Friday, 3 July 2015

July 5th 2015. Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Gospel: Mark 6:1-6
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio
Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel

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GOSPEL                                  Mark 6:1-6
Jesus went to his home town and his disciples accompanied him. With the coming of the sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue and most of them were astonished when they heard him. They said, ‘Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?’ And they would not accept him. And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised- in his own country among his own relations and in his own house'; and he could work no miracle there, though he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . This Gospel reveals the shocking power of human incredulity to bring the work of God to a standstill. Don Fabio challenges us to be shaken by this text, and to take seriously the way in which our prejudices towards matters of faith can impede the work of God in our lives. The human being must never be reduced to his family background, occupation or social status. Our unbelief is one of the most fearful powers of the human being. It can completely frustrate the power of God. St Augustine said: "God who created you without your cooperation cannot save you without your cooperation" People who are poor and desperate are less likely to have a lack of faith. When we are weak or sick and aware of our misery, then we are more open to being touched by the healing hands of Christ. But when we consider ourselves to be autonomous and self-determining, the hardness of our hearts can be stupefying! We look around us at the state of the world and think that we have comprehended God and his nature totally! But who can comprehend the action of God! Even the greatest of the saints continued to be surprised by God right up to the last moment of their lives. We do not know the Lord Jesus completely and we must wait for him to reveal himself to us. Let us never think that we know the Lord Jesus! He is always something other. He is not simply the son of his mother, the cousin of his cousins, the labourer in his particular workshop. He is the Son of God active in our lives, and this defies all of our categories.

The human being must never be reduced to his family background, occupation or social status
The Gospel recounts the visit of Jesus to his hometown of Nazareth, where, on the Sabbath, he teaches in the Synagogue. At the beginning of the passage we discover that his listeners are astounded at the fact that he stands up to teach them. At the end of the passage it is Jesus who is astounded at them because of their incredulity. We tend to find it hard to believe in the work of God, to accept that a person might be something more than a child of his parents, to imagine that a man could be something other than his occupation. The human being naturally sees everything in very predictable and boring terms. "You are what you are. Don't come here putting on a big show. We know who you are and where you've come from, and that's all there is to you". Many people turn away from the faith because it doesn't fit in with their way of looking at things, but faith should never be limited to our way of looking at things! And through the eyes of faith a person should never be limited to his work, his occupation, or his family connections. The human being is something more than all of these things. Jesus is dumbfounded when he is confronted by this attempt to limit him and categorize him. He knew of the greatness, power and love of God. He knew the Father and was stunned by the hardness of his listeners' hearts.

Unbelief is one of the most fearful powers of the human being. It can completely frustrate the power of God
This situation means that Jesus is unable to exercise his power in the usual way and is only able to heal a few of the sick. It is interesting to note that in these conditions one can only accept the grace of Christ if one is in a desperate condition. When one is rich in spirit one cannot receive the Kingdom of God. How blessed are the poor in Spirit! One has to be sick and aware of one's sickness before one can be touched by the healing hands of Christ. The incredulity of the human being is one of the most terrible powers that he possesses. God is omnipotent, but he must stop in front of the closed door of human unbelief. St Augustine said, "God who created you without your cooperation cannot save you without your cooperation". Human assent is absolutely fundamental for the work of God to be successful. Human openness towards God is the essential condition for the work of God to be efficient in us. Part of our greatness and nobility resides in the fact that we can genuinely say no to God. We have the capacity to frustrate and sadden the Holy Spirit.

Sin is rooted in a lack of openness to the work of God in us
This extraordinary mystery is the mystery of sin, for sin is always an act of rejection of God. All sin is the refusal of the work of God in us, a refusal of his law, a refusal of his word. It involves a rejection of the truth that is apparent to us in the workings of our conscience. We reject that truth and say "This is what I believe, and this is how things are, full stop". We have a liberty that God cannot force. Even if we say yes to God once, God continues to respect that liberty. On the next occasion, we will have to exercise our liberty all over again in order to say yes to God once again. But once we say yes to evil, the next yes to evil can become automatic. As the Gospel of John tells us, he who commits sin becomes a slave of sin.

