Speaking about today’s Gospel, Francis focused on the temptation "to which religious men are always exposed, to which we are all exposed, and from which we should definitely stay away. What is this temptation? It is the temptation of considering religion as a human investment so that we start to ‘bargain’ with God for our own self-interest." Young members of Rome’s Azione Cattolica were in the square for the annual Peace Caravan. The pope pleaded for people living with leprosy, a disease that still “affects mostly the poorest and the most marginalised”.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The only privilege in the eyes of God "is not to have any privilege, not to have any godfathers, to abandon oneself into the hands of the Lord,” said Pope Francis before today’s Angelus prayer, recited from the window of his studio in St Peter's Square. Right after the Angelus, the pontiff welcomed to the window some young Romans, members of Azione Cattolica, who read a message for peace.
As he usually does, Francis commented today’s Gospel before the prayer. Today, the Evangelist Luke "takes us again, like last Sunday, to the synagogue in Nazareth, the village in the Galilee where Jesus grew up among his family and where everyone knew him.
“Soon after he left to start his public life, Jesus came back a first time and presented himself to the community who had gathered in the synagogue. Here he read the passage from the prophet Isaiah who spoke about the future Messiah and eventually said, ‘Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing’.” However, Jesus’ compatriots, noted the pope, did not react well.
"At first amazed and full of admiration, they then begin to frown and whisper to each other, saying: ‘Why doesn’t this man, who claims to be the Consecrated of the Lord, repeat here, in his village, the wonders that he is reportedly to have performed in Capernaum and neighbouring villages?’ At that point, Jesus said, ‘no prophet is accepted in his own native place’. [In reaction,] Those present ‘felt insulted. Filled with fury, they rose up, drove him out of town, and led him to a cliff to hurl him down headlong. However, by the strength of his peace, ‘he passed through the midst of them and went away’ (v. 30). His hour had not yet come."
For Francis, this passage from the Evangelist Luke "is not simply the story of a row between neighbours, which does happen sometimes even in our neighbourhoods, caused by envy and jealousy, but rather highlights a temptation to which religious men are always exposed, to which we are all exposed, of considering religion as a human investment so that we start to ‘bargain’ with God for our own self-interest."
Conversely, the story is actually about "welcoming the revelation of a God who is Father, who cares for every creature, even the smallest and most insignificant in the eyes of people. Therein lies the prophetic ministry of Jesus, i.e. in proclaiming that no human condition may constitute grounds for exclusion – no human condition – from the Father’s heart, and that the only privilege in the eyes of God is to have no privileges, to abandon oneself into his hands." The only privilege in the eyes of God, the pope stressed, "is to have no privileges, to have no godfathers, to abandon oneself in his hands."
The "Today", Christ announced on that day, applies to all time. "It also resonates for us in this square, and reminds us of the relevance and necessity of the salvation Jesus brought to humanity. God comes to meet the men and women of all times and places in the actual situation in which they find themselves. He also comes to meet us. It is always him who takes the first step: he comes to visit us with his mercy, [and] to raise us from the dust of our sins; He comes to extend a hand to get us back from the precipice in which our pride made us fall; and he invites us to welcome the consoling truth of the Gospel and walk on the paths of righteousness. [. . .] he always comes to visit us, looking for us."
Speaking about the synagogue, the pope said, "Certainly Mary, the Mother, was also there that day. We can imagine the trepidations of her heart – a small preview of what she would suffer at the foot of the cross – seeing Jesus there, in the synagogue, first admired, then challenged, eventually threatened with death. In her heart, full of faith, she kept everything. May she help us convert from a God of miracles to the miracle of God, who is Jesus Christ."
Right after the Marian prayer, the pope spoke about World Leprosy Day. "Although declining, this disease unfortunately still affects mostly the poorest and the most marginalised. It is important to keep alive solidarity with these brothers and sisters who have become disabled as a result of this disease. Let us assure them of our prayers and pledge our support to those who assist them: Well done, lay people; well done, sisters; well done, priests!"
After extending his greetings to the other pilgrims, Francis addressed the youth members of Rome’s Azione Cattolica (Catholic Action). "Now I understand why there was so much noise in the square!” he said.
“This year, your witness of peace, enlivened by faith in Jesus, will be even more joyful and informed because it is enriched by the deed you just performed: crossing the Holy Door. I encourage you to be instruments of peace and mercy among your peers."
After this, a child read the message and a large number of balloons, symbols of peace, rose from the square.