Friday, 21 October 2016

October 23rd2016.Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL: Luke 18:9-14
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­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 18:9-14
Jesus addressed this parable
to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else.
“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity --
greedy, dishonest, adulterous -- or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The parable in the Gospel presents us with two types of “prayer”. The first does not deserve to be called prayer at all, because it is less an act of thanksgiving before God as a listing of the reasons why God ought to be thankful for the virtues of this Pharisee. The second is a prayer for the heart from a sinful tax collector who pleads for mercy. Authentic prayer always begins from our own poverty and misery before the Lord. It is only when we are conscious of our need for salvation that we place ourselves before God in correct manner. Jesus tells us that, after his heartfelt prayer, the tax collector returns home in right relationship with God. After prayer, when we “return home”, that is when the authenticity of our prayer can be measured. If we are not different than we were before prayer then our prayer was not authentic. If we remain the exact same egoistic individual, then our prayer is a profanation, an occupying of sacred space in an unworthy manner. It may seem ironic, but it is our awareness of our poverty and misery that is the only correct starting point for prayer.

God shows a distinct preference for the prayer of the poor and humble
The Gospel this Sunday is prepared for us by the first reading from the book of Ecclesiasticus. Here we read certain Wisdom sayings that appear to speak of God’s impartiality. But in reality it is not quite accurate to say that God is impartial. We hear that “the prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal”. The prayer of the poor person has two characteristics: it has great power and it will not cease until it attains its goal. The Lord does have his preferences after all; the clouds open before the prayers of the poor. Other passages in the Old Testament tell how God look upon the humble and prefers the poor man who turns to him with a simple prayer.

When we are conscious of our own poverty, then we place ourselves before God in prayer in a completely different way. We are aware of our need for salvation and our incapacity to save ourselves
In the Gospel from Luke two types of prayer are contrasted, one that arrives in heaven and the other that falls short. One of the characters is a publican, a class of people who collaborated with the Romans and would have profited unjustly by extracting money from the people. Despite this, his prayer is heard and he is justified – made righteous in the sight of God. In other words, he enters into a right relationship with God. The other character lists the things that he has done. He is not greedy, dishonest, or adulterous. He fasts twice a week, and pays tithes on his whole income. We have no reason to doubt the honesty of what the Pharisee is saying but these words do not constitute a prayer. He claims to be thanking God, but in reality he is listing the reasons why God should be thankful to him. He places himself before God with no awareness of what he is lacking, no consciousness of his own insignificance. The things he has done are enumerated but he has no conception of the great things that God can do for him. In contrast with the Pharisee, the tax collector has knowledge of himself; he knows that he lacks everything. To know that we are in a state of sin is a great point of departure with God. Moreover, the Pharisee is completely lacking in love. At the beginning of the passage we are told that Jesus recounted this parable “to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else”. The Pharisee does not know that he is someone marked by the tendency to look at others with disdain; that he is incapable of looking at others with benevolence. His prayer begins with the words, “I thank you Lord that I am not like others”. This is not a valid way to begin to address the Lord! Those who think that they are reasonably righteous become weary very quickly in prayer and end up speaking only about themselves. By contrast the publican says, “O God, have mercy on me a sinner”. Here, the point of departure is the sentiment that God is more powerful than him and is capable of saving him. If God does not come to his aid then he knows that he will remain nothing else but a sinner.

After prayer, we should “return home” differently. If my prayer is authentic then I will not remain the same identical person as before, the same type of egoist as before. But if I remain the same as before, then my prayer is a profanation.

We are told in the parable that the publican returns home justified in the sight of God. After prayer we must always “return home” in an important sense. It is possible to put together liturgical ceremonies that would rival a spectacle on Broadway, but the real issue is what we take home with us afterwards. This is where the true efficacy of prayer is measured. After we have finished our prayer, in what condition do we return to the ordinary things of life? If we are the same identical person before we pray and afterwards, if we remain the same type of egoist as before, then our prayer is a profanation, an occupation of sacred space in an unworthy manner. The prayer of the tax collector, by contrast, pierces the clouds and changes him. He has authentic sorrow that is based on the concrete facts of his wrongdoing. Secondly, his prayer is not an outward show of piety but an effort to establish an authentic relationship with God, a petition for the Lord to act in his life. He beats his breast, demonstrating his awareness that the problem is in his own heart, the seat of the choices he has made and the things he has done. Like last Sunday, the theme this week again is prayer, and we are shown that prayer must begin from the point of view of our own poverty, that which is miserable, unresolved and unsightly within us. Curiously enough, it is exactly this poverty that brings us authentically into the presence of God.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

