Friday, 23 June 2017

June 25th 2017. Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL: Matthew 10, 26-33
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

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

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GOSPEL: Matthew 10, 26-33
Jesus said to the Twelve:
"Fear no one.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
But whoever denies me before others,
I will deny before my heavenly Father."
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kierans summary . . . The Gospel tells us that the Father will deny us (not recognize us) in heaven if we deny Jesus on earth. This sounds like a moral exhortation to go out and testify to Jesus. But more than a moral exhortation, it is really a diagnosis of the state of our hearts. If we really knew Jesus, if we had truly experienced his love and mercy, if we had felt the tenderness of the Holy Spirit, then we would naturally want to testify to God from the rooftops! If I have not borne witness to Christ, then, instead of feeling guilty about that fact, the more basic issue is to ask myself if I really know Jesus at all. A person who is embarrassed about Christ is someone who does not really know Christ. If I am a poor witness to the Gospel, then the first thing I must do is look inwardly and ask myself if I have truly accepted the Gospel. Once I have contemplated and received the love of God for me, then I will bear witness without any difficulty or embarrassment! The soul that has been inundated with the love of Christ cannot but speak aloud about the love of Christ!

Living the Christian message inevitably involves going against the tide of popularity
The first reading tells of the woes of the prophet Jeremiah. He is derided, ridiculed and jeered from all sides. Why? Because his prophecies make people uncomfortable. Prophecy is a shaft of light that illuminates the darkness of our poorly-founded convictions, and it makes us feel ill at ease. If, as Christians, we find ourselves acclaimed and praised by everyone, then something must be wrong somewhere! It is true that we are called to bring love to the world, not to attack it, but at the same time it is inevitable that the Christian message will be unpopular: it is never popular to go against the mediocrity and the compromises that characterize the ways of the world. The beauty, purity and holiness of the Christian life is not readily palatable to the uninitiated. The sublime nature of the message of Jesus is an uncomfortable challenge to grow.

The true Christian is free from fear of rejection. He does not conceal what he truly believes. All such deceptions will one day be brought to light
The story of Jeremiah’s struggle with rejection by the people and his consolation by God prepares us for the Gospel. The theme of this Gospel is the freedom of the Christian from the fear of rejection by men. If we have this freedom then we are also free from the sort of hypocrisy that prompts us to say one thing though we believe another. In this beautiful passage from Matthew we are told that there is nothing that “is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.” In popular thinking, there is the idea that life cannot be deceived - “what goes around, comes around”. The generous providence of God covers many things, but things that are defective sooner or later reveal themselves. If we do not love, then it will one day become clear. If we are not truly reconciled to each other, then the cracks will eventually show. If we leave a deep problem unresolved, then this problem will manifest itself eventually in some other way. It is not that divine providence will unmask us suddenly in a shocking fashion: life itself, being that which is real, confronts the deception and brings it to the surface.

When something makes us joyful, we naturally want to speak aloud about it
“That which is heard in the darkness will be spoken in the light; that which is whispered in the ear will be proclaimed from the rooftops.” There is a call here, certainly, but it is also a natural dynamic that occurs automatically by itself. When a man is very joyful about something, he cannot wait to tell about it; when a woman is happy about a certain event, she look for someone to share the news with. Human beings live for relationships, and relationships make things worthwhile. If something important happens and we have no-one to share it with, then that thing loses depth. It is not that we must have the positive opinion or praise of others in everything we do, but it is the joy of sharing that gives the thing significance.

The text can be read as saying that we have a moral obligation to testify to Jesus. But it is also true that if we really know Jesus then we will naturally want to testify to him from the rooftops
Whoever denies the Lord Jesus is one who very likely never knew him properly to begin with. He may have encountered him, but not on the level of the heart, for whoever loves something is faithful to that thing. Sometimes we speak in “ecclesial” language of the “obligation” to evangelize, to bear witness to Christ. But how can it be an obligation? If one is a true witness, then one naturally bears witness. If one does not bear witness willingly, then maybe he hasn’t experienced something beautiful in the first place. If one doesn’t testify with enthusiasm, then maybe one is not so enamoured with the message. I am faithful to that which I know saves me. I am willing to shout about that which gives joy to my heart. This text can be read in a moralistic way, interpreting it to refer to that which we are obliged to say, or we can read it as a means of diagnosing what is in our hearts. The text tells us that he who does not testify to Jesus in front of men is in turn not recognized by the Father in heaven. But beyond a moralistic exhortation, this also indicates that such a person is not really a son of the Father - he does not stand in the correct relationship to God (if he did, he would naturally want to testify to Jesus in front of men!) It is not that we are suddenly rejected by the Father as a punishment, but it is a simple fact that we cannot be recognized by the Father as one of his children because we have not loved him. We are not accepted by the Father because we have not allowed ourselves to be swept up by him.

