Saturday, 12 August 2017

August 13th 2017. Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL: Matthew 14,22-33
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

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

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GOSPEL: Matthew 14,22-33
After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat
and precede him to the other side,
while he dismissed the crowds. 
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. 
When it was evening he was there alone. 
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore,
was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. 
During the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them walking on the sea. 
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. 
"It is a ghost," they said, and they cried out in fear. 
At once Jesus spoke to them, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid." 
Peter said to him in reply,
"Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." 
He said, "Come." 
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. 
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" 
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter,
and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" 
After they got into the boat, the wind died down. 
Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,
"Truly, you are the Son of God."
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kierans summary . . . This Sunday’s Gospel recounts the calming of the storm. Jesus wishes to go away by himself to pray, so he "makes” the disciples go across the lake by themselves. It is very significant that Jesus constrains the disciples in this way. They are experienced fishermen and would have been aware that the lake was prone to storms after the heat of the day. Often the Lord places us in situations that we would prefer not to be in. St Francis of Assisi abhorred leprosy, but the Lord in his providence placed Francis in the midst of lepers and Francis was transformed as a result. Similarly with each one of us. The Lord places us in situations we do not desire. As a result we call upon his name and we are able to do extraordinary things. When Peter sees Jesus walking upon the water, he tries to walk on the water too. Jesus has no problem with this. He wants us to do extraordinary things, to live the life of children of God. Peter is able to walk on the water for as long as he keeps his gaze fixed on Jesus, but when he looks to the storm he begins to sink. We are stronger than the adversities of life only for so long as we look to Jesus in faith. While we do this, the Lord can accomplish great things in us.

Elijah encounters God in an unexpected way and becomes an unstoppable man of God to the end.
The first reading recounts a fundamental experience in the life of the prophet Elijah. It is a time of grave crisis in the faith of Israel. During his struggles, Elijah is involved in an epic confrontation with the prophets of the Canaanite gods. He flees, but the Lord takes him to himself in the passage that we read on Sunday. Elijah is taking refuge in a cave of Mount Horeb. Recall that this same prophet would appear with Moses when Jesus climbed the mountain at the Transfiguration. Moses represents the Law whilst Elijah represents the prophets. In the account that appears in the first reading, Elijah has an experience of the Lord and recognizes him. As a result of this experience, the prophet is completely transformed and becomes an unstoppable man of God until the end.

Sometimes the Lord asks us to do what is difficult, to “go to the other side” even though we do not want to go
In the passage from Matthew proclaimed this Sunday, we hear of an experience that is fundamental and essential to the Christian life. The parallels with the first reading are clear. Just as Elijah had a real encounter with God, so the disciples in the Gospel have an experience that leads them to recognize that Jesus is the Son of God. There is an interesting phrase in the Gospel one could easily pass over: “After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat”. The word “made” seems to indicate an aggressive attitude on the part of Jesus. In fact, the term used by Matthew in the Greek version of the Gospel found in the Septuagint (which we consider to be divinely inspired) is used elsewhere on occasions when people are being forced to do something. Why is this term used? One third of the disciples were originally fishermen and they were being asked to go to the other side of the sea, a command that would not have been easy for them to accept. The notion of crossing to the other side is particularly significant insofar as it recalls the Exodus and the sea that kills the enemy and saves the chosen people. This event, in fact, is at the centre of the Hebrew liturgy and a fundamental event in their history. The disciples in the Gospel, experienced fisherman as they are, are being asked to cross a sea with very particular characteristics at evening time. The sea of Tiberius has certain currents that give rise to storms in the late afternoon and evening. So the disciples are being given a task that is doubly challenging. Firstly, crossing to the other side is an action that has Paschal overtones, and they are being asked to do it without Jesus! Secondly they are being asked to do something that they know is ill-advised.