We must retain a complete openness to Jesus, never thinking that we know him fully, refraining from labelling him, or labelling any aspect of the life of the church, or our own past. Jesus gives new sense and meaning to everything.
Jesus is unable to work miracles in Nazareth because of the hardness of people's hearts. Why was there such hardness of heart? Because the people there thought they already knew Jesus through and through. Jesus was put in a box and labelled, and this prejudice impeded the power of God. This text thus reveals something to us that ought to shake us to the core! God can be frustrated by our attitudes! We can be in the presence of that which leads into paradise and yet never enjoy it! And why not? Because we are locked in prejudiced ways of looking at things that prompt us to say, "I know you already. You have nothing of interest to say to me".
The hardness of the human heart is stupefying. We cast a cold eye on the work of God and think that we have comprehended it totally! But who can comprehend the action of God! Even the greatest of the saints continued to be surprised by God right up to the last moment of their lives. We do not know the Lord Jesus completely and we must wait for him to reveal himself to us. Let us not put labels on the work of God, on the life of the church, on the sacraments, nor even on the events of our own past. Jesus will give new meaning and sense to everything. Let us never think that we know the Lord Jesus! He is always something other. He is not simply the son of his mother, the cousin of his cousins, the laborer in his particular workshop. He is the Son of God, and this defies all of our categories.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

GOSPEL: Mark 5:21-43
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­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: Mark 5:21-43
When Jesus had crossed in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered round him and he stayed by the lakeside. Then one of the synagogue officials came up, Jairus by name, and seeing him, fell at his feet and pleaded with him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is desperately sick. Do come and lay your hands on her to make her better and save her life.’ Jesus went with him and a large crowd followed him; they were pressing all round him.
Now there was a woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years; after long and painful treatment under various doctors, she had spent all she had without being any the better for it, in fact, she was getting worse. She had heard about Jesus, and she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his cloak. ‘If I can touch even his clothes,’ she had told herself ‘I shall be well again.’ And the source of the bleeding dried up instantly, and she felt in herself that she was cured of her complaint. Immediately aware that power had gone out from him Jesus turned round in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ His disciples said to him, ‘You see how the crowd is pressing round you and yet you say, “Who touched me?” But he continued to look all round to see who had done it. Then the woman came forward, frightened and trembling because she knew what had happened to her, and she fell at his feet and told him the whole truth. ‘My daughter,’ he said ‘your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free from your complaint.’
While he was still speaking some people arrived from the house of the synagogue official to say, ‘Your daughter is dead: why put the Master to any further trouble?’ But Jesus had overheard this remark of theirs and he said to the official, ‘Do not be afraid; only have faith.’ And he allowed no one to go with him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. So they came to the official’s house and Jesus noticed all the commotion, with people weeping and wailing unrestrainedly. He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and crying? The child is not dead, but asleep.’ But they laughed at him. So he turned them all out and, taking with him the child’s father and mother and his own companions, he went into the place where the child lay. And taking the child by the hand he said to her, ‘Talitha, kum!’ which means, ‘Little girl I tell you to get up.’  The little girl got up at once and began to walk about, for she was twelve years old. At this they were overcome with astonishment, and he ordered them strictly not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give her something to eat.
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The Gospel relates the stories of two female characters. The twelve-year old daughter of Jairus is dying, whilst the woman with the twelve year haemorrhage is seeking a cure. These two characters represents two ways in which we seek to resolve problems on the basis of purely human capacities. Jairus is the head of the Jewish assembly. The Jewish Law represents an attempt to achieve righteousness and salvation by gritting our teeth and coercing ourselves to follow precepts faithfully. The woman with the haemorrhage has spent all her money on medical experts who would have used the best of human wisdom to treat her problem. But neither human volition nor human wisdom can bring salvation in these cases. Jesus enters the scene and immediately brings life and healing, granting these two women the capacity to realise their true potentials and achieve their true identities. How do I approach life? Do I grit my teeth and try to be morally coherent on the basis of my own efforts? Do I seek to organise my life purely around my own capacities, talents, intelligence or qualifications? Do I base my identity on my physical wellbeing, on the judgements of purely human “experts” in the areas of health or beauty? Neither my own willpower nor human attempts at wellbeing can bring me life and healing! We must call on Lord and seek to touch him, as Jairus and the woman with the haemorrhage did! We need Jesus to enter our lives and order us to arise, so that we learn to ground our existence wholly on him.

Jairus is the head of the Jewish assembly. The fact that he cannot help his daughter is symbolic of the fact that the old Law could not bring life. It could only diagnose the world’s problems. Jesus represents the inbreaking of life and grace into the world.
The first reading asserts that death does not come from God. Everything God does is directed towards life. Death is the offspring of evil, the product of the envy of the devil. God created humanity for incorruptibility. The Gospel reading presents two female characters to us: one is a girl of twelve years old on the point of death; the other is a woman who has been in a physical state of corruption for twelve years - the occurrence of the number twelve is very significant here. Evidently God’s life-giving plan (as expressed in the first reading) is not coming to fruition in the world. The father of the girl is Jairus, the head of the synagogue. He asks Jesus to perform a very definite act on his daughter – the laying on of hands. This is a symbolic gesture that is very typical of fatherhood and represents the act of the father passing on his goods to his sons. In this case, Jairus is unable to pass on life to his daughter because she is dying. So we have a situation where the head of the synagogue asks Jesus to take his place and perform the life-giving act of laying on of hands on one of his children. This is highly significant. The leader of the Jewish assembly has no solution for the situation confronting his daughter. The ancient religion, based on the Law, has no capacity to save life. It is only the eruption of Jesus into the world that can effect the transition from law to grace. The Jewish Law only had the capacity to diagnose the world’s problems; it could say whether a person was acting righteously or not, but it could not change anyone’s situation.

