Saturday, 15 September 2018


September 16th 2018. Twenty-fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL Mark 7:31-37
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 8:27-35 
Jesus and his disciples set out
for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.
Along the way he asked his disciples,
"Who do people say that I am?"
They said in reply,
"John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others one of the prophets."
And he asked them,
"But who do you say that I am?"
Peter said to him in reply,
"You are the Christ."
Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.
He began to teach them
that the Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed, and rise after three days.
He spoke this openly.
Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples,
rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."
He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,
"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the gospel will save it."
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . Peter recognizes that Jesus is the Christ but he does not accept that Christ should suffer. Jesus severely reprimands him: “Get behind me Satan! You do not think according to God’s ways but according to human ways”. When Jesus tells Peter to get behind him, he is simply asking Peter to follow him. He is saying, “You must follow me. I will not follow you.” Jesus asks us to follow him, to renounce ourselves and take up our crosses. When we follow ourselves, then we make our own thinking into an absolute. This thinking might well seem very rational, but it leads to the horrors of history like Auschwitz. How different life would be if we followed the Lord and took up the crosses that come our way! Then life would be beautiful and sublime. The first reading from Isaiah speaks of a person who opens his ear to listen to the Lord, and this enables him to accept life’s tribulations with serenity. The first enemy that seeks to prevent us from following the Lord is the great god of our lives: our own ego. When we learn to say “No” to ourselves then we are enabled to come out of ourselves and enter into love. The house that we must always seek to escape from is that of the absolutisation of ourselves. The cross of coming out of ourselves is not imposed on us. Jesus invites us to “take it up” - an expression which highlights that it should be embraced freely and valued as a gift that leads to growth and self-detachment. Once we abandon ourselves, then we begin to think according to the logic of God. We begin to acquire true wisdom.

When I humbly open my ear to the Lord, then I am able to accept the trials that life sends me.
The opening lines of the first reading sound a little strange: “The Lord opens my ear that I may hear. I have not offered resistance nor turned away. I gave my back to those who beat me. I did not shield my face from insults and spitting”. What is the connection, though, between the Lord opening my ear and me not turning away from the difficulties of life? This expression regarding the opening of my ear is a fairly common term in the Old Testament and refers to the capacity to listen well. In everyday life, we also say things like, “Open your ears to what I’m saying! Hear me well!” When the Lord opens my ear and I manage to welcome what he is saying to me, then I accept the tribulations that come my way. Later on the text from Isaiah says, “The Lord comes to my aid and for this reason I will not be shamed”. When I am attuned to the Lord then I do not descend into the embarrassment of what I am when I am alone, left to my own devices, incapable of true freedom. When I am receptive to what the Lord is saying, then I live like a prince or princess. Because I have opened my ear to the Lord, the wisdom of the Lord has entered into me and permits me to live well that which comes my way.

Jesus asks Peter not to think in worldly terms but in Godly terms. When we make our thinking an absolute and cut it off from God, then we end up constructing concentration camps and the other horrors of human history
In the Gospel, Jesus reprimands Peter very severely: “You do not think as God does but as human beings do!” How can we make the transition from thinking according to the logic of this world to thinking according to the logic of God? How can we pass from the mediocre to the sublime, to thinking like children of God? Let us consider the Gospel. Peter has one piece of information correct: Jesus is the Christ. But he scolds Jesus for not being the kind of Messiah that he wants him to be. The Christ is the one sent by God and the fulfilment of the promises. But when Peter hears Jesus talking about suffering and pain, he cannot comprehend it. The notion of resurrection does not enter into his head. All he can see is the scandal of suffering. This prompts Jesus to respond to Peter with the shocking reprimand of calling him “Satan”. Peter’s error is to think according to the logic of humanity. So the Lord takes him apart and puts Peter behind him, saying “Get behind me Satan!” Peter is not to set the direction in which the Lord is to go. Jesus is saying, “It is you who must follow me. I will not follow you”. This is a serious instruction by the Lord. If we want to come to the Lord, then we must follow him. If we want to attain true life, the life that goes beyond death, then we must follow him. If human intelligence makes itself an absolute value, and does not follow the Lord, then we create the foundations of everything of which we have been witnesses in recent centuries. We set the foundations of Auschwitz, the Russian gulags, all of the horrors of history where human ideas count more than life, where such ideas are made into absolutes and we follow them more than Providence.

