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Homily of Pope Francis

Laetare Sunday

March 14, 2021

St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican

In celebration of 500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines


“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,” this is the heart of the Gospel. This is the source of our joy.


The message of the Gospel is not an idea or a doctrine, it is Jesus Himself, the Son the Father has given us so that we might have life. The source of our life is not an elegant theory but how to find happiness - the actual experience of being accompanied in love throughout the journey of life.


“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”


Let us dwell on these two thoughts for a minute: “God so loved” and “God gave.”


First of all, “God so loved.” Jesus' words to Nicodemus, a Jewish elder who wanted to know the Master, helped us to see the true face of God.


He has always looked at us with love and for the sake of love, He came among us in the flesh of His Son. In Jesus, He went in search of us when we were lost. In Jesus, He came to raise us up when we fell. In Jesus, He wept with us and healed our wounds. In Jesus, He blessed our lives forever.


The Gospel tells us that whoever believes in Him will not perish. In Jesus God spoke the definitive word about our life: “You are not lost. You are loved, loved forever.”


If hearing the Gospel and practicing our faith don't enlarge our hearts and don't make us grasp the immensity of God's love, maybe because we prefer a glum, sorrowful and self-absorbed religiosity, then this is a sign that we need to stop and listen again to the preaching of the Good News.


God loves you so much that He gave you His entire life. He is not a God who looks down upon us from on high but a loving Father who becomes part of our history.


He is not a god who takes pleasure in the deaths of sinners but a father concerned that no one should be lost. He is not a god who condemns but a father who saves us with a comforting embrace of His love.


We now come to the second aspect: “God gave his son.” Precisely because He loves us so much God gives Himself. He offers us his life. Those who love always come out of themselves.


Love always offers itself, gives itself, extends itself. This is the power of love. It shatters the shell of our selfishness, breaks out of our carefully constructed security zones, tears down walls and overcomes fears so as to give freely of itself.


That is how lovers are. They prefer to risk self-giving over self-preservation. And that is why God comes to us because He loved us.


His love is so great that He cannot fail to give Himself to us.


When the people were attacked by poisonous serpents in the desert, God told Moses to make the bronze serpent and Jesus - however exalted - in the cross He himself came to heal us of the venom of death.


He became seen to save us from sin.


God does not love us in words, He gives us His Son so that whoever looks at Him and believes in Him will be saved.


The more we love, the more we become capable of giving.


That is also the key to understanding our life. It is wonderful to meet people who love one another and share their lives in love. We can say about them what we say about God. They so love each other that they give their lives.


It is not only what we can make or earn that matters. In the end, it is the love that we are able to give.


This is the source of joy.


“God so loved the world that He gave His Son.”


Here we see the meaning of the church's invitation this Sunday, “Rejoice! Rejoice and be glad, you who mourn. Find contentment and consolation.”


I think of what we saw a week ago in Iraq, a people who had suffered so much rejoiced and were glad, thanks to God and his merciful love.


Sometimes we look for joy where it is not to be found: in illusions that vanish, in dreams of glory, in apparent security of material possessions, in the cult of our image.


But life teaches us that true joy comes from realizing that we are loved; gratuitously knowing that we are not alone; having someone who shares our dreams. And when we experience shipwreck, He is there to help us and lead us to a safe harbor.


Dear brothers and sisters, 500 years have passed since the Christian message first arrived in the Philippines.


You received the joy of the Gospel, the Good News that God so loved us that He gave His Son for us.


And this joy is evident in your people. We see it in your eyes, on your faces, in your songs and in your prayers.


Women are banners of joy here in Rome because when they go to work, they work but they sow the faith. This is an illness that goes from one generation to the other but this is a good illness that you need to pass on. It comes from the gift you received from 500 years ago and that you bear even to today.


You receive the joy of the Gospel that God so loved the world that He gave His Son and His joy evident in your people.