If I do not testify to Christ, then the primary issue is not my guilt for my lack of testimony, but my need for renewal so that I will discover the love of Christ for me. Once I experience and welcome that love, then testimony will flow naturally!

He who knows and loves Jesus cannot but speak well of him! He cannot deny him willingly! Once we have been pardoned by the Lord Jesus, how can we ever keep silent of this fact! The man or woman who has encountered the tenderness of this One who has valued us so much - such a person knows his worth in the eyes of the Lord. He knows that he will not be forgotten. Once someone intuits, understands, the passion of Christ for him, the love of the Father for him, the tenderness of the Holy Spirit, how can such a person keep silent? If someone is silent, then that indicates that he has not experienced the love of God, he has not preserved in welcoming and receiving the Lord, he is unconvinced by the Christian message. A person who does not speak willingly of Christ does not know Christ! A person who is embarrassed by Christ is someone who has not met him. He must allow himself to be renewed by a more profound encounter with the Lord. If I do not bear witness to Christ, then rather than feeling guilty about this lack of testimony, I should ask myself, “Have I ever really met the Lord?” A series of embarrassed Christians is simply a series of people who have not really seen the love of Christ, nor have they welcomed it. A soul simply cannot deny love when it has been inundated with love. The essential thing is not so much to question our lack of witness; the more fundamental issue is to look at the kind of truth that we possess inside. Have we or have we not encountered the truth of the love of God for us?

Friday, 16 June 2017

June 18th 2017. CORPUS CHRISTI - The Body and Blood of Christ
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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GOSPEL; John 6, 51-58
Jesus said to the Jewish 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."

Kieran’s summary . . . Sunday is the feast of Corpus Christi. The first reading from Deuteronomy recalls that God fed the people of Israel for forty years in the desert with manna, a bread they had never known previously and one that they did not understand. Despite this incomprehension, the Lord still formed them into a people through the trials and the darkness. In the Gospel reading, the Jews once again cannot understand what Jesus is doing. How can he give them his flesh to eat? But Jesus does not ask for our comprehension. He asks for our self-abandonment into relationship with him. We can understand all mysteries, but that is of no use if we do not respond to God’s invitation into communion with him. Relationship doesn’t require comprehension. We don’t fall in love with someone by looking at an analysis of their blood. We fall in love with them through communication and relationship. The giving of himself to us as food is not something that we need to explain in a logical or rational way. Even without understanding it, we can appreciate that this giving of himself is a radical call to union with him. God wants to be in relationship with us, and look how far he is willing to go! God so wants to be in union with us that he allows us to consume him! Normally the person who eats is more important than the food that is eaten. And Jesus wants to be with us so much that he makes himself our very food. We need God above all other things in life. Food is a basic requirement and that is why Jesus becomes our food, because he is our most basic requirement of all.  Let us believe in his love for us! Let this love drive out our fear so that we are as willing to unite ourselves to him as he is to us! May our experience of the Eucharist be an experience of radical and complete union with God.

For forty years in the desert, God fed the people with a bread that they didn’t know or understand. Through their trials and darkness, the Lord formed them into his people
On this feast of Corpus Christi, we celebrate the gift of Christ to us in the Eucharist, our sacramental relationship with Jesus through this immense, substantial reality of the body and blood of the Lord. The key to interpreting this feast is given to us by the readings which speak of the surprising innovations of God. The first reading from Deuteronomy speaks of the forty years of humiliation and trial in the desert during which the people of Israel were formed. These trials served to expose what was in the heart of the people, the quality of the relationship between Israel and its God. During this period of formation, the people were fed with manna, “a bread that was unknown to them or their fathers, so that they might learn that one does not live by bread alone”. The fact that this bread was unknown to them actually led them to embrace a greater mystery and achieve greater understanding. Man does not live on bread alone but on that which comes from the mouth of God.

