Friday, 22 July 2016

GOSPEL: Luke 11:1-13
 (Translation of a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio)

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Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel.

GOSPEL                                    Luke 11:1-13
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished,
one of his disciples said to him,
"Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples."
He said to them, "When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test."

And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,'
and he says in reply from within,
'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed.
I cannot get up to give you anything.'
I tell you, if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.
"And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?"
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The Gospel this week presents the Our Father as a model of authentic prayer. We do not learn to pray once and for always. Just as we must learn continually to communicate better with others, so must our spiritual lives be continually deepened. In the Our Father, everything in our lives (the submission to God’s will, the pardon of others, the overcoming of temptation) is all placed in the context of an attitude of filial relationship with a loving Father. Then Jesus presents us with a parable. A man needs bread for his friend and he goes to the house of an acquaintance to implore his help. The acquaintance may not respond out of friendship, but he will eventually respond if the first man keeps pestering him. What does this parable tell us? It is a fact that many of us do not have a great filial relationship with God. But even if the friendship is missing, God will listen to our prayers on behalf of others if we lift those prayers to God with insistence. This is how God has chosen to channel his grace. He has made us interdependent on each other and wishes us to come closer to him through the working out of our relationships with others. Prayer for ourselves is often egoism. Prayer for others is often more authentic and allows God to act in our lives with power.

We do not learn how to pray once and for always. Life is a continual process of learning how to pray
This Sunday we hear Luke’s version of the Our Father, which is simple and stark, but perhaps more radical. The disciples had asked Jesus how to pray. We must be always in a state of learning how to pray, just as we continually learn how to communicate better with those whom we love. In the spiritual life there are many phases in which we develop a deeper and more authentic relationship with the Lord. In the first reading, Abraham intercedes with the Lord for Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham’s nephew is in the city of Sodom and he is concerned for him. In the dialogue, Abraham seems more just than God, imploring that the righteous ones in the city not be destroyed. If there are just fifty good men in the city, or forty, or twenty, or ten, Abraham argues, then the city ought not to be destroyed. In reality, it is not that Abraham is influencing God’s actions with his reasoning: he is getting to know God better and is discovering that God would not destroy the city on account of these good people within it.

Why do we need to pray? Doesn’t God know what we need already?
But why should we, or Abraham, have to pray to God in the first place? Doesn’t the Lord already know what we want? Doesn’t he already care for us enough to give us what we need whether we ask for it or not? God wishes to channel his grace through the behaviour of man, through the love that we show for others. For example, none of us receives the Gospel directly from the Lord. We receive it from others, especially our parents who are the best evangelisers of all. The love, care and service of others is the pathway of the grace of God. God has chosen to save us by means of our reciprocal love. Abraham is concerned for the wellbeing of his nephew, and thus he obtains good things from the Lord. God does not force grace upon us. Where there is no love, love does not pass. But where there is love, even if it is the faltering, weak version of love that is ours, once it is referred to God, he is able to work with all of his power. Prayer, thus, is love in action, and God has ordained that his grace should be channelled in response to love of this sort.

The Our Father places us in filial relationship with the Father. All our actions thus become acts lived as children of a loving Father
In the Gospel, prayer is presented as the place of relationship with the Father. The forgiveness of the sins of others, the victory over temptation, living in the truth - all of these follow from a life lived as children of God. This prayer of placing oneself in a filial relationship with God has no equal. It is an act of union with Jesus whose existence consists in living out this relationship of sonship to the Father.

In the parable, a man wishes to obtain bread for his friend. This prompts him to ask for help with insistence. Even if we do not have a deep friendship with God, the needs of those around us can impel us to pray to God with sincerity. God cannot refuse to listen to our requests.

Then we have the interesting parable of the man who has an unexpected visitor but has no bread to offer him. So he goes to a friend and pesters him for bread. How often we are confronted by situations in which a friend comes to us looking for something, some consolation, a word of advice, and we have nothing to give. In the parable, Jesus says that if the friend does not respond out of friendship to the demands for bread, he will eventually be moved by the persistence of the requests. In other words, Jesus is telling us that, even if we do not have a true friendship with God, the desperation of the situation of others can transform us into authentic people of prayer. The anguish of others can prompt us to lift our prayers sincerely to God. So even if we have failed to become God’s friends, the need around us can enable us to penetrate the fortress of the grace of God. Thus, our power does not derive from our human talents, nor the relationship we may have established with God. But God looks at the sincerity and persistence with which we are asking. At the end of the parable Jesus says: “Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you”. In the midst of a grave poverty of relationship and spiritual superficiality, we can come closer to the Lord by means of an authentic request for assistance for those people around us. “Lord I do not know how to help my friend in need. Lord I do not know how to raise my children.” Sometimes we are cold and distant from God, but this anguish for others can help us draw closer to him. The desire to give bread to those around us is prayer. The desire to have bread for ourselves is egoism. The request for bread for another is a good starting point. When we allow the needs of others to touch our hearts, then we become insistent, driven as we are by our concern for others. The grace of God flows through love of this sort.

