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.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

May 15th 2016. Feast of Pentecost
GOSPEL:  John 14:15-16; 23-26
From a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio
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GOSPEL:  John 14:15-16; 23-26
Jesus said to his disciples:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.
“Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.
Those who do not love me do not keep my words;
yet the word you hear is not mine
but that of the Father who sent me.
“I have told you this while I am with you.
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.”
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . Jesus promises us the gift of the Holy Spirit. How are we to enter into this relationship of union with the Spirit? The Gospel tells us that we must first love Jesus, then observe his commandments. A mechanical observation of commandments does not constitute authentic love for Jesus! So our priority must be to get to know Jesus, draw close to him and fall in love with him. This will enable us to keep his commandments. Once we do that, then the Father will send us the Holy Spirit who will help us to do wonderful things. Among the actions of the Holy Spirit that Jesus mentions in the Gospel is his teaching to us of all things, and his reminding us of everything that Jesus has taught us. The Holy Spirit wishes to teach us everything, but he can only do so if we have the humble and open attitude of the disciple. The Spirit cannot teach us anything if we already think that we know everything! And, secondly, the Holy Spirit helps us with the management of our memories. God has been working in our lives and bestowing graces upon us. The Spirit aids us in putting Jesus at the centre of our memories so that we come to interpret every moment of the past in terms of the saving action that Jesus has been performing in our lives since the beginning. He aids us in eliminating the negative and useless memories that drag us down, purifying our memories so that the grace God has been bestowing on us stands out in relief.

The coming of the Holy Spirit marks a new epoch in history, an epoch that we are privileged to participate in
The first reading from Acts recounts the event of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This event goes beyond the Gospels, which finish with the account of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It tells of a gift which is also for us, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. It announces the beginning of a new epoch. The epoch of Jesus was that of the work of redemption, an epoch which followed that of the Father revealing himself to the people of Israel through his saving works. Now we are in the long and wondrous epoch of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in humanity, the Spirit of the Son of God which transforms us into alter Christus – another Christ – and makes the Church the body of Christ. This gift enables us to relate to God as his children, no longer as foreigners.

How are we to live this life of union with the Spirit? By getting to know and love Jesus
How are we to live this relationship? The Gospel says, “If you love me, observe my commandments”. Jesus does not say, “If you observe my commandments then that means you love me”. We must begin with love and devotion to Christ, and then obedience to him follows naturally. If we have this relationship, then the Father will give us this other Counsellor who will remain with us forever. Jesus is the first Counsellor but he does not remain forever in the same sense. When Jesus was anointed at Bethany he remarked that he would not be with them forever. But the Holy Spirit, by contrast, does remain, whether we are waking or sleeping. Nothing is profane any longer; everything becomes holy through the presence of the Holy Spirit. We see in the first reading how this presence can transform timid and fearful apostles into forthright proclaimers of the word, people who accomplish greater things than Christ and manage to evangelize the entire Mediterranean world and parts of India.

The Holy Spirit teaches us everything, but he can only do so if we are humble and open to him. If we think we already know everything, then he cannot operate within us.
The Holy Spirit is the “Consoler”. In moments of difficulty and tribulation, the Spirit reassures and steadies us. He also “teaches us everything”, putting into our hearts an attitude of discipleship, an attitude of openness and humility in the face of life, a recognition that we always have something to learn. Life thus becomes a constant reception of new knowledge, a deeper comprehension of the things that matter. If we believe that we already know everything then we obstruct the action of the Spirit in our lives. The Holy Spirit is humble and respectful towards us; he can only speak to those who are willing and able to listen. Certainly, he is truth, and he cannot co-exist with falsehood, deception or mediocrity, but his mode of operation is nevertheless subtle and non-coercive.

