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Pope Francis during today's Mass in Santa Marta

PHOTO.VA - OSSERVATORE ROMANO

Pope’s Morning Homily: Faith Is Deciding Factor Between Victory and Defeat

At Casa Santa Marta, Reminds That Faith Can’t Be Learned, Must Be Asked for From God

Faith makes the difference between victory and defeat, says Pope Francis, and faith is not something we learn in books, but simply a gift — a gift we should ask for.

The Pope offered this reflection today during his homily in the Casa Santa Marta, as reported by Vatican Radio.

The Holy Father contrasted the defeat of the Israelites recounted in the First Reading with the victory of the leper recounted in the Gospel.

Taken from Samuel, the First Reading speaks of the Philistines’ conquest: “the slaughter was very great,” and the people lost everything, “[even] their dignity,” the Pope noted.

“What led to this defeat?” he asked. It was because the people “slowly walked away from the Lord, lived in a worldly fashion, and even kept with idols.”

The people went out to the Sanctuary of Shiloh, but, “as if it were a mere cultural habit,” he said. They had lost their filial relationship with God – they did not worship God – and He left them alone.

Even the Ark of the Covenant was viewed more as a magic talisman, Francis said. “In the Ark,” he recalled, “was the Law – the Law that they did not keep and which they had abandoned.” There was no longer “a personal relationship with the Lord – they had forgotten the God who had saved them,” and were defeated.

Thirty thousand Israelites were slain, the Ark was taken by the Philistines, the two sons of Eli, “those criminal priests who exploited people in the Sanctuary of Shiloh,” met their end. It was “a total defeat,” the Pope said. “Thus does a people that has distanced itself from God meet its end.”

Moving mountains

The Gospel of the day, however, speaks of a victory, the Pontiff explained:

“At that time, a leper came to Jesus and begged him on his knees – precisely in a gesture of adoration – and said, ‘Look, you can make me clean.’ He challenged the Lord, saying, ‘I have been defeated in life’ – the leper had suffered defeat, insofar as he could not live life in common with others, he was always cast off – ‘but you [he said to the Lord] can turn this defeat into victory!.’ That is: ‘Look, you can make me clean.’ Before this Jesus had compassion, he stretched out his hand, touched him and said, ‘I desire that you be made clean!’

“So, simply: this fight is over in two minutes and ends in victory; that other lasts all day long, and ends with the defeat. The man had something that drove him to go to Jesus and send up the challenge: he had faith.”

The Apostle John says that the victory over the world is our faith. “Our faith wins, always!”:

“Faith is the victory. Faith: like [that of] this man [who said], ‘If you want to, you can do it.’ The losers of the First Reading prayed to God, bearing the ark, but they had no faith, they had forgotten it. This leper had faith, and when you ask with faith, Jesus himself told us, mountains will move. We are able to move a mountain from one place to another: faith is capable of this. Jesus himself said, ‘Whatever you ask the Father in my name, you will be given. Ask and you shall receive; knock and it shall be opened,’ but with faith – and this, this is our victory.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily with this prayer:

“We ask the Lord that our prayers always have that root of faith, that they be born of faith in Him. The grace of faith: faith is a gift. You do not learn [it] from books. It is a gift that the Lord gives you, but just ask for it: ‘Give me faith!’ ‘I believe, Lord!’, said the man who asked Jesus to heal his son: ‘I ask Lord, that you help my unbelief.’ Prayer with faith … and the man is healed.

“We ask God for the grace to pray with faith, to be sure that everything we ask of Him we will be given, with the confidence that faith gives us – and this is our victory, our faith.”

Readings provided by the US bishops’ conference:

Thursday of the First Week of Ordinary Time

Reading 1

1 SM 4:1-11

The Philistines gathered for an attack on Israel.

Israel went out to engage them in battle and camped at Ebenezer,

while the Philistines camped at Aphek.

The Philistines then drew up in battle formation against Israel.

After a fierce struggle Israel was defeated by the Philistines,

who slew about four thousand men on the battlefield.

When the troops retired to the camp, the elders of Israel said,

“Why has the LORD permitted us to be defeated today

by the Philistines?

Let us fetch the ark of the LORD from Shiloh

that it may go into battle among us

and save us from the grasp of our enemies.”

 

So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there

the ark of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned upon the cherubim.

The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were with the ark of God.

When the ark of the LORD arrived in the camp,

all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth resounded.

The Philistines, hearing the noise of shouting, asked,

“What can this loud shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?”

On learning that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp,

the Philistines were frightened.

They said, “Gods have come to their camp.”

They said also, “Woe to us! This has never happened before. Woe to us!

Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods?

These are the gods that struck the Egyptians

with various plagues and with pestilence.

Take courage and be manly, Philistines;

otherwise you will become slaves to the Hebrews,

as they were your slaves.

So fight manfully!”

The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated;

every man fled to his own tent.

It was a disastrous defeat,

in which Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers.

The ark of God was captured,

and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were among the dead.

Responsorial Psalm

PS 44:10-11, 14-15, 24-25

R. (27b) Redeem us, Lord, because of your mercy.

Yet now you have cast us off and put us in disgrace,

and you go not forth with our armies.

You have let us be driven back by our foes;

those who hated us plundered us at will.

R. Redeem us, Lord, because of your mercy.

You made us the reproach of our neighbors,

the mockery and the scorn of those around us.

You made us a byword among the nations,

a laughingstock among the peoples.

R. Redeem us, Lord, because of your mercy.

Why do you hide your face,

forgetting our woe and our oppression?

For our souls are bowed down to the dust,

our bodies are pressed to the earth.

R. Redeem us, Lord, because of your mercy.

Alleluia

SEE MT 4:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom

and cured every disease among the people.

R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel

MK 1:40-45

A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said,

“If you wish, you can make me clean.”

Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,

touched the leper, and said to him,

“I do will it. Be made clean.”

The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.

Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.

Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything,

but go, show yourself to the priest

and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;

that will be proof for them.”

The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.

He spread the report abroad

so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.

He remained outside in deserted places,

and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

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