On the first Sunday of the Word of God, Francis urged the faithful to make room in their daily life for the teaching of Jesus, who urges conversion. “‘Change your life’. Change your life, for a new way of living has begun. The time when you lived for yourself is over; now is the time for living with and for God, with and for others, with and for love.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis celebrated Holy Mass today in St Peter’s Basilica. In his homily, he urged Christians to keep the Gospel on their nightstand, in their pockets and bags, read it “on the cell phone", listen to it every day, for “amid the thousands of other words in our daily lives, that one word [is the one] that speaks to us not about things, but about life.” At the end of the service, he gave 50 Bibles to people representing different places and walks.
The pontiff’s starting point comes from today’s Gospel (Mt 4:17) when “Jesus began to preach”. “With these words, the evangelist Matthew introduces the ministry of Jesus. The One who is the Word of God has come to speak with us, in his own words and by his own life. On this first Sunday of the Word of God, let us go to the roots of his preaching, to the very source of the word of life. Today’s Gospel (Mt 4:12-23) helps us to know how, where and to whom Jesus began to preach.
“How did he begin? With a very simple phrase: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (v. 17). This is the main message of all Jesus’ sermons: to tell us that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. What does this mean? The kingdom of heaven means the reign of God, that is, the way in which God reigns through his relationship with us. Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, that God is near. Here is the novelty, the first message: God is not far from us. The One who dwells in heaven has come down to earth; he became man. He has torn down walls and shortened distances. We ourselves did not deserve this: he came down to meet us.
“This is a joyful message: God came to visit us in person, by becoming man. He did not embrace our human condition out of duty but out of love. For love, he took on our human nature, for one embraces what one loves. God took our human nature because he loves us and desires freely to give us the salvation that, alone and unaided, we cannot hope to attain. He wants to stay with us and give us the beauty of life, peace of heart, the joy of being forgiven and feeling loved.
“We can now understand the direct demand that Jesus makes: ‘Repent’, in other words, ‘Change your life’. Change your life, for a new way of living has begun. The time when you lived for yourself is over; now is the time for living with and for God, with and for others, with and for love.
“Today Jesus speaks those same words to you: ‘Take heart, I am here with you, allow me to enter and your life will change’. That is why the Lord gives you his word, so that you can receive it like a love letter he has written to you, to help you realize that he is at your side. His word consoles and encourages us. At the same time, it challenges us, frees us from the bondage of our selfishness and summons us to conversion. Because his word has the power to change our lives and to lead us out of darkness into the light.”
Jesus, noted the Pope, began preaching in a multi-ethnic region, “home to a variety of peoples, languages and cultures.” He “started from there: not from the forecourt of the temple of Jerusalem, but from the opposite side of the country, from Galilee of the nations, from the border region, from a periphery.
“Here there is a message for us: the word of salvation does not go looking for untouched, clean and safe places. Instead, it enters the complex and obscure places in our lives. Now, as then, God wants to visit the very places we think he will never go. Yet how often we are the ones who close the door, preferring to keep our confusion, our dark side and our duplicity hidden.”
But “’Jesus went about all Galilee preaching the Gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity’ (v. 23). He passed through all of that varied and complex region. In the same way, he is not afraid to explore the terrain of our hearts and to enter the roughest and most difficult corners of our lives. He knows that his mercy alone can heal us, his presence alone can transform us and his word alone can renew us. So let us open the winding paths of our heart to him, who walked “the road by the sea”; let us welcome into our hearts his word, which is ‘living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword … and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart’ (Heb 4:12).”
Finally, “The first people to be called were fishermen: not people carefully chosen for their abilities or devout people at prayer in the temple, but ordinary working people.”
“‘Immediately they left their nets and followed him’ (v. 20). Why immediately? Because they felt drawn. They did not hurry off because they had received an order, but because they were drawn by love. To follow Jesus, mere good works are not enough; we have to listen daily to his call. He, who alone knows us and who loves us fully, leads us to put out into the deep of life. Just as he did with the disciples who heard him.
“That is why we need his word: so that we can hear, amid the thousands of other words in our daily lives, that one word that speaks to us not about things, but about life.
“Dear brothers and sisters, let us make room in our lives for the word of God! Each day, let us read a verse or two of the Bible. Let us begin with the Gospel: let us keep it open on our table, carry it in our pocket, read it on our cell phones, and allow it to inspire us daily. We will discover that God is close to us, that he dispels our darkness and, with great love, leads our lives into deep waters.”