Friday, 29 April 2016

GOSPEL: John 14:23-29
 (Translation of a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio)

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Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel.

GOSPEL                                    John 14:23-29
Jesus said to his disciples:
‘If anyone loves me he will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we shall come to him
and make our home with him.
Those who do not love me do not keep my words.
And my word is not my own:
it is the word of the one who sent me.
I have said these things to you
while still with you;
but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all I have said to you.
Peace I bequeath to you,
my own peace I give you,
a peace the world cannot give,
this is my gift to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me say:
I am going away, and shall return.
If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father,
for the Father is greater than I.
I have told you this now before it happens,
so that when it does happen you may believe.
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . What is more important, the observance of certain Christian tenets, or the love we have for God? Jesus shows us that love must come first. Obedience without love is just an external going through the motions. Once we truly love another person, then correct behaviour towards that person naturally follows. One of the problems with the way we have lived Christianity is that we have emphasized the external observance of the faith and have failed to nurture the primary thing: a loving relationship with God. This is not to say that observance of the Christian way of life is unimportant. Of course it is important, but we cannot put the cart before the horse. We must concentrate first on nurturing our community’s relationship with God. Once we do that, then we will find that they will naturally begin to behave in a Christian way. This is the foundation stone of a correct pastoral strategy! Don’t insist that the observance of certain external norms is the primary thing. The primary thing is to know and love God. Once we love him, then we will begin to keep his commandments.

What is more important in the spiritual life, love or obedience?
This Sunday we begin to orient ourselves towards Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Paraclete will bring to mind all of the things that Jesus has taught us. This will give us peace, the fact of having the continuous presence of Christ’s teaching with us. In the first reading we hear of the controversy that arises when some members of the Church insist that pagans be circumcised before becoming Christians. They demand obedience to the Law of Moses. Paul and Barnabas and other elders of the Church like Peter, contest this requirement. They agree that a certain minimum obedience is necessary, a rejection of idolatry and disorder, but the emphasis now must be something different. And this is highlighted by the phrase in the Gospel, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my commandments”. Which ought to come first, love or obedience? Often, we try to substitute rules and regulations in place of love. When love is absent from our hearts, we often try to imitate it with an insistence on the external motions and requirements of love. In relationships that lack gratuity and generosity, norms and rules become more prominent. Rules help to make life without love more bearable, more controllable, and assist us in keeping our consciences clear.

Love, not fear,  must be the origin of our obedience
God’s way is different. Jesus does not begin with obedience but with love. How often we are inclined to think that the correct course of action, the way to keep our conscience quiet, is to ensure that our external behaviour coheres with a particular model, structure or list of acts. But this leads only to a superficial and exterior form of relationship with God. The driving fulcrum of the relationship with our minds, our bodies, and our behaviour must be the love we have in our hearts. Just think about it: when we truly love another person (as opposed to illusory love that is really attachment to myself), we know immediately what is necessary and right to do, and what is wrong and inappropriate. If, in a relationship, we demand only certain minimum concessions that guarantee our own comfort, then that relationship has failed as far as love is concerned.  Obedience must be a consequence of love, not its departure point. In the spiritual life, obedience is an effect only – it is unconditional love that is the origin of everything. Children need rules, but they come to obey them because of the affection that is the ultimate origin of the need for rules. The love between them and their parents is what gives sense to the regulations. Fear cannot be the motor of our relationship with God. Rather it must be the joy of being in his presence, of being pleasing to him.

The origin of Christianity is in unconditional love. Why then do we insist on the externals of the Christian faith instead of trying to cultivate love?
“If anyone loves me he will keep my word . .” Those who are in love understand the demands that go with a relationship of that sort. They do not need some exterior authority to oblige them to make sacrifices for love. Christianity has its origin in the fact that the disciples experienced this world of being loved unconditionally, and too often it has been transformed into a universe of prohibitions and norms. We must have the love of Christ in our hearts. We cannot go on mimicking love with exterior regulations. Too often in the past, pastors and leaders of the faith have made their starting point the insistence that certain regulations be maintained. We should be aware that there is a reason why people are lacking in generosity, why they do not keep the regulations: it is because the regulations in themselves bring us nowhere. If we have to raise our voices and shout aloud to demand obedience, then something is lacking. If our people loved, then obedience would follow. The one who has received much will give much. Maybe the reason why our flock gives so little is because they have received so little? Too often our pastoral strategy puts the cart before the horse. We look for “results” in terms of certain behaviour from people, but we do not seek to cultivate the love in people’s hearts that would naturally give rise to such results. We ask from our people before we give to them. Or we give to them in a conditional way.

