Friday, 8 December 2017

December 10th 2017. Second Sunday of Advent
GOSPEL: Mark: 1, 1-8
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

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

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GOSPEL: Mark: 1, 1-8
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
"Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths."

John the Baptist appeared in the desert
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
People of the whole Judean countryside
and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
John was clothed in camel's hair,
with a leather belt around his waist.
He fed on locusts and wild honey.
And this is what he proclaimed:
"One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The prophet Isaiah speaks of a way being prepared in the desert for the coming of the Lord. The first lines from Mark’s Gospel cites Isaiah and we learn that John the Baptist is in the desert announcing the immanent coming of the Lord. But surely a desert is the worst possible place to make a public announcement! Wouldn’t a public square be better? Why is the Lord’s way always prepared in the desert? Why did the people of Israel have to do a long and difficult passage through the desert before entering the Promised Land? In Scripture the desert is always a place of transformation and growth. It is the place where the “old man” within us dies and new life can begin. We cannot welcome our Saviour unless we are aware of our need for him, unless we realize our poverty, emptiness and utter limitations. The desert is the place where we realize that we are nothing and learn to welcome God. Every day the Lord comes to us in many ways, but we fail to recognize him and do not welcome him. It is when we enter the desert and see our nothingness that we become open to the Lord in the many ways he comes to us in daily life. But how do we welcome him? John the Baptist told the people the things they needed to do, the repentance and change of life that was necessary. But it is only the “mightier one”, Jesus, who gives us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enables us to do the things that John the Baptist could only tell us about.

This Sunday we read from the Book of Consolation of the prophet Isaiah and from the opening lines of the Gospel of Mark
In this second Sunday of Advent we have two beginnings: the opening words of the Gospel of Mark and the start of the “Book of Consolation” in the prophet Isaiah. The book of the prophet Isaiah can be divided into two parts: the so-called “proto-Isaiah” – the words of a wonderful and powerful prophet who lived in the eighth century before Christ; and a second figure, who may also have been called Isaiah, whose words are found from chapter 40 onwards of the book of Isaiah. This individual is directing his prophetic words at a completely different historical epoch, about 530 years before Christ. It is the time when the people are about to return home from exile to their own land. The time of correction and purification has come to an end. The words of the “Book of Consolation” speak of this time.

Why is the Lord’s coming announced in the desert, the most useless place to announce anything?
The Gospel reading is from the opening words of the oldest of the Gospels and it cites the prophet Isaiah. Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths." This cry in the desert represents a new beginning of some sort. The Second Sunday of Advent asks us to reflect on a passage through the desert. As the prophet says, “In the desert prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley”. Here we are talking about the way of the Lord’s coming and the necessity that it be prepared. John the Baptist was given this mission to herald the coming of the Lord. Usually a herald cries out in a crowded public square, but John does so in the desert! The desert seems the most useless place to proclaim anything. But John does so and announces a baptism of conversion. The people actually go to him from the city of Jerusalem and all of Judea. But why?

The desert represents our emptiness and poverty, our need for salvation. It is only when we are aware of our malnourishment and desolation that we look to the Lord
John begins in the desert. Why is such a strange place chosen for this new announcement? In Scripture the desert is the place of transformation and evolution. It is not a suitable place to live but is a place that we pass through to become something else, something new. When the people came out of Egypt they then passed through the desert in order to arrive at a new life. Many of them died on this journey, but above all it is a place where the “old man within us” must die. In this place of desolation and emptiness we encounter God. Why does the first Gospel begin in the desert? Why does the Book of Consolation begin in the desert? The ways of the Lord are prepared in the desert because the desert represents our emptiness and poverty, our failure and incompleteness, our utter fragility. We are inclined to think that we can begin from our abilities and talents, and these attributes will prompt the Lord to come to us. But how can we truly welcome him? How can we avoid missing him when he visits us every day? He visits us in thousands of ways, but we do not realize that he is present until we reflect on those things afterwards and see that we have failed to love and welcome him. How can we avoid missing the new life that comes to us in these ways? By beginning from the desert within us! We need to recognize our own poverty, failures and limitations. The new life always begins from the failure of the old one. We need to be poor so that when the Lord comes we are open to him. We need to be people who crave nourishment, who need to be consoled. Only then are we ready to welcome the Consoler.

