Friday, 13 July 2018



July 15th 2018. Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL Mark 6:7-13
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 6:7-13
Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses. They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Do not take a spare tunic.’ And he said to them, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set off to preach repentance; and they cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . .In the Gospel Jesus sends out the apostles in pairs, asking them to bring only a staff, no haversack, money, spare sandals or second tunic. Maybe we think that this passage is an exhortation for us to go out and preach the word of God, but it is primarily an exhortation on how to receive the word of God. We must first listen before we can speak. We need to be spoken to by an apostle before we can go out and become apostles. Reading the Gospel in this light, this passage is a splendid opportunity to reorder our way of listening to God’s word. The bearer of the word of God carries a staff, the symbol of the pilgrim and the shepherd. The word of the Lord comes to shepherd me, to guide me to rich pastures. It does not come to bring me satisfactions because, in fact, it comes to liberate me from my slavery to satisfaction. It does not bring me material things (haversack, money, etc.,) because it aims to liberate me from dependency on material things. It liberates me from a fixation with money and helps me to use money for love. It invites me to put on my sandals and get moving with my life. It does not wear two tunics in the sense that it does not bring ambiguity to my life. It is not duplicitous. It does not come to me saying a little bit of “yes” and a little bit of “no”. It wishes to be welcomed by me completely and to remain with me. If I welcome it, then I become a single thing with that word, but if I do not welcome it, then I cannot hold onto it in a partial sense and manipulate it for my ends. In this sense, the word of God kicks the dust of my duplicitous “welcome” off its feet. I must accept the word of the Lord sincerely or it cannot become one with me. Let us become those people who receive the word of God wholeheartedly and allow themselves to be transformed by it!

Amos’ prophesy is rejected because it seems harsh. Would it not have been better if it had been accepted as a word from the Lord intended to shepherd and guide the people?
The first reading is from the prophet Amos. Amos is a man from the southern kingdom of Judah, but he has been sent to Bethel in the north where the priest Amaziah is in command. The Lord reproves the northern kingdom through the words of the prophet Amos and Amaziah will have none of it. He tells Amos to get out of there and return to the land of Judah. Amos replies, “I was not a prophet nor the son of a prophet. I was a shepherd and looked after sycamores, but the Lord took me from my flock and sent me to prophesy to Israel.” We can look at this text from two points of view: that of Amaziah and that of Amos. From the perspective of Amaziah, the words of Amos are bitter and unwelcome. But from the perspective of Amos they are very different. He replies to Amaziah that he is not a prophet by trade but a shepherd and cultivator of the land. So, Amos is saying, why not accept me as a shepherd? Why think of me as an aggressor rather than someone who comes here to nurture and shepherd you?

The word of the Lord comes to me to shepherd me, not to make me richer or to aid my economic success or material well-being.
Let us consider the Gospel reading from this point of view. The twelve are sent out in pairs and given power over impure spirits. We might think that this text is exhorting us to go out and preach the Gospel, but this is true only in a secondary sense. I must first receive the Gospel before I can go out and preach it. Instead of seeing myself in the glorious role of apostle, perhaps I am someone that needs first to be spoken to by an apostle? Let us then, consider this passage as someone who needs to listen to the word. How does the word of the Lord come to me? What form does it have when it arrives to me? The Gospel speaks of being sent out in pairs. The word of the Lord always has this aspect of communion. It never comes to me in an individual form. It is not focussed on individuals or on the self but on something that goes beyond the self. It is always focussed on communion. But this is only a prelude. Jesus tells the twelve to bring nothing with them except a staff, no haversack, money, or spare sandals. The staff is the symbol of the pilgrim and the shepherd. When the word comes to me, it is brought by a pilgrim, by someone in movement. It comes as a shepherd, as something which must shepherd and guide me to rich pastures. It does not bring bread or money to me. It does not bring reward, satisfaction or comfort. It does not come with a “haversack”; in other words, it does not bring resources or material success. It does not make me richer or help my business projects to be more successful. In fact, it might have the contrary effect. It might prompt me to renounce some of these material things. It will invite me to be moved, to be stirred up, and will not permit me to remain in my comfort zone.