The true life of faith, the nurturing of a relationship with God, is brought about by the action of the Spirit, not by coercion.
“If someone loves me, he will keep my word . .” Certainly, the Father asks for obedience. Christ also asks for our love, but only in response to the immense love that he has shown for us. Let us busy ourselves in giving, acting, making our hearts swell with generosity. All the rest will come about by itself. If it does not come by itself and has to be coerced, then it is not the work of the Holy Spirit! It is our work and it will bring us nowhere.

Monday, 25 April 2016

April 24th 2016.  Fifth Sunday of Easter
GOSPEL John 13:31-35
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading ...

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GOSPEL John 13:31-35
When Judas had gone Jesus said:
‘Now has the Son of Man been glorified,
and in him God has been glorified.
If God has been glorified in him,
God will in turn glorify him in himself,
and will glorify him very soon.
My little children, I shall not be with you much longer.
I give you a new commandment:
love one another;
just as I have loved you,
you also must love one another.
By this love you have for one another,
everyone will know that you are my disciples.’
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . In this week’s Gospel, Jesus gives the new commandment to “Love one another as I have loved you”. What is new about the new commandment? In the Old Testament there was already an older exhortation to love my neighbour as myself. But the problem with this older commandment was that it made me the measure of my love. If I love my neighbour as myself then my love will be weak, inconsistent, faltering. It will not be unwaveringly loyal. It will not endure very long because anything that depends purely on me will have fairly dramatic imperfections and limits. Only Jesus can provide the true measure of authentic love! He is the model and inspiration of genuine Christian love that renounces oneself totally for the sake of the other. Not only is he the model: by uniting ourselves with him in his self-sacrificial love, we attain the capacity to love like he did. Jesus’s love for us does not depend on our merits or talents. He loves us as we are in an unconditional and complete way.

What is new about the new commandment?
This week we hear Jesus give the new commandment of love. Why is the commandment considered new? Had nothing of this sort ever been heard before? In a sense, something of the sort had been heard before. But the new commandment is always new in the sense that it belongs to the “new man”. In a celebrated passage, St Augustine speaks of the new man who sings a new song and lives according to the new commandment. He is the man created by God, a person who takes his point of departure from a new reality altogether. In the first reading, Paul and Barnabas rejoice that God has opened the door of faith to the pagans. They are amazed that God can create new life in people who couldn’t have been further from God, according to the Hebrew mentality characteristic of the Old Testament. And now these people have the capacity to share in the power of the resurrection, to partake in new life.

If I love my neighbour as myself, then my love for my neighbour will be weak, unfaithful, inconsistent and mediocre
In the book of Leviticus, a commandment is given to love one’s neighbour as oneself. The parameter and measure of this commandment, of course, is oneself. The commandment may or may not be effective, depending on the stature of the person in question. If I love my neighbour with my own capacity to love, with my own capacity for fidelity, with my own capacity for endurance, then the end result is no more and no less the power that lies within me. And the experience of the Old Testament is one of failure. If I am the measure and fulcrum of love, then I will find myself wholly inadequate when confronted with the demands inherent in loving my neighbour.

The true measure and origin of all love is the love that God has for each of us
But Jesus raises all of this onto a new plane. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another”. Here, the point of reference is Jesus. We have been loved by him and this is our motivation for loving each other. Our love is often vain, inconsistent, short-lived and mediocre because it originates solely within us. This kind of love depends on our will, our consistency, our commitment. This is mistaken. Our love must be a response: we love because we have been loved. We must look to God as the origin of love. One of the traps set by the serpent for Eve was to get Eve to focus her attention solely on Eve. The serpent encourages her to be disobedient so that she might become like God. The fixation with who we are in ourselves is a futile fixation. The more relevant question is who God is. I am who I am because God loves me. If I depart from myself then I will feel insufficient, empty and frustrated. The only way out of this vacuum is to contemplate continuously the love of God for us.

The glory of God does not consist in fanfare or ostentation but in the consistency, substance, and fidelity of his love. It is not love based on our merits, but love that arises from the nature of God who cannot help but to love each of us unconditionally and completely.