John the Baptist tells us what we need to do, but only the Holy Spirit can give us the power to do these things
Who are we waiting for? John the Baptist speaks of “the one who is stronger than I am, the one who brings something greater than I can bring”. John provides a baptism in water and the challenge to repent and turn away from sin, but the one who is coming “will baptize with the Holy Spirit”. The Holy Spirit is the principle of new life, the principle of the life of God. He is equal to God, he is God and he enters into us. Who is stronger, the one who says “make straight the paths of the Lord”, the one who tells us the things that we need to do to prepare of the Lord? Or the one who gives us the capacity to do the things of the Lord? The Holy Spirit not only helps us to understand what needs to be done, he helps us to do these things, makes us capable of doing them. Jesus is the one who gives up his Spirit on the cross and then gives it to us when he is risen. The one who dies and rises again for us, who gives us life that originates in his love for us. John the Baptist helps us to understand what we ought to do, but the Lord Jesus enables us to do these things. He came to give us this completeness, this new life, that which allows us to live in a different manner, that which makes us born again from above.

Friday, 1 December 2017

December 3rd 2017. First Sunday of Advent
GOSPEL: Mark 13:33-37
 ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

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

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GOSPEL: Mark 13:33-37
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
Watch, therefore;
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: 'Watch!'"
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The first reading from Isaiah is very beautiful and deserves to be read. In it we hear the cry of a people who are poor, miserable and oppressed. They have sinned and turned away from God, but now they know they need him and they call on him to come! This too is our cry! The issue is not about knowing when the Lord is going to come: the issue is being ready at all times to encounter that which is greater than us, that which is life-giving. Since the time of Adam and Eve, we have tried to have things under our control, but the coming of the Lord into our lives is completely in the hands of God. Waiting for the Lord and being vigilant for his coming is essential. Waiting, in fact, is an important part of life. From the waiting involved in pregnancy to the waiting involved in giving time to others, life calls us to forgo the things that we want to do right now. But our society is hooked on entertainment, distraction and ever-new escapes from reality. Satan is described in Revelation as the one who goes around in a fury because he knows he has little time. Time is a gift of God and we must use it to be obedient, to wait patiently, to look to the Lord, to be on our guard not to let the enemy enter. Those who do not know how to wait on the Lord are driven by appetites, impulses, and interior aggression. This Gospel tries to shake us out of our half-drugged coma in which we carry on, following ourselves and do not look to the Lord. Advent tells us that the King of kings is coming right to our homes and that we must be ready for him! When an important visitor comes, it is right that we get the place in order for him, that we throw out all that is incompatible with his presence.

The first reading from Isaiah is the cry of a people who have turned away from God and now realize that they are desperately in need of his visitation
The very important season of Advent begins, the start of a new liturgical year, and it is set in motion with a word of great beauty and appropriateness from chapter 63 of the prophet Isaiah. “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down . . .” Here is expressed the burning desire of a people to be visited by God. This part of the book of Isaiah was written in the period after the exile. The people were poor, miserable and oppressed. “Return for the sake of your servants!” the reading says. “Once you did marvels for us that we did not expect. No eye has seen, no ear has heard any God but you perform such deeds”. This is the recollection by a people in a state of misery of the wonderful deeds the Lord once did for them. But they have not been mindful of the Lord. They have squandered the gift of faith that was given to them. Having brought evil upon themselves, they now are in need of the visitation of God. Various verses from the cry of this poor people, as expressed in chapters 63 and 64 of Isaiah, are put together in our first reading on Sunday.

The issue is not knowing when the Lord will come: the issue is being always ready in life to encounter what is greater than us, to encounter the in-breaking of God into our lives.
How should we welcome the Lord who comes to visit us? Advent tells us that the Lord is not distant in the heavens while we try to get by on earth. This season announces that He is coming to meet us. It is important to be ready and to be free from the wrong sort of expectations. In the Gospel, Jesus says, "Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” We could reply: “Tell us when you are coming, Lord, so that we can be ready for you”. But the problem is not that the Lord comes without warning: the issue at the heart of being vigilant is a different matter altogether. We are called as a people to be always ready to encounter that which is greater than we are. But we try to flee from this situation. Since the time of Adam and Eve we have sought the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We wish to know everything that relates to our own destiny and we pretend to be able to keep our lives within the control of our own schemes. But this is not possible! We simply must recognize that we have no other option than to be ready for the unexpected, to be prepared for the occurrence of the sublime, of that which is outside of our control. As the Gospel says, our gatekeeper must be on the look-out. A building without a doorman is liable to have strangers entering and wandering around the house without the owner’s consent. In life, we all have need of a gatekeeper who is constantly on guard. When we are on guard, we can prevent the enemy, deceit, and treachery from entering in. It is essential that we all be vigilant.