Jesus does not ask that we understand him but that we abandon ourselves to relationship with him
In the Gospel passage we encounter again the theme of incomprehension. The Jews argue among themselves, “How can he give us his flesh to eat?” Once again, we are up against something which does not permit a clear rational solution of the Cartesian kind. The bread that is being referred to is not something to be understood but consumed. This is the point. What kind of food and drink is this which is being described as “true food and true drink”? Our wonderful Catholic tradition has provided explanations of the Eucharist, for example in terms of transubstantiation, but these efforts always leave us on the threshold of the mystery. It is not possible to explain in a comprehensive way. The meaning of the Greek word for “mystery” does not signify something that we cannot understand, but something that can only be understood if it is lived. We are invited to eat his body, not understand his body. We are invited to drink his blood, not understand it. The law of our salvation indicates that it is not comprehension that is necessary for redemption but something more. We can understand Trinitarian theology perfectly, comprehend the nature of good and evil, but remain completely cut off from salvation, because we have never responded to that which we have understood. Everyone is capable of entrusting themselves to God; no superior intellectual capacities for understanding are required. In the reading from Deuteronomy, the people live by what comes from the mouth of God, and by being obedient to this word that comes from God. This is open to simple, uneducated people, to people in crisis or whatever state of mind. All of us can abandon ourselves in obedience to the Lord.

Just as we need food and drink so we need to be in relationship with the Lord. Corpus Christi announces that God is here to be encountered, tasted, lived
Jesus does not try to explain to us how his flesh becomes our food. Instead he speaks of “remaining” 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 point: not to have a logical comprehension of the situation but to live for another. We don’t fall in love with another person by reading an analysis of their blood. We fall in love with them by speaking with them, becoming involved in an interchange with them, entering into relationship. What do we celebrate on Corpus Christi? Many things, but fundamentally the fact that we can enter into relationship with God. Our explanations of the Eucharist will always fall short. But fortunately we can still encounter him in this simple yet marvellous sign. The encounter may be sublime but it occurs through the elementary act of eating and drinking, of living by him. Our one real necessity in life is to be in relationship with Our Lord. Our anxieties and deficiencies are resolved in him. In him, beyond the pure question of comprehension, our lives find that which truly matters.

This feast highlights the fact that Jesus has placed himself utterly at our disposal. It tells us that we no longer need to fear anything. Our God has come down to become our very food.

In the act of giving himself to us, we understand him in an experiential way. We discover that he is someone who is for us. That is the secret contained in the Eucharistic mystery. A person exists who is utterly dedicated to us. His body is true food for us, his blood is true drink. For what is more important, the person who eats, or the food that is eaten? Normally it is the one who eats that is most important, but the Lord Jesus places himself in front of us as that which is eaten, consumed. He places himself at our service, at our disposal. If only we could believe in this love, celebrate this love, enter into it. Corpus Christi is a feast that calls us to develop the art of not having any fear of eating him, not having the dread of giving ourselves to him. How much more does he give himself to us! May our reception of the Eucharist become a fundamental experience in our lives where we discover that there is the real possibility of radical union with God, a union that is physical and complete.

Friday, 9 June 2017

June 11th 2017. TRINITY SUNDAY
Gospel: John 3:16-18
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 3:16-18
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
THIS IS THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . Trinity Sunday reveals that God’s very nature is love. In the first reading from Exodus, we hear that the Lord’s deepest name is mercy and graciousness. The love of God is not a sentimental love that leaves us as we are, but a love that pardons our sins and transforms our lives. Left to ourselves, we waste our lives and destroy ourselves. We allow our intelligence to degenerate. We abuse our bodies and lead lives without meaning. God shows us the true value of our lives by sending his son to die for us. In Genesis 22, Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, but God did not want that kind of sacrifice at all. The sacrifice he wanted was that Abraham give his very paternity over to the Lord. It was Abraham’s heart that the Lord wanted. And to win our hearts God gave his only son to us. We took that son, crucified him and killed him, and in this way we discovered that God’s mercy is infinite, extending even to the humanity that destroyed his son. In all of this, God’s motive is to draw us into the life of communion of the Trinity. All we need to do is accept God’s mercy and his invitation to enter into relationship with him. It is not energy or action that God seeks from us, but abandonment. We are condemned – not by our actions – but by our proud rejection of the mercy and pardon of God which seeks to draw us into the life of the Trinity.

The very nature of God is love and mercy. And it is not a superficial or impersonal love and mercy. God’s mercy brings authentic salvation to us. It liberates us and brings us to life
This Sunday we read the marvellous passage from John 3 which tells how God gives his only son so that the world might be saved. We are prepared for this Gospel by the celebrated passage from Exodus 34 in which God fully reveals his name to Moses, announcing also that the covenant must be re-established in the aftermath of the destruction wrought by the Israelites with their worship of the golden calf (Exodus 32). Pope Francis has written a book with the title “The Name of God is Mercy”. This title does not simply arise from some desire of Pope Francis to underline the merciful nature of God. In Exodus 34, God describes himself as "a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity."  The first two terms, “merciful” and “gracious” are synonyms and  speak of the loving nature of God in both its paternal and maternal aspects. Mercy is fundamental to the nature of God. It is not a feature of a partial viewpoint on the Lord where we accentuate one of his attributes. When God reveals himself he shows himself to be love, and he cannot do otherwise. This love is not a sentimental projection of human love. The love of God is salvific and the salvation is not superficial, vain or sentimental. It is not a salvation that leaves everything as it was previously. It is not a pardon that is general and impersonal. It is not like icing on an inedible cake that remains as it was regardless of what is covering it. The salvation of the Lord is real, eternal and indelible. It liberates humanity from evil, but allows man the liberty to refuse this salvation or embrace it.

