The Gospel of this Sunday from St. Luke speaks of the call of Jesus’ first disciples (Lk 5:1-11). The event takes place in a context of everyday life: there are some fishermen on the shore of Lake Galilee, who, after working the night before without catching anything, are washing and putting their nets in order. Jesus went up into the boat of one of them, that of Simon called Peter, and asks him to put out a short distance from the shore and he begins to preach the Word of God to the crowds that had gathered. When he finished speaking, he said to Peter to put out into deep water and lower the nets for a catch. Simon had already known Jesus and experienced the miraculous power of His word, and therefore, replied: “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.”(v. 5). And this faith is not disappointed: in fact, they had caught such a great number of fish that their nets were tearing (cf. v. 6).
In the face of this extraordinary event, the fishermen are overcome with amazement. Simon Peter fell at Jesus’ feet, and said: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” It was a miraculous sign that convinced him that Jesus is not only a terrific teacher, Whose word is true and powerful, but that He is the Lord, the manifestation of God. And this close presence arouses in Peter’s a strong sense of his own pettiness and unworthiness. From a human point of view, one could think there should be distance between the sinner and the saint. In truth, his own sinful condition requires the Lord to not distance himself from him, the same way a doctor cannot create distance from he who is sick.
Jesus’ response to Simon Peter is reassuring and decisive: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” (v. 10). And again, the fisherman from Galilee, placing his trust in this word, leaves everything and follows Him, Who has become his Master and Lord. And James and John, companions of Simon Peter, did too. This is the logic that drives the mission of Jesus and the mission of the Church: to seek out, “fish” for men and women, to return the full dignity and freedom to all, through the forgiveness of sins. This is the essence of Christianity: to spread the regenerating and gratuitous love of God, with the attitude of acceptance and mercy to everyone, because everyone can meet the tenderness of God and have fullness of life. And here, in a particular way, I think of confessors. They are the first that are to give the mercy of God, following the example of Jesus, like how our two brother saints, Father Leopold [Mandic] and Father Pio, did.
Today’s Gospel challenges us: Do we really trust the Word of the Lord? Or do we let ourselves be discouraged by our failures? In this Holy Year of Mercy, we are called to comfort those who feel they are sinners and unworthy and downhearted for their mistakes, telling them the same words of Jesus: “Fear not.” The mercy of the father is greater than your sins. Don’t fear. It’s greater. Let’s pray that the the Virgin Mary helps us to understand more and more that being a disciple means to put our feet on the footprints left by the Master: they are the footprints of divine grace that regenerates life for all.
I follow with deep concern the dramatic fate of civilian populations involved in heavy fighting in Syria and forced to leave everything behind to escape the horrors of war. I hope that, with generous solidarity, they are lent the necessary help to ensure their survival and dignity, and I appeal to the international community to not save any effort to urgently bring to the negotiating table, the parties. Only a political solution of the conflict will be able to guarantee a future of reconciliation and peace in that beloved and martyred country, for which I invite you to pray a lot. And also now, let’s pray together to Blessed Mary, for beloved Syria […Hail Mary …]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, in Italy, we celebrate the Day for Life, on the theme: “Mercy makes life bloom.” I join the Italian bishops in wishing, on the part of various educational and social institutions, for a renewed commitment in favor of human life from conception to its natural end. Our society must be helped to heal from all attacks on life, daring an inner change, which is shown by the works of mercy. I greet and encourage university teachers in Rome and those who are committed to witness the culture of life.
Tomorrow, we celebrate the Day of Prayer and Reflection Against Trafficking of Persons, which offers everyone the opportunity to help the new slaves today to break the heavy chains of exploitation, to regain their freedom and dignity. I think in particular of so many women and men, and so many children! We must make every effort to vanquish this crime, and this unbearable shame.
And tomorrow, in the Far East and in various parts of the world, millions of men and women celebrate the Lunar New Year. I wish everyone to experience serenity and peace within their families, which are the first place where you live and transmit the values of love and brotherhood, coexistence and sharing, attention and care of others . May the New Year bring fruits of compassion, mercy and solidarity. And these brothers and sisters in the Far East, tomorrow they celebrate the Lunar New Year, let’s greet them with an applause from here!
I greet all the pilgrims, parish groups and associations from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ecuador, Slovakia and other countries. Too many to list them all! I cite only the candidates of the Dioceses of Treviso, Padua, Cuneo, Lodi, Como and Crotone. And I salute the priests of the Mexican College of Rome, here with other Mexicans: thank you for your commitment to accompany with prayer the Apostolic Trip to Mexico that I will make in a few days. And also the encounter that I’ll have in Havana with my dear brother [Patriarch] Kirill [of Moscow].