The woman with the haemorrhage has spent all her money on doctors but she has only become more ill. The wisdom of this world does not bring life either. Only the touch of Jesus can heal us interiorly, helping us to realize our true identity and full potential

At the same time, we have a story within a story. The woman with the haemorrhage is trying to resolve her problem. She has spent all of her money on doctors, but her situation has only worsened. She has discovered that the wisdom and medicine of this world do not save but lead to ruin. Jesus supersedes the old religion, represented by the head of the synagogue, and also supersedes human wisdom, represented by the doctors. Neither religiosity nor worldly wisdom can bring healing; what is needed is to touch the Lord Jesus. He brings life to the house of Jairus, even when the girl is already dead. For as long as we are focussed on structures and solutions that remain at the horizontal level of this world, we are at nothing. Our religious efforts, arising from our own acts of volition and attempts at following Jesus on the basis of our own capacities, take us nowhere. We need the Lord Jesus to come into our lives and say, “Arise!” He is the one who can do what we are unable to do. When the woman touches the hem of Jesus’ garment, she comes in contact with a wholly other source of life, an entirely new mode of existence, enabling her to return to a new and more fecund way of life. Only Jesus can bestow upon us our true identities and the fullness of life. All of us have experienced doctors who have aided us little. All of us have engaged in religious efforts that originated solely in ourselves; they did not originate in the grace of God. Jesus is the one who can touch us on the profoundest level of our identity. If we call upon him he will bestow new life upon us. The Lord Jesus has come so that we might make the transition from the doctors of this world to a relationship with him, from a life based on our own puny efforts at being coherent to an existence centred on his love for us. Jesus comes, takes us by the hand and says, “I say to you, arise! Live by my word! Be raised up on the basis of my power alone!”

Saturday, 20 June 2015

GOSPEL: Mark 4:35-41
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­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: Mark 4:35-41
With the coming of evening, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind they took him, just as he was, in the boat; and there were other boats with him. Then it began to blow a gale and the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped. But he was in the stern, his head on the cushion, asleep. They woke him and said to him, ‘Master, do you not care? We are going down!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Quiet now! Be calm!’ And the wind dropped, and all was calm again. Then he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?’ They were filled with awe and said to one another, ‘Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.’
 The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The Gospel tells of the calming of the storm. The disciples are crossing the water. This evokes the Passover, when the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea with God’s help. But in the Gospel, the disciples are seeking to do it by themselves whilst Jesus is sleeping. This is the typical condition of humanity! We seek to do everything by ourselves, in our own way, relying on ourselves and utterly directed to ourselves. We exclude God because we are focussed only on ourselves. This is the condition that leads us surely to shipwreck. Why does Jesus wait until the ship is almost sinking before he wakes up? It is the disciples who wait until the ship is about to capsize before they call on Jesus! It is only when the situation is desperate that we realize that we need God. This Sunday we are invited to call on the Lord. Let us ask him to calm the disorder and chaos in our lives. If we seek to do everything ourselves then things will end in disaster. Let us focus on who he is, instead of being always focussed on who we ourselves are.

Job is in the midst of a terrible crisis, but the Lord reveals himself as the one who has power over the chaotic and uncontrollable
God speaks to Job in the middle of the hurricane. Job has been going through a terrible period of trial and tribulation, an enormous test of his faith that brings him to a direct experience of God. And he experiences God in the midst of the storm, the suffering, the absurd. God proclaims himself in a strange way, in a way that Job did not expect. The Lord announces that he has power over the sea when it “leapt tumultuous out of the womb, when I wrapped it in a robe of mist and made black clouds its swaddling bands.” This poetic language evokes the account of how the Lord created the universe from chaos, darkness and non-governability. Yet these seas are easy for the Lord to control; the passage in Job tells us: “Come thus far, I said, and no farther: here your proud waves shall break”.

The disciples are crossing the water – an image of the Passover. But they seek to do it all by themselves, relying only on their own capacities.
In the Gospel the disciples comes to know the Lord in the interior of a storm. They ask themselves: “Who is this that even the seas and storms obey?” Of course there is only one person that the seas and elements obey – God himself. The disciples are crossing the lake. This is a classical Passover image – the crossing of water. But the disciples are undertaking this challenge all by themselves. This is the typical attitude of the human being: to rely on oneself. But he who seeks to depend only on himself will never get beyond himself, whilst he who puts his trust in God will arrive at a more profound knowledge of God.