Friday, 15 July 2016

GOSPEL: Luke 10:38-42
(Translation of a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio)

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Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel.

GOSPEL                                    Luke 10:38-42
Jesus entered a village 
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. 
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? 
Tell her to help me.” 
The Lord said to her in reply,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. 
There is need of only one thing. 
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.”
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . Martha is fixated with what she is doing for Jesus and seems to have little interest in what he can do for her. She scolds Jesus and asks him to tell Mary to stop listening to him and come to her aid. It is her actions that are the important ones, Martha feels. In our spiritual lives, how often we are fixated with our own struggles, our own actions! We leave little room for Jesus to act on us. We find prayer and spiritual exercises a weary burden. But prayer should be an act of reception, an oasis where we receive wisdom, consolation and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has so much more to give us that we can imagine. Our egoistic fixation with what we can do is an obstacle to receiving what the Lord wishes to give us. This is not to say that we do not need to do anything! We must act also, but in a way that allows the action of God to enter into our lives and bring our acts to fruition. Our actions then will take on a grandness and beauty that will bear witness to fact that they are grounded in God. We think of God as a taskmaster who demands our fatigue, but he is the one who wishes to act tirelessly for us!

Martha is fixated with doing things for Jesus, and doesn’t seem to care what Jesus can do for her
The first reading describes the welcome given by Abraham to three travellers, who in reality are the angels of the Lord. Once they are welcomed, they leave new life behind them, promising the birth of Isaac. At the time of Abraham, to refuse hospitality to a pilgrim was to condemn him to death. Hospitality was obligatory, a sacred act. The surprising thing in this story is the fact that it was the pilgrims who had something precious to give rather than receive. And we find the same theme in the Gospel. Martha and Mary welcome Jesus to their home, but Mary does nothing whilst Martha is busy with the hospitality. It seems the classic tension between siblings. Martha, evidently, is the older sister and she feels responsible to provide hospitality for Jesus. The problem is that she remains stuck in this act. It is important for her that her welcome should be on the level of the guest, so she brings out the best of everything and wants things to go just right. It is as if she wants to provide Jesus with a sort of “trailer” that demonstrates her competence and skills as a host. Martha does not get beyond her fixation with wishing to create a good impression. The real problem here is that Martha is oblivious to the fact that her guest, Jesus, has so much more to give her.

We want Jesus to take note of what we are doing for him, but it would be better if we learned to receive from him
Closed within her own egoistic concerns, Martha becomes agitated and is unable to appreciate what Jesus is capable of doing for her. Burdened with her tasks, she scolds Jesus: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me alone to do the serving?” In other words, she is bothered by the fact that Jesus does not take interest in what she is doing for him. And this is a fact: Jesus is not primarily interested in what we do for him. Martha wants Jesus to place a priority on what she does, and she wants Jesus to get Mary to co-operate with what Martha is doing, rather than telling her beautiful things about God’s Kingdom. But Jesus would prefer if Martha learned to receive from him. In this sense, Mary has chosen the better part. It is important that we do not see this story as a tale of Martha against Mary so much as a story of how essential it is that Martha becomes like Mary. Mary has chosen to receive from Jesus. In the spiritual life, we sometimes put too much emphasis on our own actions. For example, if we are struggling against sin, the important thing is not to focus on the battle against sin but on the reception of the new life that banishes sin. The campaign against sin is something secondary, the occasion through which the Lord Jesus enters our lives. Sometimes we think of prayer as a chore. And it is demanding in that it requires discipline and tenacity. But prayer should be an act of reception, an oasis in which we receive consolation and wisdom, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Our work is secondary to that of God. We must act, it is true, but in such a way that we allow the Lord to enter into our actions and bring them to completion. Then our actions will bear extraordinary fruit and it will be evident to all that God is the primary mover.
Like Marta, we must learn that our labour is secondary to the action of God. St Vincent de Paul, who was himself a giant of charity, said that the works of God come to fruition of themselves. When one does the works of God, they have such a beauty and grandness that our part becomes something very small and secondary, whilst the part of God is something splendid and evident. All of this is not to say that we should not do anything! Rather, we must do things in such a way that the Lord is able to enter into them and bring them to completion. The lesson of this week’s readings is that what we have to offer is miniscule compared to what God wishes to do in any given situation. And yet we think that to do God’s work is tiresome! That God is a demanding taskmaster! On the contrary, to cooperate in God’s work is a tiny sacrifice for a beautiful gift, a marvellous place of encounter with him, an experience that no one can take from us.

