Thursday, 27 April 2017

April 30th 2017. Third Sunday of Easter
GOSPEL: Luke 24:13-35
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­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: Luke 24:13-35
Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.
Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days’. ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’
Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.
When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them.
Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’
They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

 Kieran’s Summary . . . The Gospel recounts the story of the disciples who meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus. At first, they do not believe in the resurrection and do not recognize Jesus. During their journey, they are transformed by their encounter with the risen Lord. This involves a transformation of their minds, their hearts and their senses. How does Jesus effect this transformation? First of all he challenges their ideas with a fairly offensive rebuke to the wrong ideas they now possess! He says, “Foolish men, slow to believe!” We must all allow Jesus to challenge our very poor knowledge. Knowledge is not just a collection of facts, but a synthesis of facts. These disciples already know the facts but interpret them in the same foolish way that we interpret most of the facts in our lives. Jesus leads these disciples through the Scriptures and shows them how the facts should really be understood. This leads to an interior transformation in the sentiments of the disciples. Originally their hearts were cold and immobile but now they start to burn within them. They arrive at Emmaus and invite Jesus to break bread with them. It is in concrete acts that our faith crystallizes. Faith can be very airy-fairy if it just exists at the level of our minds. At the breaking of the bread, their eyes are opened and they recognize Jesus. Interestingly, our senses are the last to be transformed. When we start to see things differently and our hearts begin to be changed, then we develop new eyes and see the world differently as well. What is the upshot of all of this transformation? The disciples change direction and head back to Jerusalem as witnesses of the resurrection! Do we think that we can encounter the Lord and keep going in the same old direction we were going in previously? No! If we truly encounter Jesus, then our minds, hearts and senses will be changed! The entire direction of our lives will be transfigured!

This Sunday we read the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus
This Sunday we have the joy of reading the account in the Gospel of Luke of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, one of the longest accounts of the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection. The first reading from Acts is a powerful proclamation of the resurrection of the Lord and of his kingship. The theme here is the capacity of recognizing the Lord when he is in front of you, acknowledging his lordship over everything, and perceiving that the preordained plan of God has been fulfilled in Jesus.

If we truly encounter Jesus, then we change direction, change hearts and change sentiments
It is impossible to do justice to the Emmaus story in the space that we have here, so we will concentrate on just a few aspects. The two disciples are heading away from Jerusalem, going in the opposite direction to the holy city where events have gone differently to how they had hoped. But at the end of the story, they will change direction and go to Jerusalem. Evidently this is a story of conversion after an encounter with the risen Lord. Another powerful theme in this passage concerns the human heart. Jesus addresses their hearts in a very explicit and direct way. He says: ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe!” But a better translation would be: “Foolish and slow of heart!” The intelligence of these men, Jesus is saying, is like that of a fool, whilst their hearts are ossified and immobile. As they walk with Jesus, their intelligence will be gradually illuminated by Jesus’ reflection on the Scriptures. At the end of the story, as we shall see, their hearts are no longer ossified but “ardent”, burning with zeal. When we truly meet the Lord, the result is a change of direction. We don’t encounter the Lord and stay going in the same direction as before! When we truly encounter the risen Lord, we won’t retain the same intelligence and sentiments as previously. Our intelligence, our sentiments and our hearts will be changed! Discovering that the Lord is truly risen is not just the cold apprehension of a fact. In the case of these two disciples, it involves a radical change of existential direction. The resurrection cannot be truly welcomed without being profoundly transfigured.

Our knowledge is deficient. We can know the facts without having a clue as to what they really mean
How does this transfiguration take place? When Jesus meets the disciples, they are “talking together” or having a discussion. The Greek term used in the original text indicates that this was not a peaceful discussion but quite an agitated one. They are really having an argument, and Jesus approaches them and asks what it is all about. The Lord is like someone who sees the disorder in the dialogue of others and intervenes to help. The disciples do not recognize him because their “eyes were impeded from recognizing him”. At the end of the text, at the breaking of the bread, their eyes will be opened. The transformation that takes place in the disciples during the course of their encounter with the Lord thus involves a change in what their senses perceive, a change in their intelligence, a change in their sentiments and a change in the direction of their being. At the beginning, the disciples have a sensory apparatus that does not work properly. How does Jesus begin operating his transformation? He asks them what they are discussing and allows them to explain themselves. They reply, “You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days’. It is interesting to note that Jesus does not “know” what these disciples know. His knowledge is different to their knowledge. They then list all the things that have happened; this list of events, even though they do not know it, contains all that is necessary for them to believe! They report the testimony of the women and the declaration of the angels that the Lord was alive, but they still cannot make the leap of faith.