We cannot come out of ourselves and enter into love unless we learn to abandon ourselves and our egoistic preoccupations
The words of the Lord, “Get behind me!” is actually a call to Peter to follow Jesus. True life involves this following of the Lord, not imposing our own rhythms on things. And if we wish to follow the Lord then we must be open to the discourse of the Lord, the discourse of providence. Once we put ourselves behind Jesus, then we begin to affront the true kernel of human life. “If anyone wishes to follow me, then he must renounce himself”. The first enemy that seeks to prevent us from following the Lord is the great god of our lives: our ego. The original meaning of “to renounce oneself” means to say “No” to something that I had previously assented to. Some psychotherapists says that mental equilibrium requires a disassociation from one’s own ego. One cannot come out of oneself and enter into love without learning to abandon oneself. The house that we must always seek to escape from is that of the absolutisation of ourselves.

The cross is not imposed on us. We are invited to take it up as something positive that leads to growth and detachment.
Then, once we renounce ourselves, we are to “take up our crosses and follow him”. The term “to take up” does not imply submission or imposition. Rather it indicates the positive action of reaching out for something. The cross is something that we are to value. We accept the sufferings that come with our mission in life, and we transform them into virtues. We do this by the grace of God because we know that our Lord is the one who brings life from death, consolation from suffering. We use and value the cross, aware that it leads to growth, that it represents the moment of abandonment and faith. It also represents love because we know that the one who has loved us has done so through the cross, through a sacrificial offering for our benefit.

If I follow Jesus, then I take up my cross and renounce my own ways of doing things. Thus, I begin to think according to the logic of God and I attain true wisdom
Jesus adds, “He who wishes to save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake and for that of the Gospel, will save it”. How many lives do we have? We have one only and we must lose it in order to find the life that is real! In following Jesus, we take up the cross and renounce our egos; thus we lose our introverted system of living, and, behold, we discover that we are entering into beauty; we enter into life, into the sublime; and from that point forward we begin to think according to the logic of God. Thus, from this experience of abandoning ourselves and focusing on being open to Providence, to the vicissitudes of life, we arrive at new life, and we become truly wise.

Friday, 7 September 2018

September 9th Sunday Gospel reflection


Today, September 8th, is Our Lady's birthday. To commemorate this event, three children have launched a new Catholic website today! Check it out on www.immaculatemother.org

September 9th 2018. Twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL Mark 7:31-37
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio
Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading . . .

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Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said, ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The deaf mute in the Gospel represents each one of us. We are all is a state of isolation, in a state of being unable to enter into communion with those around us. How does Jesus heal him? There are four stages. Firstly, he takes the man away from the crowd. We too must be taken away from the crowd, from worldly things, from empty things, if we are to be healed of our sicknesses. Secondly, he places his hands in the man’s ears. The hands of Jesus are the hands that created the heavens! We need to have the hands of Jesus in our ears! In other words, we need the grace to comprehend how the hand of God is working in everyday things around us. We need to be attuned to this action of God. Thirdly, Jesus puts saliva on the man’s tongue. This represents the word of God on our tongue. If we are to be healed of our loneliness and isolation, we need to have the word of God on our mouths. Fourthly, Jesus looks towards heaven and says, “Be opened!” In looking towards heaven, Jesus is looking to his heavenly Father. This relationship is the basis of everything that Jesus does. We too, if we are to be healed of our loneliness, must look to the heavens. We must look away from ourselves and enter into relationship with Jesus and the Father.

We need a champion to enable us to break free from our state of blindness and see the light of God
The first reading from Isaiah speaks of the vindication of God. The word “vindicate” is a little surprising. How can the work of God in humanity involve vindication? The word “redeemer” in Hebrew referred to a member of the tribe whose job it was to exact revenge for the offences received. He was an exacter of justice in terms of blood. The tribe was only as strong as its champion or “redeemer”. These archaic categories are no longer acceptable to us, but they bear a symbolism that throws light on the person of Christ. His mission involves doing an act of vindication as well, but not a vindication against persons. Rather, it is a “vengeance” of a more profound type. We live in a fundamental state of injustice. When the prophet Isaiah announces this act of retribution, he speaks of the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf being opened. In the Gospel, in fact, Jesus heals a deaf mute, and in this action we behold the vindication of God. The Lord gives to this man the thing that he truly needs; to see the light. Each one of us needs to see that light, to experience the love of God, to have our hearts visited by grace. This is what the Church has been doing for centuries, handing on, expounding, the love of God, the grace of God, salvation.

