Friday, 18 January 2019

January 20th 2019.  Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL John 2:1-11
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 2:1-11
There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited. When they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the wedding was all finished, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine’. Jesus said ‘Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not come yet.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ There were six stone water jars standing there, meant for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews: each could hold twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’, and they filled them to the brim. ‘Draw some out now’ he told them ‘and take it to the steward.’ They did this; the steward tasted the water, and it had turned into wine. Having no idea where it came from – only the servants who had drawn the water knew – the steward called the bridegroom and said; ‘People generally serve the best wine first, and keep the cheaper sort till the guests have had plenty to drink; but you have kept the best wine till now’.
This was the first of the signs given by Jesus: it was given at Cana in Galilee. He let his glory be seen, and his disciples believed in him.
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The Gospel recounts the story of the wine running out at the wedding feast of Cana. A marriage feast is an image of the best of relationships, and is often used to symbolize the joy of a proper relationship with God. But the fact is that, sooner or later, the wine runs out in all human relationships! All relationships eventually encounter crises, but a crisis doesn’t mean that the relationship should be broken off or abandoned! A crisis is an opportunity to begin relying on God. Only the Lord can be the basis of a bond that is good and permanent. The crisis is an opportunity to lift the relationship onto a higher level. In the Gospel, when the wine runs out, what does Our Lady do? She turns to Jesus and instructs everyone to do as he says. When crisis comes in life then we must stop relying on our own strategies. Instead we must abandon ourselves in obedience into the hands of Jesus. When we abandon ourselves to him in obedience, then the wine begins to flow! Then we begin to live joyful and productive lives!

In the first reading and in the Gospel, the relationship of God and humanity is represented by the image of a wedding feast.
The first reading contains the beautiful spousal call that is found in the book of Isaiah. The people of Israel will be like a glorious crown held by the hand of the Lord.  “As a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you”. The paradigm of marriage is used to describe what salvation will be like. The Gospel for Sunday recounts the first sign worked by Jesus. It is good that the Gospel uses the word “sign” instead of miracle, because the notion of “sign” points to the deeper meaning of the event. Once again, as in the first reading, the relationship of God and humanity is represented by the wonderful, joyful occasion of a marriage feast. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus begins his public ministry by means of a sign worked at a wedding celebration.

The wine runs out in all human relationships. All relationships eventually encounter crisis. This crisis is an opportunity to begin relying on God. Only he can be the basis of something good and permanent. The crisis is the opportunity to lift the relationship onto a higher level
This text has infinite meaning and richness. Through the ministry of the Blessed Virgin, the power of God erupts during this wedding. As we know, the wine runs out at one point. We should note that marriage is considered the model and highpoint of all human relationships, paternal relations, maternal relations, friendship. And all relationships experience the day when the “wine runs out” – a moment of crisis looms. I know of no human relationship which does not one day have to confront the moment of the desert experience, aridity, emptiness. Wine represents joy, colour, cheerfulness and happiness; the day will come in all human relationships when it will dry up. It is not that the marriage is a mistake if crisis comes: it is when crisis comes that the marriage has the potential truly to begin. Friendship becomes more profound when it is presented with difficulty. Any relationship of collaboration has the potential to become more robust at the moment when confrontation and conflict arise. When parents are no longer able to communicate with their children and don’t know what to do: this shouldn’t be thought of as a moment that should never have arisen – it is a necessary stage of development. It is impossible to live an authentic life except through what we call the Paschal mystery - the moment when there appears to be no more life; when our capacities are no longer sufficient to save the situation. We are inclined to think that if something is right then it should be able to proceed without ever encountering difficulties. But, no, situations that are right are those that know how to confront emptiness. Human life, ironically, is something for which the human being by himself is not enough. Human life is a call to love, love of a spousal kind, where we must go beyond ourselves, beyond the limits of our own talents and capacities. In order to love to the end, it is not enough to have the intention to do so. Our good will, at most, can predispose us to grace. Love is a theological virtue and comes only from God. God has written his love in human hearts and lots of non-Christians are capable of it. But only the creator can overcome the void that one day confronts all human relationships.