To dissolve the knots in our hearts, the Lord impels us to be where we would prefer not to be
In the end they go only because they are constrained to do so by Jesus, not because they want to. How often this happens to us in life! The Lord often wishes to give us no option but to do things that we would prefer to escape from. In the Book of Job we find the curious phrase, “That which I fear is happening to me”. Sometimes, to dissolve the knots in our hearts, the Lord must permit this to happen. He conspires to place us at the centre of things that we would prefer to flee from. Our lives are conditioned by our desire for personal wellbeing, by the tendency to flee from what is unpleasant. The case of St Francis of Assisi is emblematic in this respect. He had a horror of leprosy. As he says in his testament, it was a bitter thing for him even to see a leper, but the Lord in his providence brought him in the midst of lepers. This experience of being in a situation that he abhorred led to a complete transformation in Francis. The knots within him were dissolved and his tastes, preferences and priorities were all changed.

When we are in a situation that we abhor, that we cannot control, then we turn to the Lord and he replies, “Courage! It is I!”
The disciples must be brought to an awareness of their own limitations, and this happens through the storm and the reawakening of the fisherman’s fear of the ungovernable sea. They find themselves far out from shore with the wind against them. How often we find the wind against us in the Christian life! At the very moment when it seems that they cannot go on, they see Jesus walking upon the sea. The Lord had gone away by himself to pray, to be with the Father. Jesus is the new man who unites the divine and human natures. Thus he can walk above the storm, above what is difficult and absurd. Curiously the disciples cry out, “It is a ghost!” Christianity is often reduced to a spectre, to an abstraction, to something immaterial, to a beautiful utopia that has nothing to do with real things. But Jesus is no ghost and he says, “Courage! It is I!” This is the word we hear in the midst of the storm that assails us and that dissipates our fears.
For as long as we look to Jesus, we are stronger than any storm, but if we look fearfully at the storm then we find ourselves along and it will overcome us.
Peter asks Jesus to command him to come and walk on the water too. Jesus complies. Does this surprise us? It is for this that the Lord Jesus has come among us: to give us his life, to permit us to share in the things that he does, to make us children of God. Why is Peter unable to walk for long on the water? If we are to do the things of God, then we do them not from our own abilities or talents. Our human nature has no power over the void, over the things that threaten us. When Peter looks to Jesus then he is stronger than the storm, but as soon as he starts to focus on the storm then he must rely on his own capacities, and these are insufficient. We do not possess in our make-up the capacity to defeat our enemies. It is only in our relationship with God, by fixing our gaze intently on him in faith, that we have the solutions to the enigmas of our lives. This Sunday we discover that we can walk upon the water, that we can do extraordinary things, not because we are capable, but because God is capable of doings these things in us. In all things let us look to the Lord, in all things let us walk towards him, and then we will find that we will fly through all adversities, over all the crossings of the sea.

Friday, 4 August 2017

August 6th 2017. Feast of the Transfiguration
GOSPEL: Matthew 17,1-9
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

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

(Check us out on Facebook – Sunday Gospel Reflection)

GOSPEL: Matthew 17, 1-9
Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, 
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them; 
his face shone like the sun 
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, 
"Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here, 
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, 
then from the cloud came a voice that said, 
"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him."
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
"Rise, and do not be afraid."
And when the disciples raised their eyes, 
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.
As they were coming down from the mountain,
Jesus charged them,
"Do not tell the vision to anyone 
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kierans summary . . . In our world, things are normally illuminated by the sun. Whether the sun is shining or not colours everything we see. Our perspective tends to be from our own particular viewpoint. In the Gospel, Jesus takes the three disciples up a mountain and they are enabled to see things from a wholly new vantage point. The sun is no longer the source of light, for the face of Jesus and his garments begin to shine like the sun. Think how different our existence would be if we allowed the light of Christ to illuminate every aspect of it! This light does not come and go but shines constantly because Jesus will never abandon us. But what is revealed to the disciples up the mountain? The Father begins to speak and says, “This is my Son, in whom I delight. Listen to him”. God reveals himself as a loving Father who is utterly absorbed in delight with his Son. But this word is also for us! We are asked to listen to Jesus, to obey him and enter into union with him, becoming his body in the world. Then we begin to perceive that the love and delight of the Father is directed towards us as well. How different our perspective on life when it is illuminated by the light of the paternal love of the Father for us in Christ!