Life involves having the ability to wait, the ability to give one’s time up for others and the Lord. Satan is the one who cannot wait because he is so preoccupied with his own schemes
Waiting might seem like a frustrating business, but without waiting there is no life! Pregnancy is a time of waiting. Life involves having the ability to wait. Some people are capable of waiting and giving their time to people, whilst others are impatient. It is interesting that in the book of Revelation, chapter 12, the devil is defined as the one who is full of fury because he knows he has little time. But none of us have our own time in reality because time is made by God. It is not necessary for us to have time but to be obedient to time, obedient to reality. Those who are not obedient to time, those who do not know how to wait, are driven by impulses and appetites and interior aggression. The text tells us to be vigilant at evening, at midnight, at cockcrow and in the morning, the four classic watches of the night when the changing of the guard used to happen. The sentries must always be ready because life is important!

This Gospel tries to shake us out of our half-drugged coma in which we go from one distraction to another, one entertainment to another. This Advent we are called to empty ourselves of those things that are incompatible with our Lord, who is on his way to us very soon
This passage calls us to stop going on in an unthinking daze. Don’t forget, we live in a society hooked on entertainment, diversions, distractions. Our society is, as it were, in a half-drugged coma, constantly looking for new escapes from reality. Advent is the marvellous announcement of the visitation by God, a fact that requires us to have our feet soundly planted in reality. We are called to live in a way that is attentive to life, that is in harmony with what is essential, ready for the visit of our Master who is coming again. He will come again! And when he comes it will be beautiful to be with him. Advent is an illuminating time. It is not a sad time. It is indeed a time of penitence, certainly it is! Everything that is incompatible with the coming of the Lord must be thrown away. The more the better. There is nothing surprising about that. When someone important comes to our house, we get the place in order before he arrives. Let us prepare ourselves for the Lord’s visit because the King of kings is coming right to our door!

Friday, 24 November 2017

November 26th 2017. Feast of Christ the King
GOSPEL: Matthew 25,31-46
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­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 25:31-46
Jesus said to his disciples:
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him. 
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 
Then the king will say to those on his right,
'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. 
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.'
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink? 
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you? 
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'
And the king will say to them in reply,
'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Then he will say to those on his left,
'Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.'
Then they will answer and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?'
He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.'
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life."
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . This Sunday – the Feast of Christ the King - marks the end of the liturgical year and it is an opportunity for us to think about the end of all things, the eternal significance of every single thing we do. Jesus’ parable shows that he is the centre of history. The meaning of every event in our lives is to be evaluated in relation to him. More specifically, it is to be evaluated in relation to how much love – or lack of love – we show in every action of our lives. Every action, whether we like it or not, is directed either for or against Jesus. It is either an act of love, or an act that constitutes a failure to love. We might think that our lives are small, miserable and inconsequential, but this parable shows that every single action we do has eternal meaning! When my life is over, what matters is whether I have shown love to others, whether I have welcomed others, nourished them, visited them when they were lonely, covered their nakedness, accepted them in their alienation. How many times have I myself been visited in the isolation in which I have enclosed myself, comforted in my sorrow and nourished in my poverty! This Sunday, let us reflect on the significance and gravity of everything we do!

The parable told by Jesus shows that he is the centre of history and of life, and that all of our actions in life, whether we realize it or not, are actions done to him.
This Sunday we mark the end of the liturgical year and we contemplate Christ, King of the universe, King of history and the centre of all things. The Gospel this week presents Jesus as the judge and the parameter by which all things are to be interpreted. What does it mean to accept Jesus as the parameter by which to interpret history? In the parable, all the people are divided to the right and left of Christ. Some inherit the Kingdom and others are driven away. In this account we discover that the Lord Jesus is the sole criterion by which our eternal destiny is to be decided. It is no harm, in the first instance, to reflect on the fact that we do have an eternal destiny, that are lives are not as banal as we might sometimes think, and that we are called to something of everlasting significance. A true understanding of ourselves appreciates that there is something definitive about our lives and our actions. The things we do have eternal consequences. Some people might think that it would be great if all of us were granted the same reward at the end regardless of what we have done, but this would trivialize the reality of good and evil. If I do good things, does it really have no significance? If I persecute people, make them suffer and compound their misery, is it really of no consequence? Someone commented once that at the end of time it will not be God who will demand justice from humanity, but humanity who will cry out for justice to God. How can we forget the occasion when John Paul II forcefully confronted the mafia at Agrigento in Sicily? He told them that there would be a day of reckoning and that they should never forget that fact. Our lives are not lived in vain; there is something definitive in the things that we do! Indeed, it can be a cause of anguish when we consider that there is something irreversible about life. The things that we have done are objective. They are not simply inconsequential.