We destroy ourselves. We waste our intelligence, our time and our energies. But we are precious in the eyes of God and he sacrifices himself to show us how much he loves us. God wants our hearts and is ready to go to the extreme to show us his mercy and enter into relationship with us.
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” So much in our way of life perishes. The human being is incredibly wasteful and destructive in so many different ways. One of the important lessons we must learn in life is to distance ourselves from self-destructive attitudes. One of the open wounds in the heart of man is his tendency to destroy himself. We take our intelligence and allow it to degenerate. We use our corporeality in the wrong way and turn it into something utterly banal. We allow our lives to develop in grey and meaningless ways. In order to halt this self-destruction we need to comprehend the value of our lives. On this feast of the Trinity we hear the proclamation of the words of the Gospel which demonstrate that our lives in the eyes of God are so precious that God puts himself on the line for us. He will go to the extreme so that we do not perish. Recall in  Genesis 22 that Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son to the Lord. The Lord asks Abraham to open himself completely to God, to the extent of sacrificing his beloved son. In reality, God does not want this sacrifice from Abraham. What he really wants is Abraham’s heart, and Abraham gives that by consigning his very paternity to the Lord. In the end, Abraham does not lose his son but becomes the father of a great multitude. God, by contrast, does the opposite. He offers us his son and we take him, crucify him and take his life away. Our impoverishment and doubts prompt us to take things to this awful extreme. But it is only by sinking to this absurd level that we discover that the name of the Lord is mercy. God accepts our bad disposition towards his tenderness. He allows us to crucify his son and then offers us the new life of the resurrection.

Salvation means to be drawn into the life of communion of the Trinity. It does not require a big effort on our part, but abandonment. We are condemned, not by our sins, but by our proud refusal to accept the love and mercy of God, the mercy that draws us into the life of the Trinity

The Gospel goes on to say that whoever believes in Jesus will be saved. In order to be saved we do not need to do anything dramatic. We just need to entrust ourselves to his mercy. This is the greatest challenge: to believe in his love. This belief does not require energy on our part, but abandonment. It requires a type of serene receptivity. No other salvation exists apart from that which we receive, not earn. The secret of God is relationship. This Sunday we proclaim the truth that the interior life of God is one of communion, a life of interchange, gift, gratitude and love. The Holy Spirit is the love that exists between Father and Son. The terms “love”, “union”, “communion” and “fraternity” are vain attempts to express that which is fundamental to God. But intellectual expression is not our goal. The Lord wishes to draw us into this communion and in order to do so confronts that which is the lowest, most distorted, and ugliest in man - his sin. Condemnation does not result from our waywardness and destructiveness but from our refusal to allow ourselves to be loved and pardoned. Our pride keeps us outside of communion with the blessed Trinity. When we allow ourselves to be loved and pardoned, we are introduced into the divine life which is a life of communion. Relationship is our salvation. Solitude is the inferno.

Friday, 2 June 2017

GOSPEL: John 20:19-23
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­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: John 20:19-23
On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, "Peace be with you."
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
"Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained."
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kierans summary . . . The apostles speak at Pentecost and everyone can understand them as if the words were proclaimed in the hearer’s native language. When we truly proclaim the Gospel two miracles occur: the first is the sensation that the words we speak come not from ourselves but have a power than comes from a divine source; but the greater miracle is the second one, which is the activity of the Holy Spirit in the ears of the listener that enables him to receive this life-giving word. In the Gospel passage from John, the gift of the Holy Spirit is inseparable from the forgiveness of sins. Jesus “breathes” the spirit on them. This recalls the breath of God in Genesis by which God gives life to the form made of clay. The gift of the Holy Spirit creates us a second time. We are given new eyes, new ears, a new mind and new words. We are drawn out of ourselves into relationship with God. It is sin that closes us up in the stagnant room of loneliness and egoism. That is why the forgiveness of sin is the central event in the gift of the Holy Spirit. By that forgiveness we are liberated from this closed room of solitude. And when we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit we are also called to bring the forgivess of God to others. If we do not carry the mercy of God to the world, who will?