Friday, 8 July 2016

July 10th 2016. Fifteenth Sunday in ordinary time
Gospel: LK 10:25-37

Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel.

Gospel: LK 10:25-37
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said,
"Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Jesus said to him, "What is written in the law?
How do you read it?"
He said in reply,
"You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself."

He replied to him, "You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live."

But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus,
"And who is my neighbor?"
Jesus replied,
"A man fell victim to robbers
as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road,
but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
Likewise a Levite came to the place,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him
was moved with compassion at the sight.
He approached the victim,
poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.
Then he lifted him up on his own animal,
took him to an inn, and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins
and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,
'Take care of him.
If you spend more than what I have given you,
I shall repay you on my way back.'
Which of these three, in your opinion,
was neighbor to the robbers' victim?"
He answered, "The one who treated him with mercy."
Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise To you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . In this parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite ignore the wounded man because the Law that they follow is fixated with their personal justification. They represent the Law, which must stand on the side of life, and therefore they cannot touch anything that is dead or dying. The Old Testament Law, with its focus on personal righteousness, is unable to provide an authentic solution of how to beave in such circumstances. What is needed is that an outsider come along, a Samaritan, Jesus Christ, who despises his own personal justification and righteousness and makes himself one with the unrighteous. In other words, what is needed is love. This parable is not seeking to create an opposition between love and law. Rather, it shows how a certain type of law is incapable of guiding our actions in the face of the plight of others. Law that is focused on personal righteousness is very different to law that flows from the loving concern for others. And laws do flow from love. Love is chaste and obedient. It is generous and tenacious. It is profoundly obedient to the condition of the other and his authentic good

What is the spiritual life all about? Having our moral accounts square with God? Or something else altogether?
When reading the Parable of the Good Samaritan, it is important to read the introduction. A doctor of the Law asks Jesus what he must do to attain eternal life. Jesus asks him what the Law teaches and the man replies: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself”. Jesus says that he has answered well but the man wishes to justify himself, so he goes on, “And who is my neighbor?” This man wants to know exactly what is required for him to have his accounts squared with God. This impulse does a lot of damage to one’s spiritual life and results in a fixation with norms and protocols. It is interesting to note that, in the first reading, Moses tells the people that the task of following the Lord is not out of their reach: in fact it is something that has been made very accessible to them so that they will be able to put it into practice. But the Israelites immediately begin asking what exactly they can and cannot do if they are to fulfil what the Lord wants. This is the perennial problem that arises when we seek to be righteous by means of a system of norms. The issue of justification has to do with one’s relationship with God. Therefore it is a matter that is concerned with the heart, not with formulae or prescriptions.

The Old Testament Law was incapable of providing a solution to the kind of behaviour that was demanded by a situation of this sort. What was needed was the coming of an outsider, a Samaritan, Jesus Christ, who would put himself close to us and aid our afflictions with his love
In the Parable, both a priest and a Levite see the wounded man and pass onwards. The actions of both are determined by regulations. Neither a priest nor a Levite was allowed to touch a corpse, and in this case we are speaking of a victim who appears more or less dead. The fact that both were healthy men who were capable of coming to the aid of the sick man was obscured by a fixation on the law. The priest did not possess the solution of how to react to a victim of this sort, and the Old Testament Law as a whole could not provide an answer to how one should behave when confronted with such a situation. What was needed was for someone to come who would make himself unjust for the unjust, someone who was himself just. What was needed was the arrival of an outsider, a Samaritan, someone who would come close to us, taking bone from our bone, flesh from our flesh, cleansing what was dirty from our lives. Or to say it differently: norms are good but only love can bring life. The priest saw the sick man, but continued on. The fact that he saw entails that he made a diagnosis of the situation, but it remained only a diagnosis. The Lord Jesus, by contrast, draws near to us, becoming wholly immediate, leading us on the road to full healing. Laws can help us to see how imperfect we are, but only love can help us to become perfect.

Law and love are not in contrast to each other. Love gives rise to its own sets of laws. The drive for personal justification gives rise to a different set of laws altogether that have nothing to do with love.
We are not putting love and law into opposition with each other. Laws and regulations are important in life. In fact we see in the parable how laws are transformed by love. The priest cannot touch the sick man because he represents the Law and the Law must be on the side of life: it cannot touch what is dying. The Samaritan, by contrast, utters a different kind of norm altogether: he says to the innkeeper: “Take care of him. Whatever extra you spend on him, I will pay upon my return”. “Take care of him” – this is the new command, a command that has its source in love. The Samaritan is not concerned with personal justification: he is concerned with right relations between him and others. The justification of the priest was of the individualistic kind, but the justification that comes from the act of love is one that is based on the care and concern for others.

We must make the leap from one kind of norm to another kind: from the norms that justify me to the norms that spring from love.