The Holy Spirit purifies and regulates our memories, assisting us to put Christ at the centre of the events of our lives, and aiding us in eliminating that which is negative and destructive

Jesus says that the Spirit will remind us of everything that has been taught to us. The Spirit aids us with the regulation of our memories – the “metabolism” of the events that we experience and the putting of Christ and his word at the centre of these events. In other words, the Holy Spirit assists us to have a memory in which everything that has happened to us is evaluated in terms of the word of Jesus. Thus, our attitude towards life is dominated by the discourse that Jesus has addressed personally to our hearts. The Holy Spirit acts by constantly refreshing the memory of the graces that God has bestowed upon us, constantly reminding us of the eternal significance of our marriage vows, of our commitments in the field of work, of our dedication to our vocation, of the fact that the heavens and earth will pass away but the word of the Lord will not pass away. The Spirit assists us in preserving our memories of that which is fruitful and stable and eliminating that which is of no use whatever. How beautiful it is to live in union with the Holy Spirit and to always have something new to learn!

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Gospel: Luke 24:46-53
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 24:46-53
 Jesus said to his disciples: 'You see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.
 'And now I am sending down to you what the Father has promised. Stay in the city then, until you are clothed with the power from on high.' Then he took them out as far as the outskirts of Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. Now as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven. They worshipped him and then went back to Jerusalem full of joy; and they were continually in the Temple praising God.
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The Ascension of Jesus shows us that the ultimate destination for all of us is the Father. We are already on the way to the Father, whether we know it or not! This passage to the Father becomes evident in our lives whenever we become less oriented towards ourselves and more oriented to the things of God. To help us on the way to the Father, Jesus bequeaths us with a precious gift, a new garment that descends on us from high. This garment is the Holy Spirit. After the Fall, Adam and Eve dressed themselves with leaves, the things of the earth. We all cover ourselves with the things of the earth! We dress ourselves with our successes, the way we look, our talents, our public image. These are just ways to cover the vulnerability and poverty that all of us feel. When we are clothed with the Holy Spirit, by contrast, we are clothed with the knowledge that God loves us and that everything is taken care of by his wonderful providence. We feel at peace and fear nothing. But where do we receive this new garment? How do we become clothed with the Holy Spirit? The Gospel tells us that after the Ascension the disciples gathered continually to praise God. We must do the same. It is in the liturgical gatherings of the Church that we encounter God, listening to his word and receiving the power of Jesus through the sacraments. Gradually, step by step, slowly but surely, bit by bit, we are “clothed with power from on high”. Then we begin to live as children of God, leaving all things to his providence.

The Ascension shows us that our ultimate destination is the Father. We show in our daily lives that we are already on the way to the Father whenever we become less oriented to ourselves and more oriented to heavenly things.
This Sunday we contemplate and celebrate the Ascension of Our Lord. The destination of the risen Lord is heaven. The life of Jesus is a journey in which he descends to earth and then leads the way to heaven. His victory over death is not his stopping place. His true destination is his Father in heaven, and he reveals to us that our destiny is just the same - to go to the Father. Through his incarnation, passion, death, resurrection and ascension, we learn the marvellous news that our ultimate destination is not a place but a relationship. We can already experience this passage towards the Father in our daily lives. We feel the paschal transformation in our lives whenever we become less oriented towards ourselves and more oriented towards the Father. This happens often through our personal experience of the Cross, which can shake us, transform us, orient us, to the Father, through the grace of Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
This fact should lead us to contemplate heaven constantly and to evaluate the worth of things in the light of heaven. That which does not go to heaven has little value. The devil tempts us to worry about the future, but not about eternity. The future is doubtful, whereas eternity is something certain. Eternity is the love of the Father that has been prepared for us and which we can accept or decline in freedom. Oh, how our lives are preoccupied by trivial things that we believe represent our futures! Our ultimate future is heaven and this should dominate everything that we do.