Love is the criterion with which our lives will be evaluated. Every single act that I do today has eternal significance. It is either a “Yes” to love or a “No” to love. It is a moment that cannot be reversed and that has permanent meaning
What is the parameter by which are lives are to be evaluated? It is love. When confronted with this criterion, many things seem very small and silly. On the basis of this criterion, every single day takes on a significance that goes beyond itself. This Sunday – the end of the liturgical year – we reflect on the end of all things. This prompts us to remember, as St Ignatius of Loyola did, that there will be a reckoning for all the things that we have done. If I was on the point of death and had the time to think, if the Lord conceded to me the grace to reflect on my life and ask for pardon, what would I ask myself? I would ask if I had truly loved others, if anyone had become happy on account of me, if anyone had been clothed by me, if anyone had their thirst quenched by me, if any lonely person had been visited by me when they were closed in a prison, if anyone had been welcomed by me, shown mercy, had their poverty diminished, had their alienation lessened, had been welcomed tenderly as a pilgrim. I have been a pilgrim myself a thousand times, after all, in need of acceptance. I have suffered hunger many times and needed someone to nourish me. I have been shielded by the patience of another, have been visited  by the sacrifice of others. The Lord Jesus says, “Every time you have done these things to someone else, you have done them to me.” We cannot separate our acts from their eternal dimension. When we do something good to another person, there is something permanent in that which we are doing. “Every time you have failed to do these things to these little ones, you have failed to do them to me”. Unfortunately there is also something eternal in our “No” to love. How many times have we stubbornly said, “He deserves his fate, he deserves his imprisonment, his bad fortune”, and we have forgotten that each one of us has been liberated from prison, that each one of us has needed to be looked upon with tenderness when we were locked up inside the delusions of our own making.

Our lives might appear small and insignificant, but every single act of our has eternal significance

This is a fantastic Sunday for reflection and an opportunity to centre everything upon love. All things are to be measured, evaluated, considered from the point of view of their eternal significance. This small and miserable life that we appear to be leading is instead an eternal adventure. It is a life that has permanent and definitive consequences. Every single act has within it an opening onto eternity. Every act is far more significant than we can ever imagine.

Friday, 17 November 2017

November 19th 2017. Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL: Matthew 25, 14-30
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

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

(Check us out on Facebook – Sunday Gospel Reflection)

GOSPEL: Matthew 25, 14-30
Jesus told his disciples this parable:
"A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one--
to each according to his ability. 
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two. 
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master's money.

After a long time
the master of those servants came back
and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents came forward
bringing the additional five. 
He said, 'Master, you gave me five talents. 
See, I have made five more.'
His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. 
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities. 
Come, share your master's joy.'
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
'Master, you gave me two talents. 
See, I have made two more.'
His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. 
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master's joy.'
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, 
'Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. 
Here it is back.'
His master said to him in reply, 'You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter? 
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? 
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. 
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . In the Gospel, a man is about to embark on a journey and he entrusts his servants with five talents, two talents and one talent respectively. At the time of Jesus, a talent was worth 33 kilos of gold – a genuine fortune! This man is giving his entire wealth to his servants! This makes us think immediately of the Lord Jesus who bestows on us incredible gifts and immeasurable graces. But why do some people respond well to God’s gifts, while others respond in a mediocre and half-hearted way? The answer is given by the third servant. He tells the master than he buried the talent because he was afraid of him. “You are a demanding master, sowing where you do not reap”. This attitude to God is at the root of our mediocrity. We do not enter into the grace that Jesus gives us because we are suspicious of the Lord. We think that he is really looking for something from us! We suspect that God is only giving to us so that he can get something from us that we really don’t want to give. This image of God is unfounded and offensive! The Lord has emptied himself for us, but out of his infinite generosity, not so that he can gain something in return! It is true that he wishes us to respond, however, if he is to bestow even more blessings on us. That is why the first two servants receive even more bounty because they “were faithful in small matters”. This Sunday let us banish from our minds the image of a demanding God and reflect on his love and mercy.