We must make the transition from one type of regulation to another type of regulation, i.e., from regulations that derive from individual justification to regulations that spring from love. Love is chaste and obedient. It is generous and tenacious. It is practical and finds solutions to the woes of others, instead of being bogged down by obstacles. It is profoundly obedient to the condition of the other and his authentic good. It has its own rules and its own goal, which is the care of others. Justification by law has a very different goal, which is that of personal justification. This contrast is at the heart of the transition from the Old to the New Testaments, which is the transition from being just to having love, and therefore having the justification and discipline that is inseparable from love.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

July 3rd 2016. Gospel: Luke 10:1-12; 17-20
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

Don Fabio's homily follows the Gospel

GOSPEL:                                Luke 10:1-12. 17-20 
The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, 'The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, "Peace to this house!" And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, "The kingdom of God is very near to you". But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, . "We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near." I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.

The seventy-two came back rejoicing. 'Lord,' they said 'even the devils submit to us when we use your name.' He said to them, 'I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.'
THIS IS THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ.

This Gospel contains a manifesto for Christian missionary activity. By virtue of our baptism we have all been given a particular mission by Christ, and this mission includes every word that we say and every action that we undertake. Before embarking on any course of action, we must ask: Does this derive from my relationship with Christ? Or does it come solely from me? The Gospel contains detailed instructions on how we are to carry out our mission:
1. Our actions must be grounded in Christ; 
2. They must be carried out in communion with the Church;
3. They give us power over the one who seeks to destroy communion and tries to sow divisions/compromises/ambiguities within each of us;
4 To be missionaries we must simply be missionaries - no equipment or resources are essential; 
5 We must wear the single garment that is our Christian identity and never exchange it for any other garment.

The homily now follows . . . 

All of our actions must be measured against a simple standard: Do they originate in our relationship with Christ
Sunday's Gospel passage recounts how Jesus sent his disciples out on mission. We shouldn't read this text as if it were just an interesting description of the mission of the apostles. Mission is an intrinsic part of the life of every baptized person, and this text must be read as if it were spoken directly to each of us.
 The first important point to be drawn from the text is that Jesus calls the disciples to himself and then sends them out on mission. Mission is something that has its source in Christ, not in us. Many of the things that we do, originate in our own designs, plans, or instincts. And the things that come purely from us also finish with us. But things that derive from our relationship with Christ have influence that goes far beyond the immediacy of what we do or say. We should be extremely fearful of things that do not originate solidly in our relationship with Christ. Everything that we do or say, or omit to do, must be evaluated against that standard.
 How can we know if our actions truly have their origin in Christ? The first thing is simply to ask ourselves each time we do or say anything: "Does this originate in my relationship with Jesus?" This simple habit provokes the kind of self-awareness that leads to wisdom, enabling the person to distinguish between acts that stem from Jesus or simply from us. But if one does not even bother to ask this question then one will never attain the capacity for discernment. 

Christian missionary activity is not individualistic. It must be done in communion with the Church and others
Jesus calls the disciples to himself and sends them out in twos. Christian mission generally does not involve solitude. There are many reasons why it is better to go on mission in twos, and these have been highlighted by the fathers of the church and others. But the principle reason is that of communion. "Where two or three are gathered together, there am I in the midst of them". To work in twos means to avoid the self-deception of being autonomous. It means to work in a context in which each one is encouraged, constrained and measured by another.

Working in communion with others gives power over the devil, who seeks to destroy communion
Working in pairs in this way, according to the text, gives the disciples power over unclean spirits. What does this mean? It means that this communion of discipleship gives power over that which seeks to destroy communion. The Holy Spirit is the one who creates communion and the devil is the one who destroys it. In fact, the word "diabolic" originally means "he who divides". The one who is in communion has power over that which seeks to destroy our communion with God and with our neighbour; namely, the spirit of impurity, that leads us to ambiguities and compromises within ourselves. Discipleship, then, involves communion with the church and with others, and gives the power to confront the personal principle of evil in the world.
 The mission of the church is not just some activity that gives us consolation or meaning. It is a project against the origin of evil itself. Our baptismal calling involves a communion with Christ that entails engaging in a battle against that which leads to unhappiness in the world. The Gospel passage then goes on to give some important instructions about how we should embark on this mission.

To be a good missionary, a person must simply be grounded in Christ. Material resources, techniques and structures are secondary
The missionary is not to take purse, haversack or sandals. These objects represent all of the supports that we have in this world. In order to complete our mission none of these things are essential. This instruction of Jesus is striking! Often when we embark on pastoral projects the first thing we think of is monetary and material resources. According to our modern criteria, Jesus would have been a hopeless organiser of pastoral initiatives! When Jesus sent people on mission he asked simply that they be missionaries, not that they be furnished with the materials "necessary" for mission. This is a very important point. In order to be a good father or mother, the essential thing is to be a good father or mother, not merely to have all of the material things that are useful for parenting. To exercise the priestly ministry well, similarly, one must simply be a good priest. The structures and techniques that complement good parenthood, or good priestly ministry, are important, but one must first have the essential characteristic that gives value to everything else.

