September 29 2013 10:30 | Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls


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Agostino Vallini

Cardinal, Vicar General of His Holiness for the Diocese of Rome
As Christians, the meeting of religious leaders begins for us with prayer and listening to the Word of God. Both the prophet Amos – in the first reading – and Jesus in the Gospel – in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus – invite us to take life seriously, to live it not as careless and pleasure-seeking people, wrapped up in their selfishness, relying on their own wealth. They rather invite us to take care also of our brothersand sisters.  

After all, the rich man was not doing any harm: he was banqueting. It is not enough. We cannot live life only for ourselves. Jesus sets the rule for his disciples: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”. The weakness of the rich man is that he did not do the good he could have done. Let us never forget it: we are responsible for one another.
Christians are the travel companions of those who live next to them, they listen to their questions, they understand their anxiety and sufferings, they are sympathetic and, according to their means, they help those in need. We should never forget that, at the end of our life, we will be judged on love for God and our neighbour, on the care we offer to others, especially needy ones. 
The true disciple of Jesus commits himself to bridge human distances, to comfort the suffering, to put hearts in touch with each other; the true disciple works to overcome injustice. He does not take the first place for himself.
This conception of life does not rise out of a feeling of mercy, of compassion for those who are less lucky; rather it has a precise root. St. Paul reminds us thereof, as he writes to the Philippians: “Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; [...] he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death. Because of this, God greatly exalted him. And at the name of Jesus every tongue should confess the glory of God the Father".
The Gospel’s proposal is clear: to believe in Christ, to follow him, to welcome him in our hearts, does not mean to admire him. Rather it means to take on Jesus’ values and his life style: to love our brothers and sisters, to take care of them, to share with them what we have, to soothe their sufferings, to fight for justice, to take part in the construction of a better world, to inject hope.
Is that easy? No... However, it is possible, if we open up our hearts to the action of grace. 
The Christian novelty lies not only in acknowledging that God is the Father and in believing in Him, but also in building the world on justice and love.
In the second reading, St. Paul recommends to his disciple Timothy: “But thou, O man of God, follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love [...] keep this commandment of love without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Fight the good fight of faith".
Dear brothers and sisters, enlightened by this Word, conformed to Christ in the Eucharist, the sacrament of love, we go on courageously. And we bear witness to hope in a better world, as we read in Psalm 85, “Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss”.
Agostino Card. Vallini