“Giving primacy to God means having the courage to say no to evil, violence, oppression, living [instead] a life of service to others and in favor of the law and the common good.”
On Saturday evening, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the square in front of the Royal Palace of Caserta, southern Italy. The Mass, which took place after the Pope met priests from the region, began at 6 p.m. Today is the feast of Saint Anne, the mother of Mary and patron of the city.
Here below is the homily delivered by the Holy Father:
Jesus addressed his listeners with simple words that everyone could understand. Also this evening, he we have heard that he speaks to us through short parables that refer to the daily life of the people of that time. The parallels of the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great price have, as protagonists, a poor peasant and a wealthy merchant. The merchant searched for a thing of value all his life, something that would satisfy his thirst for beauty, travelling the world, without giving up, in the hope of finding what he is looking for. The other, the peasant, has never moved away from his field and is working all time, with the usual daily routine. Yet for both the final outcome is the same: the discovery of something valuable, a treasure for one, and a pearl of great price for the other. Both are also united by a common sentiment: the surprise and joy of having found the fulfillment of every desire. In the end, both of them don’t hesitate to sell everything to buy the treasure they found. Through these two parables, Jesus teaches what the kingdom of heaven is, how to find it, what to do to possess it.
What is the kingdom of heaven? Jesus doesn’t bother to explain it. He states from the beginning of his Gospel: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”. And also today He is near and among us … He is near. However, he never makes one see it straight away, but always as a consequence, narrating the actions of a master, of a king, of ten virgins … He prefers to let us understand, in parables and similes, and above all by revealing their effects: the kingdom of heaven is capable of changing the world, like yeast hidden in the dough. It is small and humble, like a mustard seed, but becomes as large as a tree. The two parables on which we want to reflect make us understand that the kingdom of God makes itself present in the very person of Jesus. He is the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price. It encompasses the joy of the peasant and the merchant: they found it! It is the joy of all of us when we discover the closeness and the presence of Jesus in our lives – a presence that transforms our lives and makes us sensitive to the needs of our brothers; a presence that invites us to accept each other’s presence, including those who are foreigners and immigrants. He is a welcoming presence, a joyful presence, a fruitful presence, and so it becomes in us.
And then one might ask: How is the kingdom of God found? Each of us has a particular path. For some, the encounter with Jesus is awaited, desired, long sought after, as is shown in the parable of the merchant. For others it happens suddenly, almost by accident, as in the parable of the peasant. This reminds us that God lets Himself be found, because it is He who first wants to meet us, and first tries to meet us. He came to be “God with us.” And Jesus is with us, He is here today. “When you come together in my name, I am with you.” The Lord is here, with us, among us. It is He who seeks us and makes Himself discoverable, even for those who do not seek him. Sometimes He lets Himself be found in unusual places and unexpected times. When Jesus is discovered, one is fascinated, conquered, and it is a joy to leave our usual way of life, sometimes dry and apathetic, to embrace the Gospel, to be guided by the new logic of love and of humble and disinterested service. The Word of Jesus, the Gospel. Let me ask you a question, but I do not want you to raise your hands [laughs]: How many of you each day read a passage from the Gospel? But how many of you, perhaps, hasten to finish work to not miss a soap opera … Have the Gospel in your hands. Have the Gospel on the table. Have the Gospel in your bag. Have the Gospel in your pocket and open it to read the Word of Jesus, so the Kingdom of God comes. Contact with the Word of Jesus brings us closer to the Kingdom of God. Think about it: a small Gospel always at hand, open it to a random page, and read what Jesus says, and Jesus is there.
How is the kingdom of God possessed? On this point, Jesus is very clear: enthusiasm, the joy of discovery, is not enough. The precious pearl of the kingdom should precede every other earthly good; we must put God first in our lives, prefer Him to everything. Giving primacy to God means having the courage to say no to evil, violence, oppression, living instead a life of service to others and in favor of the law and the common good. When a person finds God, the true treasure, they leave a selfish lifestyle and look to share with others the love that comes from God. Whoever becomes a friend of God loves his brothers, is committed to safeguarding their lives and their health, also respecting the environment and nature. I know that you suffer for these things. Today, when I arrived, one of you has approached me and said: Father, give us hope. But I cannot give you hope, I can tell you that where Jesus is, there is hope; where there is Jesus, each person loves all other persons like brothers, committed to safeguarding their lives and their health and also respecting the environment and nature. This is the hope which never disappoints, the one that Jesus gives! This is particularly important in your beautiful land that needs to be protected and preserved. It requires you to have the courage to say no to any form of corruption and lawlessness, it requires everyone to be servants of the truth and to assume every situation in the style of the living Gospel, which is manifested in the gift of self and attention to the poor and the excluded.
On the feast of St. Anne, I like to refer to her as the grandmother of Jesus, and today is a good day to celebrate grandmothers. When I was doing the incense, I saw a beautiful thing: the statue of St. Anne is crowned, her daughter, Mary, is crowned. And this is nice. St. Anne is the woman who prepared her daughter to become queen, to become the queen of the heavens and the earth. She did a nice job this woman, the patron saint of Caserta. Gathered here are the various components of the diocesan community, with the bishop and the presence of civil authorities and the representatives of various social entities. I would encourage everyone to live the feast of the patron free of every preconception, expressing only the faith of a people that recognizes God’s family and which strengthens the bonds of brotherhood and solidarity. St. Anne may have heard her daughter Mary proclaim the words of the Magnificat: “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things (Lk 1, 51-53)”. She will help you to search for the unique treasure, Jesus, and teach you to discover the way of God; He turned the judgments of the world upside down, comes to the rescue of the poor and the little, and fills the humble with good things, those who entrust their existence with Him. Have hope, the hope that never disappoints! And I would like to repeat: Don’t let yourselves be robbed of hope!
At the end of Mass, the Pope was taken to a nearby helipad of the Italian air force. After saying goodbye to the authorities who welcomed him on arrival, he was taken by helicopter back to Rome.