It is only when the situation is desperate that we start to realize what really matters and begin to call on the Lord’s name
The image of God sleeping is curious and evokes the moment when Jesus will be sleeping in death after his crucifixion. On Holy Saturday, Jesus is shrouded in silence and impotence, and humanity is conscious of the evil that it has perpetrated in killing the Just One. The centurion, who presided over his killing, looks on Jesus and says, “Truly this is God”. Holy Saturday is the moment when we are stopped in our tracks and all we can do is seek the resist that which is greater than us: when we rage against the wind and the sea, against that which cannot be brought under control. How many marriages refuse to seek help, striving instead to do everything with their own miserable capacities, arriving ultimately at shipwreck! How many people refuse to renounce their absorption in themselves and their reliance on their own way of thinking! They need to awaken God! The Lord cannot enter our lives until we call out, “Enter! Wake up!” In the Gospel, Jesus waits until the boat is filled with water and ready to capsize. It is only then that the disciples realize that they cannot depend on their own talents to continue. It is only when the storm is at its height that we begin to ask ourselves, “What really counts in my life?” It is only then that the eternity of God begins to come into relief and that we start to call on his name. It is only when the situation is out of control that we begin to realize what really matters.

This Sunday let us call on the Lord’s name, asking him to control the chaos, disorder and storms in my life.

Jesus reveals that he is not merely their Master, but something much more. He tells the storm to abate and it does so immediately. This is the same dominion that Jesus reveals in his exorcisms. In the midst of all the storms of life, God has the power to manifest himself. He can block that which is disordered and chaotic within all of us. This Sunday we are all invited to say, “Lord there are many things that are greater than me. It is foolish of me to try to confront these things by myself. Wake up Lord and do that which you know to be right! Bring things to the conclusion that you and you alone wish. I know that you are my Lord. Help me to prostrate myself before you and be aware of who you are, instead of being constantly preoccupied by who I am”.

Friday, 12 June 2015

June 14th 2015. 11th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME
GOSPEL: Mark 4:26-34
(Translation of a homily by Don Fabio  Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio)
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Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel.

GOSPEL                                    Mark 4:26-34
Jesus said to the crowds: ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time: he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’
He also said, ‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’
Using many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, so far as they were capable of understanding it. He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.

Kieran’s summary . . . This Sunday’s readings present us with various parables. The things of God often have a humble nature but they spontaneously bear great fruit. It is not the significance of the origins of a thing that count: what counts is what the power of God will achieve in that thing. We have the task of seeking to discern if the seed of God is within our actions and our projects. Sometimes we are so in love with our own ideas, or so preoccupied with the external glory of the things that we are doing, that we do not bother to ask if the seed of eternity is contained within that which we are doing. We ruin families, parishes and workplaces by pursuing goals that are not the goals of the Lord. But how can we tell is some project or activity contains the seed of God within it or not? The things of God proceed gradually and give rise to fruit in the end, just as the seed produces the shoot, then the ear and then the grain. The things of God may have humble and insignificant beginnings, but they have a nobility in them right from the beginning. They are not filled with ambiguities and contradictions. They are noble and good and proceed gradually. The highest trees have the deepest roots. The things of God develop peacefully and steadily. Do my projects have the seeds of God within them, or purely human seeds? Are they directed towards external glory, or towards genuine fruit that need not be noticed by anybody? Do they have an ostentatious aspect, or are they of a noble and humble character?

It is not the quality of the plant that matters. What counts is what the Lord will do with it.
The first reading from Ezekiel tells how God will take a cutting from the top of a cedar tree and sow it on a mountain in Israel. The cutting comes from the highest and most unlikely part of the tree and is then sown in an unlikely place. It all seems absurd. Such a cutting from the cedar tree in particular should never become a fully-grown tree. But the reading goes on to tell us that this cedar will become a great tree in which the birds will find shelter. The Lord is the one who humbles the great trees of this world and raises the lowly ones. The power of God operates according to a logic that is completely different to ours. It is not important that this cutting has such an impotent nature in itself. What is important is what the Lord will do with that cutting: “I the Lord have spoken and I will do it.”

The things of God spontaneously bear fruit. We must ask ourselves continually if what we are doing contains the seed of God
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus speaks in parables. John Paul II, during a beautiful homily, stated that God always speaks to us in parables. The entire world is filled with parables through which God reveals himself to us. The parables from Sunday’s Gospel tell us what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. Seed is sown in the land and grows by itself even while the sower is sleeping. First it produces the shoot, then the ear, then the grain. Things of nature produce their fruit spontaneously. In a similar way, the things of God have a spontaneous way of bearing fruit. They develop gradually and give rise to a harvest at the proper time, just like the extraordinary way that a child develops in the womb from the most insignificant beginnings. The things of God have within themselves the power of life. When we evaluate things, we must not look on their exterior aspect or glorious character. We must ask: “Did the Lord plant this seed?” If he did then it will spontaneously arrive at maturity. When young couples are preparing for matrimony, they must seek to discern if there is this seed of eternity between them. Sometimes we embark on ambitious and risky projects without ever asking if they have their origins in God. Couples must ask themselves if there is a seed of God between them; if there is something between them that is fundamentally directed towards good. Do we produce life? Is our union life-giving? The same question must be asked for all ventures and projects that we embark on, in the church and elsewhere. First the shoot appears, then the ear, then the grain. But we are so in love with our ideas that we do not bother to discern if our projects are developing in this natural way! We ruin families, workplaces, associations because we did not bother to ask if our agenda had the eternity of God within it.

