Homily of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos AIres and Primate of Argentina, given during a mass in honor of the Holy Protector of Pregnant Women, Saint Raymond Nonnatus (August 31, 2005).
Translated by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman of LifeSiteNews.com, March 15, 2013
When one listens to what Jesus says: Look, “I send you, I send you like sheep amongst the wolves,” one wants to ask: “Lord, are you joking, or do not have a better place to send us?” Because what Jesus says is a little chilling: “if you proclaim my message, they are going to persecute you, they are going to slander you, they are going to set traps to deliver you to the courts and to have you killed. But you must continue forward. For that reason, take care, Jesus says, and be astute, be clever like the serpent but very simple like doves,” joining the two things.
The Christian cannot allow himself the luxury to be an idiot, that's clear. We don’t have the luxury to be fools because we have a very beautiful message of life and we’re not permitted to be fools. For that reason, Jesus says, “Be astute, be careful.” What is the astuteness of the Christian? In knowing how to discern who is a wolf and who is a sheep.
And when, during this celebration of life, a wolf disguises himself as a sheep, it's knowing how to smell him. “Look, you have the skin of a sheep but the smell of a wolf.” And this, this mandate that Jesus gives us is very important. It's for something very great. Jesus tells us something that attracts our attention, when someone asks him: “well, why did you come into the world?” “Look, I come to bring life and for that life to be in abundance, and I am sending you so that you can advance that life, and so that it will be abundant.”
Jesus didn't come to bring death, but rather, the death of hatred, the death of fighting, the death of calumny, that is, killing with the tongue. Jesus did not come to bring death, the death that He suffered for defending life. Jesus came to bring life and to bring the abundant life, and he sends us out, carrying that life, but he tells us: “Care for it!” Because there are people who have what we are hearing about today, who aren't involved in the Gospel: the culture of death. That is, life interests them insofar as it is useful, insofar as it has some kind of utility and if not, it doesn't interest them. And throughout the world, this weed has been planted, of the culture of death.
I was reading a book a while back, where this disturbing phrase was found: “In the world of today, the cheapest thing is life, what costs the least is life” — which is, therefore, the most disregarded thing, the most dispensable thing.
This elderly man, this elderly woman, are useless; discard them, let's throw them in the nursing home like we hang up the raincoat during summer, with three mothballs in the pocket, and let's hang it in the nursing home because they're now disposable, they're useless.
This child who is on the way is a bother to the family. “Oh no, for what? I have no idea. Let's discard him and return him to the sender.”
That is what the culture of death preaches to us.
This child that I have at home, well, I don't have time to educate him. Let him grow up like a weed in the field, and this other child who doesn't have anything to eat, not even little shoes to go to school, and well, I'm very sorry, but I'm not the redeemer of the whole world.
That's what the culture of death preaches. It's not interested in life. What interests it? Egoism. One is interested in surviving, but not in giving life, caring for life, offering life.
Today, in this shrine dedicated to life, in this day of the patron saint of life, Jesus again says to us: “Care for it! I came to bring life, and life in abundance, but care for it! You are going to be surrounded by wolves; you are to be the ones to defend life, to care for life.
Care for life! What a beautiful thing one sees — which I know! — that a grandfather, a grandmother, who perhaps can no longer speak, who is paralyzed, and the grandson or the son comes and takes their hand, and in silence cherishes them, nothing more. That is caring for life. When one sees people who take care so that this child can go to school, so that another doesn't lack food, that is caring for life.
Open your heart to life! Because the egoism of death, the egoistic culture of death, is like the weed in the field, that weed, that grass or black weed, or that hemlock, is growing, it is invading and kills the trees, kills the fruit, kills the flowers, kills life. The weeds. Remember that once Jesus spoke of that. He said: “When the seed is life, it falls in the middle of the weeds, and the thorns choke it, ” the thorns of egoism, of the passions, of wanting everything for one's self. Life is always giving, gives itself, and it is costly to care for life. Oh how it costs! It costs tears.
How beautiful is caring for life, allowing life to grow, to give life like Jesus, and to give it abundantly, not to permit that even one of these smallest ones be lost. That is what Jesus asked of the Father: “that none of those whom You have given me be lost, that all of the life that You gave me to care for, might be cared for, that it might not be lost.” And we care for life, because He cares for our life from the womb. We have it in the motto for this year: “From the womb you were our protector.” He cares for us and he teaches us that.
We (modern society) don't care for life. Because there is an ethical order of caring for life, we simply care for life. Jesus teaches us to care for life because it is the image of God, who is absolute life. We cannot announce anything else but life, and from the beginning to the end. All of us must care for life, cherish life, with tenderness, warmth.
But it is a road that is full of wolves, and perhaps for that reason they might bring us to the courts, perhaps, for that reason, for caring for life they might kill us. We should think about the Christian martyrs. They killed them for preaching this Gospel of life, this Gospel that Jesus brought. But Jesus gives us the strength. Go forth! Don't be fools, remember, a Christian doesn't have the luxury of being foolish, I'm not going to repeat, an idiot, a fool, he can't give himself the luxury. He has to be clever, he has to be astute, to carry this out.
When one speaks of these things of the culture of life, to which we are called, one feels the sadness that, in these hearts, and even from childhood, the culture of death has been sown. Egoism is sown in them, the “well, and what does it matter to me what happens to others” is sown in them. Who am I to care for others? This statement, do you remember who made it first? Cain. “Am I the one who must care for his brother?” This criminal statement, this phrase of death — it is a shame that even from childhood people grow up with this thinking that this egoistic thinking in inculcated within them, that men and women are formed in this way. I said it once and I'll repeat it — we could place it as a nickname — I, me, mine, with me, for me, everything for one, give nothing to others, because to give life is to open the heart, and to care for life is to expend one's self in tenderness and warmth for others, to have concern in my heart for others.
Today we're going to bless the messengers of life. They are those who are going to carry the images of Saint Raymond Nonnatus to people's homes. They are going to go to people's houses, and each time the image arrives at a house, it's not for saying “Oh how lovely! I have it to myself.” Rather it is to remember that I have to struggle for life, to care for life, that there shouldn't be even one child who doesn't have the right to be born, there shouldn't be even one child who doesn't have the right to be well fed, there shouldn't even be one child who doesn't have the right to go to school.
How many children are working to recycle cardboard? I see them in the center of Buenos Aires. They don't go to school. They are exploited by their parents. And who provokes the parents to exploit their children? The culture of death. There shouldn't be one child who doesn't grow up, who doesn't live his adolescence open to life. There shouldn't be any adult who doesn't concern himself with what others are lacking, with what others need to have more life, and with ensuring that there isn't even one elderly person put into storage, alone, discarded.
Caring for life from the beginning to the end. What a simple thing, what a beautiful thing. Father, is that why there are so many wolves who want to eat us? Is that why, tell me? Who did Jesus kill? No one. He did good things. And how did he end up? If we go down the road of life ugly things can happen to us, but it doesn't matter. It's worth it. He first opened the way.
So, go forth and don't be discouraged. Care for life. It's worth it! So be it.
Note: This text was translated from a transcript of the original Spanish text published by the Argentinean Catholic Information Agency (AICA)with the following URL: https://aica.org/aica/documentos_files/Obispos_Argentinos/Bergoglio/2005/2005_08_31_SanRamonNonato.htm