In the Gospel the wine runs out and what does Our Lady do? She turns to Jesus and instructs everyone to do as he says. When crisis comes then we must stop relying on our own strategies and instead abandon ourselves in obedience into the hands of Jesus
In the Gospel story, when the wine runs out, the servants are told to fill the jars with water. The Blessed Virgin had said to them, “Do whatever he tells you”. It is important to arrive at our limits in order to discover that God, in that moment, asks for our obedience; to proceed according to his designs; refrain from following our own strategies and instead abandon ourselves to his. Our Lady is the expert at this. She said, “Let it be done unto me according to your word”. She tells the servants to do what Jesus wants and then something extraordinary happens. I usually seek to save situations on my own initiative, only to discover that I am unable. At this point I can abandon everything, which is the case with many marriages that fold up once a crisis arrives. But who says that crisis signifies the end of a relationship? It is a sign of the beginning, but the crisis can only be resolved if I cease to rely on my own strengths. It was this reliance that led to the crisis in the first place! And the crisis is the occasion to abandon oneself into the hands of God and seek to obey him! Pass over to the other side and rely on his strategy. May God allow us to appreciate how he manifests himself through our poverty and humble obedience. It is a curious thing that Jesus changes the water into wine without moving an inch. It is we servants who perform the miracle by filling the jars with water. The Lord tells us what to do and it is our hands that have the joy of performing the beautiful works. May the Lord truly grant that we come to know him through obedience, which is the way out of our emptiness and crises.

Friday, 11 January 2019

January 13th 2019.  The Baptism of Our Lord
GOSPEL Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
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 3:15-16, 21-22
The people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
"I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
After all the people had been baptized
and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,
heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him
in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven,
"You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased."
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . At the time of John the Baptist, people were expecting the Messiah to come soon, but what happened at the baptism of Jesus took everyone by surprise. It was expected that the Messiah would be a righteous man who would call others back to a proper fulfilment of our duties before God. But what happens during the baptism is a stunning piece of divine revelation. The spirit hovers over Jesus and we hear the words of the Father, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”. At the beginning of Genesis, the Spirit hovered over the waters and brought forth creation. Now he hovers over the waters of the Jordan and the new Adam, the beloved Son, emerges. And this is crucial for the understanding of our own baptism. When we reflect on Jesus emerging from the water, we should imagine that each one of us emerges with him to hear the voice of the Father who delights in us. The tragedy of humanity is our distrust in the loving fatherhood of God. At baptism, the Holy Spirit comes upon us and seals our identity as beloved children of a tender Father. The real work of evangelisation is the task of communicating to people that God is a loving Father who delights in each one of us.

During the baptism of Jesus, we get a major glimpse into the life of God. He is not an abstract task-master but a Father who delights in his Son
The feast of the Baptism of Jesus opens with a wonderful text from the so-called “Book of Consolation” of the prophet Isaiah: “Console my people, console them, says the Lord. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and tell her that her tribulation is over, her sin is expiated.” What is this consolation that is spoken of here? John the Baptist prepares for the arrival of the Messiah and the time arrives for the baptism of Jesus. This year we read the account from Luke’s Gospel. Luke is the only one of the Evangelists who specifies that Jesus is in prayer at the moment of baptism. The heavens open and we hear the voice of the Father who speaks to Jesus, “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”. This might seem like a sort of private moment between the Father and the Son, but the reality of what Luke wishes to describe is much different. The people had been wondering if John the Baptist was the Christ. In fact, John seemed to fit the bill, humanly speaking. He was sincere, upright, demanding, conscientious. But he responds, “I am only water. What needs to come is something very different - spirit and fire”. The expectations of the human heart are insufficient in this case. In fact, Luke’s passage makes much of this distinction: human expectations are of a certain sort, but what God intends to accomplish is something unheard of. This unexpected something is revealed by the words uttered by the Father, a phrase that gives us a glimpse into the heart of God: “You are my beloved Son. In you I am well pleased”. In other words, God has a burning inner joy. He is not something merely ethical or abstract or impersonal. He is a father who rejoices in being father. Here we have a revelation of God which is intended by the Lord to stir the human heart. The voice, after all, is heard aloud. It is not a private utterance between Father and Son.