October 16th 2016.Twenty-ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL: Luke 18:1-8
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­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: Luke 18:1-8
Jesus told his disciples a parable
about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. 
He said, “There was a judge in a certain town
who neither feared God nor respected any human being. 
And a widow in that town used to come to him and say,
‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’
For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought,
‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, 
because this widow keeps bothering me
I shall deliver a just decision for her
lest she finally come and strike me.’” 
The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. 
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call out to him day and night? 
Will he be slow to answer them? 
I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. 
But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The Gospel tells of the persistent widow who keeps knocking on the lazy judge’s door until he ensures that justice is done. Don Fabio tells us that we have a poor widow and an unjust judge inside each of us. And their struggle is a struggle that will not be resolved if we do not allow time for persistent prayer. The widow inside of us yearns for what is good and right, yearns for Christ, just as the lady in the parable yearned for her spouse. The lazy and unjust judge within us, by contrast, is that facet of our nature that pursues its own designs and has no regard for anything else. Every day we have this internal struggle within us between the widow and the judge. We must enable the widow to win the battle, and we can only do this is we persevere in prayer, if we establish a regular and frequent routine of prayer to which we stick tenaciously. Sometimes we think that prayer is something that is done “up on the mountain” by the privileged few, whilst the daily struggle of living is done down on the plain by the rest of us. But we all need to ascend the mountain regularly if our struggles in life are to be efficacious. Prayer and life cannot be separated; they go together, intimately hand in hand. Once we devote ourselves regularly to prayer then we will see the Providence of God assisting us in those daily struggles and bringing our lives to fruition.

Prayer is often something that happens “up on the mountain”, apparently separated from life, whilst the daily struggle of existence happens “down on the plain”. But these two things - prayer and life - must not separated at all. They must be integrated by us into an intimate whole.
Sunday’s Gospel presents us with the story of the widow who manages to achieve her goal because she does not give up. The story of her tenacity throws light on the life of prayer and our relationship with God. The first reading prepares us for this theme with a strange image. Israel is fighting on the plain against the army of Amalek whilst Moses prays on the mountain above. When Moses arms are raised in prayer, Israel wins, but whenever his arms drop, Israel begins to lose. Eventually Aron and Hur have to assist Moses in keeping his arms raised. This image reminds us that we need the support of others in prayer. When my motivation for prayer is diminished, I rely on the zeal of others to stay going, and vice-versa. How beautiful is fraternal, communitarian prayer! But the theme of this Sunday’s liturgy is the relationship between prayer and the outcome of events in ordinary life. During prayer we make appeal to God for our necessities, worries and problems. In a sense it might seem that prayer is something that happens on the “mountain” whilst life is something that unfolds on the “plain”. While we are on the plain engaged in the battle of life, we often forget the relationship with God on the mountain. And, in the same way, we are inclined to think that people who spend their lives in prayer are up on the mountain with God, far removed from those of us who have to engage in daily combat on the ground. In reality, the two things are intimately related. When I take kids into enclosed monasteries, I often hear the superficial question: “How can you enclosed nuns spend your time closed up here instead of doing the many good and beautiful things that need to be done in the world?” They do not realize that if these sisters were not in here praying, then the good actions done by others outside would have far less impact in the world. My own ministry is to proclaim the Gospel. I too have need of consecrated persons and others praying for me, who protect me with their prayers and call me to prayer, call me to the mountain from which I must descend to engage the world. Our relationship with God must be the starting point of everything else we do, lest our ministry become something of a secondary nature that does not come truly from the Lord.

