Reflections From Pope Francis

Dear brothers and sisters!

Today the gospel challenges us with the parable of the two sons, who respond to the Father’s invitation to go into his vineyard: One says no, but then goes; the second says yes, but then doesn’t work. There is, however, a big difference between the first son, who is lazy, and the second, who is hypocritical. Let’s try to imagine what happened inside them. In the heart of the first, after his no, the invitation of his father still rang out; in the second, however, despite his yes, the father’s voice was buried. The memory of the father awakened the first child from laziness, while the second, although he knew the good, contradicted his word with his actions. In fact, he had become impervious to the voice of God and of conscience, and without any problems accepted the duplicity of life. Jesus with this parable places two paths before us. Experience shows that we are not always willing to say yes in word and deed, because we are sinners. But we can choose whether to be sinners on the way, who listen to the Lord, and when they fall they repent and rise, like the first child; or sitting sinners, ready to always justify themselves and only with words according to what suits them.

This parable Jesus was addressed to some religious leaders of the time, the Son with his double life, while ordinary people often behaved like the other son. These leaders knew and explained everything, in a formally flawless way, like true intellectuals of religion. But they did not have the humility to listen, the courage to question themselves, and no strength to repent. And Jesus is very strict: he says that even tax collectors are more likely to enter the Kingdom of God. It is a harsh rebuke, because the tax collectors were corrupt traitors of the homeland. So what was the problem with these leaders? They were not simply mistaken about something, but they were mistaken in the way of life before God: they were, in words and with others, unyielding guardians of human traditions, unable to understand that life according to God is on the way and requires the humility to open up, repent and start again.

What does that say to us? That there is no Christian life designed on the drawing board, scientifically built, where it is sufficient to fulfil a few commandments to soothe consciences: Christian life is a humble path of a conscience never rigid and always relates to God, who knows how to repent and rely on Him in his poverty, without ever assuming that it is sufficient to itself. Thus we overcome the revised and up-to-date versions of that ancient evil, denounced by Jesus in the parable: hypocrisy, duplicity of life, clericalism that is accompanied by legalism, detachment from the people. The key word is repentance: it is repentance that allows us not to harden, to turn no to God into yes, and yes to sin into no for the sake of the Lord. The will of the Father, who every day gently speaks to our conscience, is carried out only in the form of repentance and continuous conversion. In the end, everyone has two paths ahead of them: to be repentant sinners or hypocritical sinners. But what matters is not the reasoning that justifies and attempts to save appearances, but a heart that moves forward with the Lord, struggles every day, repents and returns to Him. Because the Lord seeks the pure of heart, not pure “on the outside”.

Thus we see, dear brothers and sisters, that the Word of God goes into the depths, “discerns the feelings and thoughts of the heart”(Heb 4:12). But it is also current: the parable also reminds us of the relationships, not always easy, between fathers and children. Today, at the rate at which one generation changes to the next, we feel more strongly the need for autonomy from the past, sometimes to the point of rebellion. But, after the closures and the long silences on one side or the other, it is good to recover the encounter, even if there are still conflicts simmering, which can become the stimulus to find a new balance. As in the family, so in the Church and in society: never give up encounter, dialogue, seek new ways to walk together.

The question often comes in the journey of the Church: where to go, how to move forward? I would like to leave you, at the end of this day, three reference points, three “P’s”. The first is the Word, which is the compass for humble walking, so as not to fall away from the way of God and fall into worldliness. The second is Bread, the Eucharistic bread, because from the Eucharist everything begins. It is in the Eucharist that we encounter the Church: not in gossip and chronicles, but here, in the Body of Christ shared by sinful and needy people, but who feel loved and then desire to love. From here we set off and meet again every time, this is the indispensable beginning of our being as a Church. The Eucharistic Congress proclaims it “out loud”: the Church gathers like this, is born and lives around the Eucharist, with Jesus present and alive to worship, to receive and to give every day. Finally, the third P: the poor.

Unfortunately, so many people lack the necessities. But there are also so many poor people of affection, lonely people, and poor people of God. In all of them we find Jesus, because Jesus in the world followed the path of poverty, of annihilation, as St Paul says in the second Reading: “Jesus emptied himself by assuming a condition of servant” (Ph 2:7) From the Eucharist to the poor, let us meet Jesus. You have reproduced the inscription that the Card. Lercaro loved to see engraved on the altar: “If we share the bread of heaven, how can we not share the earthly bread?” It will do us good to remember that all the time. The Word, the Bread, the poor: let us ask for the grace never to forget these basic foods that support us on our way.

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