My question to you, as educators, is this: Do you watch over your students, helping them to develop a critical sense, an open mind capable of caring for today’s world? A spirit capable of seeking new answers to the varied challenges that society sets before humanity today? Are you able to encourage them not to disregard the world around them, what is happening all over? Can you encourage them to do that? To make that possible, you need to take them outside the university lecture hall; their minds need to leave the classroom, their hearts must go out of the classroom. Does our life, with its uncertainties, its mysteries and its questions, find a place in the university curriculum or different academic activities? Do we enable and support a constructive debate which fosters dialogue in the pursuit of a more humane world? Dialogue, that bridge word, that word which builds bridges.
One avenue of reflection involves all of us, family, schools and teachers. How do we help our young people not to see a university degree as synonymous with higher status, with more money or social prestige? It is not synonymous with that. How can we help make their education a mark of greater responsibility in the face of today’s problems, the needs of the poor, concern for the environment?
(From Meeting with Educators in Ecuador on July 7)
Is this the way a family should be? In families, everyone contributes to the common purpose, everyone works for the common good, not denying each person’s individuality but encouraging and supporting it. They quarrel, but there is something that does not change: the family bond. Family disputes are resolved afterwards. The joys and sorrows of each are felt by all. That is what it means to be a family! ….I have often spoken about the importance of the family as the primary cell of society. In the family, we find the basic values of love, fraternity and mutual respect, which translate into essential values for society as a whole: gratuitousness, solidarity and subsidiarity. And so, beginning with what it means to be at home and looking at the family, let us consider society through the social values that we foster at home in the family: gratuitousness, solidarity and subsidiarity.
(From Meeting with Civic, Social, and Business Leaders in Ecuador on July 7)
This is the logic of discipleship, it is what the Holy Spirit does with us and in us. We are witnesses of this. One day Jesus saw us on the side of the road, wallowing in our own pain and misery, our indifference. Each one knows his or her past. He did not close his ear to our cries. He stopped, drew near and asked what he could do for us. And thanks to many witnesses, who told us, “Take heart; get up”, gradually we experienced this merciful love, this transforming love, which enabled us to see the light. We are witnesses not of an ideology, of a recipe, of a particular theology. We are not witnesses of that. We are witnesses to the healing and merciful love of Jesus. We are witnesses of his working in the lives of our communities.
And this is the pedagogy of the Master, this is the pedagogy which God uses with his people. It leads us to passing from distracted zapping to the point where we can say to others: “Take heart; get up. The Master is calling you” (Mk 10:49). Not so that we can be special, not so that we can be better than others, not so that we can be God’s functionaries, but only because we are grateful witnesses to the mercy which changed us. When we live like this, there is joy and delight, and we can identify ourselves with the testimony given by the religious sister who made her own Saint Augustine’s counsel, “Sing and walk”. This is the joy that comes from witnessing to the mercy that transforms.
(From Meeting with Religious, Priests and Seminarians in Bolivia on July 9)
We may feel the way the disciples did, when they saw those crowds of people gathered there. They begged Jesus to send them away – “send them home” – since it was impossible to provide food for so many people. Faced with so many kinds of hunger in our world, we can say to ourselves: “Sorry, but things don’t add up; we will never manage, there is nothing to be done”. And so our hearts yield to despair.
A despairing heart finds it easy to succumb to a way of thinking which is becoming ever more widespread in our world today. It is a mentality in which everything has a price, everything can be bought, everything is negotiable. This way of thinking has room only for a select few, while it discards all those who are “unproductive”, unsuitable or unworthy, since clearly those people don’t “add up”. But Jesus once more turns to us and says: “No, no, they don’t need to be excluded, they don’t need to go away; you yourselves, give them something to eat”.
Those words of Jesus have a particular resonance for us today: No one needs to go be excluded, no one has to be discarded; you yourselves, give them something to eat. Jesus speaks these words to us, here in this square. Yes, no one has to be discarded; you, give them something to eat. Jesus’ way of seeing things leaves no room for the mentality which would cut bait on the weak and those most in need. Taking the lead, he gives us his own example, he shows us the way forward. What he does can be summed up in three words. He takes a little bread and some fish, he blesses them and then gives them to his disciples to share with the crowd. And this is how the miracle takes place. It is not magic or sorcery. With these three gestures, Jesus is able to turn a mentality which discards others into a mindset of communion, a mindset of community. I would like briefly to look at each of these actions.
(From Homily at Mass in Bolivia on July 9)
Do you get annoyed every now and then? Jesus felt that way when they wouldn’t let the children come to him. He was really mad. He loved children. Not that he didn’t like adults, but he was really happy to be with children. He enjoyed their company, he enjoyed being friends with them. But not only. He didn’t just want to have them around, he wanted something else: he wanted them to be an example. He told his disciples that “unless you become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 18:3).
The children kept coming to Jesus, and the adults kept trying to keep them away, but Jesus called them, embraced them and brought them forward, so that people us could learn to be like them. Today, he wants to tell us the same thing. He looks at us and he says: “Learn from the children”.
We need to learn from you. We need to learn from your trust, your joy, and your tenderness. We need to learn from your ability to fight, from your strength, from your remarkable endurance. Some of you are fighters. And when we look at young “warriors” like you, we feel very proud. Isn’t that right, moms? Isn’t that right, dads and grandparents? Looking at you gives us strength, it gives us the courage to trust, to keep moving forward.
(From Meeting with Children and Families in a Pediatric Hospital in Paraguay on July 11)
How many times do we see mission in terms of plans and programs. How many times do we see evangelization as involving any number of strategies, tactics, maneuvers, techniques, as if we could convert people on the basis of our own arguments. Today the Lord says to us quite clearly: in the mentality of the Gospel, you do not convince people with arguments, strategies or tactics. You convince them by simply learning how to welcome them.
The Church is a mother with an open heart. She knows how to welcome and accept, especially those in need of greater care, those in greater difficulty. The Church, as desired by Jesus, is the home of hospitality. And how much good we can do, if only we try to speak this language of hospitality, this language of receiving and welcoming. How much pain can be soothed, how much despair can be allayed in a place where we feel at home! This requires open doors, especially the doors of our heart. Welcoming the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner (Mt 25:34-37), the leper and the paralytic. Welcoming those who do not think as we do, who do not have faith or who have lost it. And sometimes, we are to blame. Welcoming the persecuted, the unemployed. Welcoming the different cultures, of which our earth is so richly blessed. Welcoming sinners, because each one of us is also a sinner.
(From Homily at Mass in Paraguay on July 12)
And now, before going, I ask you, first of all, to continue to pray for me; second, that you carry on creating a ruckus; and third, that you organize that ruckus without ruining anything. And together now, in silence, let us raise our hearts to God. Each from the heart, in a quiet voice, let us repeat these words: “Lord Jesus, I thank you for being here, I thank you because you gave me brothers and a sister like Manuel, Orlando, and Liz. I thank you because you have given us many brothers and sisters like them. They found you, Jesus. They know you, Jesus. They know that you, their God, are their strength. Jesus, I pray for all those young boys and girls who do not know that you are their strength and who are afraid to live, afraid to be happy, afraid to have dreams. Jesus, teach them how to dream, to dream big, to dream beautiful things, things which, although they seem ordinary, are things which enlarge the heart. Lord Jesus, give us strength. Give us a free heart. Give us hope. Give us love and teach us how to serve. Amen.
(Extemporaneous Prayer with Young People in Paraguay on July 12)