In Genesis, the Spirit hovered over the waters at the moment of creation. Here at Jesus baptism, the Spirit is gain hovering and now it is the beloved Son who emerges from the water.
Jesus is in prayer at the moment of baptism, and we can discern the content of his prayer. While he is praying, the heavens open. The relationship between heaven and earth is no longer blocked. The Holy Spirit in the corporeal form of a dove appears above Jesus. The appearance of the dove is often related to the dove that figures in the story of Noah when it brings the olive branch to the Ark at the end of the great flood. But, for those who know their Hebrew, the dove also recalls the very first lines at beginning of the book of Genesis. When God created the heavens and the earth, darkness covered the abyss and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters. The term “hovering” signifies someone who protects something during the act of flying (in the Italian used by Don Fabio, the term is “covare” which is the same verb used for a bird that is sitting on her brood of eggs). The spirit is protectively hovering over the waters during the activity of creation. Here in Genesis, of course, it is the original creation that is at issue. In Luke’s Gospel, the same Spirit is again hovering and it sees emerging from the water Christ, the beloved son of God.

The tragedy of humanity is our distrust in the loving fatherhood of God. At baptism, the Holy Spirit comes upon us and seals our identity as beloved children of a tender father.
This is the Spirit that is given to us at baptism and we can have no doubt that the theme of the baptism of Christ is identical to that of the theme of our own baptism. What is given to us at baptism? The identity of being children of God. The Holy Spirit comes upon us as an interior certification that God is our Father. And this is the central point. Doubting the paternity of God is the tragedy of humanity. Becoming children of God in Christ is the escape from our own self-destruction and the foundation of our capacity to love. When we discover that we are loved, we are enabled to love in return. When we discover that we are received, then we become empowered to receive others.

The work of evangelisation is the task of communicating to people that God is a loving Father who delights in each one of us
The heart of man is distrustful and expects to be chastised by God, but is won over by the revelation of the paternity of the Lord. This is the task of everyone involved in evangelisation: to lead people from the conviction that God is distant, or perhaps hostile, to the realisation that he is our Father, that he is on our side. The phrase “In you I am well pleased” becomes a word spoken by the Father to each one of us, a word that reveals our most authentic identity. All of us needs the Spirit to hover over us as he did at creation, to help us begin again from the beginning, to begin again from his love for us, and to appreciate how precious we are to him and how precious are those who surround us. How important it is to communicate to young people how God looks upon them with joy and happiness, with tenderness, and with trust! How important it is that we hear within ourselves this paternal voice. On this feast of the Baptism of our Lord, it is timely for us to rediscover our identity as children of God, that the Holy Spirit might come and melt the ice that is within our hearts, melt those doubts we have about ourselves, our distrust, our loss of our most authentic identity, an identity which is attested solely by God – “You are my beloved child. In you I am well pleased”.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

January 6th 2019.  The Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord
GOSPEL   Matthew 2, 1-12
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 2, 1-12
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod, 
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 
"Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage."

When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, 
and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, 
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, 
for thus it has been written through the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel."

Then Herod called the magi secretly 
and ascertained from them the time of the star's appearance.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said, 
"Go and search diligently for the child.
When you have found him, bring me word, 
that I too may go and do him homage."
After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, 
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures 
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, 
they departed for their country by another way.
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The Magi followed that which was heavenly and beautiful. How many people in history have been led to great discoveries by fixing their eyes on that which was noble and beautiful! It is striking that these men travelled with their eyes on the heavens. The alternative is to behave like the serpent in Genesis 3 and crawl on the ground, eating the dust of the earth. In life, we can fix our gaze on what is base and earthly, or we can raise our eyes to what is heavenly. However, the pursuit of that which is noble and good can only lead so far. The Magi end up in Jerusalem, the city of the promises of the Lord. Here they encounter a different kind of illumination, the illumination of divine revelation through the people of God and the scriptures. The Magi are told that scripture foretells that the king will be born in Bethlehem. Now the star and the scriptures coincide in leading the wise men to the stable where they find the mother and child. They are so overjoyed that they give him everything they have. The gold is their wealth; the incense is the perfume of their honour; the myrrh would have been reserved for preparing their bodies for death. So, in effect, that give him their wealth, their honour and their future plans. They have received so much in return that anything they give will seem little in comparison. And this journey of the Magi is our journey too. We must follow the things that inspire us with their nobility and their beauty. We must be obedient to the indications of scripture. Beauty and revelation will thus lead us to Christ, and when we behold him we too will want to give him everything that we have.