The Gospel this Sunday begins by recounting the exit of Judas from the Last Supper. Jesus then says, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him”. Where is this glory? In Hebrew, “glory” refers to the value of something, its substance, the consistency of one’s acts. In his relationship with Judas, Jesus shows his consistency and substance. Jesus would have done everything to save his betrayer. If we see someone treat another person with kindness, even though that person has behaved in a negative and hateful way, then we see the greatness and dignity of that first person. Jesus manifests his benevolence in his dealings with Judas; he reveals the nature of God. God glorifies his Son; in other words, he possesses this love of an unconditional and scandalous sort; a love that is vindicated by the resurrection. God loves us according to this glory. God does not love us according to our merits but according to his own tenderness; he does not love us according to what we deserve but according to the measure by which he knows us and considers us dear to him. If we remain focussed on who we are for the heavenly Father, then we could not help but exercise mercy, welcome, patience and true benevolence to all the people who surround us! Let us welcome the call of this Gospel to pass from the state of living according to ourselves over to a state of living by the love of Christ, grounding our lives and actions on the extent to which we are loved and esteemed by him.

Friday, 15 April 2016

April 17th 2016.  Fourth Sunday of Easter
GOSPEL  John 10:27-30
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading ...

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GOSPEL  John 10:27-30
I give eternal life to the sheep that belong to me.
Jesus said:
‘The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice;
I know them and they follow me.
I give them eternal life;
they will never be lost
and no one will ever steal them from me.
The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone,
and no one can steal from the Father.
The Father and I are one.’
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . How does the Good Shepherd tend to his sheep? By driving them on with blows of the stick? By shouting at them? By threatening them? No! The Good Shepherd speaks to our hearts. We follow him because we know his voice and we realize that he loves us. God does not simply communicate a system of values to us, nor a logical set of principles. What the Lord wants from us is a real relationship. Okay then, so we have this Good Shepherd who wants to lead us by speaking to our hearts. How are we going to hear what he wishes to speak to our hearts? His word can only penetrate to our deepest being if we give time to prayer, to peeling away the layers and exposing our hearts to him! Any other technique, or structure, or complicated discipline we try to use to follow Jesus is a useless imposition. The basic thing is to give time to him so that he can speak to us personally. When a man is in love he has no problem being motivated to do whatever is necessary to cultivate that relationship of love. And we will have no problem in being motivated to follow the Good Shepherd if we allow him to speak to our hearts.

God communicates with us, not through moral systems of values, nor through logical principles, but through a word that speaks to our hearts and establishes a relationship with us
The Gospel this week presents us with the Good Shepherd. Jesus says, “The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me”. The channel of the relationship between the shepherd and the flock is his voice. In the first reading, we hear of the struggle in the early Church to make the word of the Lord heard. Paul and Barnabas preach the word of God and the pagans rejoice, whilst the Jews find it difficult to accept it. The word of God that is being diffused by the disciples is not simply some sort of ritual, even though ritual is important; it is not some sort of institutional structure, even though such a structure is also necessary; nor is it some sort of wisdom that gives rise to a logical or rational framework. We become members of the Lord’s flock not by accepting some system of values but because the word of the Lord has entered into our hearts. As the psalm says, “If you do not speak to me, Lord, it is as if I descend into the pit”. Or as Jesus says at the first temptation, “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”. The Father sends his Son to save us, and he sends him as his word. This word becomes flesh and we see his glory. It is the word of the Father that we receive. An image provides us only with the external skin of reality. The aesthetic is only aesthetic and does not save. Content is something different altogether. We can establish a relationship with a blind person very easily because we can still communicate with words. It is very difficult, by contrast, to establish a relationship with someone who has a serious hearing defect. The communication of conceptual content is what makes human beings different. It is the extraordinary distinctive capacity of humanity.

How can Jesus speak to our hearts if we do not take the time to expose our hearts and have his word penetrate within us?
The sheep of Jesus hear his voice. How important it is for us to give time so that the voice of the Lord becomes clear in our soul, to devote ourselves to prayer so that the layers fall away and we expose the true kernel of our hearts, that part of us where the word of the Lord can strike, console us, help us to change direction. How crucial it is to listen to the word of God, be known by him, and follow him. We do not follow him because of some logical conviction we possess; we follow him because of a word that has entered into our hearts. We attain eternal life through the faith, and our faith is built up through listening to the word. Both St John and St Paul speak of these stages towards attaining eternal life. To be united to the Father we must follow the Son. We follow him and are known by him because he has spoken to our hearts. Instead of abstract understanding, what we need to engage in is dialogue. We tend to search for and accumulate information about the faith, but what is needed is contact and relationship. The shepherd unites himself to us through a word that penetrates deep into our hearts.