Within each of us there is a noble “widow” who seeks what is just and right, and there is a lazy judge who wants to pursue his own interests. The widow within us must be persistent and must keep knocking if the lazy judge is to be persuaded to do what is right
The fact is that we cannot live our lives effectively without prayer. In the Gospel we hear how the unjust judge is finally motivated to righteous action (the defence of the widow) because of the annoying persistence of the woman. In Jewish society, the widow was at the very bottom rung of the social ladder, a person without any support whatsoever. In the parable she demands justice from her adversary. This story of the lazy judge and the persistent widow is the story of the internal struggle without each of us. We are poor and vulnerable, aware of our many limits. This noble spirit within us is conscious of the risks that our adversary has placed in our way. At the same time we have a superficial side to our character that wants to pursue our own self-interested goals. We are inclined to think that these priorities are authentic and true, and, in our laziness, we do not want to listen to the demands being made by the more noble side of our nature. Within us there is a battle between these two “hearts”, the deeper heart and the superficial heart. The deeper heart asks for justice and is able to endure discomfort and loss in order to foster a relationship with God. This struggle between profundity and superficiality is a constant interior conflict for each of us. Prayer is essential if we are to finally succeed in winning the battle. It helps to purify us of the things that are inconsistent and corrupt; and it enables us to put things right, to bring about justice. The Providence of God responds to our prayer: once the poor heart within us has overcome the lazy and unjust heart, the Lord comes to the aid and sets things right. In a sense, the poor heart within us is yearning for Christ in the same way that the widow seeks the spouse that she has lost.

When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith in my heart? Only if I am regular and persistent in prayer, like the widow. Only if the good and noble part of me has overcome the lazy and selfish part. Only if I devote myself regularly and tenaciously to prayerful communion with the Lord.
In the final line of the Gospel, Jesus asks, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” This question points to a grave and serious danger of a daily sort: Am I today engrossed in things that are of a secondary nature, blinded to what is good, just and right? The fact is that the Son of Man comes to visit me often. He comes in moments of crisis and sadness; he comes during the daily vicissitudes of life. And when he comes, does he find faith is me? He finds faith in me if he discovers that I am praying. He will find faith in my heart if the poor part of me, the part that perseveres until it finds itself in God’s justice and fullness, has overcome the part that is distracted and unjust. And in order for this combat to be successful, my prayer life must be structured; it must be consistent and regular. It must not depend on my whims or my hormones, on what I feel like doing. Prayer is something that I must insist upon. I must hammer on this door regularly until it opens. It is important to lay down simple rules for prayer and to follow them. And we must battle against ourselves, our own laziness, in order to be faithful to prayer. In this way, the deeper person within us will begin to win the battle more often against the superficial person. The widow will win and the judge will have to give in to that which the widow is demanding, and we will be in right relationship with God. We must make basic rules for prayer, beginning and ending the day with prayer. We must make frequent appointments with God. As St Augustine says, these can be short if the frenetic pace of our life does not permit otherwise, but they must be often and regular. Perseverance and tenacity in prayer is something essential for each one of us.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

September 25th 2016.Twenty Eight Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL: Luke 17:11-19
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­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 17:11-19
As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,
he travelled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
And when he saw them, he said,
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”
As they were going they were cleansed. 
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. 
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
“Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine? 
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Then he said to him, “Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you.”
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . Ten lepers were cured but only one was grateful. Gratitude is a sign that the leper was not only healed in the body but was also saved in the spirit. Good things can happen to us in life. Our physical lives or bodily health can benefit from these things. But salvation involves a transition that goes far beyond physical healing. The person who is on the road to salvation is someone who places himself before life with an attitude of gratitude. The heart of Jesus before his Father is a heart that is essentially grateful. We too become children of God by placing ourselves before life with an attitude of thankfulness for all the blessings that have been bestowed upon us. God has loved us, but if we don’t take time to contemplate the things that he has done for us then we will not even notice that we have been loved! Gratitude for the blessings that we have been given opens the road for us to love in return. There are many obstacles to gratitude in our world. The publicity of consumerist society tries to make us feel inadequate and poorly endowed. We feel that we are insufficient and have to go out and buy certain products in order to be complete. To counteract this, it is a good exercise to contemplate God’s abundant blessings every evening before going to sleep. We should count at least three beautiful things that the heavenly Father, in his providence, has blessed us with today.

The theme of the Gospel is gratitude and its link to salvation
This Sunday’s Gospel recounts the story of the healing of the ten lepers, only one of whom returns to give thanks to the Lord. The theme of the Gospel is reflected in the first reading from the Book of Kings. Here we are told how Naaman, the Syrian, is healed of his leprosy by Elisha. This story has two aspects. The first concerns obedience. Namann is given a strange instruction in order to be cured of his affliction. He is to bathe seven times in the Jordan. Though he is reluctant, Naaman is eventually obedient and he is cured. This theme of obedience - the relation between the one who makes a request and the one who responds in conformity to the request – is NOT actually emphasized in this Sunday’s liturgy. Instead, we read what happens after Naaman bathes in the water and is healed; the aspect that is emphasized here is gratitude. Naaman responds with spontaneous and exuberant gratitude to the effects wrought in him by the action of God.

