THE POPE IN BRAZIL: Homily at Mass in Cuiabá
Christ will judge the selfish
October 16, 1991
Pope speaks on problems of migration and ecology
On Wednesday, 16 October, the Holy Father celebrated Mass in the city of
Cuiabá. The theme of the Mass was "Evangelization: migrants and ecology". During
the Mass the Pope preached the homily in Portuguese, speaking about the problems
of migration and the environment in the area of the large port city on the
1. "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you?"
Let us try to keep this question in mind; it is a very important one. It is
decisive. It comes from the great parable of the Last Judgement, according to St
Matthew's Gospel, which we read just a few moments ago.
In this depiction of the Judgement which Christ, the Son of Man, will
make at the end of the world (because the Father has given him the power to
judge since he is the world's Redeemer), all of the Good News finds
confirmation. Why "Good"? Because in it we find the expression of the
eternal plan for the salvation of mankind. "For God so loved the world that
he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but
might have eternal life" (Jn 3:16).
What is the price of eternal life? It is infinite.
But how can man, a finite being, pay such a price? How can he be saved?
In the parable of the Last Judgement Christ gives us an answer: there is only
one price of eternal salvation, which each person must pay, and that price is
love. "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you?", those on the right
side will ask during the judgement. The Son of man will reply: "Amen, I say to
you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me"
2. The Last Judgement concerns the end of human history on earth. At the same
time, reflecting on Matthew's Gospel, we must affirm that this judgement is
constantly taking place. It continues at all times and places. In fact,
people continue to do good for others, saving others from famine, giving them
hospitality, clothing them, taking care of the sick and the imprisoned... or,
they do none of these things: they are closed in upon themselves, in their
selfishness, seeking their own comfort, insensitive to others and their needs.
In one way or another this division between the evangelical and
eschatological "left" and "right" is repeated in people, milieux, and societies.
Therefore the truth about the judgement is always present, always timely.
It cannot be put off to some unknown date. It is important to see it "here and
now". "Here and now" in the life of the whole society, "here and now" in the
life of Brazil's north and south. But also "here and now" in the life of each
one of us, without exception. In the life of the one who is speaking to you
now... and in that of all those who are listening to these words: this truth
concerns each of us.
At the same time, it is the essential condition for evangelization, that is
to say, for the Good News of salvation.
3. During my travels in this immense land of Brazil I have had before my eyes
the goodness of God who has given it immeasurable wealth so that, using it, man
and his family can give glory to the Creator.
These thoughts spur me on to make a more thorough reflection on the problems
which afflict everyone, especially the people of Mato Grosso: the problem of
migrations and ecology.
Here, like in other parts of Brazil, the problem of immigration is
first of all that of the person who comes from other States of the Federation or
from another country in search of better living conditions for himself and his
family. He is usually longing for a piece of land, in the city or country, where
he can become established. Only rarely will he find it. In some cases it is
because the immigrant does not have the technical or financial resources to
begin a new life; in others, it is because the large estates, some of which do
not produce anything, do not allow him to have any land to work. In this way the
immigrant enters into a vicious cycle which is very difficult to break.
I cannot hide my concern for the Brazilian families who have been removed
from their environment, their traditions, the life of their religious community,
exposed to the problems of long, difficult journeys. They are unsure of finding
work and unable to get even a modest dwelling for shelter. Since it is still in
an initial phase, industry in this State is not able to absorb the unskilled or
poorly skilled labourer, and thus there is a growing number of unemployed or
underemployed people. Children are the chief victims of the growing,
uncontrolled migrations, which bring increased poverty, crime, abandonment and
misconduct. Cuiabá, gateway to the Amazon, is the goal of many migrants who come
here hoping to find a better life. However, they end up becoming part of this
grand scenario of our suffering brothers and sisters, hungry, suffering
children, the victims of an uncontrolled migration. It is up to public and
community organizations to take this serious problem to heart and, with great
human sensitivity and generosity, to adopt political and social measures.
The Pope blesses with joy and deep gratitude all those who, overcoming the
barriers of consumerism and indifference, devote themselves to welcoming those
who are truly Christ himself on pilgrimage who passes by and asks for effective
help. How could I fail to mention the Centre for the Apostolic Care of
Migrants run by the Scalabrini Fathers in Cuiabá which contributes, to the
degree its scant resources allow, to alleviating so much suffering?
However, my brothers and sisters, I cannot overlook another type of
immigrant, the person who comes to Mato Grosso with some resources in order to
develop some commercial, industrial, farm or agricultural business or services
in a State which, indeed, has a promising future. These migrants represent in
some respects the wheels of progress, but they can also be its victims because
by devoting themselves entirely to work, hoping for quick success in their
business enterprise and lacking the comfort and support of their Church
community, they neglect the religious practices that they observed in the city
of their birth. They succeed in business, but fail in their religious life,
forgetting their duties to God who, in their land of origin, showed them the way
to happiness through good works, a close, faithful family, children who grow in
love for God and their parents.
Undoubtedly, the problem of migration is not merely socio-economic or
political, but it is most of all a challenge to world justice and charity.
"Whatever the situation of each person", as I wrote in my Message for World
Migration Day, "today everyone feels committed to a vast stream of
participation, reflection and demand for the conscious recognition of their own
dignity" (John Paul II, 5 August 1987). The Church, which is aware of the
complexity of your problems, wants to remain at your side so that "Christ may
dwell in your hearts through faith" (Eph 3:17). She strives to alleviate your
sufferings which are caused by humiliation and poverty. She wants to give
Christian families their true countenance, that of the "domestic Church" where
physical life and faith life are both born. Therefore she has the duty of
working skillfully and devotedly to prevent and counteract the aggressive,
insidious activity of the sects which, in their proselytism, frequently focus on
4. The other great problem affecting society today is the environmental
question, the problem of ecology. We all know the causes of this problem. On
the occasion of the recent publication of the Encyclical Centesimus annus,
the topic was treated to emphasize that "in his desire to have and to enjoy
rather than to be and to grow, man consumes the resources of the earth and his
own life in an excessive and disordered way" (n. 37). On that occasion I wrote
that man cannot "make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without
restraint to his will, as though it did not have its own requisites and a prior
God-given purpose, which man can indeed develop but must not betray" (ibid.).
When one enters into contact with environmental problems, whether in the
Amazon basin or the lowlands of Mato Grosso, these observations are confirmed;
unfortunately, they do not affect Brazil alone, but also other regions of the
planet, even in the industrialized nations. With interest I am following the
preparations for the United Nations Conference on the environment and its
development which will be held in Rio de Janeiro next June. My hope is that
in its preparation and conference phases, the nations gathered there will
"safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic `human ecology'" (Centesimus
annus, n. 38). For Brazil, environmental protection is most of all the right
to protection of life. If we take into consideration the enormous problems of
the infrastructure of the large urban centres, we will have an idea of the
challenges which will face the country in this closing century.
5. Dear brothers and sisters!
I greet the priests of this land who work in the State of Mato Grosso and I
thank them for their pastoral commitment to the People of God. I also greet and
thank the Governor and the other civil and military Authorities. I greet
everyone present, and those who were not able to come and could not participate
in person in this Eucharistic celebration.
It is a great joy for me to be here in Cuiabá. The Pope has not come in
search of gold like the bandeirantes of old or the prospectors of today.
He is in this city, the geographic centre of South America, to get to know,
bless and bring his word to the good people of this land, to those who were born
here or the many people who have come here in recent years. I thank Archbishop
Bonifácio Piccinini and my brother Bishops of Mato Grosso for their fraternal
welcome. Their apostolic activity is an extension of the work of their
predecessors and the missionaries who came from so many different areas, and who
planted the Church in the plains and forests of this beautiful region after the
first Bishop-Prelate of Cuiabá, Bishop Luiz de Castro, arrived here in 1801.
6. "What will separate us from the love of Christ?" (Rom 8:35).
St Paul asks this question of the first Christians, of people who frequently
had to suffer amid the widest range of danger and persecution, even to the point
of losing their life.
However, the Apostle replies, nothing can separate us from the love of
Christ. On the contrary, "in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through
him who loved us" (Rom 8:37).
This is truly Good News, even for the people of today who suffer from
injustice, deceit and death threats when they defend just causes.
What can separate us from the love of Christ? Only our lack of love could
separate us from it, our selfishness, indifference, insensitivity, and
greed. These are the foes of our salvation. They will be the ones to judge us in
the court of the Son of Man and to deliver the verdict. Perhaps at this moment
they are already sentencing us in the inner voice of our conscience. What
do we have to do in regard to a deaf, insensitive conscience? The day will come
when it will make itself heard, when it can no longer be silenced, when it will
find itself face to face with the majesty of the Son of Man, of the crucified
and risen Redeemer of the world.
7. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom 8:31), the Apostle
asks. God is with us. God desires our salvation. In fact, he "did not spare his
own Son but handed him over for us all" (Rom 8:32). Through him we have been
justified, by Jesus Christ "who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the
right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us!" (Rom 8:34).
Therefore, what can separate us from the love of Christ, from that
love which is God?
Only we can. Only our very own lack of love.
Dear brothers and sisters!
May love have the best that is in us. May it be victorious in our social life
in all its dimensions. May each of us hear at least once these words of the Son
of man: "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of
mine, you did for me".
Teachings of the
Magisterium on Abortion