My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A promise that comforts, a request for generosity, a mission to fulfill. This is how Jesus makes himself present in the life of a Christian. ...Early every morning, Pope Francis celebrates a personal sort of Mass in the small Saint Martha chapel at the Vatican. The audience is made up of gardeners, nuns, cooks, office workers, and always changes. What doesn't change is that the pope gives his homilies without notes just as he did when he was a parish priest. This book features highlights from almost 200 daily homilies covering a year from March 2013 to May 2014.
Promise, request, mission. These three moments are found not only in an active life but also in prayer. First, "a prayer without a word of Jesus and without trust, without promise, is not a good prayer." Second, it is good to ask Jesus to help us be ready to leave something behind, and this gets us ready for the third moment, because there is no prayer in which Jesus does not inspire "something to do."
I was enthralled by Antonio Spadaro's introduction which has an in-depth look at how Pope Francis prepares, including what the pope thinks is important in contemplating and conveying the Word of God to the faithful. Spadaro also gives a "map" of the way Francis circles round various topics, engaging them from different angles as the liturgical readings progress day to day. That was a new idea for me, that to get a full sense of his teachings one must patiently look at them from day to day.
I have been reading these homilies as daily devotionals and can testify that the "circular" approach is true. As one works through the liturgy with Francis, one begins to see the way he backs up and tilts his head for different angles on the material we've heard so many times that we take it for granted.
The hunt for the only treasure that we can take with us into the life after life is a Christian's reason for being. It is the reason for being that Jesus explains to the disciples in the passage from the Gospel of Matthew: "Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be." ...(I honestly never thought about St. Augustine's "restless until we rest in you" and "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Maybe it's obvious, but it wasn't to me.)
"The Lord has made us restless so that we will seek him, find him, grow. But if our treasure is a treasure that is not near the Lord, that is not of the Lord, our heart becomes restless for things that are no good, for these other treasures ... So many people, we ourselves are restless ... To have this, to get that, and in the end our heart becomes tired; it is never satisfied; it becomes tired, lazy, a heart without love. The weariness of the heart. Let's think about that. ...
About halfway through I began expecting to be surprised with each homily, even if only by a throw away line that illustrated the main point. The surprise was good because it made me rethink issues, look deeper into myself, and learn to know God a little better.
To be honest, that's not usually the way I feel after reading Pope Francis's writing. So this is a rare find for me. (What can I say? Pope Benedict's style resonated with me from the get-go. It ain't Pope Francis's fault. I get that.)
These are pretty short, about a page and a half usually, and each has the references for the scriptural readings on which Francis was commenting.
This one's good for people who want to know Pope Francis better, need daily inspiration, want a good gift to give new Catholics, need to reinvigorate their relationship with God, and more. Definitely recommended.