Our human perspective on things is limited. How we need the perspective of God!
The first reading from the book of Daniel is a very solemn and powerful passage. It speaks of a vision of one who is similar to a “Son of Man” and who will be given the kingdom, the power and the glory. He will be an eternal word without end. All peoples and tongues shall serve him. In the Hebrew tradition this figure is a synthesis of everything regarding the promised Messiah. The character of this passage is apocalyptic: it reveals something that lies hidden. The vision occurs to Daniel at night and it permits him to see beyond the darkness. At the time of the vision, the people of Israel had been suffering great oppression under Antiochus Epiphanes (about 175 B.C.) The vision of Daniel shows that a greater power is on its way, a power that seems to be denied by the present situation of misery. But to see something at night time, in the darkness, is already a paradoxical situation. Let us not forget that when Jesus died on the cross there was an eclipse of the sun! The most important event in human history occurred in the darkness, at a time when the light of this world was not shining. The light of this world is not sufficient to permit us to see the things that matter! Inside each of us there is our own kind of human light but often this light is unable to comprehend the nature of things. It is when the powers that prevail collapse, when our own powers are humiliated, when human wisdom seems to have reached its limits – it is then that real wisdom begins. How often we gain true wisdom only when something tragic happens. But this requires us to be open, to open ourselves to that which is greater than our humble capacities of understanding.

The sun illuminates what we see and often colours our perspective on things. When Jesus starts to shine like the sun in my life, then I gain a completely different viewpoint on everything.
Happily, the Feast of the Transfiguration falls on a Sunday this year, permitting us to celebrate it in a more marked way (although the second Sunday of Easter also has the reading of the account of the Transfiguration as part of the penitential preparation for Easter). This passage recounts a story of light, of the reception of light. Peter, James and John are taken away by themselves. This place involves climbing to a height, to a place that is not easily accessible. It is beyond the darkness of mundane things. If we wish to see things in a new way, then we need to attain a new perspective on life. How often we perceive completely new characteristics of a thing once we look at it from a new perspective! We suffer from the limitation of seeing things usually from only a single point of view. Jesus helps the disciples to see things from a wholly different angle. They climb a high mountain and are given this new vision. They see beyond his face, which starts to shine like the sun, while his garments also become luminous. The sun and light are parts of creation. But here the sun is no longer an inanimate object but a man. When we wake up in the morning we see things according to the light. Some days the sun is shining, whilst on other days everything is overcast; the day can be miserable or it can be uncomfortably hot. How we see things depends often on the sun, whether it is present or not. We tend to be happier when it is shining. Imagine what happens when the sun becomes a man, when his face becomes the sun. What this makes possible is to perceive my things according to the light of Christ. I see things in a new way. One of the Psalms says, “In your light we see light”. The Psalms, in fact, often have phrases of the sort, “Hide not your face from me. That I may see your face”.

How different our existence is when it is illuminated by the constant light of Christ!
During their development, children find themselves at a point where they are still attached to their mother but are seeking to detach themselves from her. During this phase of exploration, they seek things that are separate from their mother but at the same time they need to be watched over by her. If they see that she is distracted, they look to her until they receive a reassuring smile that she is still being attentive to them. Similarly, under the gaze of Our Lord, we begin to see things with more courage. Under his gaze, the light that permeates what we see emanates from his face. If he is before us in everything that we do, then everything changes radically. Our being is either closed up in solitude or is open to relationship. Jesus never abandons us so it is as if we are forever under the sun, like on a beautiful day where the light continues to shine no matter where we are.