We must allow Jesus to challenge our ideas if our hearts are ever to be changed
Jesus begins his operation on them with the words “Foolish and slow of heart!” The word “foolish” in the Scriptures is a strong word. It is fairly offensive and does not simply mean “silly”. Thus Jesus begins by challenging what we think is “knowledge”. These men must open themselves to a wisdom that is new. Before arriving at the heart it is necessary to pass through the mind. Their way of looking at things must be changed. Jesus supplies them with truths from the Scriptures, pieces of information that were already at their disposal. But the Lord makes connections between these things, creates a synthesis that is new. At the end of the day, knowledge always involves a synthesis of facts, a way of interconnecting the meaning of events. These men must allow themselves to be offended by Jesus. And that is necessary for all of us. If Jesus is to help us make a leap to a new way of seeing the world, then we must allow him to contest our inadequate understanding of things. And now Jesus begins to touch their hearts, so much so that they will later say, “How our hearts burned within us as he spoke to us on the road!” They begin to realize that the centre of life is different to how they had apprehended it. They arrive at Emmaus and Jesus makes as if to go on further – Jesus is the one who always goes beyond reality as we see it. They ask him to stay because they now perceive the urgency of continuing to dialogue with this person with his new and more profound wisdom.

When our ideas have been challenged and our sentiments transformed then we begin to see with new eyes. This all leads to a change of direction, a conversion to the Lord

And now they arrive at the moment of a concrete act. Until we engage in concrete acts, our experience of the faith can be very airy-fairy, a reality that exists only in our minds. They break the bread, a concrete act that impinges on their memories, impinges on something that is in their hearts, and from that moment their senses begin to be transformed. It is interesting that it is the senses that are changed last. We do not begin to see better right from the beginning of our encounter with the Lord. We begin by understanding better, then being moved interiorly at the level of our sentiments, until, finally, our sensory perception begins to apprehend things differently. All of this tells us that the resurrection is something that must be allowed to penetrate our lives, first of all by challenging our ideas, then by altering our sentiments, and finally by transforming how we perceive things. And where do we end up? We end up changing the direction of our lives. Jesus disappears from their sight. They are now witnesses to the resurrection. The night time is no longer a time for them to rest but a time to turn around and head joyfully to Jerusalem. There they meet a Church that welcomes them and now possesses the very same faith in the risen Lord. Let us all enter into this process during the season of Easter! May we be completely transformed, transfigured with a new intelligence and a new heart, new senses and a new direction in life!

Saturday, 22 April 2017

April 23rd 2017. Second Sunday of Easter
GOSPEL: John 20:19-31
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­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 20:19-31
 In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.
‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’
After saying this he breathed on them and said:
‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 
For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; 
for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’
Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe’. Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:
You believe because you can see me. 
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’
There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

 Kieran’s Summary . . . Easter is a passage from self to others, and we see that in Sunday’s Gospel with the story of Thomas. Thomas is absent on Easter Sunday when the risen Lord appears. Exactly a week later, he gathers with the apostles on Sunday and meets Jesus. It is through our encounter with the Christian community that we meet the risen Lord. No one can encounter God in the individual recesses of his own mind. The journey of Easter is a journey from living a life that is self-directed to living a life of communion with others. Since the time of Adam and Eve, humanity has pursued individual goals. We have sought our own personal supremacy, our own egoistic aggrandisement. We have tried to discover meaning purely in our own individual roles. But nothing has meaning unless it stands in relation to others. Any discoveries we make or deeds we do are meaningless if they are not of relevance to others. Any extraordinary abilities we might have pale in significance with our capacity to be with others and show love. Take heart! We can all build the Church for even the most fragile and weak of people can love! God resides in a life lived in communion. If we wish to encounter the one who has loved us then we need to be in a situation where love is exchanged – in the life of the Christian community.

The first reading emphasizes how the early Christians lived a life of radical communion
This Sunday we celebrate the eighth day since the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection is an event that stands outside of time; it represents the completeness of life, a level of fulfilment that is beyond that which is humanly possible, an unmerited gift bestowed on us by God. There are many aspects to the rich passage that we read in this Sunday’s Gospel, but, as we usually do, we will focus on one theme through the lens of the first reading. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles describes the life of the early Christian community, who persevered in following the teachings of the apostles in a life lived in communion, with the breaking of bread and prayer. These elements – a life of communion, the breaking of bread and prayer – are all the essential elements of Christian life, and they were lived with an attitude of perseverance.