Reception and rejection of the Gospel
What a marvellous text with which to contemplate the nature of our mission as Christians! We are told to stay in a house in a given district until our work is finished in that area. This refers to the fact that our missionary work should not lead us to have transitory or fleeting relationships with people, but we should remain in communication with people for as long as the Lord decrees is necessary. Sometimes, even pastorally, we jump from one relationship to another without ever really engaging in serious communication with people.
 The Gospel passage also deals with the theme of the rejection of the Gospel. When someone rejects the Gospel then this is something that must be acknowledged and accepted. The shaking off of the dust from one's feet is not an act that needs to be physically carried out. It is a symbolic act whereby we acknowledge that the Gospel has been rejected and we move on.

A Christian who accepts his mission can bring about conversion and change of heart. The various orders that Jesus gives in this passage are a veritable course of formation in Christian mission. What a beautiful mandate from Jesus! By following these instructions we are given authority over unclean spirits and attain the power to heal humanity of the illnesses that obstruct our conformity to Christ. What great things we are called to do as part of our wonderful faith!

Friday, 24 June 2016

GOSPEL:  Luke 9:51-62
From a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio

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GOSPEL: LUKE 9:51-62
When the days for Jesus' being taken up were fulfilled,
he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem,
and he sent messengers ahead of him. 
On the way they entered a Samaritan village 
to prepare for his reception there,
but they would not welcome him
because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. 
When the disciples James and John saw this they asked,
"Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven
to consume them?" 
Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.
As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him,
"I will follow you wherever you go." 
Jesus answered him,
"Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head."
And to another he said, "Follow me." 
But he replied, "Lord, let me go first and bury my father." 
But he answered him, "Let the dead bury their dead. 
But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." 
And another said, "I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home." 
To him Jesus said, "No one who sets a hand to the plough
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God."
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . This week’s Gospel challenges us to follow Christ in a radical way. How often we continue to follow ourselves and our earthly ambitions, and we turn to God only as a comfort or support for our worldly goals! Let us stop using Christ to bless or canonize that which is destined for the tomb! Jesus calls us to follow him and become children of God. This requires having our eyes fixed on our heavenly goal. We cannot be children of God if we continue clinging to our worldly hopes and desires. There are many attractive and fascinating things in this world, but the life of Christ is so much richer and more beautiful! If we follow the things of this world for their own sake, then we are following that which is destined for the tomb. Let us see in these things their transcendent and eternal dimension and they will become for us a gateway to heaven.

Following Christ involves a radical commitment to the things of heaven. It is not a way to get God’s help for our earthly ambitions and projects!
This week’s Gospel continues the theme of last week’s liturgy: what does following Jesus consist in? Is it a way to improve our lot in this life and help us attain what we want? No! Either we live as children of God or we don’t! Let us not seek to canonize that which is destined for the tomb! That which is destined for heaven is destined for heaven, and that which is destined for death is destined for death. Let us not seek to hedge our bets and live our lives in both camps. This point is made by Sunday’s Gospel and also by the first reading. Elijah throws his cloak over Elisha, which is a way of passing a charism onto another. The cloak was an inalienable possession of any Hebrew. If you loaned a cloak to someone else, it had to be returned by nightfall, because in a desert culture the cloak protected from the heat by day and from the cold by night. In response, Elisha makes a dramatic gesture. He destroys his instrument of work, kills his pair of oxen – his only earthly inheritance – boils the flesh and gives it to the people to eat. Then he turns and follows Elijah. These acts of breaking with the past, which are already present in the Old Testament, become a fundamental component of the following of Christ.

We must fix our eyes on our eternal goal, and not try to use God as a security or comfort to sustain our very earthly goals.
The Gospel begins with the refusal by the people of Samaria of Jesus. The Lord rejects his disciples’ call to bring fire from heaven down on the Samaritans, for he is more concerned with staying faithfully on his own course towards Jerusalem than becoming upset over those who reject him. For Jesus, his final destination is everything, and that is how it should be for us. How often we lose sight of our goal in life and we end up going around in circles! How often we become fixated with things that will soon come to an end. The Gospel recounts three ways in which we become preoccupied with things that are not essential. One person says to Jesus: “I will follow you wherever you go”. Jesus sees that this person has not understood that our ultimate destination is not a place on this earth. The Son of Man has no refuge here nor place to lay his head. How often we follow Jesus in the hope that he will help us prosper here on earth! We invoke him to ask him to help support and sustain our earthly projects. A Christian act, however, is not truly Christian if it does not have within it an eternal dimension, a dimension that regards the final things, an orientation beyond death to the Kingdom of Heaven.