We are called to listen, obey and become a vibrant part of the body of Christ in the world. The Gospel reveals that the nature of God is that of a paternal Father who delights in his Son. He delights in us too. Let us listen to this text and hear the voice of the Father speaking to us, inviting us to enter into union with his Son and enjoy the paternal love of the Father.
The garments of a person in Sacred Scripture represent a person’s mission. The light from Jesus’ garments give us a sense of what we should do and what we should refrain from doing. Thus to have Jesus illuminate our existence in this way entails to be part of his mission. The Church is called to the sublime mission of being the body of Jesus in the world. The three disciples are given access to this other dimension of reality and it is something that they will never forget. They will have to await the fulfilment of this experience in the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. In this sense, the experience of the Transfiguration is a preparation for what is to come, but they still learn that things can be seen in the light of God. There are a lot of elements hidden in this text. One is the transition from a visual experience to an aural experience. The voice of the Father resounds, “This is my Son, the beloved. Listen to him”. It is interesting that what is heard is a statement about relationship. “This is my Son who is my joy”. This enlightens us to the nature of God, who is a loving Father. We learn that he is paternal joy. When we unite ourselves to Jesus and become one body with him, this word is for us too! We perceive that the Father is filled with joy that we exist! The relationship between the Father and the Son is something that we are invited to enter into as well. It is this happy light that must illuminate our days. This Gospel challenges us to listen, obey and carry into our hearts the way that the Father look on his Son and looks upon all of us: with joy, with the happiness of a proud Father.

Friday, 28 July 2017

July 30th 2017. Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL: Matthew 13, 44-52
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

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

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GOSPEL: Matthew 13, 44-52
Jesus said to his disciples:
"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls. 
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. 
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind. 
When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets. 
What is bad they throw away. 
Thus it will be at the end of the age. 
The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
"Do you understand all these things?" 
They answered, "Yes." 
And he replied,
"Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven
is like the head of a household
who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old." 
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kierans summary . . . In the first reading the Lord tells Solomon that he can have whatever he wants. Instead of asking for riches, or for a long life, or for the defeat of his enemies, Solomon asks for wisdom. What is wisdom? Is it the fruit of a superior intellect? Is it the possession of all the important facts? No! Wisdom involves the capacity to discern between what is worthwhile and what is worthless. It involves the capacity to renounce the things that bind me. It requires detachment from things and the freedom to choose the one thing that matters – Our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Gospel passage, a man sells all he owns in order to have the true treasure, while the merchant gives up everything so that he can possess the pearl of great price. If I am to be a good parent, if I am to have the capacity to love someone truly, if I am to fulfil the mission that the Lord is giving me, then I must renounce earthly things and choose the one thing that matters most – the Lord. The ironic thing is that the person who neglects Christ and goes after the things of this world will end up with nothing at all because the things of this world will one day turn out to be illusory! And the one who renounces everything for the Lord will turn out to have riches beyond compare.

Solomon asks God for wisdom. What is wisdom? Does it come a superior intellect? From possession of all the facts? No, true wisdom requires discernment, the capacity to reject that which leads nowhere, the capacity for renunciation of self.
In the first reading, we hear of the dream of Solomon. Though he is only a young man, the time has come for him to begin his mission and rule the kingdom of his father David. The Lord asks him in the dream to request whatever he wishes. Solomon does not ask for a long life, riches, or for victory over his enemies. Instead he asks for a heart with understanding, a heart capable of discerning. It is very interesting to examine the Hebrew term used by Solomon. It does not refer to a capacity for great erudition or intelligence. Rather it indicates a heart that is capable of listening. Wisdom does not derive from a superior possession of facts but involves a constant openness to reality. It requires a person to place themselves before reality and learn from it. The wise person is not the one who has already learned something from reality in the past but the one who is still open in a constant and humble way to that which the Lord wishes to say to them. An understanding heart is a heart that allows itself to be permeated by the word that it receives.

