This parable speaks to us of a judge who does not fear God and is no respecter of persons: a judge without a positive outlook, who only seeks his own interests. He neither fears God's judgement nor respects his neighbour. The other figure is a widow, a person in a situation of weakness. In the Bible, the widow and the orphan are the neediest categories, because they are defenceless and without means. The widow goes to the judge and asks him for justice. Her possibilities of being heard are almost none, because the judge despises her and she can bring no pressure to bear on him. She cannot even appeal to religious principles because the judge does not fear God. Therefore this widow seems without any recourse. But she insists, she asks tirelessly, importuning him, and in the end she succeeds in obtaining a result from the judge. At this point Jesus makes a reflection, using the argument a fortiori: if a dishonest judge ends by letting himself be convinced by a widow's plea, how much more will God, who is good, answer those who pray to him. God in fact is generosity in person, he is merciful and is therefore always disposed to listen to prayers. Therefore we must never despair but always persist in prayer.
The conclusion of the Gospel passage speaks of faith: "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (Luke 18: 8). It is a question that intends to elicit an increase of faith on our part. Indeed it is clear that prayer must be an expression of faith, otherwise it is not true prayer. If one does not believe in God's goodness, one cannot pray in a truly appropriate manner.
St Stanisław Kazimierczyk, a religious of the 15th century, can also be an example and an intercessor for us. His whole life was bound to the Eucharist, first of all in the Church of Corpus Domini in Kazimierz, known today as Krakow, where, beside his mother and father, he learned faith and piety. Here he made his religious vows with the Canons Regular; here he worked as a priest and educator, attentive to the care of the needy. However, he was linked in a special way to the Eucharist through his ardent love for Christ present under the species of the Bread and the Wine; by living the mystery of his death and Resurrection, which is fulfilled in an unbloody way in the Holy Mass; by the practice of love for neighbour, of which Communion is a source and a sign.
Bro. André Bessette, a native of Quebec in Canada, and a religious of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, experienced suffering and poverty at a very early age. They led him to have recourse to God through prayer and an intense inner life. As porter of the College of Notre Dame in Montreal, he demonstrated boundless charity and strove to relieve the distress of those who came to confide in him. With very little education, he had nevertheless understood where the essential of his faith was situated. For him, believing meant submitting freely and through love to the divine will. Wholly inhabited by the mystery of Jesus, he lived the beatitude of pure of heart, that of personal rectitude. It is thanks to this simplicity that he enabled many people to see God. He had built the Oratory of St Joseph of Mount Royal, whose faithful custodian he remained until his death in 1937. He was the witness of innumerable cures and conversions. "Do not seek to have your trials removed", he said, "ask rather for the grace to bear them well". For him, everything spoke of God and of God's presence. May we, in his footsteps, seek God with simplicity in order to discover him ever present in the heart of our life! May the example of Bro. André inspire Canadian Christian life!
When the Son of man comes to do justice to the chosen ones, will he find this faith on earth? (cf. Luke 18: 8). Today, contemplating figures such as Mother Cándida María de Jesús Cipitria y Barriola, we can say "yes" with relief and firmness. That girl of simple origins on whose heart God had set his seal and whom he brought very soon, with the guidance of her Jesuit spiritual directors, to make the firm decision to live "for God alone". She faithfully kept to her decision as she herself recalled when she was about to die. She lived for God and for what he most desires: to reach everyone, to bring everyone the hope that does not disappoint, especially to those who need it most. "Where there is no room for the poor, there is no room for me either" the new Saint said, and with limited means she imbued the other Sisters with the desire to follow Jesus and to dedicate themselves to the education and advancement of women. So it was that the Hijas de Jesús [Daughters of Jesus] came into being; today they have in their Foundress a very lofty model of life to imitate and an exciting mission to carry on Mother Cándida's apostolate with her spirit and aspirations, in many countries.
"Remember who your teachers were from these you can learn the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus". For many years countless young people throughout Australia have been blessed with teachers who were inspired by the courageous and saintly example of zeal, perseverance and prayer of Mother Mary MacKillop. She dedicated herself as a young woman to the education of the poor in the difficult and demanding terrain of rural Australia, inspiring other women to join her in the first women's community of religious sisters of that country. She attended to the needs of each young person entrusted to her, without regard for station or wealth, providing both intellectual and spiritual formation. Despite many challenges, her prayers to St Joseph and her unflagging devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to whom she dedicated her new congregation, gave this holy woman the graces needed to remain faithful to God and to the Church. Through her intercession, may her followers today continue to serve God and the Church with faith and humility!
In the second half of the 19th century, in Campania, in the south of Italy, the Lord called a young elementary teacher, Giulia Salzano, and made her an apostle of Christian education, Foundress of the Congregation of the Catechist Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Mother Gulia understood well the importance of catechesis in the Church and, combining pedagogical training with spiritual fervour, dedicated herself with generosity and intelligence, contributing to the formation of people of every age and social class. She would repeat to the Sisters that she wished to catechize to the very last hour of her life, showing with her whole self that if "God created us to know him, love him and serve him in this life", it is necessary to put nothing before this task. May the example and intercession of St Giulia Salzano sustain the Church in her perennial duty to proclaim Christ and to form authentic Christian consciences.