We must take our eyes off earthly things and instead see the transcendent aspect of these things. They are our gateway to heaven if we keep our eyes focussed on their eternal significance.

A second person asks Jesus if he can go first and bury his father. Jesus gives the terrifying response, “Let the dead bury their dead. You go and proclaim the Kingdom of God!” The act of burying the dead is a true act of mercy, a Christian deed, but there is something else that comes first. Even in burying the dead, the focus must be on the fact that such burial is only a stage on the journey towards heaven. The third case underlines the same priority, Someone says, “I will follow you, but first let me say goodbye to those at home”. We cannot head towards the Kingdom of Heaven whilst looking backwards. When you put your hand to the plough, you cannot work properly if you are facing the wrong way. When we embark on a task, we must concentrate on that task. If Jesus calls us to life so that we can make it to heaven, then we cannot expect to stay clinging on to that which we were attached to previously. This life is beautiful and wonderful but it is only a prelude of what is to come. It is wonderful to be alive, but this is only the appetiser. It is great to be human, but so much greater to be Christian. To follow Christ is so much richer than to follow the things of this world with all their apparent beauty. To follow Christ is to see the invisible reality of things, to find in those things the gateway to heaven, to become the gateway to heaven for many others. To follow Christ is to discover in things the transcendent way to God.

Friday, 17 June 2016

GOSPEL:  Luke 9:18-24
From a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio

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GOSPEL:  LUKE 9:18-24
Once when Jesus was praying by himself,
and the disciples were with him,
he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
They said in reply, “John the Baptist;
others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’”
Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.”
He scolded them and directed them not to tell this to anyone.
He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
Then he said to all,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . This week’s Gospel challenges us to ask: “Who is Jesus? What kind of Saviour is he?” Is he a Saviour who comes to tell us that we are doing fine as we are and do not need to change? But how can a Saviour lead us into new life if we remain living the old life just as before? In the Gospel, immediately after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, we are told that we must take up our crosses on a daily basis and follow him. There is a fundamental association here. Jesus is indeed the Christ, he is indeed our Saviour, but following Christ is no victory parade. Following him is a journey out of egoism and self-absorption. It requires self-denial and embracing our crosses daily. When we go to a dietician, do we really think that we will be encouraged to eat all the same junk as before? When Jesus comes to bring us new life, do we really think we can continue living the same compromised existence as before? Jesus is not a patch that we put on, leaving the fabric of our lives more or less as it was before. Following Jesus means putting on a new garment altogether! Christianity is not a decaffeinated thing, a sanitized system of ideas that evokes warm feelings and nothing more. Jesus did not come to leave us living as we were before but to lead us into the new life of the Spirit!

This week’s Gospel challenges us to ask the questions: “Who exactly is Jesus? What kind of Saviour is he?”
This Sunday’s Gospel presents us with Luke’s account of the profession of faith of Peter. The question that is becoming critical at this point of the Gospel is: “Just who is this Jesus anyway?” Even John the Baptist has begun to ask, “Are you really the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” In last week’s Gospel, the question of the identity of Jesus also arose in the confrontation between the Pharisee and the sinful woman. For the Pharisee, Jesus could not even be a prophet, given that he was associating with the wrong sort of person. But for the woman, Jesus represents an encounter with the forgiveness of God, and for this she expresses her gratitude. Jesus, then, puts the question to his apostles, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter responds, “You are the Christ”. Why does Jesus severely warn his disciples not to repeat this to anyone? Because it is only a piece of information that can be misused or twisted by someone for their own motives. Peter, in fact, doesn’t understand the full significance of his confession, but Luke does not emphasize this fact so much. What is emphasized is that this revelation should not be bandied about carelessly. Each person is likely to interpret the coming of the Christ and the beginning of a new phase of history according to his own projections and expectations.

Accepting Jesus as our Saviour, as the Christ, involves following him. And following him means to stop following ourselves. Self-denial is an essential aspect of embracing Christ
In order to understand the Messiah, it is necessary to renounce oneself. Immediately after the revelation that he is the Christ, Jesus states that he will not be a saviour that enjoys worldly success; he must suffer and embrace a glory that is not of this earth – the glory of the resurrection. In order to be able to follow him, in order to participate in this new phase of history, in order to embrace our mission, we must deny ourselves. For Luke, the cross is inextricably bound to our mission. The cross is the mission of Christ, the mission to which he points to with all of its suffering. We are challenged to accept our own mission, with all of the losses and discomforts that our mission brings, every day, and follow him. Embracing the cross is not an exceptional or extraordinary action: it is a daily thing and involves passing over from one’s own life to the new life of Christ.