In the Gospel, those who are wise renounce everything in order to possess the one thing that matters. This is the kind of discernment that is necessary if we are to be able to truly love someone, if we are to be good parents, if we are to fulfil the mission that the Lord gives us.
What do we encounter in the Gospel passage for Sunday? We encounter instances of wise discernment. A man discovers a hidden treasure and sells everything he has to possess that treasure. Wisdom involves discernment. It involves being able to discriminate between that which must be retained and that which must be let go. A wise person does not accept everything. The wise person selects only that which is right. He realizes that the hidden treasure is greater than all of his possessions. Our lives are exactly like that. We must seek to discern where the work of God is located and get rid of everything so that we can be where the hidden work of God is situated. Similarly, the merchant in search of fine pearls sells all that he has in order to possess the greatest pearl. There is something that is worth more than anything else! There is something that we should be willing to do anything in order to possess that thing! In life we must discern where this precious pearl is and do everything in order to have it. How often we try to hold onto other treasures as well! We must learn to renounce everything in order to have one thing only. Only in this way can we be capable of loving a person, of being faithful to our family, of fulfilling our mission, of leaving everything in order to do what is right. This is how life can be lived to the full, by renouncing all that is not the pearl of great price.

As long as I remain attached to things, then I am unable to discern what is good among those things. I must attain independence from the things of this world if I am to have the capacity to discern the things of heaven
A curious path to wisdom appears in this Gospel passage. In order to be rich, one must make himself poor. In order to have the great pearl, one must give up all other pearls. All other goods must be renounced in order to have the only good that really counts. This is how one develops the capacity of discernment: by being no longer a slave of possessions we become oriented to the one true good. When the treasure in the field is discovered, when the pearl of great price appears, then one learns how to renounce all else. There can be no true discernment while one remains attached to his possessions. I cannot choose between different goods if I have made myself dependent on some of those goods. In order to discern from among things, I must have attained independence from everything. In order to receive the true pearl, which is Our Lord Jesus, the disciples and many saints had to leave everything in order to possess him. It is not that love can be bought by selling all that we have. Rather, in order to become disciples of the kingdom of heaven then we must be capable of abiding by the things of heaven and them alone. Saint Philip Neri had a famous saying attributed to him, “I choose Paradise” (“Preferisco il Paradiso”). The road that leads to Paradise is a different one to the road that leads to hell. The path that leads to beauty is not the one that leads to destruction. If we wish to take the path that leads to Paradise then we must avoid the path that leads to hell. The things that are not the true treasure must be thrown away.

Ironically, the one who neglects Christ in order to go after the things of this world will neither possess Christ nor the things of this world! Ultimately these worthless things are illusory. But if I renounce these things then I actually acquire treasure beyond price
In the first reading, Solomon chooses the one thing that matters and as a result everything else is given to him as well. He who decides to attach himself to the worthless things of this world and neglects Christ, will possess neither Christ nor the things of this world because the things of this world are illusory! Curiously, to him who has more will be given. The one who chooses to be seriously connected to Christ will live happily in this world. The few things he has in this world will be enjoyed in their fullness because he is detached from them and does not depend on them. The possession of the true treasure, the precious pearl, indicates that one is free. Thousands of times in life we are required to make this act of selection, of self-abandonment, of renunciation. But in reality this renunciation is in fact acquisition! When something is truly worthwhile, then we must give everything in order to have it. When the Lord presents us with a mission, with something beautiful to do, then we must not turn away towards other things. With our minds fully operational, and in a gradual and prudent fashion, we must take possession of that which the Lord has shown us is truly important. One thousand times we ought to ask ourselves, is this anger worthwhile? Is this anxiety worthwhile? Is this thing really what is best for me? We must direct ourselves to that which is best, that which is deepest, that which is not passing, but which saves me authentically. For this I must renounce everything.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

July 23rd 2017. Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL: Matthew 13, 24-30
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

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

(Check us out on Facebook – Sunday Gospel Reflection)