The deaf mute represents all of us. We all live in a state of isolation and inability to communicate.
In this Gospel account, we see how grace can be transmitted through the senses. A deaf mute is someone who cannot hear or speak. His ability to communicate is severely compromised. In reality, this deaf mute represents every human person. Each one of us has compromised communication, and we risk finding ourselves in a state of complete solitude or isolation. We need to be vindicated from this state by the vengeance of God. We were not made for solitude but for communion. We were not made to revolve around ourselves but to go out from ourselves and also to receive from others.

We need to be taken away from the crowd in order to be healed. We cannot be healed by continuing to be absorbed in the same banal things. Then we need the grace of God to comprehend his works in our lives. And we need to have the word of God on our tongues.
The process by which Jesus redeems this man from his solitude is curious. First of all, he takes the man away from the crowd. The work of healing cannot happen in the world, doing the things that we do every day, the things of the majority, the things of the crowd. We don’t get healed of our solitude by following the rhythm of fashion. We cannot enter a phase of evolution, growth, resolution, dissolution of the profound knots of our being by doing the things that everyone else does. We need to allow ourselves to be taken out of the crowd and away from the world. Jesus then places his fingers in the man’s ears. This might not sound very impressive, but the fingers represent works, and the fingers of God are those that created the heavens! The fingers of Jesus in our ears. We must allow the works of God to arrive in our ears so that our ears might be healed. The deaf mute represents all of us, and we are deaf to the works of God. We use our faculty of listening to apprehend banal and superficial things. We need the grace of God to allow us to comprehend that the hand of God is operating in the everyday things that happen to us. Then Jesus touches the man’s tongue with his saliva. In order to speak, it is essential to have saliva on our tongue. And in order for us to speak authentically, we need to have the word of God on our tongue. The works of God in our ears, the words of God on our tongues – all of this is a process of initiation. The deaf mute becomes the recipient of gifts, the grace to listen and to speak.

Jesus looks towards heaven before healing the man. It is upon our relationship with the Father in heaven that true communication is based.
Then Jesus does something strange. He looks towards heaven, sighs, and says, “Ephphata” - be opened. Why does Jesus look towards heaven? He is in relationship with his Father. “Heaven” is not some kind of roof above the heads of humanity. Rather it represents the Father. On the basis of the open heaven that exists between Jesus and his Father, humanity too can experience the openness of heaven. We can open our hearts, our lines of communication with each other. Immediately, the man’s ears were opened and he began to speak. This man received a word from God, an act from God. This is what permits the dissolution of his solitude. All of us need the Lord to carry out this vindication. We need to have the works of God in our ears and the words of God on our tongues. All too often, with complicated and contradictory techniques, we try to find solutions for our loneliness. But the only way to dissipate loneliness is with the opening of the heavens. Through the relationship between Jesus and the Father, we discover that we can live in communion. Jesus lives in communion with the Father and gives us the gift of living in communion with him. Only then do we begin to listen in a new way and speak in a new way. May the Lord give us the grace this Sunday to allow our ears and tongues to be touched, so that we can receive the word of God.