Adopting Christ’s ways means laying aside our own ways. That is why we mourn when we gaze upon our pierced Saviour! He shows us the way that we too must go if we are to follow the path of life.
Why is all of this so important? In the first reading we read of a moment of illumination, of a change of perspective. The phrase from the prophet Zechariah: “They shall look on him whom they have pierced”, will later become a central citation from the Gospel of John, a Gospel that was written after the other three, but which contains certain elements that may be the most original and primitive from the life of Jesus.  The prophet Zechariah tells us that we will look in sorrow on the one whom we have pierced, and mourn for him as a mother mourns her firstborn son. The grief of a mother for her firstborn and only son is an infinite grief! It is a curious thing, but the path of life that opens up after a true encounter with Christ involves immense sorrow, the laying aside of one’s own ways. The spirit of consolation that Zechariah refers to, the salvation that is being brought to us by the Lord Jesus, requires distancing ourselves from our habitual approach to life, a renunciation of all that we possess and hold dear.

Jesus did not come to leave us as we are. He came to lead us out of ourselves, and this is painful! Jesus did not come to affirm our weaknesses, to say that all is well with our compromised mode of existence. He came so that we might pass from our ambiguous way of life to the new life of the Spirit.

The Messiah is not someone that can be adapted to our mode of being. It is not that we continue living as we have always lived, and then attach Jesus on top of our existence like a cherry on a cake. What is required is that we pass from the life that we are living now to the life that God wants to give us – the new life of baptism; thus we pass from natural life to supernatural life. The leap that we are challenged to make involves a bereavement, a renouncement, a losing of one’s own life. We cannot turn Christianity into a decaffeinated thing, a thing that has no impact, a thing that warms our hearts but doesn’t challenge us. Such a Christianity is useless because it leaves us as we were before. It would be like going to a dietician and hoping that he will still allow us to eat whatever we like. He won’t allow you to eat what you like so you might as well resign yourself to the necessity of change! It is impossible to change without undergoing a death of sorts. We cannot enter into new life without losing the old one! The Messiah did not come to patch up our old way of life and leave us more or less as we were. He came to bring us away with him, to lead us out of ourselves and follow him!

Friday, 10 June 2016

Gospel: Luke 7:36-50
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

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

GOSPEL:                            Luke 7:36-50        
One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to a meal. When he arrived at the Pharisee's house and took his place at table, a woman came in, who had a bad name in the town. She had heard he was dining with the Pharisee and had brought with her an alabaster jar of ointment. She waited behind him at his feet, weeping, and her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them away with her hair; then she covered his feet with kisses and anointed them with the ointment.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, 'If this man were a prophet, he would know who this woman is that is touching him and what a bad name she has'. Then Jesus took him up and said, 'Simon, I have something to say to you'. 'Speak, Master' was the reply. 'There was once a creditor who had two men in his debt; one owed him five hundred denarii, the other fifty. They were unable to pay, so he pardoned them both. Which of them will love him more?' 'The one who was pardoned more, I suppose' answered Simon. Jesus said, 'You are right'.
Then he turned to the woman. 'Simon,' he said 'you see this woman? I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. For this reason I tell you that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love. It is the man who is forgiven little who shows little love.' Then he said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven'. Those who were with him at table began to say to themselves, 'Who is this man, that he even forgives sins?' But he said to the woman, 'Your faith has saved you; go in peace'.
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

This Gospel presents us with two ways of relating to the Lord. We can relate to him as the Pharisees did, coldly fulfilling our religious obligations. Or we can relate to the Lord as the sinful woman did, not caring how we look in the eyes of others, responding wholeheartedly and spontaneously to the love of Jesus for us. The Pharisee was not aware of how much God values us and pardons us, but the sinful woman was fully aware. She loved much because she knew that she had been pardoned much, whilst the Pharisee loved little because he was not aware at all of the reality of what the Lord had done for him. The woman used her hair to dry the Lord’s feet, not caring how unkempt this would make her look. In the same way, we must offer our beauty, our image in the eyes of the others, to the Lord. We must seek to be beautiful only in His eyes. These are the two options that we must recall every morning when we wake up. Am I to love Jesus little or much? It is only by placing ourselves humbly at His feet, weeping as the woman has done, recognizing what He has done for us, that we can begin to respond to him with the spontaneous love of the sinful woman. Otherwise our “love” will be the cold religious observations and ablutions of the Pharisee. What is my choice? To “love” in a measured way, or to love without counting the cost?