GOSPEL: Matthew 13, 24-30
Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying:
"The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man
who sowed good seed in his field. 
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. 
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. 
The slaves of the householder came to him and said,
'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? 
Where have the weeds come from?'
He answered, 'An enemy has done this.'
His slaves said to him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'
He replied, 'No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them. 
Let them grow together until harvest;
then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
"First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn."'"
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kierans summary . . . The parable of the wheat and the weeds is a parable that throws much light on human existence. In all of us there are weeds, weeds of duplicity and sin. How should we respond to his fact? By open warfare on all our imperfections? No, imperfections are part of being human. In the last century many monstrous ideologies sought to create utopian societies by eliminating human “problems”. Any focus on human failings is the wrong focus. The fact is that God has sown us with good seed, the best of seed. Our task is to nourish this seed so that it will yield a harvest in God’s own time. The parables of the mustard seed and the yeast reveal that God is working in hidden ways. He is preparing a great harvest for us and all we are called to do is to remain faithful to the good seed that he has planted within us.

Weeds exist within us alongside the good seeds sown by God. A focus on trying to eliminate the weeds can be symptomatic of a perfectionism that is damaging. Instead of being obsessed with the weeds, it would be better to try to nourish the god seed
The first reading this week is a marvellous reading from the Book of Wisdom. We are told of God’s mercy, how he uses his power in a paternal and meek manner. He indulges us, waits for us, remains patient with us. The Gospel reading tells of the weeds in the corn. There are two sowings, the good one and the evil one. And that is how we are, people whose hearts are influenced by two contradictory inputs: the one that originates in the providence of God, his generosity and love; and the one that comes from the Tempter, whose aim it is to put us in difficulty and deceive us. From the time of Eve onwards, these two sowings have been a fact of life for humanity. How can this situation be resolved? Sometimes we tend to think that the evil can be uprooted from our hearts so that we can all present ourselves before God, like soldiers, lined up and perfectly drilled. This is a dream that is dangerous because it is symptomatic of a perfectionism that does not correspond to reality. The existence of evil is a fact that we do not the ability to tackle by ourselves. What is more important is to discern how to live on a daily basis. There are weeds within us. There is something tortuous within us. These things can only be uprooted by God on the last day. It is important for us to realize that these weeds are there. It is essential to acknowledge that the things that come out of our heart have a duplicity about them. They should not be “canonized” by us, as if the weeds were not there. In the last century, many ideologies arose which sought to create a world in which everything was resolved, all human failings were dealt with. It is vital that we realize that this kind of perfection is not possible. Woe to the man who tries to resolve everything! Do we really think that we can do a kind of “ethnic cleansing” inside our hearts, slaughtering everything that is imperfect? This kind of attitude can end up killing also the good seed. It can damage the process of maturation that occurs in our hearts, the sort of patient development that leads eventually to a good result. We must live by discernment, not by spontaneity whereby we make rash decisions about the worthiness of what comes from within us.

The Lord is present in our lives in hidden ways. The parable of the mustard seed and the yeast tell us that the Lord is bringing us to fruition. Our job is to allow him to act.
In all of God’s work with us, there is a hidden element. The longer version of the Gospel speaks of the mustard seed and of the operation of the yeast in the dough. These parables tell us that the Lord does not enter our lives with impatience to castigate us and resolve all problems.  No, the Lord remains hidden in things and saves us in hidden ways. At this point the Evangelist makes a comment – rare for the Gospels - on Jesus’ modus operandi. All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. He spoke to them only in parables, to fulfill what had been said through the prophet: I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world.” The Evil One may have hidden ways of acting, but the Lord is also active in unseen ways. In fact, it is these hidden things that save us. The secret of salvation is something that remains hidden from people from the foundation of the world. That secret reveals itself to us when we realize that despite everything the work of the Lord is being fulfilled. The harvest will come. This harvest may well be at the end of the world, or it may be some upheaval that happens in our lives that leads to knowledge of the truth; we do not know, but what is important is that this line exists and he who remains faithful to that line, to that light that is in his heart, will come to a good end.

