not anxious and overprotective. Think about it well, this: God is not anxious and overprotective; on the contrary, he trusts them and calls each one to the measure of life and mission. We think of the child Samuel, of the adolescent David, of the young Jeremiah; we think above all of that girl, sixteen, seventeen who conceived Jesus, the Virgin Mary. She trusts a girl. Dear parents, the Word of God shows us the way: not to preserve children from every slightest discomfort and suffering, but to try to transmit to them the passion for life, to kindle in them the desire to find their vocation and to embrace the great mission that God has thought for them. It is precisely this discovery that makes Elisha courageous, determined and makes him become an adult. The separation from his parents and the killing of oxen are precisely the sign that Elisha understood that now "it's his turn", that it is time to accept God's call and carry on what he had seen his teacher do. And he will do it with courage until the end of his life. Dear parents, if you help your children to discover and accept their vocation, you will see that they will be "grasped" by this mission and will have the strength to face and overcome the difficulties of life.
I would also like to add that, for an educator, the best way to help another follow his vocation is to embrace his own with faithful love. This is what the disciples saw Jesus do, and today's Gospel shows us an emblematic moment, when Jesus makes "the firm decision to set out on his way to Jerusalem" (Lk 9:51), knowing full well that he will be condemned there and killed. And on the way to Jerusalem, Jesus suffers rejection by the inhabitants of Samaria, a rejection that arouses the indignant reaction of James and John, but which He accepts because it is part of his vocation: at the beginning he was rejected in Nazareth - let's think at that day in the synagogue of Nazareth (cf. Mt 13: 53-58) -, now in Samaria, and in the end he will be rejected in Jerusalem. Jesus accepts all of this because he came to take our sins upon himself. Likewise, there is nothing more encouraging for children than to see their parents live marriage and family as a mission, with fidelity and patience, despite the difficulties, sad moments and trials. And what happened to Jesus in Samaria happens in every Christian vocation, even the family one. We all know it: there are times when one must take upon oneself the resistances, closures, misunderstandings that come from the human heart and, with the grace of Christ, transform them into welcoming the other, into gratuitous love.
And on the way to Jerusalem, immediately after this episode, which describes in a certain sense the "vocation of Jesus", the Gospel presents us with three other calls, three vocations of as many aspiring disciples of Jesus. The first is invited not to seek a stable abode, safe accommodation following the Master. Indeed, he "has nowhere to lay his head" (Lk 9:58). Following Jesus means getting in motion and always staying in motion, always "traveling" with him through the events of life. How true this is for you married! You too, accepting the call to marriage and family, have left your "nest" and have started a journey, of which you could not know all the stages in advance, and which keeps you in constant motion, with ever new situations, events unexpected, surprises, some painful. So is the journey with the Lord. It's dynamic, it's unpredictable, and it's always a wonderful find. Let us remember that the rest of every disciple of Jesus is precisely in doing God's will every day, whatever it may be.
The second disciple is invited not to "go back and bury his dead" (vv. 59-60). It is not a question of breaking the fourth commandment, which always remains valid and is a commandment that sanctifies us so much; instead it is an invitation to obey first of all the first commandment: to love God above all things. This is also the case for the third disciple, called to follow Christ resolutely and with all his heart, without "looking back", not even to take leave of his family (cf. vv. 61-62).
Dear families, you too are invited not to have other priorities, to "not look back", that is, not to regret the former life, the former freedom, with its deceptive illusions: life becomes fossilized when it does not welcome the novelty of call of God, regretting the past. And this way of regretting the past and not accepting the news that God sends us, fossilizes us, always; it makes us tough, it doesn't make us human. When Jesus calls, even to marriage and the family, he asks us to look ahead and always precedes us on the journey, always precedes us in love and service. Those who follow him are not disappointed!
Dear brothers and sisters, the readings of today's liturgy all providentially speak of vocation, which is precisely the theme of this tenth World Meeting of Families: "Family love: vocation and the way to holiness". With the strength of this Word of life, I encourage you to resume the journey of family love with determination, sharing the joy of this call with all family members. And it is not an easy road, it is not an easy road: there will be dark moments, moments of difficulty where we will think that everything is over. May the love you live among yourselves always be open, outgoing, capable of "touching" the weakest and the injured you meet along the way: fragile in the body and fragile in the soul. In fact, even family love is purified and strengthened when it is given.
The bet on family love is courageous: it takes courage to get married. We see many young people who do not have the courage to get married, and many times some mothers say to me: "Do something, talk to my son, who is not getting married, he is 37 years old!" - "But, lady, don't iron his shirts, you start to send him away a little, let him come out of the nest". Because family love pushes children to fly, teaches them to fly and pushes them to fly. It is not possessive: it is of freedom, always. And then, in difficult moments, in crises - all families have crises - please do not take the easy way: “I'll go back to my mother”. No. Go ahead with this bold bet. There will be hard times, there will be hard times, but forward, always. Your husband, your wife has that spark of love that you felt at the beginning: let her come out from within, rediscover love. And this will help a lot in times of crisis.
The Church is with you, indeed, the Church is in you! The Church, in fact, was born from a family, that of Nazareth, and is made up mainly of families. May the Lord help you every day to remain in unity, in peace, in joy and also in perseverance in difficult moments, that faithful perseverance that makes us live better and shows everyone that God is love and communion of life.
Source Vatican.va