Jesus does not move us with blows or with threats. He leads us on by communicating his word, his love to our hearts. This gives us all the motivation we need to follow him to the end.

Our shepherd does not drive us on with blows of the stick, fear or constriction. He leads us on by speaking to our hearts. It is sacrosanct that we keep this in mind. Often we try to set up educational structures that focus on external parameters, but what is essential is to move the heart. Of course it is also important that we speak the truth, but, in speaking the truth, it is vital that we make ourselves understood by the other. An important theme of the faith is that of inculturation. I must speak to you in your language; not seek to impose my language upon you. The Lord Jesus did not communicate to us in forceful terms; he did not shout at us or force us to concede to him by the logical power of argument; rather, he speaks to us with words that value our capacities for comprehension.  The shepherd governs us from our hearts, from the fact of being known by him. We hear him, we appreciate that we are known by him, and we follow him. We have no wish to go anywhere else because we realize that we are loved. This is what we must search for in our faith! There is no need to construct other disciplines, other techniques, other impositions for following Jesus! The only thing that matters is to be touched by his word. Everything else will follow. When a man is in love he knows what he must do. When a woman has a child, she knows how to take care of him because he is her life. Whenever I share true friendship with another, I find a way to cultivate that friendship. When we feel love, we know how to love in return. When a word touches our heart we feel impelled to respond.

Friday, 8 April 2016

April 10th 2016.  Third Sunday of Easter
GOSPEL John 21:1-19­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading ...

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GOSPEL John 21:1-19
Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. It was by the Sea of Tiberias, and it happened like this: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two more of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing.’ They replied, ‘We’ll come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat but caught nothing that night.
It was light by now and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. Jesus called out, ‘Have you caught anything, friends?’ And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’ So they dropped the net, and there were so many fish that they could not haul it in. The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ At these words ‘It is the Lord’, Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water. The other disciples came on in the boat, towing the net and the fish; they were only about a hundred yards from land.
As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there, and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it. Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘Who are you?’ they knew quite well it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after rising from the dead.
After the meal Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you,’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.
‘I tell you most solemnly,
when you were young
you put on your own belt
and walked where you liked;
but when you grow old
you will stretch out your hands,
and somebody else will put a belt round you
and take you where you would rather not go.’
In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me.’
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . What a beautiful Gospel for Sunday! It is all about recognition. The apostles fail to recognize Jesus standing on the shore. Then they obey what he says and cast out their nets on the other side. When they see the miraculous catch of fish, they realize who Jesus is. Then Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him. This threefold asking reminds Peter of his threefold denial and makes us see how much God knows us to the depths of our hearts and yet forgives us. And this loving forgiveness – the fruit of the resurrection – empowers Peter to go and preach the Gospel fearlessly. In fact, in the first reading we see that the man who once denied Jesus now rejoices when he is flogged in Jesus’ name. Peter has come to the point of full development! More generally, we all consider ourselves fishers of men but we catch little or nothing because we fish according to our own designs. If we do things in our own way then we end up having to rely on our own power, but if we do things in God’s way then we act with his power. When we are obedient to the Lord and stop listening to ourselves, then we rediscover him - and we find ourselves too in the process! God is the stranger in our midst that we fail to recognize and comprehend. But it is he who recognizes and comprehends us. We must all follow the pattern of Peter. We must be led to recognize our own poverty so that we can experience the forgiveness of our sins and begin to respond to Jesus with authentic love. In the beginning our love is imperfect and we are ever ready to deny Jesus. At the end we can become like Peter and rejoice to suffer for the Lord’s name.

We consider ourselves fishers of men but we catch nothing because we fish according to our own designs. If we do things in our own way then we end up having to make do with our own power, but if we do things in God’s way then we act with his power
The reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells how Peter and John rejoiced when they were flogged for preaching the Gospel. What a remarkable kind of joy that accepts rejection because it means they were considered worthy to suffer for the Lord’s name! The Gospel contains a story about a miraculous catch of fish. This is a post-Easter event and is not to be confused with the miraculous catch of fish recounted by Luke at the calling of Peter. It is a story about recognition, about being caught up in one’s own failures and being unable to recognize the stranger in their midst. The stranger gives a new indication of how to catch fish, a new way of casting their nets to these men who had failed in their night time mission – all very symbolic of the mission of the Church. How often we undertake the mission of being fishers of men and we catch nothing! We continue with our projects, fixated with our own way of doing things, and we get nowhere. We need to listen to the stranger who appears in our midst and points out a different way of doing things, God’s way of doing things. To fish out of the “right” side of the boat signifies to fish from the side of faith, the side of the power of God.