Friday, 31 August 2018


September 2nd 2018. Twenty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL Mark 7:1-8. 14-15.21-23
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 7:1-8. 14-15.21-23
The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus, and they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and the Jews in general, follow the tradition of the elders and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow; and on returning from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves. There are also many other observances which nave been handed down to them concerning the washing of cups and pots and bronze dishes. So these Pharisees and scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?’ He answered, ‘It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture:
This people honours me only with lip-service,
while their hearts are far from me.
The worship they offer me is worthless,
the doctrines they teach are only human regulations.
You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.
He called the people to him again and said, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.”
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . In the Gospel, Jesus attacks the Pharisees because they seek to save themselves by means of their own actions. They do not submit themselves to the saving power of God. In our day, we too reject our incompleteness and our need for salvation by our disordered searches for beauty, power, health, and well-being. But our limits and incompleteness are the places where we encounter the love and mercy of God! Like Adam and Eve in the garden, all sin originates in the drive for egoistic completeness or fulfilment. On the contrary, when humanity accepts its fragile nature and realizes that it is loved for what it is, then we begin to behave like the disciples of Jesus who no longer enter into meaningless rituals, who are no longer obsessed with their own righteousness or beauty. Rather than constantly seeking for things to make ourselves feel better, more beautiful, healthier, this passage encourages us to allow ourselves to be visited by the Lord. That which truly contaminates man is his denial of his own fragility, his own incompleteness, his own humanity. May the Lord bless us with the grace to have simple and humble hearts that allow themselves to be loved.

Both the first reading and the Gospel highlight the dangers of becoming fixated with our own efforts to “save” ourselves,
In the Gospel for this Sunday we find a description of the rituals minutely performed by the Pharisees, who criticize the failure of Jesus’ disciples to observe the same customs and ablutions. The figure of the Pharisee is an important one in the Gospel and it gives Jesus the opportunity to deliver some important teachings. In the first reading from Deuteronomy we read of the call to observe the precepts of the Law. We hear of the entry into a beautiful way of life that is protected by these laws. But the text already warns that nothing is to be added and nothing taken away from these laws. This highlights the tendency of humanity to go through life searching for rites and laws that help make one feel at peace with one’s conscience. This tendency can become an obsession where one becomes fixated with the dots and commas of reality in order to feel righteous.

Humanity has a tendency to try to “heal” itself by seeking to make itself the basis of its own well-being, its own beauty, its own righteousness. All of this is a denial of our status as creatures of God who are incomplete in ourselves
We might look at this reading and think that this type of fixation is far distant from us. The obsession of the Pharisees was with their personal righteousness. But this preoccupation with bettering oneself has new forms today. Our world is fixated with aesthetics. People spend their whole lives trying to become more “beautiful” or to improve their well-being. They go from one therapy to another, spending a shameful amount of money on cosmetics. In every age we find humanity in a state of anguish in order to feel “better”, to be stronger, more powerful, more wise. In all of this we see a struggle to overcome one’s own insufficiencies and incompleteness. At the end of the day, this behaviour manifests an implicit hatred for these limits. To make oneself feel righteous, there is a preoccupation with never-ending rituals. In the struggle to become more beautiful, people spend their lives hating their appearance in an adolescent manner. Some people already have a health that would be the envy of most of the world’s population, but they are constantly searching for better food and more effective cures. All of this constitutes a denial of our own weakness and insufficiency.

When our hearts refuse to accept the incompleteness that is part of being a creature, we begin to commit the vilest kinds of sin. When we accept our fragility, it becomes the place where we encounter the love and mercy of God
Why did the disciples of Jesus not observe these rituals? Why did they no longer have the instinct to follow these impulses? Jesus says, “It is not what enters a man from without that contaminates him”. All the things that we seek to make of ourselves, to assimilate from without, these are things that do not really touch our fragility and weakness. When our hearts refuse to be themselves, refuse to accept the weakness that is part of being a creature - a creature that needs to be loved and forgiven - such hearts give rise to disorder. Until we discover the peace of the mercy of God, we will continue trying to find “life” by means of our works. Until we discover the love that gives us the right to exist exactly as we are, we will pass our whole lives trying to convince ourselves that we are righteous, beautiful, strong, intelligent, better. Our weakness is not something to escape from but to accept. This weakness is the perfect place to encounter the love of God. We are incomplete and God loves us as we are. He permits us to experience his mercy in this very condition. In the temptation of Adam and Eve, the rejection of their own incompleteness following the suggestion of the serpent, their effort to become like God is what produces evil. All of the evils of man – the passage speaks of fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly - all of this catalogue of horrors derives from humanity’s denial of its own weakness. On the contrary, when humanity accepts its fragile nature and realizes that it is loved for what it is, then we begin to behave like the disciples of Jesus who no longer enter into meaningless rituals, who are no longer obsessed with their own righteousness or beauty. Rather than constantly seeking for things to give ourselves, this passage encourages us to allow ourselves to be visited. That which truly contaminates man is his denial of his own fragility, his own incompleteness, his own humanity. May the Lord bless us with the grace to be simple, to have simple and humble hearts that allow themselves to be loved.

