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.

Friday, 3 June 2016

GOSPEL: Luke 7:11-17
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­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: Luke 7:11-17
Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain,
and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him.
As he drew near to the gate of the city,
a man who had died was being carried out,
the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.
A large crowd from the city was with her.
When the Lord saw her,
he was moved with pity for her and said to her,
“Do not weep.”
He stepped forward and touched the coffin;
at this the bearers halted,
and he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!”
The dead man sat up and began to speak,
and Jesus gave him to his mother.
Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, crying out
“A great prophet has arisen in our midst, “
and “God has visited his people.”
This report about him spread through the whole of Judea
and in all the surrounding region.
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . In the first reading, a widow gives hospitality to Elijah only for her son to die soon afterwards of sickness. The widow interprets this to be a punishment visited upon her by God for her sins. How prone we are to thinking that our woes are a punishment from God! It is essential that we cease to think of God as a clockmaker who mechanically causes sufferings to befall us in perfect proportion to our faults. Our God is a God of the living! He wants us to have life and salvation, not death and punishment! In the Gospel, the widow of Nain is on the way to the cemetery with the body of her dead son. The funeral cortege of the widow then meets the cortege of life that is led by Jesus. And Jesus brings life and happiness to the destruction and sadness of the funeral cortege. How often our existence is like a funeral cortege headed for the cemetery! How often it seems as if our lives are just an exercise in avoiding death that is guaranteed eventually to fail! The funeral cortege of our existence desperately needs to encounter the person of Jesus who will redirect us to life, positivity and salvation. In the Gospel, the people rejoice when Jesus raises the dead man and they exclaim, “God has visited his people!” The desperate situations in our lives; the woes, sufferings, illnesses and bereavements may have no hope from a human perspective. But when we are visited by the presence of God, these situations are transformed into life and redemption.

Life can seem like a journey towards the cemetery unless it is redirected by Jesus
This Sunday we resume the journey of Ordinary Time. The account in Luke’s Gospel tells of the restoring to life of the only son of the widow of Nain. Sometimes life seems like a hurried trip towards the cemetery, but when Jesus comes along, things can change radically and we find ourselves directed along a different path. How often it happens that a person who had no future prospect other than death experiences the eruption of God in their lives through the preaching, presence and life of the Church. Lives that were once focussed on the avoidance of death now become focussed on eternity, on the greatness and joy of divine sonship.

It is essential that we cease interpreting our woes to be a punishment from God for our sins. This mechanical view of the world is refuted by the innocent lamb who suffers for all of us even though he is innocent.
In the first reading we hear the story of Elijah. He has been given hospitality by a widow who provides him with a room on the first floor. It is interesting that the room of the prophet is on an upper floor, for the business of prophesying involves seeing things from a new and higher perspective. Shortly after Elijah arrives, the son of the widow dies. The widow reacts by asking Elijah why this punishment has been visited upon her. How often the spirit of darkness prompts us to interpret things according to the categories of guilt and punishment! Life is seen as a process of making repayment for our sins. Sickness, suffering, the death of a child are all understood in terms of the reparation that we must make for our past faults. It is absurd and unacceptable that Christians, even today, continue to interpret life in this manner. Certainly, sin has consequences. But Christ has defeated sin and is greater than sin. We cannot revert to a mechanical vision of reality in which everything is understood in terms of sin and punishment. God is not a clockmaker that has set up reality to operate in such a robotic way. Deism holds to such a vision of the world and it has been refuted long ago. If we read the book of Job we see immediately that our sufferings and woes are not to be interpreted as consequences for our personal behaviour. Indeed, if we look at the life of Christ, we see one who suffers not because he is guilty, but because he is filled with love. And in the case of Elijah, we see something similar. This man of God has not come to punish but to do something else altogether. He has come to ensure that a situation that is hopeless from a human perspective can be visited by God.

When the funeral cortege of our lives meets the living cortege of Jesus, our existence is radically altered. The presence of Jesus brings life and salvation always.

The Gospel tells of a widow who had just lost her only son. According to the laws of that time, a woman had no hereditary rights. Once her only son had died, all of her possessions and property would be inherited by others and she would be left destitute. But Jesus has compassion on her, and this situation becomes the place where life is manifested. It is a tale of the meeting of two corteges. One is a funeral cortege on the way to the cemetery, composed of a family destroyed by death. The other cortege is that of the crowd who follow Christ, who will be the first-born from the dead. When the corteges meet, the funeral cortege is redirected from death to life. When the compassion of Christ touches the destruction and pain of our existence, everything becomes renewed and filled with life. When the people see Jesus raise the boy to life, they exclaim, “God has visited his people!” In a similar way the widow had told Elijah after the raising of her son that she now believed that he was a man of God and that the words he spoke were truth. Whenever God is present, life is present, always! We should never think that God visits us to bring death or punishment. God only comes to bring life. We do not receive the sacraments and live the Christian life in order to be punished. Certainly, penitence is important and does us good, but it is something positive for our salvation, not for our destruction. We live the Christian faith in order to have authentic life. Too often the lives we lead are not visited by God. They are merely horizontal. But a life visited by God is reoriented to eternity, positivity, love. Our God is the God of the living, one who loves his creatures. We may say no to life and salvation, but that is all God wants for us.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