Thomas encounters Jesus only when he gathers with the apostles
In the Gospel, Jesus appears to the apostles and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit - the gift of new life - and a mission to forgive sins. Thomas is absent and only encounters the Lord exactly one week later (the reference to “eight days later” indicates a week since the Jews counted the first and last day when they were calculating intervals of time). The day of the week on which these encounters occurred was Sunday, the first day of the week, the day on which everything begins again. The point is that Thomas meets the Lord when he gathers with the apostles on the day of the resurrection. It is not simply that a gathering becomes an encounter with the Lord when the Lord chooses to appear, but that we encounter the Lord when we gather with the Church. In order for Thomas to meet the Lord he needs to gather with those who have already met him. Meeting the Lord is not an event that typically happens between the individual and the Lord.

Even the conversion of St Paul required an encounter with the Lord through the Christian community
Paul seems to encounter Jesus individually on the road to Damascus. But it is only when the leader of the Christian community, Ananias, lays hands on him that he is liberated from his blindness. The meeting on the road to Damascus is only the beginning of a process in which Paul is first left in a state of darkness. Paul enters a state of transformation and it is only when he meets other Christians that he himself becomes Christian. The Church – the presence of others - is required for him to experience the fullness of the power of the Lord. It is not possible to encounter the Risen Lord in a purely individual way. We encounter him as a person from within the Christian community. Someone might think that we are trying to place the Church at the centre of the picture at all costs, but it is the text of the Gospel that is making this point! When Thomas is not with the others, he does not meet Christ, but when he is present then he does experience the Lord directly. Thomas meets Jesus because Jesus can be met in the midst of his brothers.

Things attain their sense and meaning only through relations with other people
From an anthropological point of view, this also makes sense. Do we want a knowledge of God that does not bring me into relations with others? If I were to make a discovery of some sort that is not of any interest to others, what sort of discovery is that? If I have knowledge of something that no-one is interested in, what value has that knowledge? If I do something that brings no benefit to others, what sort of deed is that? It is only in interchange, relationship, interaction that we discover what is true and authentic in life. We are never happy or fulfilled through things that have significance only for ourselves and cannot be shared. In life we have joys and sufferings, but often it is not where we are or what we are doing, but who we are with that determines the quality of our acts. I can be in the most beautiful place in the world but surrounded by hate, or in the ugliest place in the world and surrounded by love. I might be in the depths of illness and feel myself loved, or be in the fullness of health and feel completely alone, in communication with no-one.

Easter is the passage from self to others, from our preoccupation with our narrow interests to a life lived in communion with others. It is through this life of love that we encounter the Risen Lord
The Passover, the Easter, than the human person must constantly undertake is the passage from himself to others. The most difficult task on this earth is to construct the Church. It is the enterprise that is most attacked by the devil. Nevertheless it is possible. We might be inclined to think that only artists can do things that are sublime and beautiful. To say things that are marvellous and inspiring, one might think that the gift or oratory is required. But even a person who is very weak and fragile can stand in solidarity with others. Whatever our limits might be, we can still respond to others, be affectionate, show love. Very often people who seem to have extraordinary abilities are less capable of doing these things very well. Too often we become enclosed in cocoons of self-celebration which only serve to keep others at a greater distance. Thomas meets the risen Lord because he is with the others. The secret is to be in relation with others and this is the place where Christ appears. From the time of Adam and Eve we have been obsessed with our own roles, our own singular importance, our individual supremacy, our personal self-divinisation, whilst God resides in the things that are lived together. He resides in relationships, resides in love. We are called to meet him who has loved us in the situations where one can love! The situation in which we can love is when we are in communion with others. No one can meet God by himself.