The word of the Lord does not have “two tunics”, it is not ambiguous or duplicitous.
Jesus also says not to bring a second tunic. The tunic is the garment that others see on me. It represents my role, my place in society. Jesus invites me not to have two tunics, not to live an ambiguous or duplicitous life, where I wear a different coat for every changing situation, put on a different face for every conversation. The word of God when it comes to me should be clear and unambiguous. It will say to me what needs to be said. And when the word of God enters a house, it will remain there. It comes for me and wishes to remain with me. If I do not accept it, then it will leave me and kick the dust off its feet. The reason for this is that I must either accept it or reject it. The word of God is not something that can be half accepted. If I reject it, then I put myself out of relationship with the word and it is as if it has kicked the dust of my compromising heart off its feet.

Summary of the homily
Let us summarize. This Gospel is a splendid opportunity to reorder our way of listening to God’s word. The word of the Lord comes to shepherd me. It does not come to bring me satisfactions because, in fact, it comes to liberate me from my slavery to satisfaction. It does not bring me material things (haversack, money, etc.,) because it aims to liberate me from dependency on material things. It liberates me from a fixation with money and helps me to use money for love. It invites me to put on my sandals and get moving with my life. It does not wear two tunics and does not bring ambiguity to my life. It does not come to me saying a little bit of yes and a little bit of no. It wishes to be welcomed by me and to remain with me. If I welcome it, then I become a single thing with that word, but if I do not welcome it, then I cannot hold onto it in a partial sense and manipulate it for my ends. Let us become those people who welcome the word of God and allow themselves to be transformed by it!

Sunday, 8 July 2018

July 8th 2018. 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.

Friday, 29 June 2018


July 1st 2018. Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
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 again in the boat
to the other side,
a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.
One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward.
Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying,
"My daughter is at the point of death.
Please, come lay your hands on her
that she may get well and live."
He went off with him,
and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors
and had spent all that she had.
Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak.
She said, "If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured."
Immediately her flow of blood dried up.
She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,
turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who has touched my clothes?"
But his disciples said to Jesus,
"You see how the crowd is pressing upon you,
and yet you ask, 'Who touched me?'"
And he looked around to see who had done it.
The woman, realizing what had happened to her,
approached in fear and trembling.
She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction."

While he was still speaking,
people from the synagogue official's house arrived and said,
"Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?" 
Disregarding the message that was reported,
Jesus said to the synagogue official,
"Do not be afraid; just have faith."
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside
except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official,
he caught sight of a commotion,
people weeping and wailing loudly.
So he went in and said to them,
"Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead but asleep."
And they ridiculed him.
Then he put them all out.
He took along the child's father and mother
and those who were with him
and entered the room where the child was.
He took the child by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum,"
which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!"
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.
At that they were utterly astounded.
He gave strict orders that no one should know this
and said that she should be given something to eat.
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . There are two ill women in the Gospel, one at the point of becoming a woman, and the other whose womanhood has suffered for twelve years. How are these women going to have their lives restored? The little girl is the daughter of the head of the synagogue. Can the Old Testament norms save her now? The other woman has spent all her money on doctors. Can human science or wisdom resolve her problem? St Paul says that the Jews look for miracles whilst the Greeks search for wisdom. These are the two avenues that we tend to go down when we are seeking for salvation. Either we follow the religious instinct, with its search for miracles; or we rely on human wisdom and try to resolve things rationally. The Gospel reveals, however, that it is only when we make contact with Christ (“foolishness” for the rationalist and a “stumbling block” for the religious instinct) that we can attain authentic life. The girl is healed when her father allows Jesus to become her father by laying his healing hands upon her. The woman is healed when she makes physical contact with the Lord. How do we respond to our losses of blood, our emptiness, our crises? With religious practices that are nothing more than our own actions? With the following of solutions that are based simply on human wisdom? Only relationship with Christ our Saviour can bring true redemption!

Two women are in need of life. How are they to attain it?
This Sunday we hear the stories of two women. One is a girl of twelve years old, whilst the other is a lady of unknown age who has suffered a very personal ailment for twelve years. The girl - at the point of becoming a woman – is dying, whilst the other is not able to live her femininity because of her condition. The first reading has a most important passage from Wisdom in which we are told that God did not create death and he does not rejoice in the destruction of the living. Instead he created things so that they might exist. The first thing God calls us to do is to live! We might have many tortured decisions to make but the primary thing for us to do is to live well. We are created for incorruptibility, to endure, to have authentic life. This raises the question of the real challenge facing these two women, one very young, the other an adult.