How can we tell is something has the seed of God in it? Do not be deceived by its humble nature! The great and glorious things are not necessarily from God. The things of God may appear humble but they have a nobility, serenity and clarity right from the beginning.

How can we know if something has its origin in God? The second parable tells us not to be preoccupied with the humble beginnings of that which we sow. What matters is the final product. The things of God have the capacity to be transfigured, the capacity to make the journey from earth to heaven. God has sown many seeds of goodness and beauty. We must be attentive to these seeds, not in the sense of trying to exploit these things for all they are worth, but in the sense of being in tune with the nobility and beauty of the inner nature of things. It is not important if our projects have rapid and enormous success. The things of God often proceed in a slow and gradual fashion. The highest trees have the deepest roots. It is the one who begins steadily who arrives at the peak, not the one who departs in a hurry. The things of God may appear humble and insignificant, but they are noble right from the start. Things that have a turbulent origin, that are shrouded in ambiguity, do not arrive at a mature harvest. We must always be attentive and ask ourselves: “Did God plant this seed or not? Is God the origin of this thing or not?” It is important to be in a constant state of discernment with regard to our behaviour and thoughts. The things of God are directed towards arriving at their destination; they are not directed at shipwreck. The things that are merely human begin in a human manner and remain purely human.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

The Body and Blood of Christ

Gospel: Mark 14: 12-16; 22-26
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­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: Mark 14: 12-16; 22-26
On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him, and say to the owner of the house which he enters, “The Master says: Where is my dining room in which I can eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large upper room furnished with couches, all prepared. Make the preparations for us there,’ The disciples set out and went to the city and found everything as he had told them, and prepared the Passover.
And as they were eating he took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to them. ‘Take it,’ he said ‘this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them, and all drank from it, and he said to them, ‘This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many. I tell you solemnly, I shall not drink any more wine until the day I drink the new wine in the kingdom of God.’
After psalms had been sung they left for the Mount of Olives.
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . In the Old Testament Covenant, the people were asked to observe what the Lord decreed and then to listen to it. Sometimes we need to try to obey the Lord before we understand what he is asking of us. But the Old Testament Covenant failed because humanity could not keep its side of the agreement. Only Jesus is capable of following the Father’s will, even if he doesn’t fully understand what he is being asked to do. He establishes the New Covenant in which both sides perfectly fulfil their commitment to each other. In his person he unites humanity and God. The Feast of Corpus Christi is an occasion to reflect on this communion between God and man that was so imperfect in the Old Testament. Communion with God is a lifelong process of transformation. We are called to prepare ourselves for this communion by ascending to the upper room of true intimacy with the Lord. Every Mass involves participation in this journey. We consign our sins to the God who loves us, listen to the word of God, then participate in the Eucharist, receiving the sustenance we need to live our lives as children of God.

The Old Testament involved trying to observe what the Lord decreed under pain of punishment. The people were asked to obey first and understand later.
This Sunday we celebrate Corpus Christi and reflect on the gift of the body and blood of Our Lord. In the liturgy we speak of the “new and everlasting Covenant”. In reality there were various covenants in the Old Testament, but the clearest text describing a covenant in which God and his people make commitments to each other is described in chapter 24 of Exodus. Sacred sacrifices are made and the blood is sprinkled on the people and on the altar. In reality this is a threatening ritual. It specifies what will happen if one of the parties breaks the agreement. The sprinkling of blood foreshadows the shedding of blood that will result from the transgression of the covenant. During the ritual the people say: “We will observe all that the Lord has decreed. We will listen.” The rabbinic commentary on this text observed that the observation of the decrees preceded listening to the decrees. This might seem strange. Usually we listen to what is asked of us before doing it. But it is also true that often we learn to truly listen and understand something once we have made the effort to put that thing into practice. Sometimes we have to try to be obedient first. Then we begin to enter into, understand, appreciate, that which we are being asked to do.