When we are obedient to the Lord and stop listening to ourselves, then we rediscover him and find ourselves too in the process.
This post-Paschal story is highly relevant to the Church in all ages. Jesus has already risen but we continually lose him, continually fail to recognize him, though he is in our midst and speaking to us. We continue to fish in our own way, and continue to catch nothing. Just like Peter, we began our Christian life with Jesus but now we fail to recognize him. Then we experience the power of God, represented by the miraculous catch of 153 fish. The satisfaction and the completeness associated with this catch (there were 153 different types of fish known in that part of the world at that time!) are all the fruit of being obedient to the command of the Lord. But the fish are not of primary importance in themselves – rather they are a means of rediscovering the Lord. And we also end up finding ourselves, for we had become lost in the meantime.

God is the stranger in our midst that we fail to recognize and comprehend. But it is he who recognizes and comprehends us.
And Peter is truly led to rediscover himself in the dialogue in which Jesus asks him the same question three times using his old name – Simon son of John, the name he had before Jesus changed his name to Peter. In this dialogue there is much wordplay using verbs, but we don’t have time to discuss that here. When Jesus asks Peter the third time, “Do you love me?” this reawakens in Peter a holy and blessed sadness – for he has been prompted by Jesus to recollect the threefold denial. Peter remembers his sin and recognizes his own poverty. The Lord wished to awaken that sadness and it causes Peter to exclaim, “Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you!” We try to understand God by fitting him into our own limited categories but at some point we must recognize that it is he who comprehends us. This whole Gospel is about recognition. The stranger who is originally not recognized is finally rediscovered, but in the end it is he who recognizes who we are. There are few joys that exceed that of being understood by others, to feel known and comprehended. Peter feel that joy but also the sadness that his errors have been uncovered in full. The important point however, is that Peter can move on from that experience of sadness and is now ready to live as an adult. Jesus says to him, “When you were young you dressed as you wished and went were you wished. But when you are old someone else will dress you and take you where you do not want to go”. In order words, Peter will no longer do his own will but become obedient to the will of someone else. He takes on a new role and becomes a new person.

We must all follow the pattern of Peter. We must be led to recognize our own poverty so that we can experience the forgiveness of our sins and begin to respond to Jesus with authentic love. In the beginning our love is imperfect and we are ever ready to deny Jesus. At the end we can become like Peter and rejoice to suffer for the Lord’s name
Peter originally denied Jesus, but, as the first reading tells us, he is transformed into someone who rejoices to suffer for the name of Jesus. He is considered worthy to suffer for the one he loves. Now his relationship with Jesus is one of authentic love. Is the mark of true love the reward that comes with it? Is the mark of love the recognition and comprehension we experience? No, the mark of true love is when we rejoice to give our life for another. And Peter, for all his faults, has arrived at this stage of development. The Christian life must follow the pattern of Peter. It must go through the experience of annihilation, the discovery of one’s own poverty, to experience the true resurrection, the forgiveness of one’s sins, to feel oneself understood and not judged. From this springs true love, the joy of being considered worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Gospel: John 20:19-31
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading ...

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Gospel: John 20:19-31
In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you,’ and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.
‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you,’
After saying this he breathed on them and said:
‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’
Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord,’ he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you,’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:
‘You believe because you can see me.
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’
There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . Sometimes we are inclined to think that we can live the faith in a private, individualistic way. Read the readings on Sunday and think again! The first reading tell of the wonderful communion of the early church. Their experience of the risen Lord (through the testimony of the apostles) led them to share everything, living completely in the service of others. When we live as a community of faith we testify to the power of the risen Lord and experience his presence. In other words, the way of life of our community is the most powerful way of bringing the message of Christ and his pardon to others. Faith arises from a community and causes people to live as a community. The Gospel tells us that Thomas was not with the others when Jesus appeared and he refused to believe in the risen Lord. Exactly a week later, Thomas was present when Jesus appeared again. The Christian assembly gathered every week then, as it does now. Thomas was brought to faith in the resurrection only when he participated in the weekly assembly, and that is how it is with us. We must enter into the life of the Church if we are to be brought to a deeper faith in the risen Lord. The resurrection is not about improving my private moral virtues! It is not about individual perfectionism! Rather, it is about breaking down the barriers of my ego and enabling me to relate selflessly with others. Of course, in the end, this will lead to a transformation of my being and a moral perfection of a higher sort.