The Magi followed that which was heavenly and beautiful. We too must stick tenaciously to that which is beautiful, noble and heavenly
This Sunday coincides with the Feast of the Epiphany, which commemorates the manifestation of the Lord to foreigners who have come from afar, from a place that has no connection with the promises that were made to Israel. The journey of the Magi is the journey of one who has followed a path that has led to none other than the main objective of life, the King of kings. How did they find their way? They were astronomers and their expertise consisted in studying the stars. They had great knowledge but this star that rose was something they had never seen before. It was something beautiful, attractive, surprising. And this is how things should be with us. If we are struck in the heart by something that is authentically beautiful, then we should know that this is not something that has happened by accident. When we are struck by that which is noble, that which is heavenly, that which lifts our gaze upwards, then we should not take our eyes off that thing, just as the Magi kept their eyes fixed on the star. How many times people have been led to the Lord because they kept their gaze fixed on that which was beautiful and important! When we stick tenaciously to that which counts, we are led to what is wonderful and authentic. Many figures in history have been led to discoveries that were important for all of humanity because they followed tenaciously that which was beautiful and heavenly.

We can follow what is noble and valid, or fix our gaze on what is base and worldly
What does it mean to follow a star? Celestial phenomena like eclipses can be seen better from some locations. This explains the movement of the Magi. They want to see this beautiful star from the best position possible, and this leads them to their destination. It is a striking thing that they travel with their eyes fixed on heaven. Is there any other way of travelling? In Genesis 3, we hear of the serpent who moves on his belly along the ground. Many people move on this base level, slaves to impulses and desires, things which lead them figuratively “to eat the dust of the earth” instead of living according to the things of heaven. The manifestation of the Epiphany is for those who lift their chins and look towards the heavens to that which is noble.

Pursuing that which is noble and beautiful is not enough. Like the Magi, we also need divine revelation, that which has been revealed to us through the people of God
The path of the Magi, the pathway of heaven, leads to Jerusalem, the holy city, the city of David, the city of the promises. Beauty by itself, in fact, is not sufficient. That which the human being comprehends is only the beginning. The Magi discover the people of God, and a different form of illumination – the scriptures, the prophecies. We are not the first to follow the path of that which is true, beautiful and good. So many before us have discovered the centre of existence. God has spoken to so many people before us through the scriptures and human experience. The Magi discover that there has been a whole antecedent story of revelation through the Jewish people. The next steps of the wise men will be to follow the indications of the people of Israel. They obey the indications revealed to them from the scriptures and they discover that the star and the scriptures both lead to the same place, Bethlehem. The beauty that stirred their hearts (the star) and the scripture that reveals the promise coincide at the same ultimate destination, a shed where a woman has given birth to a child. This new-born life has been signalled by the presence of the star and the indications of scripture, leading to the great joy of the Magi.

The Magi give the child everything, the gold of their wealth, the incense representing the perfume of their honour, and the myrrh which they would have reserved for the preparation of their bodies for burial. Wealth, honour and future plans – all given to the Lord because he gives us so much more in return!
This child is a gift from heaven and is to be adored. The Magi bestow on this child whatever gifts they have at their disposal. What they have received is so great that whatever they can give in return will seem little. The gifts that they give are not really to be understood in terms of the necessities of the child, but in what they themselves have to offer. The gold constitutes their worldly wealth. Incense is, in a sense, the perfume of their glory, the mark of their honour, and this they lay down before the child. Myrrh is used for the preparation of a body for a funeral. The Magi entrust their deaths to the Lord. They have received so much from this baby that they can give him everything, even that which pertains to their most final plans and strategies on earth. Gold, incense and myrrh - possessions, roles and strategies – the Magi give the child everything because they know that they receive much more in return. This is the journey of the wise men and it is also our journey: to follow beauty and scripture, to obey their indications and to arrive at the gift that the Lord Jesus is, and then to discover that we can give him everything because from him we have received much more.

