Pope Francis concluded his Pastoral Visit to the cities of Cesena and Bologna with a Solemn Mass in the Dall’Ara Stadium of Bologna.
In his homily, for what he called “the first Sunday of the Word,” Pope Francis reflected on the Word of God, which makes our hearts burn within us, because it makes us feel loved and consoled by the Lord.
The day’s Gospel relates Jesus’ parable of the two sons who were asked by their father to go to work in his vineyard. One son said no, but eventually went; while the other said yes, but did not go. “There is a great difference,” the Pope said “between the first son, who is lazy; and the second, who is a hypocrite.” Imagining their inner thoughts, Pope Francis said that the voice of the father resonated in the heart of the son, despite his initial no. In the second, on the other hand, the voice of the father “was buried.”
Like the two sons, the Pope said, we can choose to be either sinners on the journey, who continue to listen to the Father, and repent and rise when we fall; or to be seated sinners, hypocrites always ready to justify ourselves, and willing to do only what is convenient. Jesus, he continued, was very severe to the latter, saying that the public sinners would go before them into heaven. They were not wrong, he said, about how they thought about God and religion, but they were mistaken in how one must live the Christian life. He said they were inflexible guardians of human traditions, incapable of understanding that life according to God is a journey, and requires the humility to be open, to repent, and to begin anew.
The key word here, Pope Francis said, is repentance, which allows us to not be rigid, to transform the “no” to God into a “yes,” the “no” of sin into the “yes” of love of God. Ultimately, he said, “in the life of each one of us there are two paths: to be penitent sinners or hypocritical sinners.
The Word of God, then, penetrates into the heart of each one of us. But it is also a word that calls us back to a relationship, the relationship between the father and his sons. As in the family, so in society, and in the Church, there is a need for encounter. “Never reject encounter, dialogue,” the Pope said. “Never give up on seeking new paths to walk together.”
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis offered three Italian “P’s” to help us see where we are headed as a Church: “Parola,” the Word, the compass that points out the way of humble journeying; “Pane,” Bread, the Bread of the Eucharist, which is the starting point of everything; and “poveri,” the poor, not only those who are poor in material terms, but even more, those who are spiritually impoverished. In all of these we find Jesus, because the Lord entered the world in poverty, through an emptying of Himself, as St Paul says.
“It would do us good,” the Pope said, “to always remember” these three terms: “the Word,” “Bread,” and “the poor.” He concluded his homily with the prayer that we might never forget these three basic “foods,” that sustain us on our journey.