What does the resurrection bring? Individual moral virtues in the believer? Physical wellbeing? No! The resurrection breaks down the barriers between ourselves and others
Every year on the second Sunday of Easter we read the account of the doubting Thomas. The first reading provides a key for interpreting this story. The passage from Acts describes the unity and communion of the early Christian Church in Jerusalem. This leads to the question: what do we celebrate when we rejoice in the resurrection? A moral improvement? Greater physical wellbeing? Just what does the resurrection bring? Does the Spirit of the risen Christ make me more cheerful? Does it help my projects to run more smoothly? No! The sign of the resurrection given in the Acts of the Apostles is the birth of communion, the birth of the Church. The effect of the resurrection in me is that it enables me to live in true communion with others. Let us use this as a key to read the wonderful Gospel of John.

How do we find the Lord? Through an individualistic search? No! Through communion with others, a communion in which the Lord makes himself present.
Thomas is not present when Jesus appears. What must he now do to meet the Lord? Go on a search through the streets? Shout aloud for him? Pray that the Lord might appear? No! The only way to meet the risen Lord is to remain with the others. Eight days later (which means on the following Sunday), Thomas is with the others when Jesus returns. He meets the Lord through communion. The resurrection is a victory over our individualism. It transforms the human being from a creature trapped inside his individual needs and cravings - a being who exists in a state of mortal fear of losing himself - and it turns him into a being who no longer has that fear. The resurrection teaches us that there is life beyond death and frees us from entrapment within our own egos. The result is that we are free to become one with others. We emerge from our constant strategies of self-preservation and develop the capacity to love truly.

We do not find God as individuals. The resurrection is not only about the victory over biological death. It involves the victory over egoism and individualism
The fruit of the resurrection is love. It is not only the victory over the biological reality of death. Victory over biological death would only be temporary and would lead again to death at some future time. What the resurrection brings is new life – the capacity to live in true communion with others. Thomas cannot encounter the Lord any other way except through his communion with others. Is it not possible to encounter the Lord as an individual? No! Let us take St Paul as an example. Did he meet the Lord as an individual? He is thrown from the horse, and the Lord says, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Paul, of course, had been persecuting the Church. And now Jesus calls him to enter into a different kind of relationship with the Church. It is Ananias, the local leader of the Christian community, who heals Saul from his blindness and brings him into union with the Church. The encounter with Christ, thus, is only completed when Saul is brought into communion with the others. It was never about a private relationship between Paul and Jesus.

The resurrection is not geared towards private perfectionism, but is directed to forming us into a community of believers.

What have we done with Christianity? We have transformed it into a private instrument for perfection. This is an evil feature of a contemporary brand of Christianity. We are often more concerned with our private virtues than with the integrity of our relationships with others. But what is more important: who I am to myself or how I treat you? This focus on individual perfectionism is stagnant and doesn’t result in real progress in the Christian life. The individualistic brand of the faith tranquilizes the ego because all seems well with our own private consciences. Christianity is not something designed to effect individual fulfilment. It is something rather that opens the door to relationship with others. It destroys the wall between myself and others. The Lord does not wish that we meet him just for the sake of meeting him. He who thinks he can meet God without also meeting the Church, his neighbours, the people in his life that need to be loved, is mistaken! The God that he thinks he is meeting is an egocentric delusion. In order for Thomas to meet the Lord he must remain with the community. He touches the Lord’s body and he makes a leap of faith. Jesus appears to a community of believers, dissolving the barriers that exist between them, enabling them to become one, giving them the capacity for reciprocal love. This unity is a manifestation of Christ. The resurrection, in short, is not geared towards private perfectionism, but is directed to forming us into a community of believers. Of course, in the end, this touches all of our being and ultimately makes us perfect. Like Thomas, we discover Christ inside the Church.

Friday, 25 March 2016

March 27th 2016.  Easter Sunday – The Resurrection of Our Lord
GOSPEL: John 20:1-9
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading ...

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GOSPEL: John 20:1-9
It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’
So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . Easter challenges us to reflect on the meaning of the empty tomb. The tomb points beyond the suffering and death that preceded the burial. Suffering and death do not have the final say. In our everyday lives, whenever we are confronted by sin, failure, or disappointment, let us look to the empty tomb and open ourselves to what God can bring out of the tomb of our existence. If God is to bring new life to the tomb of my existence, then I must reflect on the empty tomb of Jesus and contemplate what it signifies, opening myself to the power of the resurrection in my life! The Christian life is not a moral or rational system. I cannot live as a Christian simply by getting my life in order and following moral principles. We are called to live the life of the child of God, and only the Father can nourish that life in me, just as he brought Jesus out of the tomb. When I try to rely on myself, my existence is like a tomb. Only the action of God can empty the tomb and bring me to new life.