Friday, 14 April 2017

April 16th 2017. EASTER SUNDAY
GOSPEL Matthew 28:1-10
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 28:1-10
After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.
And behold, there was a great earthquake; 
for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, 
approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.
His appearance was like lightning
and his clothing was white as snow.
The guards were shaken with fear of him
and became like dead men.
Then the angel said to the women in reply,
"Do not be afraid!
I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.
He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.
Come and see the place where he lay.
Then go quickly and tell his disciples,
'He has been raised from the dead, 
and he is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him.'
Behold, I have told you."
Then they went away quickly from the tomb, 
fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce this to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.
They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.
Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid.
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee,
and there they will see me."
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . The eight readings before the Gospel at the Easter Vigil summarize the promises of the Old Testament. The first reading from Genesis speaks of the original creation of light and life. Our redemption in Christ involves a new light and the beginning of a fuller, more authentic, life. The story of the sacrifice of Isaac reveals a God who does not demand but gives. The Son of God is sent to be our offering. He takes our side and transforms our hardness of heart into a perfect response to the Father. The third reading recalls the crossing of the Red Sea. This symbolizes all of the barriers of death, chaos and emptiness that Christ crosses on our behalf, giving us sure hope in the most desperate of situations. The fifth reading tells us that God’s ways are not our ways; his thoughts are not our thoughts. He redeems us in a way that no one had ever expected. The final Old Testament reading proclaims that God will give us new hearts and put a new Spirit within us. When God gave his Spirit the first time, we became living beings, but now we are given the power to become children of God. This is pure gift from God and transforms us, enabling us to live a full and authentic life.
            In the Gospel, the women go to the tomb to mourn over Jesus. An angel appears to them and announces that he is alive. The women believe the announcement and go to tell the disciples. On the way, they meet Jesus. This reveals that, if we are faithful to our mission, we will be led into an experience of Christ. We encounter that which we proclaim. The central point of the life of the believer is no longer a focus on personal righteousness, but on mission. We deepen our relationship with Jesus by proclaiming him.

The readings at the Easter Vigil summarize the promises of the Old Testament. The first reading from Genesis speaks of the original light and the creation of life. Our redemption in Christ involves a new light and the beginning of a fuller, more authentic, life.
We are getting ready for the joy of Easter. We are preparing ourselves to celebrate the central events in our liturgical life and the most crucial elements of our faith. Usually we use the first reading as the key to interpret the Gospel. But the Easter vigil has eight readings before the Gospel, seven from the Old Testament and one from the letters of St Paul! It is hard to know where to start because the resurrection of Christ is the fulfilment of all the promises in the Old Testament. The various readings give a flavour of all of these promises. The first reading gives the creation account from the book of Genesis. We are told of a light that begins everything and then we are led through a marvellous canticle to life from the six days of creation to the seventh day of contemplation. At Easter we contemplate the new creation, the new light that illuminates Christian life, the life that comes from our redemption. This true light that is coming into the world is life, as St John says in the beginning of his Gospel. It is important to recognize that our faith involves a new birth, a different light, a new beginning. The world was created by God but is now redeemed by Christ. All of us have been created by God and are now called to be redeemed by his passion, death and resurrection. In other words, it is essential that we reflect on the fact that none of us has arrived at his true and full authentic self until we are recreated. The resurrection is the true beginning of life, the start of an authentic complete life that never ends but continues in heaven.

The story of the sacrifice of Isaac reveals a God who does not demand but gives. The blessed Son of God is sent to be our offering. He takes our side and transforms our hardness of heart into a perfect response to the Father.
We also have in our readings the account of the sacrifice of Isaac. This tells us of a God who appears to demand something but in reality wants to give. Abraham must embrace a renunciation of his own will before the will of God regarding the thing that is most dear to him – his beloved son. But he discovers that this son will not be taken from him but “multiplied” in the sense that he now receives the promise that he will become the father of a great multitude. And we contemplate this in the light of its fulfilment at Easter. In reality God has not demanded a son but has given his own son. The sacrifice that makes us free is accomplished by the blessed Son of God. We have asked God for his Son and he has died for us. The last word is not our obstinacy, our hardness of heart, our sin, but the response of Jesus who transforms the impoverished response of humanity to God. We contemplate the risen Christ and see that our story ends well.

The third reading recalls the crossing of the Red Sea. This symbolizes all of the barriers of death, chaos and emptiness that Christ crosses on our behalf, giving us sure hope in the most desperate of situations.
The third reading tells of the passage through the Red Sea. The whole idea of passage is fundamental at Easter: Christ crosses the chasm of death; he overcomes everything that is ungovernable. This is the message of Christianity - God has given us the power to go beyond these limits. With the Lord there are no longer dead ends. It is no longer the case that everything leads nowhere. Every sadness and oppression can be overcome. God has the power to do it. What a wonderful announcement this is!

At Easter, Jesus is like the bridegroom who finds his lost spouse, bringing her back to authentic relationship with him
Then we begin the readings from the prophets. The first reading from Isaiah speaks of a person who finds his spouse. This recalls the Gospel in which Jesus appears to the women and fills them with joy, revealing to them that in him life is authentic and does not end. At Easter, God’s attitude towards us is that of the spouse. His desire to be with us is very great, so great that he is willing to die for us. His love is stronger than death, a love that will never abandon us.