The girl’s father is head of the synagogue. Can the norms of the old law save his daughter?
In the case of the girl, her father implores Jesus to come and lay his hands upon his daughter. But this is no ordinary father – he is the head of the synagogue. In the Hebrew world, the act of laying hands was very much an act reserved exclusively to the father. For example, in the story of Isaac and Esau we see the relevance of the imposition of hands, which is the moment of the consignment of the inheritance. In the Gospel, Jairus has a daughter who is unable to become a woman. She is twelve years of age, the age at which womanhood begins to manifest itself with the beginning of the menstrual cycle. In the Jewish world, it was an age that marked the passage to adulthood. But this little girl is not going to make it to adulthood, it seems. The father is unable to help her and he turns to Jesus. He is head of the synagogue, immersed in all of the knowledge and norms of the Old Testament, but these norms now seem sterile as he watches his daughter die. The father understands that it is Jesus who can give new life. This responsibility must pass from him to Jesus. He must open himself to a new way of doing things.

The woman has spent a fortune of human wisdom, on doctors and medical help. Can human wisdom save her?
At the same time, we hear the story of this lady who has had a haemorrhage for twelve years. The passage remarks that she has suffered much, not from the haemorrhage itself, but at the hands of many doctors! These doctors attempt to solve her problem using human wisdom, but this lady has a problem that human wisdom is unable to deal with. One can spend all the money in the world trying to resolve one’s difficulties but without effect. It is interesting to parallel this text with the passage from St Paul from 1 Corinthians: “The Jews look for miracles and the Greeks seek wisdom”. Religions tend to have a moralistic aspect to them, but this is not the approach of Christ who operates by grace. We are asked to go beyond the religious instinct, beyond righteousness in the religious sense, beyond rites and devotions that remain solely our own actions. We need the second person of the Trinity to intervene. This head of the synagogue must learn to accept that he is impotent. But we do not need to go beyond simply the religious instinct. We must also go beyond rationality. As St Paul says, the cross of Christ is foolishness to Greeks. Rationality - the wisdom of men – has not healed this woman. Rather it has ruined her materially.

Neither religious practices nor human wisdom can save us. Only contact with Jesus, our true saviour, can bring us to life
How do we respond to our losses of blood, to the emptiness that we encounter, the unexpected tribulations that come our way? Do we respond with the religious instinct, the search for miracles, the mixing of elements of different faiths, or with immature and infantile religious practices? Christ does not bring this. He brings relationship. A father who is no longer able to be a father must accept that the only true father is God. He must consign his fatherhood to Christ. And the woman must touch the Lord, come to life because she has made contact with him. Not with wisdom, not with understanding, not with projects. How often we try to base our pastoral work on sociology, on profound analyses of our problems, but we still do not arrive at life because we have not touched the Lord. We must touch his mantle, have a real experience of him. We must be in contact with his life because it is his life that heals ours. Human wisdom does not provide the solution. It is eminently useful for understanding things, but not for saving things! For salvation we must turn to our only Saviour.

Friday, 22 June 2018


GOSPEL   Luke 1: 57-66, 80
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio
Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading . . .

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Now on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up. ‘No,’ she said ‘he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘But no one in your family has that name’, and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they were all astonished. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him. Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit matured. And he lived out in the wilderness until the day he appeared openly to Israel.
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . This Sunday we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist. His relatives want to give him the name of his father, Zechariah, but Elizabeth insists that he be given the new name indicated by the angel. This is a name that has never before occurred in the family. We see here that God is doing something new. And he wishes to do something new in your life as well. If we are to be open to his redeeming activity, we must stop being fixated with the “old names” and be receptive to the Lord’s grace in the present moment. There is an interplay of names in this Gospel passage. “Zechariah” means “God remembers the past” whilst “John” means “God bestows his grace now”. The whole event of the naming of John the Baptist is filled with symbolism which indicates that the Lord is doing something dramatically new. And he wishes to do the same new things in our lives too! Actually, it is not so much that he does new things as he makes all things new. It is important that we remember, respect and heal the past, but all of this process must be directed towards being receptive to the saving work of God in my life in this very moment.