May 29th 2016. corpus christi - the body and blood of christ
GOSPEL:  Luke 9:11-17
From a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio

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GOSPEL:  Luke 9:11-17
Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God,
and he healed those who needed to be cured.
As the day was drawing to a close,
the Twelve approached him and said,
"Dismiss the crowd
so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms
and find lodging and provisions;
for we are in a deserted place here."
He said to them, "Give them some food yourselves."
They replied, "Five loaves and two fish are all we have,
unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people."
Now the men there numbered about five thousand.
Then he said to his disciples,
"Have them sit down in groups of about fifty."
They did so and made them all sit down.
Then taking the five loaves and the two fish,
and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing over them, broke them,
and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.
They all ate and were satisfied.
And when the leftover fragments were picked up,
they filled twelve wicker baskets.
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . In the Gospel reading, the most meagre of material elements – five loaves and two fishes – are transformed into a feast for a multitude of people. This Feast of Corpus Christi challenges us to entrust our simple and humble offerings to the Lord, and he will transform them into an abundant harvest. How is this “multiplication” to take place on a daily basis? The Body of Christ can mean the physical body of Jesus, the Eucharistic species, or the body that is the Church. In all three cases we have a union of the human and the divine. The same union of human and divine must also characterize our lives. We are challenged to radically consecrate and entrust our meagre human contributions to the Lord, and he will transform them into something marvellous! This is what happened in the lives of the saints. Take Francis of Assisi, for example, a man who had a short life and who had little power or influence in worldly terms. He made his offering to the Lord and look what the Lord has done with it! Similarly, we are challenged to offer our daily trials and efforts to the Lord. If we have difficulties or tribulations, let us offer them to the Lord on the altar along with the body of Christ. Jesus will transform them into something that gives us and the world divine nourishment.

In both the first reading and the Gospel we are challenged to view everything from the perspective of God’s providence. Ordinary things can be infused with the divine if only we entrust them to God
This week, to celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, we have the account of the multiplication of loaves and fishes from St Luke’s Gospel. This is illuminated by the first reading from Genesis, which presents the mysterious and inexplicable figure of Melchizedek. Melchizedek, we are told, is king of Salem. He takes out bread and wine and blesses Abraham. What incredible richness is contained in so few words! Long before the Jewish priesthood, hundreds of years before even Moses comes on the scene, we are presented with this image of a priest who illuminates the story of Abraham like a thunderbolt from the sky. Abraham has just been successful in battle and he offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving. In other words, he dedicates everything to the Lord, the finality and ultimate end of everything for Abraham is in God. In the Gospel story, we see a similar entrustment of everything into the hands of the Lord. The apostles wish to avoid the problem of the hunger of the crowd by sending them all into the villages to find food. Jesus, instead, wishes to teach the apostles that problems must be confronted and lived out in God. In other words, Jesus’ approach to life is that of one who is in a relation of sonship with the Father. The apostles, by contrast, look only at the meagre fact of the paltry loaves and fishes at their disposal. Their gaze does not rise above a flat and pragmatic human perspective.

The body of Christ, whether we speak of Jesus’ physical body, the Eucharistic species or the body that is the Church, is a reality that incorporates a fundamental unity of the human and the divine. In a similar way, we are challenged to entrust our meagre human offerings  to the Lord so that they might bear a divine harvest
On this Feast of Corpus Christi we can speak in three different senses of the body of Christ. Firstly, there is the real body of Jesus who is fully human and fully divine. Then there is the Eucharistic species which we celebrate on this feast. The bread and wine are ordinary things that contain within them the presence of Christ in a full and complete way. Finally there is the Church of which Christ is the head and we are the members. In all three cases we have a happy and paradoxical co-existence of the human and the divine. Christ’s resurrected body is the body of a man but also that of the second person of the Holy Trinity. The Church has a divine head but its members are human. And this is celebrated in the Eucharist where we have the simple elements of bread and wine, which remain bread and wine, but constitute also the authentic presence of Christ. And this twofold mystery is also present in our lives. We are called to live the daily, commonplace and material things of our lives with God. In this way, the human elements of our lives become something more; they become “sufficient” in the same way that five loaves and two fishes become food for thousands of people. We see this in the lives of many saints. Even though they may be small and limited, nevertheless wonderful works of God are accomplished in them. St Francis had a short life that was limited in many respects, but how many people throughout history have been nourished by the abundance that God has brought forth from the humble offering of this man!

