Homily of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., Archbishop of Buenos Aires, for the Celebration of the Feast Day of San Cayetano. Mass readings: Exodus 3:7-12 and Matthew 25:31-40
The reading from Exodus tells us something very simple, yet very beautiful and very comforting: God hears us. God, our Father, hears the cry of his people — the silent cry that arises from the endless line of people who pass in front of San Cayetano. As we approach, our Father in heaven hears the sound of our steps and the prayer in our heart.
Our Father is attentive to the feelings that stir within us as we remember our loved ones, as we see the faith of others and their needs, as we remember both the beautiful things and the sad things that we have experienced during this year. God hears us.
He is not like the idols that have ears but do not hear. He is not like the powerful who hear only what they want to hear. He hears everything, including the complaints and the anger of his children. He not only hears; he loves to listen! He loves to give us his attention and to hear about everything that is happening to us.
This is why Jesus says to us, "Your Father knows what you need." There's no need to talk to him at length. A simple Our Father will suffice because he hears even our innermost thoughts. The Gospel tells us that not even a sparrow "will fall to the ground without your Father's will" (Mt 10:29). It could have said it just as well using the words "without the Father hearing it fall."
Today, we come here to pray for two special graces: the grace of "feeling heard" and the grace of "being ready to listen." With Jesus and San Cayetano, we want to learn to listen and to help our brothers and sisters. This is the motto that we will cherish in our hearts.
Listening is not simply hearing. Listening is being attentive. Listening is the desire to understand, to value, to respect, and to save. We must find the means to listen attentively so that each person may speak, and so that we are aware of what each person wishes to say.
Let's listen carefully now to see how God speaks to us in sacred Scripture.
He says: "I am the God of your father…. I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings" (Ex 3:6-7). Our Father hears our every cry of affliction, but he especially hears the cries of affliction that are the result of injustice, the injustice that is afflicted, so to speak, by the taskmasters of the pharaohs of this world.
There is affliction, and there is sorrow. Wages that are withheld and the lack of employment are pains that cry out to heaven. As the apostle James says, "Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts" (Jas 5:4). The affliction that is the result of injustice cries out to heaven because this is pain that can be avoided by simply being fair, by … favor to the needy, by creating jobs, by not stealing, by not lying, by not overcharging, by not taking advantage of people.
The Gospel passage on the Last Judgment also speaks to us about listening. Jesus separates the sheep from the goats and says to the sheep: "Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you … for I was hungry and you gave me food …" Then the righteous will ask, "Lord, when did we see you hungry … ?" And the Lord replied, "As you did it to the least of my brethren, you did it to me" (see Mt 25:34-40).
The parable of the Last Judgment is Jesus' way of telling us that God has been attentive to mankind throughout history. He has been listening every time some poor, unfortunate individual has asked him for something. He has been listening every time a beggar has begged — albeit in a low voice that could hardly be heard — and every time one of his children has asked for help.
Moreover, he will be judging us as to whether we have been attentive along with him. He will want to know if we have asked him to hear with his ears in order to know what our brothers and sisters are experiencing so we can help them, or if, on the contrary, we have deafened our ears by putting on earphones so as not to hear anybody. He listens, and when he finds people whose ears are as attentive as his and who respond righteously, he blesses those people and gives them the gift of the kingdom of heaven.
This is an excerpt from "Only Love Can Save Us: Letters, Homilies, and Talks of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio."