“Jesus reveals to his disciples the need for a preferential option for the least, those who must be given the front row in the exercise of charity”. Pope Francis explained this in the homily of the Mass he celebrated in Saint Peter’s Basilica today – in the presence of 250 migrants and relief workers – to mark the sixth anniversary of his visit to Lampedusa, which was the destination of his first pastoral journey. “There are many forms of poverty today”, the Pope stressed, citing Saint John Paul II: “The ‘poor’, in varied states of affliction, are the oppressed, those on the margin of society, the elderly, the sick, the young, any and all who are considered and treated as ‘the least’”. “Salvation” and “liberation” were the two keywords of his homily, focused on the biblical story of Jacob who “sees a ladder” in a dream: “its base rests on the earth and its top reaches to heaven”. Indeed, the ladder “represents the connection between the divine and the human, fulfilled historically in Christ’s incarnation, which was the Father’s loving gift of revelation and salvation”. The ladder, for Pope Francis, “is an allegory of the divine action that precedes all human activity”: it is the “antithesis of the Tower of Babel, built by men with their own strength, who wanted to reach heaven to become gods”. In this case, however, it is God who “comes down”: “it is the Lord who reveals himself; it is God who saves. And Emmanuel, God-with-us, fulfils the promise of mutual belonging between the Lord and humanity, in the sign of an incarnate and merciful love that gives life in abundance. Faced with this revelation, Jacob makes an act of trust in the Lord, which becomes a work of recognition and adoration that marks a key moment in the history of salvation”. “Only God saves”, the Pope recalled, and “this total and absolute trust is shared by the head of the synagogue and the sick woman in the Gospel”, which are both stories of “liberation from sickness and from death”. “On the one hand, there is the daughter of one of the city authorities; on the other, a woman afflicted by a sickness that has made her an outcast, marginalized, someone impure”, the Pontiff remarked: “But Jesus makes no distinctions: liberation is generously given to each of them. Their longing places both the woman and the girl among the ‘least’ who are to be loved and raised up”.