Friday, 28 December 2018

December 30th 2018.  Feast of the Holy Family
GOSPEL: Luke 2, 41-52
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                                  Luke 2:41-52
Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast
of Passover, and when he was twelve years old,
they went up according to festival custom.
After they had completed its days, as they were returning,
the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,
but his parents did not know it.
Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day
and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,
but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions,
and all who heard him were astounded
at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him,
“Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them;
and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favour before God and man.
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . .  It can be traumatic for families when children begin to take different paths to those expected by their parents. But it is a grave matter if parents do not allow their children the freedom to be the people that the Lord is calling them to be. Parents must accept the trauma of the mystery of the otherness of their children. And how true this was of Jesus! Mary had experienced the Annunciation and knew that this child was extraordinary. But even she has to live through the trauma of the unexpected. In the Gospel, Jesus leaves the path that the family is taking and walks a road that is his own. When they find him in the Temple, he has a wisdom and a way of reasoning that is surprising to everyone. A child at twelve years of age (typically) begins to manifest his own identity. It is at this stage that a parent must accompany rather than force a child. The parent must allow the child to flower according to what God has sown within, not according to parental expectations! Yes, it is traumatic when a child takes his own path, but it is healthy and terribly important that he do so. When Jesus says, “I must take care of my Father’s business”, the phrase in the original Greek really signifies, “I must be in my Father’s business”. What this means is that Jesus is totally caught up in his relationship with his Father. It is impossible for him to be any other way. And the same should be true for each one of us! We are created by God and our existence receives its true meaning from its connection with God. If we are to live authentically, then we must base on lives on our primary relationship with the Father. Once we do this, then all the other relationships in our lives and in our families are ordered properly. Without God, our relationships with others are at a horizontal level. It is because of this that many familial relationships end up broken. But once we base all other relationships upon our primary connection with the Father, then these other relationships begin to draw life from the God who is the source of life. The passage ends with the return of the family to Nazareth and Jesus’ submission to Mary and Joseph. This is true for all families. If I have the correct relationship with our heavenly Father, then I can have a correct relationship with everyone else. Our families in the modern world are so fragile and broken. They are saved by our connection with God, not by human techniques. With God we are freed from our dependencies on empty things and we become free to construct our families on their only authentic foundation, our relationship with God. This Christmas, let us contemplate the Christ who is born of the Father. May we too become new creatures whose life derives from our relationship with the Lord.

What does it mean to be a parent? To have possession of a child? Are relationships based on connections between people or should they be grounded first and foremost in God?
The first reading tells how Hannah, the mother of Samuel (the one who will anoint David as king of Israel), takes her son as soon as he is weaned and gives him over to the Lord. Samuel is left with the priest, Eli, who will raise him and educate him. Hannah had longed for a child for many years but now she has little time to enjoy him before giving him to the Lord. Maternity is not about the possession of a child. The sacrament of matrimony is about the construction of the Church and society, about raising, instructing and welcoming life in all its forms. In opposition to that, the tendency towards self-reference and egoism is ever-present in all that we do. Familial relationships are potentially salvific, consoling and edifying, but they can also be disordered and destructive. How can we foster authentic maternal and paternal relationships?

In every child there is something mysterious and novel that goes beyond the understanding and expectations of his parents
The Gospel tells of a journey to Jerusalem on the occasion of Passover, and the story refers to a definite rite of passage or transformation in the life of the family. At the age of twelve, a Jewish boy was considered to pass to adulthood and would undergo a ritual called Bar Mitzvah. He was expected to be able to read the scriptures in Hebrew, answer questions and be knowledgeable about his Jewish faith. Jesus goes to Jerusalem at this age along with a caravan of people. But when it is time to return home, Jesus affirms that he has a new home, the true home of his existence. His parents are unaware at first that he is missing, and when they find him they do not understand his response. There is always something in a child that cannot be fully understood by his parents. When a child becomes an adult, we begin to discover that he is a mysterious and surprising creation of God. There is always an aspect of the child that will go beyond the conceptual schemes of his parents. Parents must accept that being a parent involves one day having to face up to this surprise. Your child cannot be fully comprehended by you. There is a side to your child that you will not be able to fully comprehend. Every parenthood, even the spiritual fatherhood of the priest, must one day confront this trauma of incomprehension before the mystery of the other. A parent raises a child and believes that she knows him through and through, but this is simply not true. In every child there is the invisible that God will unveil in them, the substance of their personal relationship with God, something unique and unrepeatable.