Jesus is the only one capable of obeying without understanding, of saying fully: “Not my will but yours be done”.
In practise, as the Old Testament abundantly shows, the people do not observe or listen to what the Lord has decreed. That is the very reason that we have need of a New Covenant in which someone radically obeys what is being asked of him, who submits to the will of the Father even if he doesn’t fully understand, someone who says, “Not my will but yours be done”. Someone who does and then understands. This is something that we are not capable of doing by ourselves. The Old Testament shows that we are not able to achieve anything of the sort. We need God to take our flesh and enter into the true Covenant with God. The new and eternal Covenant is faithfully kept on both sides because both sides are inhabited by God himself. When Jesus took on our flesh he introduced the element of eternity into the human component of the alliance. We are rendered capable of entering into the eternity of God with our flesh. The blood of the alliance is not that of goats but that of God himself. The blood of animals has no true purifying capacity for the refined inner state of the human heart. Something much greater is needed. The Lord Jesus in his body lives this communion between God and humanity. This is what makes possible the authentic fulfilment of true communion with God, and this is the meaning of the feast we celebrate on Sunday. We are called, not only to understand what God requires of us, nor simply to observe what he wants, but to be part of him and to have him as part of us.

The Eucharist is part of a lifelong process of entering into full communion with God. We must participate in the process.
God wants to make his home in us. When people go looking for a house, they look for one that is beautiful and spacious, that is well-illuminated and that has great potential. God loves to have our hearts as his home. The Gospel highlights the importance of preparing ourselves for this indwelling of God. The disciples ask where they should prepare the Passover for Jesus. The Easter event is something that we need to get ready for. Receiving Our Lord is not some sort of magic event. Indeed, we must lament the casual attitude that is very prevalent in approaching the Eucharist. There is a tendency to think that our interior state is irrelevant. Of course the Eucharist is efficacious and valid irrespective of how well we are prepared, but this doesn’t mean that our interior state should be neglected. Our welcome and our participation is of the utmost importance. We are in a never ending process of transformation and of passage towards God. We must enter into the process with our minds and our hearts.

The Eucharist is a call to enter into the upper room of encounter and communion with God. It requires us to ascend towards God, consigning our sins to him and listening to his word

The disciples head towards the city to prepare the Passover and meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. The Fathers of the Church see in this encounter a symbol of Baptism. We must pass through the waters of Baptism, through the call to divine son-ship, to the nutritional sustenance that we need to live as children of God. Then the disciples go to the upper room for the Passover. We too have need of this house which is not a simple one-storey house but has something more. We must climb to the higher level, conscious of our baptismal status as children of God, and be open to the riches that God sends our way. We are called to the upper room, to the room that in the Old Testament was prepared for the prophet Elisha, signifying the dignity that God wishes to bestow on us. We are indeed noble, beautiful and important, endowed with wonderful gifts. But we must enter into these things and climb to the upper room for the full encounter with God that is the Eucharist. Let us prepare ourselves for Easter, grounded in our identity as children of God in Baptism, ascending to the upper room to participate in the Eucharist. This is the path we must undertake in every celebration of Mass. The word of God is the point of departure for our journey, after we consign our sins to the God who loves us and wishes for our good. God wishes to dwell in our house and for us to dwell in him. We are called to this marvellous experience of intimacy at a superior level, at the highest level of our being.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Feast of the Holy Trinity Gospel Reflection

May 31st 2015.  Feast of the Holy Trinity
GOSPEL Matthew 28:16-20
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­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 Matthew 28:16-20
The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . .  The Feast of the Holy Trinity is not a time to reflect abstractly on a difficult theological doctrine; it is a celebration of a vibrant relationship with God. This feast proclaims two things to us: firstly, we are called to live an intimate, vibrant and concrete relationship with Father, Son and Spirit here on this earth. Secondly, the vibrancy of the relationship we have with the Trinity is manifested by our capacity to transmit it to others. We are capable of communicating this way of life and passing it on to the extent that the relationship is real in our hearts. In the Gospel, Jesus sends us forth to baptise in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit. The word “baptize” means “to immerse”. Each of us must be immersed in God. We must be disciples who live an intimate relationship of obedience, trust and abandonment to our Master. If we are immersed in God, then it becomes easy for us to follow Jesus’ command and go out to the whole world and immerse others in God. A teacher is dry and uninspiring when he teaches something abstract and purely theoretical. But a teacher who loves his subject, who lives what he teaches, has the capacity to communicate in an infectious and inspiring way. This is what we are called to do – firstly immerse ourselves in the life of the Trinity and secondly go out and immerse the whole world.