The Christian life is not about eliminating sin in a huge and violent battle. Rather, it involves nurturing and cherishing the seed of love and mercy that god has planted in our hearts.

It is good to be aware that belief in God is not something that brings quick results. Belief in God means to remain faithful to that light that one has received. Every human being receives the seed that enables him to recognize the beauty of that which really counts in the midst of thousands of other things. It is this hidden awareness that gives meaning to our lives. There is nothing to be gained by focussing on a full-scale war against the weeds within us. What is important is to nourish the seed within our hearts, to defend that within us which is the fount of mercy, the source of authentic relationships with others. That fount is the love of God for us that we remember deep in our hearts.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

July 16th 2017. Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL: Matthew 13, 1-9
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

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

(Check us out on Facebook – Sunday Gospel Reflection)

GOSPEL: Matthew 13, 1-9
On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. 
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore. 
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
"A sower went out to sow. 
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up. 
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. 
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots. 
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. 
But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. 
Whoever has ears ought to hear."
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kierans summary . . . The first reading tells us that the Word of the Lord is always effective. It does not return to the Lord without having its effect. In the Parable of the Sower, by contrast, Jesus describes three cases (the pathway, the rocky soil, the thorny ground) where the Word of the Lord does not produce fruit. How can we explain this contrast? The fact is that the Lord’s relationship with us does not develop in a single day or in a single “sowing” of his seed in our hearts. All of us reject the Lord’s grace on many occasions during our lives. But these graces are not wasted because often it is when we look back at our own past rejection of the Word sown in our lives that we come to true conversion. We look back at the ways we have wasted God’s blessings and this brings us to humble contrition and authentic openness to what the Lord wishes to do with us. In the longer version of the Gospel (not reproduced above), Jesus speaks dramatically of those who are not saved because their eyes are blind, their ears insensible and their hearts impenetrable. All of us run the risk of being like this, of being barren targets of the Lord’s seed. This Sunday let us look back on the many times we have wasted God’s grace. May this prompt us to be more merciful and welcoming of others and more open and docile to the action of God in our lives.

The first reading speaks of the fact that the Word of the Lord always achieves its purpose, but in the Gospel Jesus recounts a parable in which the Word of God often bears no fruit. How can we understand this contrast?
The first reading this Sunday is a marvellously incisive passage from the prophet Isaiah. We are told that the Word of God is like the rain and the snow: they do not fail to carry out their task of irrigating the earth. So too the Word of the Lord does not return to him without having achieved its purpose. However this declaration of the efficacy of the Word of God seems to be in contrast to the parable recounted by Jesus in the Gospel! The Parable of the Sower expresses the great drama of the relationship between God and humanity. The sower goes out to sow but his efforts have different results. All of this expresses the different ways in which the initiative of the Lord is welcomed by different people. And in contrast to the first reading it seems that the initiative of God does not always have an effect. In the first of the three negative cases given, the seed falls upon the road and is eaten by the birds. In the second case, the seed falls on rocky soil and springs up quickly, but soon dies in the heat. We could say that in the first case there is no openness to receive the Word of God, whilst in the second there is a limited openness. In the third case, the seed falls among the thorns. Here, there is an openness to receive the seed but unfortunately there is openness to the weeds as well. Any farmer will tell you that the weeds are usually stronger than the good plants, so in this case the new seed is suffocated. Surely these are three cases of failure?