This woman gives an example that all of us must follow. The only way to relate to Jesus is to place ourselves with humility and weeping before Him
This Sunday we have a wonderful Gospel to listen to!  A sinner enters the house of a Pharisee and makes a series of over-the-top gestures. She weeps profusely, showing her great sorrow for the things she has done. She places herself at Jesus’ feet - a gesture of great intimacy in the Hebrew world. This woman, we imagine, has placed herself at the feet of other men, asking life from them, but all she has received is humiliation. But now, finally, she finds herself at the feet of Jesus and what does she give? She gives everything! And what about us? Should we do any differently? Why shouldn’t we imitate this woman, weeping for the poverty that is within us and placing ourselves with humility at his feet? We shouldn’t we weep for the sins we have committed? For the poverty that is within us? Why shouldn’t we weep with surprise and joy to encounter someone who accepts us as we are and loves us, who has forgiven all of our sins? The tears of this woman show us the best way of entering into relationship with Jesus, and that is to be ourselves! To place myself  before Him as I am, poor and miserable, but at the same time capable of recognizing who He is for me, and how much He loves me.

The woman is so consumed with her love for Jesus that she has no regard for what others think of her. We too must renounce our image in the eyes of the world and offer our beauty to Christ.
The woman wets Jesus’ feet with her tears and then she wipes them with her hair. A woman’s hair is often an expression of her beauty, but this woman will have ruined her hair by using it as a towel for the feet! How many women in history have renounced their beauty for the love of Jesus! Countless women have given their femininity in gratitude and joy for a relationship of love with the Lord. In the end, we are all called to offer our beauty to the Lord. But what do we do instead? We offer our beauty to the deceptive and empty idols of this world! We use our beauty to advance our careers, to create a particular image in the eyes of others. Let us instead offer it to the Lord! This woman becomes dishevelled and “ugly” in the eyes of the world in order to be beautiful in the eyes of Christ. She offers her beauty and the expensive ointment to the Lord. We instead cling to these very things in order to win the shallow esteem of others; becoming obsessed and fixated with our public image, the mask we hold up to the world.

How can we be free of our fixation with our self-image? By placing ourselves in humility at the feet of Jesus.
It is a great liberation to be free from this self-obsession. And how can we become free? By placing ourselves at the feet of the One who alone deserves to be the true source of our self-esteem. It is beautiful to be in relationship with Jesus, to weep with Him, to be poor in His presence. If we have sinned, then let us place ourselves at His feet, accepting His love, offering him our perfume and our beauty. Whatever we offer Him will always be little in comparison to what He offers us.

The contrast between a person who loves Jesus freely and a person who “loves” Jesus according to the rules
In this Gospel there is a contrast between the love of this woman and the welcome given to Jesus by the Pharisee. Jesus highlights this by telling a short parable: once there was a man who was owed fifty denarii by one man, and five hundred by another. Neither was able to pay, so the man pardoned them both. Which of them will love him more? Simon (the Pharisee) answers, “The one who was pardoned more, I suppose”. Here we have the central message of this Gospel. Jesus contrasts the actions of the sinful woman with those of the Pharisee. “I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair. You are someone who follows protocol very well. You welcome someone as if it were a duty, and the sooner it is over, the better for everyone. You gave me no kiss. What do you know about true welcome, true adoration! You do not appreciate the connection that there is between you and me, but this woman knows what a real relationship is! She humbles herself before me, but you only do the things that you are obliged to do”.

The woman loves much because she knows that she has been forgiven much. Do I love little? Am I not aware of how much Jesus loves and pardons me?
Jesus finishes with a frightening phrase: “He who has been forgiven little, loves little”. This Gospel should fill us with terror. Is it the case that I love little? All of us, to some extent, love little. All of us are cold and distant in relation to the Lord. We only become passionate when we lose our temper, or when we are worked up over some self-centred project, not for love of Jesus. How many people fret about formalities, wondering if things are being done according to accepted procedure. What we ought to be asking is if there is love in my heart. This is the central question that we should ask ourselves every morning. And the answer is that the love I have in my heart is always too little; it is never enough. We must learn to love more and more, giving to the Lord hair, perfume, beauty, tears, everything. Jesus gave everything for us: hair, tears, His body, His hands and feet nailed to the cross, His side pierced, His shoulders crushed by an overwhelming burden. And why? Because He loves us! Because He values us! Because He pardons us!

We have two options: We can love like a Pharisee, measuring our love according to the established norms. Or we can love without measure, without counting the cost.
Let us enter wholeheartedly into this  relationship and renounce the coldness of the Pharisaic way of relating to God. How often we are constrained by norms that hamper us from spontaneously relating to the Lord on the level of the heart. What coldness and greyness and wastefulness there is in the world! How many people fail to be themselves; fail to emulate this woman in the Gospel who is so completely herself. And we fail to be ourselves because we do not open to the One who allows us to be ourselves. The Lord calls us and enables us to become the people that he created us to be. This Gospel calls us to the illogical and courageous acts of the true follower of Christ. Every Christian has Christ to love, and this must be done without counting the cost.

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Sunday Gospel Reflection