This is not a feast about a theologically abstract notion: it is a celebration of a relationship that brings happiness in the concrete here and now.
The feast of the Holy Trinity is not a feast about a theological abstraction but a celebration of our knowledge and experience of God. We do not deduce God - we encounter him. He has been revealed to us in a person; in everyday things we have the potential to come to an intimate knowledge of him. The first reading speaks of a God who has revealed himself to his chosen people. This God has manifested himself in signs and wonders, in battles with outstretched arm. These anthropomorphic descriptions of God demonstrate that he is a Lord who reveals himself to us in ways that we can understand. He is a God who is both up in heaven and operative down here on earth. There is no other God, and Moses exhorts the people to obey him by keeping his commandments. Interestingly, Moses does not say that the people are to honour God because his divine majesty merits the subservience of all people to him. Rather, by following his commandments they, and their children, will enter into a state of happiness. We care for our children more than we care for ourselves, so this point is very important. God asks for the obedience of the Israelites so that they and their children will live in happiness, will prosper in the land that the Lord has given them. They will be enabled to already taste the happiness of eternity here and now on earth. The God who lives in heaven can be experienced here on earth as the fount and principle of happiness.

Some of the disciples hesitate in bowing down before the Lord. This is how we are made. The measure of our unhappiness is the measure of how much we hold back from abandoning ourselves to God.
How do we live in this state of happiness on earth? The Gospel is from the last few lines of Matthew. Jesus’ appears to his disciples in Galilee upon the mountain where he himself had imparted to them many of his teachings. The disciples prostrate themselves before Jesus, but some of them hesitate. What a curious thing is this persistence of weakness within us. We always hold something back from the Lord. It is hard for us to abandon ourselves to him completely. This is our state of poverty; this is how we are made. We are in a process of continual negotiation with the Lord. There is always something within us that remains unenlightened. Our unfulfilled happiness is always proportional to the portion of our heart that we hold back from God, to that portion of our heart that has given in to hesitation.

The power of Jesus is a power that is not simply terrestrial. It is a power to make heaven present on earth right now by forming relationships between disciples and God
Jesus proclaims his power. It is not the power of this earth which is in the dominion of Satan. The power of Jesus is that which unites heaven and earth. During the temptations in the Gospel of Luke, Satan declares that all power on earth has been given to him. This is a power that does not unite itself to heaven and is directed solely to the things here below. The power of Christ is of a different sort altogether, the power to unite heaven and earth, the power to use the things of earth in the service of heaven – as we say in the Our Father: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. As the Gospel passage makes clear, the power of Jesus is directed towards making disciples of all peoples. In the world there are disciples and there are people. The people are “self-made men” whose lives are lived in a self-referential way. Disciples, by contrast, live in relationship with their master. In Matthew’s Gospel, above all, Jesus is presented as the master who teaches. The disciple is not simply someone who listens to his teacher and leaves the relationship at this level. The disciple has an intimate relation with his master. In everything, he absorbs and learns and grows as a person. It is a wonderful thing to be a disciple and to have beautiful, novel, things revealed in every instant.

The Christian is one immersed in Father, Son and Spirit. This immersion is the foundation of his mission. When we are in intimate union with God, then we find it easy to transmit this union to others, forging relationships between them and God

The Christian, in fact, has a very special connection with his master. The Greek root for “baptism” means “to be immersed”. We are fully immersed in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in baptism, the sacrament that is the real centre of our Christian existence. The faith we profess involves being completely immersed in God, and then our Lord comes and immerses himself in us in the sacrament of the Eucharist. This mutual immersion makes us become a single entity. Heaven becomes present here on earth through our relationship with God. All of us experience heaven when we encounter a person who is immersed in God and God in him. The true disciple is fused with his master, has his master always with him in his heart. Such a disciple has the capacity to teach and pass on that which the master has entrusted to him. We are capable of teaching something when it is something that we truly live ourselves. If we try to teach people to do something using purely theoretical considerations, then we will have limited success. When I speak about something I love, I become very good at teaching that thing. I know the subject intimately and am able to describe its inner structure.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Gospel: John 15:26-27; 16:12-15
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­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 15:26-27; 16:12-15
Jesus said to his disciples
‘When the Advocate comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father, he will be my witness.
And you too will be witnesses, because you have been with me from the outset.
I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you now.
But when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth,
since he will not be speaking as from himself but will say only what he has learnt;
and he will tell you of the things to come.
He will glorify me, since all he tells you will be taken from what is mine.
Everything the Father has is mine; that is why I said:
All he tells you will be taken from what is mine’
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The first reading tells us how each visitor to Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost heard the Apostles’ words in his own native language. This is not a story about amazing linguistic gifts being bestowed on the Apostles! It is a story of how the Spirit of God gives each one of us the gift of being able to communicate heart to heart the story of the great works of God. The Gospel makes this clearer. Jesus tells us that he will send the Paraclete who will lead us into truth by taking from what belongs to Christ and revealing to us the things of the future. What does all of this mean? The Holy Spirit puts us into right relationship with the things of the future. When my future is unclear, then I can become easily anguished. If my marriage is in crisis then I can quickly fall into negativity and despair. The Holy Spirit puts me into a right relationship with the future because he reveals the hand of God in everything in my life. He tells me that God’s providence is working in everything and leading me to a future full of light and life. He encourages me to see the crisis in my marriage as a situation permitted by God so that I can enter into a deeper and more adult relationship with my spouse. In short, when I am illuminated by the Holy Spirit, I become serene, trustful and filled with hope. This capacity to discern the providence of God in everything confers on me the ability to communicate heart to heart with others about the wonderful deeds of the Lord. I become a witness to Jesus. This is the goal of the spirit – to transform us into witnesses. We communicate little with abstract words and concepts. The Holy Spirit makes us communicators par excellence by transforming us into witnesses to the person of Christ.