Sunday, 26 August 2018


August 26th 2018. Twenty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL John 6:60-69
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 6:60-69
After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’ Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, ‘Does this upset you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?
It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer.
The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the outset those who did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. He went on, ‘this is why I told you that no one could come to me unless the Father allows him.’After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.
Then Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, who shall we go to?
You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’

The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . If we try to understand Jesus’ teaching according to the criteria of the flesh, then we will never comprehend him! The criteria of the flesh stipulate that you only give if you expect to receive something back. We are nervous of Jesus’ offering of himself because we suspect that he is demanding something in return! It is important to comprehend the words of Jesus according to the criteria of the Spirit. Jesus wants us to look at him with the eyes of the Spirit and to follow him in freedom. He does not compel the disciples to follow him, but simply asks, “Will you leave me too?” Peter replies, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe that you are the holy one of God”. Like Peter, we must follow Jesus, not out of coercion, but because we see the beauty of Christ, his life-giving love, his generosity, his holiness.

The disciples find it hard to accept Jesus’ teaching because they listen according to the criteria of the flesh rather than the Spirit
This Sunday we hear the last part of the long and vibrant discourse of the Lord in the synagogue of Capernaum. In this discourse, Jesus offers himself to us in sacrifice, as bread, as a gift of the Father. He is not demanding something from us, but offering himself to us. In this gift, which we celebrate in the Eucharist, there is the promise of eternity for the recipient this provokes a reaction of incredulity and rejection. The text tells us that it is certain members of the disciples who reject him, not passers-by or strangers. The disciples begin to grumble, saying, “Who can accept this teaching? It is very difficult”. Why is this particular teaching so difficult? Jesus himself tells us why: “It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh is no good for anything. The words that I gave you are Spirit and life”. The “flesh” refers to our human and horizontally-oriented mode of being. Can the words of the Lord be comprehended within our carnal mode of logic? No, absolutely impossible! Our carnal logic functions according to principles like the conservation of energy: nothing can be created or destroyed. I am reluctant to accept gifts from another person because I fear that this will oblige me to make a repayment of some sort, a repayment that I may not be willing to make. Psychologically we defend ourselves against possible losses or sufferings. Thus, we listen to the words of the Lord according to the criteria of the flesh rather than the Spirit, even though the flesh (as Jesus says) avails nothing.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites us to follow him. True adult decision-making requires freedom and motivation on our part
This brings us to the crux of the matter. In the first reading, after the conquest of the Promised Land, Joshua surprisingly proposes that the covenant pledges be renewed. The people have been journeying for forty years in the desert. The Lord has shown his power in the battle for the possession of the land. Finally the people have been installed in the land that was promised to them. We have arrived at the last act in this process that began with the sending of Moses into Egypt. Joshua asks them: “Are you willing to serve the Lord, or will you follow the gods and idols of this land of Canaan, the very things that you were liberated from when you came out of Egypt?” This is an invitation by Joshua, not a command. In the Gospel, many of the disciples do not accept the gift that is being offered to them in Christ. They do not accept the gratuity of the gift; they do not accept the love that is being offered to them; they do not accept the state of their own impoverishment and that they are the object of acts of benevolence, like someone who is proud and will not accept assistance from another. Jesus turns to them and says, “Will you too leave me?” He does not say, “Please don’t abandon me! The marketing plan is going badly! We’re losing our share of the audience!” No, Jesus is not interested in anything that does not flow from human liberty. He does not force his disciples to follow him. Rather, he gives them the opportunity to leave him if they so choose. Jesus wants a motivated free choice on our part. All too often we tend to manage things using force and powers of coercion. Sometimes we ourselves prefer to be constrained in our actions rather than free. The dictators and despots of history did not appear by themselves. They have always been convoked by a part of the people. Freedom is an area of great uncertainty because it requires decision-making. It involves a certain uncertainty. The true foundation of authentic decision making is the free decision to go in an adult - rather than infantile – direction. Here there is the risk of making a mistake. Often we prefer to be led rather than choose to follow. We do not want the responsibility of adult decision-making.