Gratitude is a sign that the person has been transformed by the good things that have happened to him in life. Gratitude is the attitude of one who accepts salvation
This is a fitting prelude to the theme of the Gospel. Jesus encounters ten lepers, one of which is a Samaritan. Jesus gives them a curious instruction: they must go and present themselves to a priest. The lepers obey the instruction and they are healed. Only one of them, however, returns to give thanks. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” It is true that those who live in a house often take things for granted, whilst the guest – at least for the first few days – is grateful for everything. But here Jesus is talking about nothing less than the transition from healing to salvation. He says to the leper, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” The other nine have only been purified, but this one has been saved. It is possible to be healed in the body but not be saved in the spirit. Problems can be resolved in a practical way without any authentic interior growth. Gratitude is the sign of salvation. It is the attitude of placing oneself in front of existence with the outlook of one who has received much, who considers life to be a generous gift. This is not something unconnected or trivial. The heart of Jesus, the only begotten son of the Father, is a grateful heart. Gratitude always goes hand in hand with salvation. We would have difficulty believing a person to be saved if they were constantly complaining, if they tended to see only what is negative, if they focussed on that which was lacking instead of that which was present. Such an attitude is an indicator that the heart has not been renewed. No matter how high your position in the church or society, if your heart is not filled with gratitude then you have not truly passed from the old to the new. You do not have a proper sense of reality. Gratitude encompasses a proper perspective on reality. We often find gratitude in the hearts of people who are very sick, attitudes of peace and super abundance in people who have grave disabilities. On the other hand we find people who are constantly dissatisfied. Publicity tries to make us feel dissatisfied, insufficient, incomplete, poorly endowed, so that we will go out and buy things. We are prompted to be anxious, to crave the wrong sort of completion. But the grateful heart is a heart that is serene before all of this clamour. It is a heart that rejoices in all that it possesses already.

It is essential that we cultivate our hearts so that they become grateful recipients of salvation
It is absolutely fundamental that we engage in a “cure” that involves the contemplation of the gifts that have been bestowed upon us, a listing of all of our blessings. We cannot arrive at love if we do not first have gratitude. Love is something that we receive from the Lord, but if we do not mediate on the way that we have been loved, on the blessings that have been poured upon us, then we will not be aware that we have been loved at all. Sometimes we look back in life and see all of the people who have been kind to us, who have been patient with us, who have taken care of us. It is only later that we realize who much we have been loved. At the time we did not register it at all. This Sunday we are presented with an urgent challenge: let us not behave like people who have been shortchanged by life; instead let us have the outlook of people who have been showered with blessings. A good exercise to perform every evening is to count at least three beautiful things received from Providence that day. It is an exercise that does us much benefit, to count at least three good things that life, Providence, our heavenly Father has gifted us with today. In this way we cultivate hearts worthy of God’s children.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

October 2nd 2016.Twenty Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL: Luke 17:5-10
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­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: Luke 17:5-10
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” 
The Lord replied,
If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field,
Come here immediately and take your place at table’? 
Would he not rather say to him,
Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished’? 
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? 
So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded,
say, ‘We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.’”
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The Gospel this Sunday seems to contain two disconnected statements of Jesus. One tells us of the importance of having faith, and says that faith as large as a mustard seed can accomplish great things. The other statement speaks of a servant who comes in from the fields and is now expected to serve his master. Jesus says that the servant does not deserve to be applauded for his tenacious service. Don Fabio tells us that these two statements are actually intimately connected. Faith in God is not an easy, passive thing. It demands tenacity, obedience and humility – exactly the attitude shown by the faithful servant who comes in from the fields and continues to serve his master. It is not easy to have constant faith in the Lord! Like the prophet Habakkuk in the first reading, we are surrounded by pain, anguish and desolation. How often we feel like giving up, like ceasing to pray, like resigning ourselves to despair! This is the very time that we need to abandon ourselves to the Lord, placing ourselves before him in humble submission, continuing to serve him. Such an attitude is not one of moralism or activism, but the attitude of one who wishes to maintain his relationship with the Lord above all else. If we can hold on in faith, then the moment of crisis will pass and we will have the recompense of joy and serenity that comes with walking in the Lord.

