November 17, 2013
This Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 21:5-19) consists in the first part of one of Jesus’ sermons, that on the last times. Jesus gives it in Jerusalem, near the temple, and the topic is given to him precisely by the people who were talking about the temple’s beauty, because that temple was beautiful. So Jesus said: “All that you see here -- the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down" (Luke 21:6). Naturally, they ask him: When will this happen? What will the signs be? But Jesus deflects attention away from these secondary aspects – When will it happen? What will it be like? – and turns it toward the real issues. And there are 2. First, do not let yourself be deceived by false messiahs and not let yourself be paralyzed by fear. Second, live the period of waiting as time of witness and perseverance. And we are in this of waiting, of waiting for the Lord’s coming.
This sermon of Jesus is always relevant, even for us who live in the 21st century. He repeats: “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name” (21:8). It is an invitation to discernment, this Christian virtue of understanding where the spirit of the Lord is and where the evil spirit is. Today too, in fact, there are false “saviors,” who try to take Jesus’ place: leaders of this world, gurus, even sorcerers, people who want to attract the minds and hearts, especially of young people, to themselves. Jesus warns us: “Do not follow them!” “Do not follow them!”
And the Lord helps us not to be afraid too: in the face of wars, revolutions, but also natural calamities, epidemics, Jesus frees us from fatalism and false apocalyptic visions. The second aspect addresses us precisely as Christians and members of the Church: Jesus foretells painful trials and persecutions that his disciples must undergo for his sake. Nevertheless, he assures them: “Not one of your heads will be harmed” (21:18). He reminds us that we are totally in God’s hands! The adversity that we face because of our faith and our adherence to the Gospel are occasions for witness; they need not distance us from the Lord but move us to abandon ourselves all the more to him, to the power of his Spirit and his grace.
I am reflecting in this moment and let all of us reflect. Let us do it together: let us think about the many brother and sister Christians, who suffer persecution because of their faith. There are many, perhaps many more than in the first centuries. Jesus is with them. We too are united to them by our prayer and our affection. We also admire their courage and their testimony. They are our brothers and sisters, who in many parts of the world suffer because of being faithful to Jesus Christ. We salute them from our hearts and with affection.
In the end, Jesus makes a promise that guarantees victory: “With your perseverance you will save your life” (21:19). How much hope there is in these words! They are call to hope and patience, to knowing how to wait for the sure fruits of salvation, trusting in the profound meaning of life and of history: trials and difficulties are part of a larger design; the Lord, Lord of history brings everything to fulfillment. Despite the disorder and disasters that disturb the world, the plan of God’s goodness and mercy will prevail! And this is our hope: to walk in this way, on this road, in this plan of God that will prevail. This is our hope.
This message of Jesus makes us reflect on our present moment and gives us the strength to face it with courage and hope, in the company of Our Lady, who always walks with us.
[Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted those present:]
I greet all of you: families, associations and groups, who have come from Rome, from Italy and from every part of the world: Spain, France, Finland, the low countries. In particular I greet the pilgrims from Vercelli, Salerno, Lizzanello; the Motoclub Lucania from Potenza, the young people of Montecassino and Caserta.
Today the Eritrean community in Rome celebrates the feast of St. Michael. We greet you from our heart! Today is the “Day of Victims of Road Accidents.” I assure you of my prayers and encourage you to continue in your work for prevention because respect for laws is the primary way of protecting oneself and others.
Today I would also like to suggest a medicine to you. But someone might think: “The Pope is a pharmacist now?” It is a special medicine that will make the fruits of the Year of Faith concrete. This year is drawing to its close. It is a medicine of 59 pills for the heart. It is a “spiritual medicine” called “Misericordina.” A little box with 59 pills for the heart. The medicine is in this little box and some volunteers will hand it out to you as you are leaving the piazza. Take it! It is a rosary with which you can also pray the “Mercy chaplet,” a spiritual help for our soul and to spread love, forgiveness and fraternity everywhere. Do not forget to take it because it is good for you, okay? It is good for your heart, your soul and your whole life!
Picture from http://www.sknvibes.com/news/newsdetails.cfm/81680
Translation of the Angelus from http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/on-god-s-plan-of-goodness-and-mercy