God’s ways are not our ways; his thoughts are not our thoughts. He redeems us in a way that no one had ever expected
The fifth reading tells how God’s ways are not our ways, how his thoughts are not our thoughts. And in fact in the Gospel we discover that God is a God of surprises – he saves us in ways that we would never think of. The women arrive at the tomb and make a discovery that does not fit with our ways, our expectations. God knows how to say and do things that we would never imagine. The guards at the tomb are shocked by the events and look like they are dead men. The dead one has come to life and the living ones have become as if they were dead! God does not operate according to human categories. The things that God does are not the things that fit in with our schemes.

If we are obedient to our mission, then we will encounter Christ in new ways
The beautiful reading of Baruch speaks of the wisdom of God hidden in his commandments. We must welcome these commandments, which pave the way for the gift of someone who has a new commandment to give us. The new commandment is not focussed on personal righteousness, but on mission (here we are not referring to the wonderful commandment given in the Gospel of John - “Love one another as I have loved you”). When the women go to the tomb, they believe the words said to them by the angel. Then, as they are going to tell the news to the disciples, they encounter the very object of their news. Jesus tells them: “Go and tell my brothers to meet me in Galilee”. This is the beginning of an unusual means for discovering the truth of the resurrection of Jesus: to be faithful to the mission that has been given to them. The central issue is no longer that of trying to avoid sin, but of being proclaimers of the good news. While they were on their way to announce what they believed, they encountered Christ along the way. The news that they are intent on proclaiming enters into their personal experience.

The final reading proclaims that God will give us new hearts and put a new Spirit within us. When God gave his Spirit the first time, we became living beings, but now we are given the power to become children of God. This is pure gift from God and transforms us, enabling us to live a full and authentic life

The final reading from the Old Testament in the Easter vigil announces that we are to be given new hearts. God will put a new spirit within us. When God gave his Spirit the first time, the human being became a living thing, but now he becomes a child of God. He is to be inserted into the life of God, receiving the gift of the Spirit who cries, “Abba! Father!” This is the cry of one who says to God, “You are my father”. Our life changes radically when we receive the gift of the Spirit, the certificate of embarking upon a new life. This is pure gift from God. It cannot be won by human effort. These women go to the tomb to weep over a dead man. They return signing of life. This is what the Lord can do with us. The gift of his Spirit is the gift of a transformed and fuller life.

Friday, 7 April 2017

April 9th 2017. PALM SUNDAY
Gospel: Matthew 21:1-11
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 (at the procession with palms): Matthew 21:1-11.
When Jesus and the disciples drew near Jerusalem
and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, 
Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, 
"Go into the village opposite you, 
and immediately you will find an ass tethered,
and a colt with her.
Untie them and bring them here to me.
And if anyone should say anything to you, reply, 
'The master has need of them.'
Then he will send them at once."
This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet 
might be fulfilled:
Say to daughter Zion,
"Behold, your king comes to you,
meek and riding on an ass,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden."

The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them.
They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them, 
and he sat upon them.
The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, 
while others cut branches from the trees 
and strewed them on the road.
The crowds preceding him and those following
kept crying out and saying:
"Hosanna to the Son of David;
blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
hosanna in the highest."
And when he entered Jerusalem 
the whole city was shaken and asked, "Who is this?"
And the crowds replied, 
"This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee."
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . .  Palm Sunday has two contrasting parts. It begins with a joyful procession and then goes on to contemplate the full story of the passion of Christ. The joy is appropriate, though, because we are celebrating the events that are the source of new life for us. During the original entry into Jerusalem, Jesus was carried on a humble donkey whilst the poor people waved palms and threw their mantles – symbols of everything they had - before Christ. Christ is always carried by humble donkeys! Each of us gets to know Christ through the humble, poor and joyful people in our lives who bring Jesus to us. Christ is not brought to us by pomp or by fashion! He is not imposed on us by rules, reproaches or scolding! How often we try to turn Christianity into a series of reproaches, a ritualism of imposed rules and reactions. What the world needs to see is our humility and joy. Why are we joyful? Because we have met someone who has given everything for us, who has undergone insults, scourging and death just for you and me. We can bring this life and joy to others if we too become humble donkeys and carry the Lord in our lives.