Does this Gospel contain two discourses that are not connected to each other? The first reading shows how the two sentiments are actually intimately linked
In this Sunday’s Gospel we seem to have the juxtaposition of two things that sound completely independent of each other. Jesus says, “If you had faith as large as a mustard seed you could tell this mulberry tree to uproot itself and be replanted in the sea, and it would obey.” Like the disciples, we too often suffer from the condition of having too little faith, of being only partially open to the Lord. But following this description of faith, Jesus seems to digress. He tells of a servant who comes in from the fields and begins to serve his master. The servant does not expect the master to be grateful to him for the work he has done. Once the servant has done his duty then he should say to himself, “We are unprofitable servants. We have done what we were commanded to do”. These two discourses seem so disjointed!However, the first reading from the prophet Habakkuk shows us how the business of being obedient servants to the Lord is actually part and parcel of having faith in the Lord. The reading refers to a situation of injustice and oppression. The prophet cannot bear it any longer and he says to the Lord, “Why do I have to see this ruin and misery?” God replies to him, saying, “The vision that I have shown you does not deceive. Wait and you will see that it is fulfilled. Those who are rash have no integrity, but the just man, because of his faith, will live”. The prophet is scandalized by the destruction all around him, but the Lord tells him of the importance of being able to abandon oneself in service to the Lord and await his intervention.

Having faith in God and being obedient servants of the Lord are the same thing. Trusting God necessarily involves abandoning ourselves to him when the chips are down and all seems lost. Having faith in God is not an easy, passive thing. It involves humble submission in service to him especially at the moment of desperation
The notion of living by the power of faith is one that has aroused much controversy. How are we to understand the statement about telling the mulberry tree to be uprooted and replanted in the sea? Anyone who knows trees will be aware that the mulberry is a majestic tree with an enormous network of roots. What effort it would take to uproot one of these! But Jesus tells us that with faith as large as a mustard seed - in other words, he is referring to the quality of our faith and not its quantity – the mulberry tree would obey. The second discourse, that speaks of the steward who comes in from his work in the field and continues to serve his master, is extremely relevant to this discourse about faith. The steward demonstrates the tenacity of one who places himself before God as a servant pleased to minister to his master. In life there are many enigmas, incredible poverty, much pain. How often we fall into exasperation! Like the prophet Habakkuk we ask ourselves how long we will have to endure this evil that surrounds us and touches us personally. And, as the Lord tells the prophet, the one who does not have an upright soul is in danger of succumbing to this devastation. In order to endure, we must have a soul that places itself before God in the correct manner, obedient to its master, fully conscious that his master has the right to govern him. There is a form of behaviour that might appear passive but is in fact proactive per excellence: and that is to place ourselves before God and entrust ourselves to him with confidence that we will not be disappointed; to serve him right to the end. The mulberry bush will obey us if we obey God. Life becomes fruitful, it one day transforms into something beautiful, but only if we remain with God, abandoning ourselves to him despite the obstacles and desperation that surround us. Often when we are climbing a mountain, especially with young people, we come to a stage where no-one wants to go any further. We have to say, “Keep going, we’re nearly there!” even if it is not quite true. For when we get past the moment of tiredness then we are able to go on and reach the point where we see the beautiful view. In our spirit and soul there is often the point of difficulty where we encounter a wall of internal resistance. This point of crisis exists in our prayer life, and in our efforts at serving others, but once we get past it then we arrive at a stage of balance and joy that marks the response of God to our plight. As the first reading says, “The just one lives by his faith”.