The Pentecost capacity of the Apostles to speak to people who understand different languages is not a linguistic gift. The gift that the Spirit gives is the gift of communication.
Pentecost is the culminating event of Easter. Let us never forget that God’s goal is not simply Christ’s resurrection but our resurrection, our living a new way of life that is rooted in heaven. Pentecost is not just the end of the Easter Season, it is the goal of the Easter season when we become recipients of the life of God. The event of Pentecost is not described in the Gospels but in the Acts of the Apostles. The first reading each Sunday usually illuminates the Gospel. This Sunday the situation is reversed because the first reading describes the Pentecost event directly and the Gospel provides the Johannine interpretation of the event. The description in Acts from the first reading tells of this extraordinary experience of communication in which the barriers between different linguistic groups disappears. The diversity between peoples is not overcome by making everyone homogeneous; rather it is the capacity to communicate that overcomes the barriers. This group of people described in the passage do not attain the capacity to speak the same language, think the same thoughts and do the same things. What unites them is not bland uniformity but the activity of God. The Holy Spirit, who is ultimately love, gives this ability to make oneself understood.

We attain the gift of being able to communicate with others when we learn to speak of the things of God.
Everyone manages to understand in his own “native language” – what a beautiful expression! Our mother tongue is the one that is closest to our hearts, the language we learned as children and that is closest to our personal identity. The Apostles speak in their language and the hearer understands in the language that is closest to his heart. What is transmitted between the two is the news of the “great works of God”. The Gospel passage speaks of the gift of the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father. This Spirit witnesses to the truth and transforms the disciples into witnesses themselves. The Gospel goes on: “But when the Spirit of truth  comes he will lead you to the complete truth, since he will not be speaking as from himself but will say only what he has learnt; and he will tell you of the things to come”. What are these things to come? First of all it is worth noting that when a person changes his relationship with the things of the future – when his future is illuminated with light so that he goes forward with faith, serenity and trust – this transforms his life completely since a person is his relationship with his future; every act he engages in is directed towards something. All of us are directed towards certain things that are coming our way. If my immediate or long-term future is illuminated by the activity of God, then I become serene. I am not filled with the anguish of someone who feels he is in a blind alley. I have a sense of transformation, beauty, novelty, surprise, discovery. But how do I attain this beautiful relationship with the future? The Gospel goes on: “He will glorify me, since all he tells you will be taken from what is mine. Everything the Father has is mine.” In the first reading we heard how the people in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost heard the great works of God being proclaimed in their native languages. The Gospel talks about the Holy Spirit taking from the things that belong to Jesus. The point is this: the language that communicates par excellence is that which is concerned with the things of God. We achieve illumination, desperate circumstances are transformed into hope, when I manage to see the providence of God in the happenings of my life; when I see the things of God hidden in the events that are going on around me. For example, when there is a crisis in a marriage, we can look on the situation and despair, or we can see the crisis as part of the process of growth, a stage that the Lord is permitting so that the spouses can learn to love each other in a deeper and more adult way. If we do not see the hand of God in that which happens, then situations become blind, empty and worrying. When, by contrast, we see design, wisdom, the love of love of God, the things that belong to Christ, in that which happens to us, then I attain the capacity to accept and welcome these things.

We communicate when we become witnesses to the person of Jesus. We communicate less well when we cease being witnesses and start to speak in abstract terms.

The Holy Spirit changes things from within. He makes me speak with conviction and light, gives me the capacity to show others how God is working in things. When I speak under the influence of the Holy Spirit, my listener begins to understand, begins to apprehend my words close to his heart. It is one thing to try to communicate Christ with concepts, but another thing altogether to take from the things that belong to Christ through the gift of the Holy Spirit and apply them to the events of life. In this way we become witnesses. We can make enormous efforts to communicate norms or abstract thoughts, but to be a witness is to leave all these abstractions behind and bear witness to Jesus as a person. To illuminate someone’s intelligence is no substitute for speaking about the love of God. The Holy Spirit does not reveal the future to us in the sense of telling us the tedious details of events that will happen; rather the Spirit announces to us the wonderful fact that our future will be filled with the providence and activity of God.

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Sunday Gospel Reflection