Easter challenges us to reflect on the empty tomb. The tomb points beyond the suffering and death that preceded the burial. In our everyday lives, whenever we are confronted by sin, failure, disappointment, let us look to the tomb and open ourselves to what God can bring out of the tomb of our existence.
The Gospel recounts the discovery of the empty tomb. Let us consider this passage in the light of the first reading for Sunday, in which St Peter describes the resurrection of Christ to the centurion, Cornelius. The structure of Peter’s discourse is very simple: he first describes the events from the life of Jesus up to his crucifixion and death – this is the part of the story that everyone knows. But then Peter goes on to say that the story does not end here. In the Gospel, we have a similar situation. The disciples are immersed in what they have experienced – the death of Jesus and his placing in the tomb. But the Easter announcement also includes what happened afterwards, that which goes beyond what we know or can experience. The beautiful story of Jesus, like all human stories, seems to have come to an end, like all human stories. However, Peter is announcing that beyond this purely human aspect there is something else. The proclamation of the resurrection becomes the key for understanding the Christian faith, and it cannot be otherwise. The Christian experience is that of being subject to suffering and death, but also being subject to that which God accomplishes through it all. The empty tomb testifies to this wonderful fact.

The Christian life is not a moral or rational system. I cannot live as a Christian simply by following moral principles. It is the life of the child of God that I must lead, and only the Father can nourish that life in me. By myself I am a tomb. Only the action of God can empty the tomb and bring new life
It is not possible to construct a Christianity based solely on rationality, or on the purely biological or moral aspects of life. Christianity is based on the resurrection, on that which goes beyond our immediate experience. Christianity, after all, is based on faith in the work of God, a work that goes beyond human works. Certainly, we ought to use our rational faculties to explain that which can be explained. But the Christian life goes beyond rationality or mere plausibility. Christianity, ultimately, is based on the power of God. It is not merely a moral system that sets down rational principles for action: it is the power of God at work in our lives. The Son of Man unites his divine nature with our human nature, rendering it possible for us to become children of God. To become God’s child presupposes the action of God in us. I cannot live the Christian life by simply getting my act together and ordering my existence according to certain principles. The Christian life is something that I simply cannot live using my own capacities. It is a life that only the heavenly Father can bestow on me. When we are confronted with illness, crises, or marital breakdown, our responses will only produce mediocre solutions if we attempt them on our own terms. Only the work of God can uncover the resurrection in our lives. When we are destroyed by our own sins, the pardon and mercy of God is capable of bringing new and dramatic life to us. In fact, after the resurrection, the disciples proclaim the forgiveness of sins, the true resolution of the black hole of human absurdity.

If God is to bring new life to the tomb of my existence, then I must reflect on the empty tomb of Jesus and contemplate what it signifies, opening myself to the power of the resurrection in my life

This Sunday, and every Sunday of the year, the power of God is proclaimed. What God can do with our sins, our sufferings, our death! God is the one who goes beyond. Death is not a full stop but a comma – and beyond there is God. We must be open to this fact of the resurrection and adhere to it with our consent. We must have faith in what the empty tomb signifies – the manner in which God can transcend what seems negative and final. All these things – the failures, the limits, the dead ends – must be consigned over to God. The Lord knows how to bring life from death. He can lead us out of every tomb that we find ourselves in. This is what we proclaim at Easter: God goes beyond what we can accomplish or attain.

Friday, 18 March 2016

March 20th 2016. PALM SUNDAY
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading ...