We are asked to humbly place ourselves as servants before God even in times of trial. This is not some sort of moralism. Rather it is the attitude of one who clings tenaciously to his relationship with God. And when we continue to walk with God, we do not deserve to be applauded! The walk itself is its own reward. Once we get past the moment of crisis we enter the stage of joy and serenity, God’s recompense for our faithfulness
How often we find that the “problems” is our lives do not actually get resolved, but we become better people as a result of the fact that we place ourselves in the hands of God through it all. The source of anguish does not go away, but we are changed, we grow more mature, we become adults. This attitude of doing what we have to do is not some sort of moralistic approach to life; rather it is the attitude of one who refuses to abandon his relationship with God. It is the attitude of one who goes beyond the tiredness, beyond the desperation. We all have the experience of holding firm beyond the point of crisis and discovering that things become more beautiful and serene. When it appears that all is lost and it is time to give up, that is the very time to cling fast to our hope. If we think we have already prayed too much, then (unless our spiritual director tells us otherwise) it is essential that we hold on longer and keep praying. We must stay constant in serving God and placing ourselves obediently before him; God will look after our recompense. The fact that we are mere servants does not mean that we are useless. As in the Gospel parable, we are servants who do not get paid because the service that we do is already payment in itself. We experience the joy of continuing to walk with our God, to climb that last stretch of beautiful mountain. The reason I am in these mountains in the first place is to climb them. Tiredness may have overcome me for a moment, and when I manage to pick myself up, I do not deserve to be applauded for continuing to climb and discover the beauty around me. In life, the moment will always arrive when we have to overcome our own state of the soul, overcome our own physical weariness, our fixations, our own notions of how things ought to be done; when we have to continue to move towards God and entrust ourselves to him

Saturday, 24 September 2016

September 25th 2016.Twenty Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL: Luke 16:19-31
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­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: Luke 16:19-31
Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man's table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.
When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. 
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.
And he cried out, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me. 
Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,
for I am suffering torment in these flames.'
Abraham replied,
‘My child, remember that you received
what was good during your lifetime 
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.
Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established
to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go
from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’
He said, ‘Then I beg you, father,
send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers,
so that he may warn them,
lest they too come to this place of torment.'
But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets.
Let them listen to them.’
He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham,
but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, 
neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . When confronted with the notion of hell, there are two temptations. The first is to live the externals of the Christian faith in a blindly obedient way, out of the terror of the possibility of perdition. Here there is no true conversion or possibility of real love. The second temptation is to deny the possibility of hell and to claim that God’s great mercy will mean that all of us will be accepted into paradise. But this clashes with the clear teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. Our Lord clearly reveals that we have the possibility of eternal damnation. The parable about Lazarus and the rich man highlights the importance of living a reflective life, a life that is conscious that our actions have eternal consequences. How many of us live dissolute lives! Lives that do not look beyond the present significance of our behaviour! How many of us are inclined to think that in the future a special “boat” will arrive that will carry me to salvation! This parable reveals that the boat of salvation is passing me by right now, today. The rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to tell his brothers to change their lives. But Abraham replied that they already had Moses and the prophets to instruct them, and they would not believe even if someone were to rise from the dead. We too have Moses and the prophets, and we also have had the resurrection of Jesus announced to us, but we still carry on living dissolute lives! The message of this Sunday’s Gospel is that God is giving us his grace, right now, for our salvation. Let us open our eyes and accept the graces that are being put in front of us this very day. Let us not waste the opportunities the Lord has sent me in the present moment that lead me to true and authentic life.

Our actions have consequences, not only in this world, but also for our eternal salvation
This Sunday’s Gospel presents us with the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. There are many themes in this Gospel, but the first reading from the prophet Amos draws attention to one of them: the scandal of those who live in opulent comfort and have no heed of those who are deprived. In the story of Lazarus, the poor man lies starving at the rich man’s door and is carried to the bosom of Abraham when he dies. The rich man dies also and ends up in hell. We are told that there is an unbridgeable chasm between the two realms. This last point is very important and it highlights the fact that our actions have consequences and that these consequences are serious. During our earthly lives we can experience conversion and embrace the mercy of God. In this sense our actions can be “reversible”, but our actions in general also constitute a global “yes” or “no” to the love of God, a “yes” or “no” to the call to serve God’s love and truth. We can rebel and refuse to submit to him as his creatures, and this can lead to a terrible outcome. There has been a lot of debate in modern times about the existence of hell, but if we were to deny its existence then we would be going against the Gospels: it would be difficult to find anyone speaking as much about hell as Jesus does in the course of the Gospels. He clearly states that we have the possibility of perdition. Jesus died for us; he is love incarnate; the face of the mercy of the Father; the one who prays for us from the cross while we are crucifying him. But our freedom is real and we can reject what he has done for us.