We are destined to go to the Father. To get there we must be clothed with power from on high. To be clothed with power we must gather with the Christian community in the liturgy
Where is the road to heaven? What does it mean to live life as a journey towards the Father? In this Gospel, Jesus gives precise indications for doing just that. Remain in the city then, until you are clothed with the power from on high”. The disciples have experienced the Risen Lord and are now given directions for what they are to do next. These directions also apply to us. The disciples were told to remain in the city. As the Church developed, the holy city of Jerusalem (the nucleus of the early Church) came to be represented by the liturgical gathering, a place for encountering the Lord in community. The Lord manifests himself in the liturgy and Jesus asks that we “remain” in this gathering so that we can be “clothed with power from on high”. This refers to the evolution and growth that takes place within us as a result of what happens to us in the liturgical gathering. It is when we cultivate the time to contemplate God and receive the sacraments, when we gather and take on the attitude of praising the Lord, then, slowly but surely our “garment” changes. We become clothed with a garment that descends from above, the Holy Spirit.

We need to be clothed from above, but in reality we are clothed from below. We cover our insecurities and emptiness with the garment of success and public image
This notion of being re-clothed finds its origin in the third chapter of Genesis. After the Fall, humanity has a sense of nudity or poverty before God. To cover this nudity, we cover ourselves with a garment that comes from below, not from above. When Adam sins and breaks his relationship with God, he realizes that he is naked. In other words, he cannot come to terms with his own impoverishment. He has lost the paternal embrace of God and feels exposed and fragile. So what does he do? He takes the things of earth, the leaves from the trees, to cover himself. And even though he has covered himself, he still does not have the courage to confront the gaze of God. In the very same way we dress ourselves with the things of the earth, we dress ourselves with vainglory, we dress ourselves with our accomplishments, our successes, our projects. But no matter how much we try to dress ourselves up, we always feel exposed, naked like Adam, lacking authentic protection. The text in Genesis ends with God making garments for Adam and Eve from animal skins. This paternal act of clothing his children prefigures the act of Jesus at his Ascension. The Gospel tells us that Jesus blesses his disciples before ascending. The act of benediction in Scripture represents the moment when a father bequeaths his goods on to his children. At the moment that Isaac blesses Jacob, Jacob comes into his inheritance. In our Gospel reading, when Jesus blesses his disciples, at that moment they come to possess his inheritance, and this inheritance is the fact of being clothed from on high with the Holy Spirit.

To be dressed in the garment of the Holy Spirit is to be dressed in the garment of the providence of God. We no longer fear the future. We no longer feel vulnerable and exposed.
When humanity receives this new garment, it receives a new role in life. We pass from being creatures marked by sin and fear to being dignified children of God. The garment from on high is a sign of the love of the Father for us. What is a true Christian dressed in? The providence of God. The Gospel of Matthew tells us, “Do not worry about what to wear, or what to eat and drink. The pagans worry about these things. Your heavenly Father knows what you need, so seek the Kingdom of Heaven first, and all of these things will be added”. The heavenly garment, in other words, is the relationship with the Father. The garment is the inter-Trinitarian love of God, the Holy Spirit, that descends from above and, all at once, frees us from our nudity and fear.

We receive this new garment gradually, step by step, by participating wholeheartedly in the liturgy

Where is the place that this new garment descends on us from on high? Where do we receive the power of the Holy Spirit, who makes us new? The Gospel tells us that the disciples gathered together and continually praised God after the Ascension. By being present in the liturgy of the Church, we are gradually brought to the truth. The liturgy permits us to encounter God directly and, through the sacraments, the power of Jesus himself becomes present in our lives. It is through the liturgy that we are clothed with the power from on high that is described in this week’s Gospel. We are no longer clothed with our own works but with the work of God. It is one thing to try to confront reality with our own capacities, our own ways of doing things, our own ways of protecting ourselves. It is a different matter entirely to be vested with the knowledge that the Father loves us, protects us, guides us, does not abandon us, remains with us always. This garment helps me to face all things with incredible peace. The garment that we usually wear is that outward appearance that we show to the world, the role that we have in the world. But the new garment derives from our new role, which is to live a life in relationship with God, made possible by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. To be clothed with this new garment is to be already given over to Christ, to be his property. We must remain in the “holy city”, i.e., participate wholeheartedly in the liturgy until we are, slowly but surely, clothed with this new garment.

Friday, 29 April 2016

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

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Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 25 April 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 15 April 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday Gospel Reflection