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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Angelus about choosing places at table

At noon today (in Rome), the Holy Father, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to recite the Angelus with the faithful and with pilgrims who were gathered in Saint Peter's Square for the usual Sunday appointment.

Greetings of His Holiness, Pope Francis
prior to the recitation of the Angelus

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today's gospel account shows Jesus in the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees, keenly observing how the lunch guests rush to choose the prime positions at the table.  This is a scene that we have witnessed many times: seeking the best places, even employing elbows if necessary.  Seeing this, he tells two short parables with which he offers two instructions: one concerning the place of honour and the other concerning the reward.

The first similarity is set in a wedding banquet.  Jesus says: When you are invited to someone's wedding, do not sit in the places of honour, in case there should be another guest who is more deserving of that place than you, and the one who has invited you and he should come to you and say: 'Give him this place'.  Instead, when you are invited, choose the lowest place (Lk 14:8-9).  With this recommendation, Jesus does not intend to point out rules for social behaviour, but rather a lesson concerning the value of humility.  The story teaches us that pride, arrogance, vanity and ostentatious behaviour are the cause of many problems.  Jesus helps us to understand the need to choose the lowest places, to seek out the smallest places, even if they are hidden: humility.  When we place ourselves before God in this way, with humility, God exalts us, he bows down toward us and lifts us up to himself; for those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Lk 4:11).

Jesus' words point out completely different and opposing attitudes: the attitude of those who choose their own places and the attitude of those who allow their places to be assigned by God, who wait for him to reward them.  Let us not forget this: God pays much better than we do!  He gives us a place that is much more beautiful than the place that other people would give us!  The place that God gives us is close to his heart and his reward is eternal life.  You will indeed be blessed - Jesus says - for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous (Lk 4:14).

This is what is described in the second parable, in which Jesus points out the attitude of disinterest that should characterize hospitality.  He says: When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind; and you will be blessed because they cannot repay you (Lk 4:13-14).  It's a matter of choosing freely rather than calculating in an opportune way that seeks to obtain some kind of reward, that seeks a payment or an opportunity to gain wealth.  In fact, the poor, the simple, those who do not count can never invite anyone else to the table.  In this way, Jesus shows us his preference for the poor and those who are excluded, the ones who are privileged in the kingdom of God.  This is the most important gospel message: to serve others for love of God.  Today, Jesus gives a voice to those who have no voice and sends each one of us an urgent appeal to open our hearts and to take upon ourselves the sufferings and the anxieties of the poor, the hungry, the marginalized, refugees, those who have been defeated by life, those who have been cast aside by society and by the arrogance of those who have power.  Those who are discarded in this way in fact represent the majority of peoples.

At this moment, I am thinking with gratitude about all the tables where many people willingly offer their service, giving food to people who are alone, those who are in need, out of work or without a fixed address.  These and other works of mercy - such as visiting the sick and those who are imprisoned ... are workshops of charity that spread the culture of gratitude, for those who do this work are motivated by the love of God and illuminated by the wisdom of the gospel.  Therefore, service rendered toward others becomes a witness of love that makes the love of Christ visible and believable.

Let us ask the Virgin Mary to lead us every day along the path of humility - she who was humble for her entire life - and to help us to be capable of freely-offered gestures of welcome and of solidarity toward the marginalized so that we be worthy of the reward of heaven.

Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father continued:

Dear brothers and sisters,

I want to renew my spiritual closeness to the residents of the regions of Lazio, Marche and Umbria who have been suffering because of the earthquake that struck this week.  I am thinking especially about the people of Amatrice, Accumoli, Arquata and Pescara del Tronto, Norcia.  Once again, I say to those beloved people that the Church shares in your suffering and your concern.  Let us pray for all those who have died and for the survivors.  The promptness with which Authorities, police forces, civil protection agencies and volunteers have been working demonstrates the importance of solidarity in order to overcome such painful trials.  Dear brothers and sisters, as soon as it is possible, I hope to come and visit with you, to bring you in person the comfort of faith, the embrace of a father and a brother and the support of Christian hope.  Let us pray for our brothers and sisters, all together now ...

Hail Mary ...

Yesterday in Santiago del Estero, Argentina, Sister Maria Antonia de San José was proclaimed Blessed; the people call her Mama Antula.  May her example of Christian witness, especially her apostolate of promoting the Spiritual Exercises, arouse more and more the desire to grow closer to Christ and to the gospel.

Next Thursday, September 1, we will celebrate the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, together with our Orthodox brothers and with members of other Churches: this will be an occasion to strengthen our common commitment to protecting life, and respecting nature and the environment.

Now, I greet all the pilgrims who have come from various parts of Italy and from other countries, in particular, the altar boys from Kleinraming (Austria); los Marinos de la Nave Escuela 'Fragata Libertad' (sailors from the Fragata Libertad Navy School) - I said it in Spanish because it's a small world! - the faithful from Gonzaga, Spirano, Brembo, Cordenons and Daverio; and the young people from Venaria, Val Liona, Angarano, Moncalieri and Tombelle.

I wish you all a good Sunday, and please don't forget to pray for me.  Enjoy your lunch and good bye!
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