Palm Sunday might seem strange: we reflect on the passion of Jesus, but we begin the liturgy with a happy procession! This joy is very appropriate because the entry into Jerusalem was the beginning of the events (passion, death and resurrection) which are the source of our life and joy. And these events will be perfectly celebrated later in the Mass
This Sunday’s liturgy is unusual. It begins with the Gospel reading from Matthew 21 describing Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Then we have the readings from the Mass leading up to the proclamation of the passion of Our Lord in the Gospel of Matthew. The theme of the Mass is very serious indeed: we are considering the first part of the events of Easter - the passion, crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus. But the procession which begins Mass on Palm Sunday is something happy and cheerful! It really is a liturgy with a double flavour, and in that sense it is fully in keeping with Easter. There is a tradition of processions in the Church, but the Palm Sunday version is the procession par excellence. It recalls the entry procession of Jesus into Jerusalem for the events of his passion. In parishes, the procession is often done just from the entrance of the church to the altar, but ideally it should be done along the roads and streets of the neighbourhood. It is a curious thing, but a vivacious, lively, procession is entirely appropriate on this occasion. Why is a public procession important? Because the Church is proclaiming publicly in the procession something that it will fulfil perfectly later in the liturgy. The procession lauds Christ who dies for us and gives meaning to our lives.

Christ is always borne by humble donkeys, by poor joyful people who know that their blessings come from God alone. Christ does not come to us through pomp or through the fashionable things of this world
This particular witness of the Palm Sunday procession is important because Christ always arrives like this, borne by a humble beast of burden. The carrying of a king on a donkey’s back was the fulfilment of a prophetic citation and was used in the rite of coronation by the descendants of David. Jesus is always borne by a vessel that is poor! In the Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem, Jesus is borne by believers who wave palm branches, symbols of creation. They throw their mantles – symbolic of everything they own -  on the ground before him. We always encounter Christ through others, almost never in a direct way. It is other believers who have introduced Christ to us. The Lord is brought to us by means of a humble donkey, a poor, cheerful person who takes the things of his life (the palms, the mantles) and praises God with them. These people know that their relationship with God is more important than what other people think of them. The world needs to see this enthusiasm. It doesn’t need to see pomp or fashionable parades. In the Palm Sunday procession the protagonists are poor, joyful people. We Christians are these simple donkeys, these cheerful souls. We are the crowd that cries, “How beautiful that the Lord has come into my life! How wonderful that he has entered into my existence. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise to God in the highest heaven!”

Christ is carried to others by humility and joy. It is not carried by reproaches, by ritualism, by the imposition of rules. People are attracted to join us when they see our humility and experience our joy.
We are poor. We have severe limitations, but the Lord comes into the world though us. We may be fragile but the Lord comes if we open ourselves to him. On this Palm Sunday we reflect on the sufferings of Jesus, but these sufferings need to be sung and announced aloud. They need to be proclaimed by us with whatever means we can muster, by waving our palms, by throwing down our mantles. In doing so we confess, “I have met someone who loves me much, who visits me, who does not leave me alone, who does not abandon me to myself.” This Sunday we make our faith visible, but it is not a public visibility that imposes itself on others. We are not looking to overwhelm or defeat others but to joyfully announce what we believe. We do not seek to constrain others to join us. Rather we invite those to join us who find us joyful. How often we have reduced Christianity to a series of reproaches, to a bitter ritualism composed of imposed rules and reactions. Christianity is naturally suffused with incredulous joy! How can it be that the Lord comes to me, to me, and takes my side? That joy alone has some chance of attracting others to the Lord.

What is the source of our joy? We are joyful because we have met someone who gives everything for us, who suffers to the end for our sake, who loves and values us. We can carry this source of life to others, not borne along by our capacities and perfections, but by our poverty and humility

This Sunday we are called to exude cheerfulness and joy. We must also contemplate the source and root of our joy – someone who is willing to give everything for us. He undergoes insults, scourging, derision, and death, and he does so readily for you and me. There is no need to try to drag ourselves along through life depending solely on our own miserable abilities. There is someone who loves us! I am loved! I am valued! I can shout aloud to the world that my life is illuminated by the Passion of Christ and by his Resurrection. The time of Easter is the most beautiful time in the life of the Christian community because it is the time of the year that we celebrate the true source of life. What does that life spring from! From our capacities and perfections? Hardly! We are donkeys, but we carry the Lord. We are poor but the Lord is with us.