If we offer our problems to the Lord on the altar during Mass in union with the body of Christ, then those things are transformed and “multiplied” by him into divine nourishment for ourselves and the world
Let us live everything so that it becomes Christ. The Feast of Corpus Christi is a feast that calls us to give what we have to Christ so that God can take that everything and make it into a reality that is filled with the divine. If we are living through a tribulation of some sort, and we offer that tribulation to the Lord along with the body of Christ on the altar during Mass, then that tribulation will become an essential part of the story of our salvation. The anguish and sufferings that we have - when offered to Christ during the Mass - are taken and broken by him and multiplied so that they become beautiful and healthy nourishment. Innumerable Christians have seen their small offerings transformed into an abundant harvest by the Lord; they have witnessed mere material things become the seat of the action of God. God is completely transcendent but he becomes something that we can experience. How many times we offer words that are merely human to people in difficulty, and with these words we help them to escape from spiritual darkness and introduce them to a new life. How many times people are led to the faith by our finite and inadequate words! This is a manifestation of the body of Christ present in the Church. The Eucharist expresses the challenge of existence in which we are called to live every aspect of our lives in union with God. Everything is designed, ordained and set before us by Providence as a potential eruption of the presence of God.

Friday, 20 May 2016

May 22nd 2016. Feast of the holy trinity
GOSPEL:  John 16:12-15
From a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio

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GOSPEL:  John 16:12-15
Jesus said to his disciples:
"I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.
He will not speak on his own,
but he will speak what he hears,
and will declare to you the things that are coming.
He will glorify me,
because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.
Everything that the Father has is mine;
for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you."
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The Feast of the Trinity is not simply about trying to understand the mystery of the Trinity: it is about living the life of the Trinity. The Trinity is the foundation of everything. The world did not spring from darkness and obscurity but came into being out of the vivacious fecundity within the Trinity. And the Trinity does not just explain the mystery of the world, it also explains the mystery of human nature. Just as God cannot be understood apart from the relationships within the divinity of fatherhood, sonship and mutual love, so too human nature cannot be understood separate from the fact that we are children of God, and brothers and sisters  of each other. The meaning of our life, the secret of our identity, is that we are created in the image of the Trinity and called to be nurturers of relationships of love with all who surround us. I can accomplish a million things, but if I do not centre my life on authentic relationships with God and others, then my existence is a failure, I am cut off from my true identity.

The Trinity is not only a mystery to be understood but a relationship to be lived.
This week’s readings seek to help us meditate on the mystery of the Trinity, but even more important than comprehending the mystery of the Trinity is living it. The Gospel tells us how the Holy Spirit helps us to live the life of God from within, as an interpersonal relationship. As the passage says, the Holy Spirit does not speak of himself. He is humble and one of his characteristics is that he never speaks in relation to himself. He is love and is totally directed towards that which is loved. Jesus tells us that the Spirit “will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you”. The Holy Spirit will enter into us and announce to us the things of the future, speaking to us of the glory of Christ. In Hebrew, the word “glory” refers to the real substance or value of something. What a curious thing: reflection on the glory or authentic meaning of Christ reveals to us the course of the future! And also curious is the revelation that the Holy Spirit will reveal to us the intimate connection between the Son and the Father. The heart of Jesus is that of a joyful Son who loves his Father, a Son who looks to his Father with the greatest love possible, someone who is happy to be the Son of such a Father. Thus the Holy Spirit introduces us to the tenderness of the Father and the joyful sonship of Jesus. It is in this relationship that the Holy Spirit moves.

The world did not spring from darkness and obscurity but from the loving reality of inter-Trinitarian life
The first reading from Proverbs speaks to us of precisely this relationship. Before the mountains and the land were formed, before the rivers or clouds came into being, this relationship of the Trinity existed. It would not be easy to explain the full Christological significance of this text. Nevertheless we see how this passage expresses the joy, delight and pleasure that is inherent in the nature of God. And we see how the creation of the world springs from this interchange of love. Being springs from the reality of love. We tend to think that the world sprang from darkness or obscurity, but it is the vivacious reality of the Trinity that lies at the foundation of everything.

Not only do we understand creation in terms of the Trinity – we also understand our own nature
Furthermore, we understand our own nature by reflection on the Trinity. Our existence as spouses, consecrated persons, workers, citizens, friends, involves a complicated network of relationships, and, for all the problems and blockages inherent in our lives, we can see that we have been created for relationships of love. If we live in order to maintain our own individuality and egoistic freedom, then our lives are a failure. Live finds its meaning when it is directed towards relationships of love. It is not important to be beautiful or ugly, old or young, rich or poor, famous or unknown. What counts is to be in relationships of love! It is not important who we are but who we are with. The Trinity is defined by paternity, sonship and love. God does not have an essence separate to paternity, sonship and love. Similarly, our human nature cannot be understood separate from our capacity to be children of God, brothers and sisters of each other, and cultivators of life – parents, siblings, friends. Life is beautiful when we are together and life becomes hell when we are isolated in complete solitude.

The meaning of life is not our accomplishments but our relationships
The Feast of the Holy Trinity is a great opportunity to centre our lives on the revelation that we have been created to live in relationship, to foster relationships, to resolve the difficulties of relationships through love. The only way to explain the meaning of our existence, the truth about our identity, is in terms of love for God and love for the people in life that God has surrounded us with. We can accomplish a million things, but if we do not centre our lives on a simple authentic openness towards relationship with others, then we have failed. The meaning of life is found in our relationships with others.

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