8 July 2020 | Homily


Casa Santa Marta chapel

The Responsorial Psalm invites us always to seek the Lord’s face: “Seek the Lord
and his strength; seek his presence continually” (Ps 105:4). This quest is
fundamental for the life of every believer, for we have come to realize that our
ultimate goal in life is the encounter with God.
To seek the face of God is an assurance that our journey through this world will
end well. It is an exodus towards the Promised Land, our heavenly home. The
face of God is our destination and the guiding star that helps us not to lose our
The people of Israel, as described by the prophet Hosea in the first reading (cf
10:1-3.7-8.12), had gone astray. They had lost sight of the Promised Land and
were wandering in the desert of iniquity. Abundance, prosperity and wealth had
caused their hearts to drift away from the Lord and had filled them instead with
falsehood and injustice.
We too, as Christians today, are not immune to this sin. “The culture of comfort,
which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of
other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are
insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in
indifference to others; indeed, it even leads to the globalization of indifference.
In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference. We have
become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern
me; it’s none of my business!” (Homily in Lampedusa, 8 July 2013).
Hosea’s words reach us today as a renewed summons to conversion, a call to
turn our eyes to the Lord and recognize his face. The prophet says: “Sow for
yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for
it is time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you”
Our efforts to seek the face of God are born of the desire for an encounter with
the Lord, a personal encounter, an encounter with his immense love, with his
saving power. The twelve apostles described in today’s Gospel (cf Mt 10:1-7)
received the grace to encounter him physically in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son
of God. Jesus – as we heard – called each of them by name. He looked them in
the eye, and they in turn gazed at his face, listened to his voice and beheld his
miracles. The personal encounter with the Lord, a time of grace and salvation,
entails a mission: “As you go”, Jesus tells them, proclaim the good news: ‘The
kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (v. 7). Encounter and mission must not be
This kind of personal encounter with Jesus Christ is possible also for us, who are
the disciples of the third millennium. In our effort to seek the Lord’s face, we can
recognize him in the face of the poor, the sick, the abandoned, and the
foreigners whom God places on our way. This encounter becomes also for us a
time of grace and salvation, and summons us to the same mission entrusted to
the Apostles.
Today marks the seventh year, the seventh anniversary of my visit to
Lampedusa. In the light of God’s word, I would like to repeat what I said to
those taking part in the meeting “Free from Fear” in February last year: “The
encounter with the other is also an encounter with Christ. He himself told us
this. He is the one knocking on our door, hungry, thirsty, naked, sick,
imprisoned; he is the one seeking an encounter with us, asking our help, asking
to come ashore. And lest we have any doubt, he tells us categorically: ‘Truly I
tell you, whatever you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did to
me’” (Mt 25:40).
“Whatever you did…” for better or for worse! This admonition is all the more
timely today. We ought to use it as a basic starting point for our daily
examination of conscience. Here I think of Libya, detention camps, the abuses
and violence to which migrants are subjected; I think of journeys of hope,
rescue operations, and cases of rejection. “Whatever you did… you did to me.”
I remember that day, seven years ago, in the very south of Europe, on that
island… A number of people told me their stories and all that they had gone
through to get there. There were interpreters present. One person was telling
me about terrible things in his language, and the interpreter seemed to translate
well, but this person spoke so long and the translation was brief. “Well”, I
thought, “their language must require more words to express an idea”. When I
returned home that afternoon, in the reception area there was a lady – God
bless her, she has since passed away – who was a daughter of Ethiopians. She
understood the language and she had seen our conversation on television. She
said this to me. “Listen, what the Ethiopian translator told you is not even a
quarter of the torture and suffering that those people experienced”. They gave
me the “distilled” version. This is what is happening today with Libya: they are
giving us a “distilled version”. The war is indeed horrible, we know that, but you
cannot imagine the hell that people are living there, in that detention camp. And
those people came only with hope of crossing the sea.
May the Virgin Mary, Solacium migrantium, “Solace of Migrants”, help us
discover the face of her Son in all our brothers and sisters forced to flee their
homeland because of the many injustices that continue to afflict our world.