Friday, 31 March 2017

April 2nd 2017. FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT
Gospel: John 11:1-45
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: John 11:1-45
There was a man named Lazarus who lived in the village of Bethany with the two sisters, Mary and Martha, and he was ill. – It was the same Mary, the sister of the sick man Lazarus, who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair. The sisters sent this message to Jesus, ‘Lord, the man you love is ill’. On receiving the message, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will end not in death but in God’s glory, and through it the Son of God will be glorified’.
Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, yet when he heard that Lazarus was ill he stayed where he was for two more days before saying to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judaea’. The disciples said, ‘Rabbi, it is not long since the Jews wanted to stone you; are you going back again?’ Jesus replied: ‘
Are there not twelve hours in the day? 
A man can walk in the daytime without stumbling 
because he has the light of this world to see by;
but if he walks at night he stumbles, 
because there is no light to guide him.’
He said that and then added, ‘Our friend Lazarus is resting, I am going to wake him’. The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he is able to rest he is sure to get better’. The phrase Jesus used referred to the death of Lazarus, but they thought that by ‘rest’ he meant ‘sleep’, so Jesus put it plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad I was not there because now you will believe. But let us go to him.’ Then Thomas – known as the Twin – said to the other disciples, ‘Let us go too, and die with him’.
On arriving, Jesus found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days already. Bethany is only about two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to sympathise with them over their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus had come she went to meet him. Mary remained sitting in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you’. ‘Your brother’ said Jesus to her ‘will rise again.’ Martha said, ‘1 know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day’. Jesus said:
‘I am the resurrection. 
If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live,
and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. 
Do you believe this?’
‘Yes, Lord,’ she said ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.’ When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in a low voice, ‘The Master is here and wants to see you’. Hearing this, Mary got up quickly and went to him. Jesus had not yet come into the village; he was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were in the house sympathising with Mary saw her get up so quickly and go out, they followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
Mary went to Jesus, and as soon as she saw him she threw herself at his feet, saying, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died’. At the sight of her tears, and those of the Jews who followed her, Jesus said in great distress, with a sigh that came straight from the heart, ‘Where have you put him?’ They said, ‘Lord, come and see’. Jesus wept; and the Jews said, ‘See how much he loved him!’ But there were some who remarked, ‘He opened the eyes of the blind man, could he not have prevented this man’s death?’ Still sighing, Jesus reached the tomb: it was a cave with a stone to close the opening. Jesus said, ‘Take the stone away’. Martha said to him, ‘Lord, by now he will smell; this is the fourth day’. Jesus replied, ‘Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus lifted up his eyes and said:
‘Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer.
I knew indeed that you always hear me, 
but I speak for the sake of all these who stand round me, 
so that they may believe it was you who sent me.’
When he had said this, he cried in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, here! Come out!’ The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with bands of stuff and a cloth round his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, let him go free’.
Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what he did believed in him.
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . .  The Gospel this Sunday recounts the raising of Lazarus. How relevant this Gospel is to all of our lives! Each one of us is trapped to some extent within multiple prisons and snares, within negative memories, within sufferings, within sins, within vices, within the incapacity to go beyond the barriers that we have erected around ourselves. How can Jesus open these graves and bring us back to new life? As we see in the Gospel reading, Jesus seems slow to respond to Lazarus’ plea for help. In fact, he doesn’t respond until Lazarus is already dead. God often appears to be reluctant to come to our help. But that is because we often looking for a superficial solution to our problems. We want the physical ailment to be healed, the physical inconvenience to be removed. We have little interest in allowing Jesus enter into our deepest hearts. Jesus wants to resolve our profoundest problems, and thus he sometimes allows the situation to become desperate. When the situation is desperate then we finally begin to dialogue with Jesus on the deepest level. We are no longer hedging our bets. It is clear that we have no hope of resolving the issue ourselves and that it is either God or nothing. A dialogue of this sort unfolds with Martha and Mary. Jesus then orders that the tomb be opened, even though the body has been dead four days and will have begun to smell. It is only when Jesus is allowed to enter into the sickest and most decaying parts of our hearts that he can bring us new life. New life is not an artificial readjustment of superficial things! It involves the most unpresentable part of our beings, our true poverty, being touched by the life of Jesus.