Our God is the God of surprises. His work always involves innovation and originality
Jesus has left the caravan and can no longer be found among his relatives and friends. He has gone beyond the parameters by which his parents would normally have understood him. When they eventually find him, he is in the Temple among the elders and he is being questioned by them. He demonstrates wisdom beyond his years. How often we hear children express intuitions that leave us flabbergasted. Children nowadays demonstrate an aptitude for technological matters that far exceeds that of their parents. This is just an example, but every new generation always has something new to contribute that goes beyond what is expected of them. We see this in the story of Jesus in the Temple. God bestows something new upon each of us that surpasses that which has been given to us by our parents. It is incredible to think that the mother of Jesus is the Blessed Virgin Mary, but God has even more to say to his son than this wonderful lady can say to him. We call Mary the “Seat of Wisdom” and rightly so, but even she was perturbed by the words of the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation. Our God is the God of surprises, and the work that he is bringing to fruition in his own son is full of novelty and innovation.

Jesus cannot help but be totally caught up in the things of his Father. And if our relationships are to be authentic, then we must be the same
Mary is at the centre of this passage. When they find Jesus, she asks why he has done this. “Your father and I have been searching for you”, she says. Here we see great refinement. It is not easy for men to communicate their feelings. In this phrase Mary mediates between Joseph and Jesus and helps her husband to communicate with her son. It is easier for mothers to relate their feelings to their sons, and here Mary mentions the sentiments of her husband before she mentions her own. Jesus replies, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must take care of my Father’s business?” Yes, they knew in one sense, but in another sense they did not know at all. The things of the Father are always new and surprising. The words of Jesus do not signify to be occupied by the things of his Father, but to be in the things of the Father. The nature of Christ’s complete being is such that he cannot be anything else but completely caught up in his relationship with the Father. And it is the same for us, even if we do not know it. It is a fact of our existence that our entire being is in relationship with God. We are truly ourselves when we cultivate that relationship with the Lord. Just as Jesus is in the Father, so we too are called to save our relationships by basing them on this marvellous connections with God. It is in and through our relationship with God that our relationships with others settle down and become less anguishes. Life does not depend on horizontal relationships between people. These relationships rather are an echo and a consequence of our primary relationship with our heavenly Father. When we have a proper relationship with God then we are not threatened or obsessed by other relationships; we do not become slaves of such relationships, nor do we descend into violence or abuse. It is God who is the source of life in our relationships. When we seek life from horizontal associations with others, then we end up being immersed in vengefulness or hatred. Perhaps in Christian formation in the past we have been too concerned with demanding that people conform to certain expectations rather than allowing them the freedom to follow God’s path for them. May the Lord grant us this Christmas to contemplate Christ and to become new creations ourselves, born from the Father. God can bring Christ to life within each one of us.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

December 23rd 2018.  Fourth Sunday of Advent
GOSPEL: Luke 1, 39-45
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 1, 39-45
Mary set out
and travelled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah, 
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb, 
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, 
cried out in a loud voice and said, 
"Blessed are you among women, 
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me, 
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, 
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled."
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . On this fourth Sunday of Advent, Don Fabio gives a beautiful reflection on the exchange between Elizabeth and Mary. Elizabeth says, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. . . For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." These words are also for each one of us. The Lord has spoken to us all in many and various ways throughout our lives. There are moments for all of us when we felt the presence of God, his mercy, his patience. We have all felt wonder at his creation and his being. There is a room in our hearts that has been visited by God alone at some point in our lives, perhaps very often. Like Mary, we must believe in this word that the Lord has spoken to our hearts! And like Mary, if we believe in the word that the Lord has spoken to us, then our lives will become fruitful! It is important that our lives be fruitful, be of service. Otherwise we feel empty. The Lord has created each one of us to be fruitful. He has spoken a word to our hearts. If we can believe in this word, then we will give rise to a blessed, life-giving fruit, as Mary did.

