Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
The account of today’s Gospel brings us again, like last Sunday, to the synagogue of Nazareth, the town in Galilee where Jesus grew up as part of a family and where everyone knew him. He has returned for the first time after having gone out to begin his public life shortly before this, and he presents himself to the community, which is gathered together in the synagogue on the Sabbath.
He reads that passage from the Prophet Isaiah that speaks of the future Messiah, and at the end he declares, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21).
His fellow townspeople, at first surprised and admiring, afterward begin to question and to gossip among themselves and to say, why does this man who claims to be the Consecrated of the Lord not repeat here the works and miracles that he did in Capernaum and the other nearby towns? And Jesus then declares, “no prophet is accepted in his own native place” (v 24) and recalls the great prophets of the past, Elijah and Elisha, who worked miracles for the pagans in order to denounce the lack of faith of their people.
At this point, those present feel offended, they rise in indignation, drive Jesus out of the town and want to thrown him over a precipice. But Jesus, with the strength of his peace, “passed through the midst of them and went away” (v 30). His hour had not yet come.
This account of the Evangelist Luke is not simply the story of a fight within a community, like can sometimes happen in our neighborhoods, caused by envy and jealousies. Rather it brings to light a temptation that a religious person is always vulnerable to — all of us are vulnerable to it — and which we must decidedly avoid. What is this temptation? It is the temptation to think of religion as a human investment and consequently, to begin to “negotiate” with God, seeking our own interests. Instead, the true religion is about receiving the revelation of a God who is Father and who is concerned with each one of his creatures, also with the smallest and most significant in the eyes of man.
This is precisely what Jesus’ prophetic ministry consists of: announcing that no human condition can be a motive for exclusion — no human condition can be a motive for exclusion — from the heart of the Father, and that the only privilege in the eyes of God is that of not having privileges. The only privilege in the eyes of God is that of not having privileges, of not having protectors, of abandoning oneself in his hands.
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). The “today” proclaimed by Christ that day applies to every day; it resounds as well for us in this Square, reminding us of the present-day importance and necessity of the salvation brought by Jesus to humanity. God goes out to meet the men and women of all times and places in the concrete situations in which they find themselves. He also comes out to meet us. He is always the one who takes the first step. He comes to visit us with his mercy, to lift us from the dust of our sin. He comes to reach out his hand to lift us from the abyss in which we’ve fallen with our pride and he invites us to welcome the consoling truth of the Gospel and to walk along the paths of righteousness. He always comes to find us, to seek us.
Let’s go back to the synagogue. Certainly that day in the Nazareth synagogue, Mary, the Mother, was also there. We can imagine her heart pounding, a small anticipation of that which she would suffer beneath the Cross, seeing Jesus, there in the synagogue, first admired and then challenged, then insulted and later threatened with death. In her faith-filled heart, she guarded each thing. May she help us to turn from a god of miracles to the miracle of God, which is Jesus Christ.
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today we celebrate World Leprosy Day. This disease, despite being in regression, unfortunately still affects the poorest and most marginalized. It’s important to maintain solidarity with these brothers and sisters, left incapacitated after this illness. We assure them of our prayers and we assure our support to those who help them. Good laypeople, good sisters, good priests.
I greet you all with affection, dear pilgrims from various parishes of Italy and of other countries, as well as the associations and groups.
In particular I greet the students of Cuenca and those of Torreagüera (Spain). I greet the faithful of Taranto, Montesilvano, Macerata, Ercolano and Fasano.
I greet the boys and girls of Catholic Action of the Diocese of Rome. Now I know why there was so much noise in the Square! Dear young people, this year again, accompanied by the Cardinal Vicar and by your assistants, a great number has come at the end of your “Caravan of Peace.”
This year, your testimony of peace, animated by faith in Jesus, will be even more joyful and purposeful, because it is enriched by the gesture you just made, of passing through the Holy Door.
I encourage you to be instruments of peace and mercy among your peers!