The readings speak of God’s invitation to use the gifts he has given us. Some respond well to God’s call and others do not respond at all. Why?
In the first reading we hear of an industrious lady who is able to achieve wonderful things from that which is allotted to her. The reading holds up the beauty of fruitful works, and the joy they bring to others. It is a privilege to work and it one of the things that gives meaning to our lives. The Gospel reading presents the famous parable of the talents in which a number of people are called to work. We hear of people who accept their call to work and manage to produce wonderful results, and we hear of another who does not respond to the call. How can we understand the reasons behind these contrasting attitudes?

A man distributes enormous wealth to his servants. The Lord Jesus, similarly, gives us immeasurable gifts
A man is embarking on a journey and he decides to distribute his goods: five talents, two talents and one talent, according to the capacities of the recipients. But just how much is a talent? If we go to any Bible with tables of information at the back, we will discover that, at the time of Jesus, a talent corresponded to 33 kilos of gold. Thus, we are talking about a real fortune. The man has handed over his entire wealth to these men. Of course, this man is to be compared to the Lord Jesus. Jesus does not give us small favours. He entrusts us with immense gifts, with unlimited graces, with the power of the sacraments - which is enormous in comparison to the smallness of our lives. So we receive these immeasurable gifts from God and some of us put these gifts to work. Often we meet people who have received some special grace from the Church or from Divine Providence, and they have entered into this grace. But why do some people not enter into the grace that they have been given? Even the man who received one talent has received something virtually immeasurable. What prevents him from using it?

The servant does not use what the master has given him because he fears the master. He thinks that the master is not really giving him a genuine gift but is actually demanding something difficult from him
Let us examine the psychology of this servant when the master speaks to him. The servant replies, “I know that you are a demanding person, reaping where you do not sow and gathering where you do not scatter. I was afraid and went and hid your talent under the ground. Here it is back”. The servant is afraid to enter into the great affairs of God because he is afraid of God! This is what makes people mediocre, and indeed this servant is an image of the mediocre Christian, the person who does not open the doors, who does things in a tepid and half-hearted way. Why does this person fear God? Because he thinks that God’s gifts are just ways of camouflaging demands, that God’s gifts are really traps. If God is calling me to an encounter with grace, perhaps it is because he wants to exploit me?  He wants to gather where he has not scattered. He is demanding and wants more from me than he will ultimately give.
The servant’s image of his master is the same mistaken image that many of us have of God. We think God is looking for something from us. God does not deserve this image! He is fundamentally someone who gives to us without end. He only wants us to respond to him so that he can give us even more!
This servant highlights a mistaken image of God. We tend to think of God as someone who appears to be giving us a talent, but who knows what he really wants? We look on God with suspicion. The Lord, with all his generosity, does not deserve to have this image! With all of us God is patient and generous, the very opposite to demanding. The mercy of God covers so many of our faults! If the Lord really kept an account of our deeds, who would be saved? The image of God presented by the servant as a demanding and pretentious tyrant is aberrant and unacceptable. It is the image of a God who wants something from us. Do we really think God needs anything from us? What could we give him? But when God gives to us it is only so that he can give us even more. In the case of the other two servants, the master replies, “You have been faithful in small matters”. For the Lord, the enormous quantity represented by the talents is nothing; he has so much more that he wishes to give us! When he offers something, it is solely out of generosity, not because he wants something in return.

This Sunday let us reflect on the generosity and patience of God and banish from our minds the image of a God who is demanding and vengeful

This Sunday let us enter into the truth about our heavenly Father, that which is revealed to us in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is gratuity in person. Jesus holds nothing back and gives everything for us, even offering up his life on our account. We have no grounds for reasoning in the suspicious manner of the third servant. Why are we mediocre? Because we are suspicious of God and we therefore do not abandon ourselves to him. Mediocrity is widely diffused in Christianity and is fundamentally derived from an offensive and unacceptable image of God.

Friday, 10 November 2017

November 12th 2017. Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL: Matthew 25, 1-13
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

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

(Check us out on Facebook – Sunday Gospel Reflection)

GOSPEL: Matthew 25, 1-13
Jesus told his disciples this parable:
"The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!'
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
'Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.'
But the wise ones replied,
'No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.'
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
'Lord, Lord, open the door for us!'
But he said in reply,
'Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.'
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour."
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The Gospel presents ten people to us: five of them invest everything in order to encounter their Spouse, whilst the other five expect to encounter Him without making any preparation. How often we trip along in life, improvising and hoping to land on our feet! This Gospel teaches us that we must make an effort to be open and receptive to the grace of the Lord. Too often we are absorbed in our own projects and in our own times and we are not attentive to the times of the Lord. The Lord may be planning an important appointment with me today, a chance to enable me to make an important step forward in life. But if I am absorbed in myself, then how can I hear the Lord or be ready for him when the moment arrives? God is generous with his grace, but we must be generous with our time and resources if we are to receive his grace. The five wise virgins invest themselves in the hoped-for encounter. They bring significant reserves of oil so that they will be ready for their spouse when he comes. In the same way we must invest ourselves in being attentive to the Lord; we must be ready to abandon our self-absorbed projects if we are to allow the plan of God for me to be realised.