The relatives of Zechariah want to name the new baby after their father. But God wants to give this child a new name. Something new is happening. And if we are to open ourselves to the action of God in our lives, then we too must be open to inbreaking of God
This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the birth of St John the Baptist. The time has come for the birth of Elizabeth’s son and the end of her shame. The theme of the passage that we read on Sunday is very much centred on the issue of naming the child. The relatives want to call the child after his father, Zechariah. However Zechariah is unable to speak because he has been punished for his unbelief in the words spoken to him by the angel. He is unable to express himself, but Elizabeth insists that the child be called John, even though no-one in the family had this name. Already this is sufficient for our theme! The fact that a new name is being given is an indication that the plan of God is beginning to come into operation. With the birth of John the Baptist, the New Testament commences. Something new is under way, and that is how it is for anyone who wishes to seriously follow the Lord Jesus. Names must be changed. Things must be different than how they were previously in the family. The fact is that all of us have familial rituals that demand obedience, things that must be done in the same old way that they have always be done. But no! We can change the name of things, and if we don’t change them then they will always stay the same. If we do not change our horizons then we will end up going around continually in the same old circles. The Lord Jesus must come and he sends his precursor ahead of him; this is the sign of a development that will alter the course of history. If redemption is to come to my door, then I cannot go on the same old way as before, with the same system of thinking as previously. The name of things must be changed and it can no longer be the old name used in the family.

There is an interplay of names in this passage. “Zechariah” means “God remembers the past”, whilst “John” means “God bestows grace now”. We are called to respect the past, but we do so in a way that is totally oriented to opening our hearts to God’s activity in the present.
The family want to call the child by the father’s name, but Zechariah calls for a means of writing and lets it be known that his name shall be John. As soon as he shows this obedience to the words of the angel, his tongue is loosened. Zechariah has understood that his own name will not be given to this son, and that something greater than his narrow interests has begun to take place. Let us look at the situation a little more closely. There is an interplay here between the two names. Zechariah means “God remembers the past”. Remembering is the theme of the liturgy. Liturgy helps to preserve the memory of the history of Israel. The Passover is the act of remembering the event of liberation. This glorious past is something that must not be forgotten. It often seems the parameter by which our present must be interpreted. But no! This is not the full story at all! The name John means “God bestows grace upon us now”. God at this moment is responding to us with grace. Thus in the interplay of these two names, we make a transition from the past to the present. God is doing something new. As the second letter to the Corinthians states, we no longer need to think of the things of the past. Whoever is in Christ is a new creation. As St Paul says in another place, “I no longer look to the past but I race to the future towards the goal that is set before me”. In other words, we cannot open ourselves to the redemption until we open our hearts and look at what God is doing in our hearts right now. It is not exactly that God needs to do new things: rather, God makes all things new. He gives a new sound, a new heart, a new taste to all of reality. So we should stop thinking that all the great events have already happened. Some people think that the first or second century was when all the significant things occurred, but the century with the greatest number of martyrs was the most recent one! The time in which God is operating is right now! Christians must always live in the present. As Jesus says, do not anguish yourselves about tomorrow, what we will eat or drink or wear; it is the pagans who worry about these things. As Jesus says in the Gospel of St John, he who is born of the Spirit, hears his voice, like the wind, but he does not know where it comes from. We must root ourselves in the God who bestows grace now in unexpected ways. Memory is something very important. It must be cared for and healed. But all of this should be directed at opening our hearts to the activity of God in this moment.

When we are in the process of discernment, we must not be burdened with the expectations of others or the events of the past. Let us open ourselves to the grace of God in this present moment.
With John the Baptist, the activity of God begins. A child is born, something new begins. Often, when a child is born, we have to hope that the aspirations of parents and relatives will allow this child to be himself; that the family will allow him to live his own life instead of living theirs. When young people are trying to discern what to do with their lives, it is very important to relieve them of this burden of the expectations of others. We have to let them know that their name is John and not Zechariah; that God does new things; that God can bring redemption no matter what errors they have made in their lives; that the Lord can make a sterile woman give birth and open the mouth of the dumb, as we see in this Gospel. We can be confident that the Lord bestows his grace now. Let us open ourselves to the grace of God in this present moment.

Friday, 15 June 2018


GOSPEL   Mark 4:26-34
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio
Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading . . .

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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.
The Gospel of the Lord.
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The readings this week present analogies from the world of agriculture. When a farmer sows a seed, it develops a shoot and produces its fruit according to the rhythm of the creator, not according to our impulses. And so it is with the spiritual life. We must respect the rhythm of God in our spiritual development. Just as a farmer cannot expect a plant to produce its fruit instantly, neither can we expect to become like St Francis overnight. And we shouldn’t expect anyone else to become saints in a few easy stages either! It is very damaging to try to force progress in spiritual matters, whether in ourselves or in others. In bioethical matters, it is extremely grave to try to make ourselves the masters of life, deciding when it begins or how it should evolve. And the same is true in matters of faith. God is the author of all things and we must respect his plan and his timing. Our task is not to coerce how things move along, but to respond to what the Lord is doing in our lives. Don’t worry if things begin humbly and appear to be moving slowly! The things of God are often of this sort but become solid, mature and fruitful. The things that are not of God, by contrast, often begin spectacularly but end in disaster. Let us allow ourselves to be carried along by the designs of God!