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Jesus went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. Now when he was near Bethphage and Bethany, close by the Mount of Olives as it is called, he sent two of the disciples, telling them, ‘Go off to the village opposite, and as you enter it you will find a tethered colt that no one has yet ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” you are to say this, “The Master needs it”.’ The messengers went off and found everything just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owner said, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ and they answered, ‘The Master needs it’.
So they took the colt to Jesus, and throwing their garments over its back they helped Jesus on to it. As he moved off, people spread their cloaks in the road, and now, as he was approaching the downward slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole group of disciples joyfully began to praise God at the top of their voices for all the miracles they had seen. They cried out:
‘Blessings on the King who comes,
in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven
and glory in the highest heavens!’
Some Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Master, check your disciples’, but he answered, ‘I tell you, if these keep silence the stones will cry out’.
 The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The first reading gives a wonderful key for approaching the Gospel of the Passion of Jesus. The Prophet Isaiah recounts the story of the Suffering Servant. How does this servant manage to endure the incredible torment and abuse that he receives? Because every morning “he opens his ear to listen like a disciple”. Jesus does not enter the Passion like a superhero who overcomes everything with his own power! Rather, he enters as one in communion with his Father, one who trusts and is ever attentive to the Father, one who is absolutely convinced that the Father will come to his aid. For this reason, he can “set his face like flint for he knows that he will not be ashamed”. And this is the key for our own lives too. Even if we find ourselves in the greatest of difficulty and anguish, even then, especially then, we must remain in communion with the Father, trusting that “he will come to our aid”. We can “set our faces like flint for we know that we will not be put to shame”. Jesus empowers us to maintain this relationship with the Father. He has shown us how and he bestows his Spirit upon us to enable us to do it.

Jesus is one who listens to the Father with a disciple’s ear. By doing so, he is perfectly enabled to comfort and illuminate the downhearted
This Palm Sunday presents us with a complicated liturgy with much to reflect on. The processional Gospel recounts the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, whilst the readings during the Mass culminate in the wonderful, merciful account of the Passion from Luke. At the heart of this Gospel, Jesus says, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”, and to the Good Thief, “This day you will be with me in Paradise”. How can we approach our task of commenting on this Gospel? The first reading provides an interpretative key for the liturgy and is of extraordinary power. It consists in one of the hymns of the Suffering Servant found in the prophet Isaiah (chapter 50 in this case). The servant has a mission, and this mission is fulfilled perfectly and completely by the Lord Jesus in his Passion. “The Lord has given me a disciple’s tongue so that I may know how to speak to the downhearted”. But just what is a “disciple’s tongue”? A master’s tongue, presumably, is that of one who speaks with authority. But a disciple is one who is continually in the process of listening and absorbing. How wonderful it is to listen to one who speaks with humility, one who is aware even when they speak that they have still much to discover! The downhearted is the one who needs to be spoken to by one who has a disciple’s tongue. In other words, the downhearted has lost faith in the future and thinks that all is lost. But the disciple, by contrast, can say, “Look, there is much that we do not yet understand! Much that we have not yet seen!” Thus the disciple speaks as one who is filled with wonder and who is still learning. How hard it is to speak to the downhearted and instil in them hope and confidence! How does the Suffering Servant do it? The reading from Isaiah tells us: “Every morning I open my ear and listen as a disciple” (the phrase is repeated here again!) The Servant remains in a constant state of receptivity, he opens his ear and does not turn back, does not offer resistance: he offers his back to those who struck him and his face to those who tear at his beard. Because his ear is open, he can live in a state of tranquillity, without fleeing maltreatment. This passage truly describes what the Lord Jesus has done when he was rejected.

Even is his torment, Jesus remains in communion with the Father. This is the source of his life

When we are suffering and being maltreated by others, it is one thing to listen to the things that our tormentors are saying to us, and an entirely different thing to have our ears open to what the Lord wishes to say to us. Even in my torment, especially in my torment, God has something that he wishes to say to me. There is a narrative that he wishes to continue with me, even in this devastating moment. In fact, at the end of the reading we hear: “The Lord comes to my aid. For this reason I am untouched by the insults. I set my face like flint and I will not be ashamed”. The message for us is that we must live the negative and dramatic events of our lives together with the Lord. As the reading says, the Lord will come to our aid. In the Passion of our Lord this Sunday we will see how Jesus can endure the evil of humanity, the horror that is in our hearts, and he does so because he is not alone: he enters the Passion united to the Father. He does not play the hero who proclaims himself to be the strongest. No, he is the Servant who manages to set his face like flint only because the Lord God comes to his aid. In all of the terrible things that may happen to us, what counts is whether or not we remain united to God. How different it is to live as sons! To live united to the heavenly Father who will not allow us to be confused. He is the Father of light who illuminates all things. This capacity to live in union with the Father is not something that we are able to do by ourselves. Jesus has come to enable us to do it, to illuminate us, to give us his heart, to bestow his Spirit on the one who desires it. This Sunday of the Passion let us look to the heart of God, a heart of communion that does not cause division but prays for the very one who kills him. During the crucifixion, Jesus asks the Father to forgive his assailants. This demonstrates how he remains in communion with the Father throughout his agony. He does not allow that relationship to be broken, and this is the key to life.

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Sunday Gospel Reflection