What can motivate us to follow the Lord freely? Like St Peter, we are motivated by the Lord’s holiness, his generosity, his beauty, his love. Jesus does not want to coerce us to follow him. He wants us to know his beauty and his love and to opt for him in liberty.
The foundation of true decision-making is the liberty to choose the beauty of God, not obligation or coercion. Peter says, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” We are Christians because Christ is beautiful, not because it is demanding to follow him. As Peter goes on to say, “We have believed and known that you are the holy one of God”. We have experienced his holiness and we trust in him. We obey him because he is beautiful and generous; because he is good and treats us well; because he does not disappoint us; because he does not follow our logic; because he follows the Spirit which is the deepest part of our being; because he does not follow our flesh, our banality, our superficiality; because he is something that illuminates our entire lives. We follow the Lord Jesus because there is no-one else who is so beautiful or interesting. “To whom shall we go?” Where else will we find what Christ gives? Where will we find such great love and mercy?

Friday, 17 August 2018


GOSPEL   John 6:51-58
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio
Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading . . .

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Jesus said to the crowds: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."
The Jews quarrelled among themselves, saying,
"How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever."
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . In the Gospel, Jesus almost seems to be begging us to receive him as our food. He knows how reluctant we are to receive him. Why are we so reluctant? We have a latent image of God as a latent taskmaster, someone who demands and punishes. When Jesus tells us that he wants to give himself to us as food, we are sceptical. That is because we have been nourished for far too long on the wrong kind of “bread”, the bread of relationships that do not give anything unless they receive something in return. Jesus, by contrast, asks for nothing. He simply invites us to receive his life by nourishing ourselves on him. We are weak and fragile. We need love, and God knows it. We need care, and God knows it. We need pardon, and God knows it. We need to be understood, accepted and cuddled. We are small and poor. It is not true that God has much to demand of us. Rather he has much to give us and in this Gospel he offers himself to us as our very food for eternal life.

Jesus invites us to receive the life that he is offering us. He is not demanding something from us. Rather he only wants to give, and his giving is complete
On this twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, we continue reading from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. The discourse is now entering its most intense phase. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” The first reading from the Book of Proverbs speaks of an invitation. Wisdom prepares her banquet and invites those who are simple, or lacking in understanding, to come and eat. In these beautiful lines, we are invited by the Wisdom of God to abandon our foolishness and walk in the ways of understanding. Life becomes beautiful when we accept this invitation. What is the link between these lines and the theme of the Gospel? Jesus says, “ . . unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day”. These lines should not be read as a reprimand or a warning to receive communion or to go to Mass on Sunday. The main purpose of these words is not something legalistic. In fact, the true follower of Jesus can’t wait to go to Mass in Sunday because it is a joyful and beautiful banquet. If we confine ourselves to coercing people under obligation to receive the Lord Jesus, then what do we make of the Lord Jesus! This text is not a call to fulfil one’s obligations but, rather, is an invitation. It is an invitation to a banquet of an extraordinary sort.

Jesus has to beg us to receive him because he sees how reluctant we are to open ourselves to him. The problem is that we have been fed all our lives by the wrong kind of “bread”. This is the bread of relationships that only give to us if we give something in return. Jesus, by contrast, promises to give himself entirely to us at no cost.
In this passage Jesus implores us with great passion. He wants us to receive him. He offers himself to us, begging us to believe him and welcome him. His listeners cannot believe that he can be their food. In fact, there is a latent impression of God on the part of humanity, produced by our fears, that the divine being is a sort of threatening Zeus. He examines us, keeps an account of our faults, and is waiting to punish us. With Jesus we encounter another kind of reality altogether. This Messiah, the second person of the Trinity, sent by the Father, is a man who offers himself to us as food, offers himself to us as something that we are to assume and absorb. Why does Jesus have to beg us to receive him? Because we have eaten in the wrong way beforehand; because we are accustomed to the wrong kind of nourishment. We do not interpret the things that happen to us according to authentic love, but according to our traumatic experience of love. Every one of us has been disappointed in our experience of the love of others. We come to believe that no-one gives anything for nothing. Consequently we are fearful if God offers us something. We worry that he intends to make us pay in some hidden way. But this is the bread of the Father, Jesus tells us. It is not the bread that our ancestors ate, a bread that did not lead them anywhere. When Jesus speaks of the bread of the listener’s ancestors, he is referring to the manna in the desert. But he is also referring to the alternative kinds of nourishment that we, as humanity, have been fed on in the past. There is the “horizontal” bread, with all the disappointments and limitations of humanity, and then there is the bread of our heavenly Father.