We can be tempted to obey blindly out of the fear of hell, or we can be tempted to dismiss the possibility of damnation entirely. The correct response to the notion of hell is to take the consequences of our actions seriously, to try to act in a dignified and righteous way
When confronted with the notion of hell there are two temptations. The first was more prevalent in the past. We can focus on the possibility of perdition, leading to acts of submission and obedience out of terror. But St John tells us that there is no love in fear. Fear does not produce real sanctity. It leads to acts of external conformity that are wholly oriented to one’s self-preservation. Such acts do not derive from love or from true conversion. The second temptation in the face of the belief in hell is one that we find more commonly nowadays. We flee from the notion of damnation and deny it. All behaviour is ultimately excusable in some way or other. We develop the hypothesis of an “empty hell”, speculating that each of us will be allowed into heaven regardless of our misdemeanours in life. But I think we profit little from useless speculation as to whether hell is empty or not. What is more essential is to entrust all our loved ones, as well as those who have sinned greatly, into the merciful arms of God. But apart from the temptations to live in terror of hell. or to live life whilst denying it completely, there is a middle way. This involves the recognition that I am responsible for my own actions. I shouldn’t live so much in the fear of the eternal consequences of my own actions as in the concern for the dignity and uprightness of my actions.

What is the correct response in the face of the problem of evil and suffering? It is not fatalism but the recognition that my actions have consequences. The parable reminds us to live reflective lives, lives that are mindful of the meaning of our own actions
Sometimes it is said that the final judgement is not so much about God asking humanity to account for its actions as humanity asking God for an explanation of the terrible things that have happened in the course of history. Enormous multitudes of people have been tortured and killed. Is all of this nothing in the eyes of God? No, it is not nothing! All of this is present to God. If we have concern for other people who are suffering, then God has a thousand times more concern for the creatures that he has loved into existence. The Lord does not give anyone the right to inflict suffering on others and we should never resign ourselves to fatalism in the face of evil. God did not will the evil that is in the world. Humanity must take responsibility for this evil, with all of the excuses that the heart of God will discover in order to show us mercy. But how does this Gospel passage help us to confront the problem of evil and suffering? It highlights the thoughtlessness of the rich man. We too carry on without asking ourselves where we are going. We live dissolute lives, which means that we behave without consideration for the final end of our actions. The dissolute person does not care that his life is short, that his youth and strength are disappearing. He does not realize that his independence is illusory and that he will soon need the care and mercy of others. The rich man in the parable does not bother examining the outcome of his behaviour. One of the fundamental principles of discernment of the human heart is the question: “Where is this leading me?” We must never evaluate things solely for their actuality but also for their consequences.

Am I inclined to think that my present behaviour is ok, and that in the future some special “boat” will arrive that will take me to salvation? The boat of salvation is already passing me by! God gives me the grace every day to be saved. I must grasp it. The message of this parable is to grasp the grace that the Lord gives me today.
The rich man asks that Lazarus be sent to his brothers so that they may become aware of the errors of their ways. This seems a noble desire, the urge to save his family. The response of Abraham is surprising. He says that they have the teachings of Moses and the Prophets to instruct them: let the rich man’s brothers listen to them! But the rich man replies: “No, they will listen if someone from the dead goes to them”. Abraham says, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, then they will not be persuaded even if someone were to rise from the dead”. This statement is relevant to all of us because Jesus has risen and his resurrection has been announced to all of us. Have we changed our behaviour as a result? The parable reveals to us that the ways of salvation are always at hand’s reach. They were already available to the rich man and his brothers and they are available to us today. We have the inclination to think that it is ok to carry on behaving as we are now, and that in the future some special “boat” will arrive that will carry us to salvation. The boat of salvation is already passing us by, right now. It is essential that I ask myself, “What must I do today in order to be saved? What is present in my life right now that must be embraced in order to be saved?” To carry on living in an unreflective way is not good. I can destroy my own existence and it is essential that I grasp the opportunities that come my way today for salvation. I must make use of the helps that are placed in my way today because they are the graces that the Lord gives me. The teachings of Moses and the prophets are graces that the Lord gives me for my salvation. He always gives us what we need for salvation. It is good and right to always ask for God’s help, but let us recall that he is already helping us. Let us open our hearts and fix our eyes on what he has given us. Let us not live our lives dissolutely, wasting the grace of God.

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Sunday Gospel Reflection