Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Every day, unfortunately, the newspapers report bad news: homicides, accidents, catastrophes… in the passage from today’s Gospel, Jesus refers to two tragic happenings of his day which had caused a stir: a cruel suppression carried out by Roman soldiers in the temple, and the collapse of the tower of Siloam in Jerusalem, which had resulted in 18 deaths (cf Luke 13:1-5).
Jesus is aware of the superstitious mentality of his listeners and he knows that they erroneously interpreted these types of event. In fact, they thought that, if those people had died in such a way, cruelly, it was a sign that God had punished them for some grave sin they had committed, as if saying “they deserved it.” And on the other hand, the fact of being saved from such a disgrace made them feel “good about themselves.” They deserved it; I’m fine.
Jesus clearly rejects this outlook, because God does not permit tragedies in order to punish sins, and he affirms that those poor victims were not worse than others. Instead, he invites his listeners to draw from these sad events a teaching that applies to everyone, because we are all sinners; in fact, he said to those who had questioned him, “If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” (v 3).
Today too, seeing certain disgraces and sorrowful happenings, we can have the temptation to “unload” the responsibility on the victims, or even on God himself. But the Gospel invites us to reflect: What idea of God do we have? Are we truly convinced that God is like that, or isn’t that just our projection, a God made to “our image and likeness”?
Jesus, in contrast, invites us to change the heart, to make a radical switch on the path of our lives, abandoning compromises with evil — and that’s something we all do, eh? compromises with evil, hypocrisy … I think that nearly everyone has a bit of hypocrisy — to decidedly take up again the path of the Gospel. But again there is the temptation to justify ourselves. What should we convert from? Aren’t we basically good people? — How many times we have thought this: “But I’m basically good, I’m a good person” … and it’s not like that, eh? “Am I not a believer and even quite practicing?” And we think that that’s how we are justified.
Unfortunately, each of us very much resembles the tree that, over many years, has repeatedly shown that it’s sterile. But, fortunately for us, Jesus is like a farmer who, with limitless patience, still obtains a concession for the fruitless vine. “Sir, leave it for this year also … it may bear fruit in the future” (v 9).
A “year” of grace: the time of the ministry of Christ, the time of the Church before his glorious return, the time of our life, marked by a certain number of Lents, which are offered to us as occasions of repentance and salvation. A time of a Jubilee Year of Mercy. The invincible patience of Jesus. Have you thought about the patience of God? Have you thought as well of his limitless concern for sinners? How it should lead us to impatience with ourselves! It’s never too late to convert. Never. Until the last moment, God’s patience awaits us.
Remember that little story from St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, when she prayed for that man who was condemned to death, a criminal, who did not want to receive the consolation of the Church. He rejected the priest, he didn’t want [forgiveness], he wanted to die like that. And she prayed, in the convent, and when that man was there, at the moment of being killed, he turned to the priest, took the crucifix and kissed it. The patience of God! He does the same with us, with all of us. How many times, we don’t know — we’ll know in heaven — but how many times we are there, there, and there, the Lord saves us. He saves us because he has great patience with us. And this is his mercy. It’s never too late to convert, but it’s urgent. It’s now! Let us begin today.
The Virgin Mary sustains us, so that we can open our hearts to the grace of God, to his mercy; and she helps us to never judge others, but rather to allow ourselves to be struck by daily misfortunes and to make a serious examination of our consciences and to repent.
Dear brothers and sisters,
My prayer, and undoubtedly yours as well, always includes the dramatic situation of refugees who flee from wars and other inhuman situations. In particular, Greece and other countries that are on the front line, are generously helping them, which requires the cooperation of all nations. A harmonized response can be effective and equally distribute the weight. For this, it’s necessary to join the negotiations decisively and unreservedly. At the same time, I have received with hope the news of the ceasing of hostilities in Syria, and I invite everyone to pray that this crack might bring relief to the suffering population and open the path to dialogue and the peace that is so desired.
I also wish to assure my closeness to the peoples of the Fiji Islands, harshly lashed by a devastating cyclone. I pray for the victims and for those who are committed to the relief operations.
I offer a cordial greeting to all of the pilgrims from Rome, from Italy and from other countries.
I greet the faithful of Gdansk, the indigenous of Biafra, students from Zaragoza, Huelva, Cordoba and Zafra, the youth of Formentera and the faithful of Jaen.
I greet the groups of Polish residents of Italy, the faithful of Cascia, Desenzano del Garda, Vicenza, Castiglione d’Adda and Rocca di Neto, as well as the many youth from the San Gabriele dell’Addolorata camp, accompanied by the Passionist Fathers, the children from the Oratories of Rho, Cornaredo and Pero and those of Buccinasco, and the School of the Daughters of Maria Inmaculada de Padua.
I greet the group that has come to mark the “Day of Rare Diseases” with a special prayer and my encouragement for your associations of mutual assistance.
I wish you all a good Sunday. Don’t forget, please, to pray for me. Have a good lunch and until soon!
[Transcription and translation by ZENIT]