The world has difficult believing in this self-emptying love of Christ, a love in which he gives himself to us as our food. We struggle to believe in this unconditional love. We present God as a taskmaster. We present the sacraments as something that must be approached according to moral or ethical rules. But Christ presents himself before us in the Eucharist as an unconditional offering.
God sends this bread to us in Christ so that we too might have the life that comes from him. This bread has eternity within it and does not simply fit in with our mentality and our way of doing things. It is something that must simply be welcomed and received by us, just as love is always a surprise that must be welcomed, not something that we have merited. The love of God is not something that we merit. It is greater than anything we can acquire by our own efforts. It is difficult to accept this fact. It is difficult to accept that Christ offers himself as food to all of us. The world does not believe in the love of Christ because it does not believe in utter gratuity. All too often we Christians have presented love not as a gratuity but as something that must be merited. All too often we have presented the sacramental life as something that must be paid for in an ethical or moral way, as something that we have to measure up to. Here, by contrast, we are face to face with love. It is not something that we approach with a sense of obligation but as a personal response, a joyful response of one who feels himself to be loved. It was not we who love first. Christ in the Eucharist reminds us of who is he before us: a pure gift, an unconditional offering. We have a latent fear of God, of his holy will, because we perceive him as someone who is demanding rather than giving. We are called, not to be suspicious of what the Lord is doing for us, but to accept his action as a gift. Only then will we begin living according to the nature that he has given us. We are weak and fragile. We need love, and God knows it. We need care, and God knows it. We need pardon, and God knows it. We need to be understood, accepted and cuddled. We are small and poor. It is not true that God has much to demand of us. Rather he has much to give us.

Friday, 10 August 2018


GOSPEL   John 6:41-51
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio
Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading . . .

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The Jews were complaining to each other about Jesus, because he had said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ ‘Surely this is Jesus son of Joseph’ they said. ‘We know his father and mother. How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven” ?’
Jesus said in reply, ‘Stop complaining to each other. No  one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me, and I will raise him up at the last day.
It is written in the prophets: They will all be taught by God, and to hear the teaching of the Father, and learn from it, is to come to me. Not that anybody has seen the Father, except the one who comes from God: he has seen the Father. I tell you most solemnly, everybody who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the desert and they are dead, but this is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that a man may eat it and not die. I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give
is my flesh, for the life of the world.’
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . In the first reading Elijah is despondent because he cannot see beyond his own pessimistic perspective. In the Gospel, the Jews grumble because they cannot see beyond what they think they know of Jesus: “This is the son of Joseph. We know everything about him! How dare he claim to be bread that has come down from heaven!” In reply, Jesus asks us to look beyond what we think we know or understand. The Father is drawing us to himself. He is speaking to us in the depths of our hearts, in our everyday experiences, in our intuitions, through our consciences. By means of this internal compass, the Lord attracts us towards the divine, towards authentic life. Let us turn to him in silence. Let us open ourselves to the voice of the Holy Spirit who is moving within us, but we fail to hear him because of the distractions we pursue constantly, because of our preoccupation with satisfying our appetites. The Lord is closer to us than we realise! The Holy Spirit illuminates us, caresses us, invites us to love, opens us to the risen Christ, speaks to us of the Father and of eternity.