God wants us to relate to him in freedom. This means that our “No” is always possible. Sometimes it is only when we when we have said “No” to the Lord many times that we begin to get a perspective on our own misery and failure. These failures were not complete failures if they eventually spur us to turn with humility to the Lord.
How do we square the parable with the first reading? It is necessary to read things a little more deeply. The failure of the seed to produce fruit may not be the immediate effect that the farmer wished to achieve but it is still an effect. It is a fact of life that God’s grace does not - in most cases - arrive in the heart of man and have an abrupt positive outcome. Very often people mature and grow by means of the failures that occur in their lives. We must admit that many graces that have been given to us have been wasted entirely. But the story of a human being cannot be read by a focus on these individual failures. Our development does not happen in a single day. A global perspective on a person’s life is necessary. We are never too wise in our opinions if we look at a person’s development from a narrow standpoint. And, unfortunately, it often happens that it is only at the end of our refusals, failures and frustrations that that which is good in our hearts comes to the surface. Our problems, in the end, are problems of our relationship with the Lord. A relationship of love requires freedom. Our capacity to say “No” is essential if this relationship is to be authentic. Where this freedom is lacking there is no love but dictatorship. God is benevolent towards us and spreads his seed in all directions. He gives all of us the possibility to respond, but he does not impose himself upon us. This means that, inevitably, there is the tragedy of the “No” of man.  When we look back on the many times we said “No”, when we see how we have wasted the grace of God, we gradually begin to open our eyes on who God is.

We are like the stony path if we reject salvation unless it makes sense to my way of understanding the world
In the first case given in the parable (the seed that falls on the path), the “No” of man to the initiative of God is a rejection of the things that he does not understand. In the explanation he gives of the parable, Jesus says that the seed sown on the path refers to the case when the recipient hears the word of the kingdom but does not understand it. Then the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. This is what happens when the human being makes his own categories of understanding absolute. If he does not understand something, then he rejects its potential to save him. But this is simply not true. God can save me though the things that I do not comprehend. How many times I have damaged my soul, my heart and my life because I refused to go beyond that which was intelligible to me.

We are like the rocky soil if we do not allow the Word of God to take root in us. This requires giving the Lord the time and space to penetrate into our hearts.
In the second case, the hearer has all the enthusiasm that comes in the early moments of a positive experience. But he does not allow the seed to take root in him. We need to allow ourselves to be permeated by the wisdom of God. It must be permitted to enter into our hearts. It is not good to flit from one thing to another without reflecting on what is going on in our lives. How often in the life of faith there is a focus on activity. We keep moving from one activity to another. It would be much better to do less and to do it well. In the end we are not saved if we do not allow ourselves to be pervaded by God right to our roots. It is important to realize that the graces given to us are often wasted if we do not allow them to have the space and the time to have their effect.

How often we try to make our faith compatible with the things of this world, attachments to possessions and vainglory. These compromises are not legitimate and will suffocate the Word of God in our lives, preventing it from producing fruit.
The third case is that of the seed sown among thorns. The fixation with worldly things and the seduction of riches suffocate the Word of God and do not allow it to produce fruit. How often we try to combine the things that the Lord is saying to us with other sources of “wisdom”. We seek to find a compromise between the wisdom of God and the comfort of life. We think that we can steer a path between the ways of God and the vainglory of this world, the anxieties that are attached to material possessions. This kind of mishmash is not legitimate, but it is an effect that we can recognize as we look back at our response to the Word of God. A thousand times we have rejected grace because we sought to combine it with something incompatible. We endeavoured to associate unworthy things with the love of God, his grace and wisdom, his holy will.

This Sunday let us allow the Word of the Lord to take root in us. Let us look back at how the Word was rejected by us in the past and allow this knowledge to make us more merciful and welcoming towards others, more open and docile to what the Lord wishes to do with us.

This Sunday we are challenged to allow God’s Word to have its effect at the deepest level within us. Even if his Word has not had its intended effect in the past, it makes us wise. When we behold these past failures on our part, we become more merciful and welcoming towards others. In the longer version of this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus speaks dramatically of those who are not saved because they do not hear with the ears, do not see with the eyes, nor comprehend with the heart. This is a real possibility for each one of us. Our eyes can be blind, our ears can be deaf and our hearts impenetrable. We must recognize this fact and fear it. Many opportunities that went wasted in our lives can now have their efficacy if our contemplation of them helps us to become wise and docile to what God is seeking to do with us. 

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Sunday Gospel Reflection