In order to encounter God we must make ourselves available to him. God makes appointments with us every day and we must be receptive if we are going to enter into those encounters.
Both the first reading and the Gospel for Sunday speak of an encounter. The first reading from the book of Wisdom tells us that those who make an effort to seek wisdom will find her without any difficulty. Certain acts will enable us to find wisdom. This is more or less the story of how grace works. The grace of God is not an imposition from above. Rather, it is something that must be encountered. It requires reciprocal action from us, the efforts of searching for grace and welcoming grace. Grace is not forced upon us, but when we welcome it and begin to dialogue with the Holy Spirit, then grace begins to enter even more powerfully into our hearts. Life is all about relationship, and we are called to be attentive in our dealings with God. The events that confront us every day can be thought of as divine appointments in which we meet our true spouse.

To receive grace we must be attentive to the times and seasons of God, and this requires abandoning our own times and seasons.
The Gospel, in fact, is that of the ten wise virgins and ten foolish virgins who are on their way to the wedding feast. The Kingdom of Heaven is like an unusual appointment in which we are challenged to be prepared in the correct manner. The virgins each have lamps because the meeting with the bridegroom could well happen in the dead of night. The meeting that is spoken about here is the very kind of meeting that gives meaning to life. When one raises a child, there are certain moments in life when certain things can be accomplished, and only during those moments. There is a time when it is essential to speak to our children because the time may come when they will not listen any more. To love a woman for all of her life requires being able to respect her times and seasons. This can be very difficult for a man to understand. Woman often have many things going on in their minds simultaneously whilst men tend to focus on one issue at any one time. To enter into grace, we must be attentive to the times and seasons of God. The prophet Isaiah writes, “Seek the Lord whilst he is to be found; call on him while he is near”. To do that, it is essential to abandon our own ways - our ways are not his.

If I am a slave to my own self-absorption then I will not hear the Lord when he knocks on my door on a daily basis
These ten girls must enter into the rhythm of encounter with the bridegroom. It is in a sense the secret of life. The times of the Lord do not correspond to my hurried way of doing things. If I am to be of service to someone, then I need to be attentive to the times of that person, not the times of my schedule. In the parable, all of the girls fall asleep. But it was only the foolish ones who did not expect the waiting time to be so long and had no oil with them. They expected a quick outcome for their efforts, an instant entry into the marriage banquet. But in reality waiting was necessary. When we are enslaved by our own self-absorption, encapsulated within our own times, then we do things purely according to our own way of looking at things. The other person does not enter into our reckoning. Life, however, is full of unexpected things. Our Spouse arrives at unexpected times. He calls us whenever he calls us. The wise virgins have placed themselves at his disposal. They have kept a reserve of oil apart, and this enables them to enter into a relationship of love.

God is generous with his grace, but we must be generous in return if we are to receive his grace. Today the Lord might have planned an appointment with me, a gift that will enable me to make an important step in life, but how can I meet the Lord and receive his gift if I am so absorbed in my own projects?

It is important to be less mean that we are usually. We must place everything we have at the disposal of the Lord. The foolish girls made no preparation whilst the wise girls invested themselves in preparation for this relationship. The Gospel of Luke speaks of being dressed for action and with our lamps burning. This is not an attitude that we embrace for one day or every now and then: it is an attitude that must be permanent. Unfortunately we tend to improvise, to stumble along and hope to fall on our feet. The plan of God has been prepared from eternity to save us all and it is a generous plan. We need to be open to receive this generosity, to encounter the Lord in the things and events of life with total availability on our part. The five women are received into a spousal relationship with the Lord whilst the others remain outside. They were already outside in the sense that they did not attribute importance to this encounter, they did not prepare themselves for it as if it were something vital for them. Every day might be a day in which the Lord calls us, but not simply in the biological sense. God might call me today to make an important step forward in life, to enter into something truly new. We must be ready, we must put all of our oil at his disposal and be ready to abandon every single project of ours in order to allow God’s plan for us to be realised.

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Sunday Gospel Reflection