Elijah gives in to despair because he cannot move beyond his own perspective on things. He does not allow that God might be acting in this dire situation
On this nineteenth Sunday of the year, we continue reading the discourse of Jesus in the synagogue of Capernaum, as recounted in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of St John. The first reading introduces our theme with the story of Elijah, who is fleeing from the death threat issued by Jezebel. Elijah had just defeated 400 idolatrous priests of Canaan and was forced to escape for his life. But now he can take the persecution no more and wishes he were dead. He sits under a furze bush and says, ‘Lord, I have had enough. Take my life; 1 am no better than my ancestors.’ Even though Elijah is a powerful prophet he too goes through this moment of discouragement – moments of despair which happen to us all. There are times when we all say, “Enough, I can’t go on. I wish everything were finished”. When these things happen, we are making an absolute out of a particular perspective on a situation. Elijah sees only that he is tired and that he is being pursued. He does not see the future nor the powerful action of God. All he sees are his own tired muscles and the enemy gaining ground behind. Elijah’s only method of measuring is whether or not he is better than his ancestors. Then the angel gives him food and encourages him to go on his way. He tells the prophet that he still has a journey to undertake and that there is a road he must follow. All too often we feel anguish because we think we are at a dead end. Elijah is not at a dead end, and, in fact, he will make it all the way to the mountain of the Lord.

Things have a reality that goes beyond their exterior appearance. We ought not to judge things from their superficial characteristics but seek to discover the significance they have in God’s plan
This text is a splendid introduction to the Gospel. Jesus has just announced that he is the bread come down from heaven. The people begin to grumble: “What is he saying! This man is the son of Joseph! We know everything about him! Come down from heaven indeed!” Jesus asks them not to murmur, for the things of God do not fit in with human schemes. Divine things are not limited to the things that we already know. Jesus has a reality that is hidden from the men and women who stand before him. And this is true not only for the humanity and divinity of Jesus, but for all of reality and life. All things have a reality that goes beyond what we know of it and which takes its significance from what God has given it, according to the plan that God has ordained for it. In the Gospel, the people think they know everything and this leads them to grumble. This presumption blocks them from placing themselves in harmony with the action of God.

The Father is drawing him to himself through his action in the depths of our Spirit. This action permits us to glimpse the authentic life of God in our everyday experiences. We feel a natural attraction to the divine. God is drawing us to himself if we would only open ourselves to his action within us
The solution to this is another kind of attitude altogether. Jesus says, “No-one can come to me unless the Father draws him”. We can choose to remain entrapped inside the prisons of our own making, or we can allow ourselves to be drawn outwards by the Father. The Father is working in the depths of our heart and is drawing us to himself. In a marvellous text which reflects on this passage, St Augustine tells us that God places a desire deep in our hearts and sets us on the journey to salvation. Augustine says that if you show a sheep a handful of grass, he will follow you. If you show a child a tasty treat, he will become curious and draw closer. God does the same with us. He wishes to liberate us from the absolutism of our own mentality and our own reason, in order to begin to listen much more profoundly to the way he is moving our spirit. God is drawing us! It might seem curious to say that in this world which is so agnostic regarding profound things, a world that is fixated with practical things, with the satisfaction of our appetites, with the pursuit of entertainment. But artists in general demonstrate the attraction they feel for Jesus Christ. Soon or later they paint or sculpt a crucifix or the blessed Virgin. There is something attractive about Jesus if we would only say yes to this attraction. There is something that the Father places inside each of us which draws us to the truth and authenticity of Christ. It cannot be erased from our hearts. The nostalgia we feel for God remains in the depth of our beings. And St Augustine is not the only one of the fathers that makes this assertion. This profound knowledge of God is not simply intellectual but is an experience of a life that is hidden in everyday reality, an authentic life, a life that we glimpse through our search for what is beautiful.

The Lord is drawing us and speaking to us in our hearts. Let us turn to him in silence so that we can perceive his call, so that we can tune in to the internal compass that is leading us to God.
In this passage, Jesus says: “No-one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father, and I will raise him up on the last day”. Later he says that all will be taught by God. We must allow ourselves to receive instruction from him, allow the good to speak in the depths of our hearts. This voice points out Christ to us. This good that speaks within us is the Holy Spirit who visits us and works through our intuitions. He illuminates us, caresses us, invites us to love, opens us to the risen Christ, speaks to us of the Father and of eternity. We are now in summertime (those of us who live in the northern hemisphere!). There is more time for prayer in the summer, generally speaking. Let us listen to God’s call in moments we give to silence. Let us tune in to the call of acts that are good because they are simple and clear, gestures of reconciliation, gestures of reciprocal care, There is something that draws us in the depths of our souls and leads us to the Father, that internal compass that every human being (thanks to the grace of God) possesses inside of himself.

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