Mary is blessed because she believed the word of the Lord. The word of the Lord is not empty! It gives rise to blessed fruit once it is believed.
On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we hear the exchange of words when Mary visits Elizabeth. Mary goes “in haste” to see her cousin. The Greek word in the original text signifies to go “with zeal”, “with desire”. We see here an action that is done with care and with joy. When Elizabeth hears the greeting of Mary, the child leaps in her womb. She says, “As soon as your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leaped for joy”. And then she finishes with this marvellous phrase, “Blessed is she who believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled”. Mary is blessed because she believed that the word of the Lord was not empty.

The word of the Lord is not an idea or an abstraction. It has power. But it must be believed.
The words of the Lord, the sacraments we receive, are not just ideas, or values or abstractions. No! They have power; they bring to fulfilment. He or she who believes the word of the Lord, will see the fulfilment of this word. Often we carry in our hearts the beautiful words that the Lord has spoken to us, and the challenge is to believe in their power. How many times we find ourselves at crossroads in our lives, and what we need to do is believe in what the Lord has communicated to us. Each one of us had had moments in our lives, or perhaps many such moments, when we have felt the Lord close to us. Even those who call themselves atheists have had such moments. We feel the profound beauty of life and the wonder of a God who cares for us. We sense his patience, his mercy. Like the child who leaps in Elizabeth’s womb, we too at various times have felt the new life springing up within us.

Some fruits are blessed but some are not blessed and do not bring life
“Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb”. The call to be a woman and the call to be blessed is the call of the entire Church. What is fulfilled in Mary is to be fulfilled in the Church as a whole. The Church is to be blessed in favour of all humanity. This does not mean to be superior in any way, because everything is by grace. But it signifies to be in the world and to be blessed because we have believed in the word that the Lord has communicated to us. And through this to bear fruit. Our lives have a great need to be fruitful. We have a need to be useful, to produce a fruit that is blessed. Life is like a seed. It is born in order to be fruitful. But there are fruits which are blessed and those which are not blessed. We do not judge a tree by the colour of its bark but by the taste of its fruit. Often we think something is beautiful because we are struck by its appearance, even though its fruit may not be wholesome. To see what a blessed fruit is, let us look to Mary! She gave birth to the blessed fruit of her womb and she is a school for us on how to be fruitful ourselves. We must be courageous and single-minded as she was. If we see that our acts are not bearing fruit, are not giving rise to new life, then let us change. Let the prophet inside us, the young John the Baptist, decide if we are doing something worthwhile or not. Our hearts have a room inside them that is reserved exclusively to God. In that room which only God can visit, He deposits a truth. Let us enter this room, look at our lives and see if they are blessed or not.

What is fruitful leads to authentic life
In the joy that we see expressed between these two expectant mothers, true happiness lies. For here there is a manifestation of that which is life. Life by its nature is fecund. That which is not fertile or which gives rise to bitter fruit is not life and does not lead to life. Let us abandon such empty things with serenity! Let us ask the Lord for the grace not to walk on unfruitful paths. It is important in life to remain always fruitful. But, you, might ask, how can an elderly person be fruitful? With their wisdom, with their welcome, their mercy, their patience. A man or woman can generate life in so many different ways. Some people have children but then raise them in a sterile way, a fruitless way which does not say “yes” to life, with closed unfruitful attitudes that do not give the space to others to mature. Some parents suffocate their children with their fixations and paternalism. We are about to celebrate Christmas. We celebrate the life that comes forth, Christ who is born, the encounter between God and man that finds realisation in His body. Let us take on attitudes of fruitfulness, of openness, of welcome! This is what the Lord is calling us to from the moment of creation: to bear fruit, to grow constantly, to multiply, to live as mothers and fathers in various ways and according to our own condition.

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Sunday Gospel Reflection