All of us find ourselves trapped in many tombs, many prisons, many snares. Just as Jesus raised Lazarus, so too he can call us out of our existential tombs
We have arrived at the Fifth Sunday of Lent and are blessed to be reading these fundamental texts used in Year A of the liturgical cycle. The readings for Sunday are also used by adult catechumens in their third baptismal scrutiny in which our faith in the resurrection is celebrated. The Gospel account of the raising of Lazarus is prepared for in the first reading from Ezekiel: I am now going to open your graves; I mean to raise you from your graves, my people”. What does this mean? The readings this week deal with the most painful and irresolvable questions of the human condition. The reality of death is well represented by the image of the tomb, the stone rolled across the final chapter of human existence. The statement in Ezekiel about the Lord’s intention to open our graves is a startling one, and we expect the Gospel to shed some light upon it. The account of the raising of Lazarus occurs in the 11th chapter of John’s Gospel. The 13th chapter is already the beginning of the account of the Last Supper. Thus this raising of Lazarus is very close to the events of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. What is the core message here? We are on the road towards life, a road that goes beyond the tomb, but there is a journey to be undertaken first. The words in Ezekiel stating that the Lord will raise us from our graves and lead us back to the soil of Israel is evidently a symbolic statement that refers to a journey that we are going to undertake now upon this earth. We can open ourselves to this life that goes beyond the tomb because already here in this life we can experience the power of God with respect to the many tombs, prisons and snares that we become trapped in. The human being has the ability to construct many prisons for himself. Everyone, sooner or later, becomes aware to some extent that they are ensnared in something, within memories, within sufferings, within sins, within vices, within the incapacity to go beyond the barriers that we have erected around ourselves. We are trapped alive within these tombs, but in reality we have become fossilized at the most profound depths of our being. The light that enlightens Lazarus is a light that illuminates the tombs of our everyday lives, all those things in which we are encapsulated and are unable to resolve.

God does not always come to our aid when we call upon him. Sometimes we call on him because we want a superficial solution to our problems – the healing of the physical ailment and nothing else. God allows our situation to become desperate so that we will call on him authentically and thus give him the possibility to transform us
Jesus progresses in stages. He does not respond when Lazarus and his sisters call on him to come to their aid. God sometimes allows us to arrive at the point of desperation. What Christ brings is not a palliative but an authentic liberation. It is not a temporary resolution of our problems but a radical enlightenment of the deepest issues in our lives. As a consequence, it might sometimes appear that God is being lazy in his response to our pleas for help. Jesus does not move when he is called by Lazarus because he is not interested in resolving a minor problem, but a more radical one. It is only when Lazarus is already dead that Jesus gets on the move. At this point, Jesus can be sure that human solutions are no longer possible. It is a fact that we tend to rely on our own capacities and powers for as long as we think that we might have some chance of success. We make God a spectator until the point arrives when we no longer have any hope of resolving the problem ourselves. Jesus arrives at a time when it will be undeniable that, if any resolution happens, then it was down to him and his power. It is only when I know that I have no hope of doing anything myself that I begin to dialogue with God.

God can only transform us if he is allowed to roll back the stone on the sickest and most rotten parts of our hearts. We can only receive new life if the Lord is allowed to touch us in these darkest parts of our being..

And Jesus now finds himself in a dialogue with Martha. It is as if Martha, Mary and Lazarus are a single personality. Martha is the rational part of the person, the person who is active and practical, as we see elsewhere in the New Testament. She is looking for a rational explanation: is it possible that the Lord is such an important part of our lives and yet was unable to intervene in this tragedy? Mary now appears and begins to weep. Grief is very important. It has a vital function and is a unique instrument of dialogue with God. In our grief we are completely authentic. In our tears we are finally ourselves, our mask falls away and the reality of our hearts becomes visible. How essential it is to arrive at the heart! The grief of Mary is contagious and becomes also the grief of Jesus. But Jesus elevates this grief onto a different plane. To cry along with the Lord sometimes manages to unblock, dissolve, what is hurting us deep down. Now Martha enters the scene again. She has been instructed by the tears of Martha and now understands that it is time to confront this question right to the end. She realizes that Jesus is going to make contact with their brother who already by this time has begun to decompose. But Jesus is not afraid to confront this reality and asks that the stone be rolled away. The contact between Jesus and the part of humanity that is sick, that is dead, that is in a state of putrefaction – it is here that humanity receives new life. It is here that the depths of our heart are finally visited by the tenderness of God. The translation, “Lazarus, come out!” is not quite right. “Lazarus, here, beside me, right now!” would be a better rendering. In other words, turn towards the Lord. The proper condition of our hearts is not one of dissolution or desperation, but one of orientation towards the Lord. It is in the sick and decaying regions of our heart that the Lord enters, that a new light appears. Life is lived by the power of having been finally understood in one’s suffering, finally understood in all of one’s poverty.

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