St Battista Camilla Varano, a Poor Clare nun of the 15th century, witnessed to the deep evangelical meaning of life, especially through persevering prayer. She entered the monastery in Urbino at the age of 23, fitting into that vast movement of the reform of Franciscan female spirituality which aimed to recover fully the charism of St Clare of Assisi. She promoted new monastic foundations in Camerino where she was several times elected Abbess, in Fermo and in San Severino. St Battista's life, totally immersed in divine depths, was a constant ascent on the way of perfection, with a heroic love of God and neighbour. She was marked by profound suffering and mystic consolation; in fact she had decided, as she herself writes, "to enter the most Sacred Heart of Jesus and to drown in the ocean of his most bitter suffering". In a period in which the Church was undergoing a period of moral laxity, she took with determination the road of penance and prayer, enlivened by an ardent desire for the renewal of the Mystical Body of Christ.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank the Lord for the gift of holiness that is resplendent in the Church and today shines out on the faces of these brothers and sisters of ours. Jesus also invites each one of us to follow him in order to inherit eternal life. Let us allow ourselves to be attracted by these luminous examples and to be guided by their teaching, so that our life may be a canticle of praise to God. May the Virgin Mary and the intercession of the six new Saints whom we joyfully venerate today obtain this for us. Amen.
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Pope Benedict XVI, so that it could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
Saint Peter's Square
The readings this Sunday invite us to reflect on some basic features of the Christian family.
1. First: the family prays. The Gospel passage speaks about two ways of praying, one is false – that of the Pharisee – and the other is authentic – that of the tax collector. The Pharisee embodies an attitude which does not express thanksgiving to God for his blessings and his mercy, but rather self-satisfaction. The Pharisee feels himself justified, he feels his life is in order, he boasts of this, and he judges others from his pedestal. The tax collector, on the other hand, does not multiply words. His prayer is humble, sober, pervaded by a consciousness of his own unworthiness, of his own needs. Here is a man who truly realizes that he needs God’s forgiveness and his mercy.
The prayer of the tax collector is the prayer of the poor man, a prayer pleasing to God. It is a prayer which, as the first reading says, “will reach to the clouds” (Sirach 35:20), unlike the prayer of the Pharisee, which is weighed down by vanity.
In the light of God’s word, I would like to ask you, dear families: Do you pray together from time to time as a family? Some of you do, I know. But so many people say to me: But how can we? As the tax collector does, it is clear: humbly, before God. Each one, with humility, allowing themselves to be gazed upon by the Lord and imploring his goodness, that he may visit us. But in the family how is this done? After all, prayer seems to be something personal, and besides there is never a good time, a moment of peace… Yes, all that is true enough, but it is also a matter of humility, of realizing that we need God, like the tax collector! And all familes, we need God: all of us! We need his help, his strength, his blessing, his mercy, his forgiveness. And we need simplicity to pray as a family: simplicity is necessary! Praying the Our Father together, around the table, is not something extraordinary: it’s easy. And praying the Rosary together, as a family, is very beautiful and a source of great strength! And also praying for one another! The husband for his wife, the wife for her husband, both together for their children, the children for their grandparents….praying for each other. This is what it means to pray in the family and it is what makes the family strong: prayer.
2. The second reading suggests another thought: the family keeps the faith. The Apostle Paul, at the end of his life, makes a final reckoning and says: “I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). But how did he keep the faith? Not in a strong box! Nor did he hide it underground, like the somewhat lazy servant. Saint Paul compares his life to a fight and to a race. He kept the faith because he didn’t just defend it, but proclaimed it, spread it, brought it to distant lands. He stood up to all those who wanted to preserve, to “embalm” the message of Christ within the limits of Palestine. That is why he made courageous decisions, he went into hostile territory, he let himself be challenged by distant peoples and different cultures, he spoke frankly and fearlessly. Saint Paul kept the faith because, in the same way that he received it, he gave it away, he went out to the fringes, and didn’t dig himself into defensive positions.
Here too, we can ask: How do we keep our faith as a family? Do we keep it for ourselves, in our families, as a personal treasure like a bank account, or are we able to share it by our witness, by our acceptance of others, by our openness? We all know that families, especially young families, are often “racing” from one place to another, with lots to do. But did you ever think that this “racing” could also be the race of faith? Christian families are missionary families. Yesterday in this square we heard the testimonies of missionary families. They are missionary also in everyday life, in their doing everyday things, as they bring to everything the salt and the leaven of faith! Keeping the faith in families and bringing to everyday things the salt and the leaven of faith.
3. And one more thought we can take from God’s word: the family experiences joy. In the responsorial psalm we find these words: “let the humble hear and be glad” (33/34:2). The entire psalm is a hymn to the Lord who is the source of joy and peace. What is the reason for this gladness? It is that the Lord is near, he hears the cry of the lowly and he frees them from evil. As Saint Paul himself writes: “Rejoice always … The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:4-5). I would like to ask you all a question today. But each of you keep it in your heart and take it home. You can regard it as a kind of “homework”. Only you must answer. How are things when it comes to joy at home? Is there joy in your family? You can answer this question.
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