The liturgy this week presents us with analogies from the world of agriculture
The readings for Sunday speak about horticultural matters. This might seem a banal theme but in reality it is a very serious one. In the first reading from chapter 17 of the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord puts an analogy before his people. He will take a shoot from a cedar tree and plant it on top of the highest mountain. It will become a magnificent tree and demonstrate to all that it is the Lord who makes short trees grow tall and humiliates the great trees. The Lord alone governs these matters. Similarly, in the Gospel. Jesus presents two facts from the world of agriculture. When a sower throws seed on the land, the harvest that results has little to do with the qualities of the man who planted it. The seed produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the grain in the ear. Jesus also holds up the example of the mustard seed, which is tiny but becomes the greatest of shrubs.

Jesus uses parables from everyday life because the life of faith has a dynamism that reflects the rhythm of other things in God’s creation
What is his point? At the end of the Gospel we are told: “He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.” There is a sense in which the discourse of Jesus is veiled and is in need of interpretation. The reading from Ezekiel and the parables from Mark point to the fact that life has its own internal mechanism. Life has a dynamic of its own that cannot either be forced or disregarded. The mustard seed does not jump from being a seed to being a great tree in a single stage. It must first produce a shoot and go through other stages before becoming fruitful. And our spiritual life has a similar pattern. Jesus speaks in parables because – as John Paul II explained in a beautiful homily – all of the world is a parable. All of the world speaks to us of what the Lord wishes to accomplish in us. Life in general has a dynamism that parallels the life of faith.

Just as a seed evolves through its various stages, so too our spiritual lives must be allowed to evolve gradually. It is damaging to try to aspire to the spiritual heights before we are ready
The first point is that life belongs to God. It is God who makes the little tree grow great and brings the great tree low. We like to think that we are in control of our existence. We yearn to govern the progress of our lives, but so often we find that the control we seek has slipped away from us. We discover that life has a rhythm that is different to the one that we would like to impose on it. When we seek to rebel against the logic of life – and this is also a very grave bioethical issue - we find that life rebels against us. We have the delirium of thinking that we can govern and manipulate biological life in all of its stages, failing to realize that life has its own internal wisdom that must be respected. The same is true in the spiritual life. Just as a seed must be allowed to evolve through its gradual stages, so too any forced advancement in spiritual matters is extremely damaging. There is an essential gradualism in matters both anthropological and theological. It is not beneficial to take a person and place him in a situation that is too mature for him. The essential point is that we cannot dictate how things must progress; instead our task is to welcome the situation as it naturally evolves. The spiritual life progresses according to a rhythm that is given only by God. It is a terrible thing when we seek to dictate our spiritual evolution ourselves, aspiring to become like Saint Francis in four easy steps. The illusion that we can attain advanced spiritual development in a short time will only lead to frustration. This consideration is even more important when it comes to dealing with others. We must respect the natural rhythm of spiritual progress. It is damaging to expect them to make a particular spiritual step in response to our hurry. Haste does not lead to productive results, neither in biological matters nor in spiritual ones.

The things of God begin simply but become solid and mature, whilst the things that are not of God often begin spectacularly but end in disaster
That which begins humbly leads to something great. And so it is with the Kingdom of God. We tend to seek that which is glorious and victorious, that which imposes itself upon others, but the Lord wills that his designs begin humbly and evolve in step with his rhythm. Say that a farmer wants his tree to produce its harvest two months earlier than usual: anything he does to try to coerce the tree to deliver up its fruit in advance will have little effect; the fruit comes when it comes. The things of God progress according to his timing, whether we like it or not. These things of the Lord are humble but immensely powerful, whereas the things that are not of God often begin impressively but end in disaster. As with the wedding feast of Cana, the things of the Lord reserve the best wine until last, whilst the things of the world are sweet at the beginning and bitter afterwards. The things of the Lord, begin humbly but become solid and fruitful, whilst the projects that are not of God initiate in a spectacular fashion but disappoint at the end. These mundane things do not go towards eternity but towards death. Let us allow our lives to be carried along by the wisdom of God!

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Sunday Gospel Reflection