Only the love and mercy of God can give meaning to our lives. And we are commissioned to bring this forgiveness and love to others. If we do not do it, who will?
The first reading for Sunday tells the story of what happens at Pentecost. This story is not found in the Gospels, since it concerns that which follows from the resurrection of our Lord Jesus. It is the story of the door of life that has been opened by the redemption wrought by Christ. The Gospel passage, however, gives us, in summary form, the essence of this new story that arises from the resurrection. “The people whose sins you forgive shall be forgiven, the people whose sins you do not forgive shall not be forgiven”. The central issue is the forgiveness of sin. If we carry this pardon to others, then they can avail of it, but if there is no-one to carry this pardon to them, then how can they avail of it? Forgiveness is a central question in life. We have a fundamental need for it. It is not possible to float along on the surface of life on our own merits. We are simply inadequate as we are in ourselves. To begin living a true and authentic life, we need the scandalous, unconditional love of Christ who pardons our sins. Only this love can give meaning to life. All the possessions and achievements of this world are insufficient. We need love. We need to be loved and to experience that others are happy on account of us. This, in essence, is the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is the essence of redemption. The Father created us for this, Christ rose for this, that we might live in union with him, and this necessitates mercy. Our mission in life is to be people who bring this pardon and mercy to others. If we do not bring this pardon to others, who will do it? This is the meaning of the phrase, “Those whose sins you do not forgive shall not be forgiven”.

Human mercy is conditional and incomplete. Only God can pardon in the fullest sense of the word.
Does human mercy exist? Yes, it exists, but it tends to be of the conditional sort. It requires a good heart and a good disposition, a willingness to forge ahead and forget the past. This is all very fine, but it does not truly resolve the central issue of pardon. It leaves a residue that is unresolved, a fracture that is not fully healed, old wounds that are difficult to even express clearly. Only God can pardon in the true sense of the word.

The gift of the Holy Spirit creates us a second time. We gain new words, new ears, a new mind and new perception.
This scene of the resurrection in John’s Gospel describes a gift of the Holy Spirit bestowed by Christ on the apostles on the very day of the resurrection. Christ breathes on them. This is an image of creation. In the second chapter of Genesis, God gives life to a form made of clay by breathing upon it. This clay becomes, life, experience, relationship. Thus the coming of the Holy Spirit is a call to being created a second time. The gift of the Holy Spirit is a gift of being pardoned, a gift of unconditional love. This gift is a new creation that transforms our relationships, prompting us to speak in a new way, listen with new ears, understand with a new mind, see with new eyes.

When we truly proclaim the Gospel, we realize that we are speaking with a power that does not come from ourselves. But the greatest miracle is the action of the Holy Spirit in the ears of the listeners: he gives them the gift of perceiving this life giving message in terms that are “native” to them
The listeners to the preaching of the apostles at Pentecost are amazed. “Are these men not from Galilee? How do we hear them speaking in our own language?” Something happens which is not merely in the words of the apostles but in the ears of the listeners. When one preaches the Gospel, one has two extraordinary experiences: the first is the sense that what one is saying does not merely come from oneself; if this word comes solely from human analysis and reasoning, then generally it is a word that is boring both for the hearer as well as for the speaker; but in preaching the Gospel, one has a feeling of joy that comes from the sense that what one is saying does not originate in oneself; it is too high, more sublime, greater than that which we could produce by ourselves. The second miracle is the greater one and it is what happens in the heart of the listener; the real issue is not whether or not I am able to say something that touches the listener: the more important goal is that the listener should be affected by what is proclaimed, that the Holy Spirit should operate in the heart and in the ears of the one who listens.

The action of the Holy Spirit is an action that brings us out of the solitude and individualism of sin. We are closed in the stagnant rooms of our self-absorption. The Holy Spirit pardons us and draws us into the open, into relationship with the Lord, into a new interpretation of our lives in which we begin to see the providential action of God is everything, an action that draws us into communion and is driven by His love for us

It is not that the apostles received the gift of being able to speak different languages simultaneously. Rather they received the gift of being able to speak out with courage. Previously they were afraid, closed within themselves and unable to communicate. All of a sudden, these tongues of fire entered into them. They were able to come out of themselves and communicate. They became capable of speaking a “new language”, of saying that which they were unable to say. The listeners were able to understand in their own native languages because of the gift that was being bestowed on them by the Lord. This gift is inseparable from the forgiveness of sins, which consists in the establishment of authentic relationships and the end of solitude. We are impoverished, alone and closed within ourselves because of our sins. Yet God is able to break into our solitude, into the stagnant, closed rooms of our loneliness and bring us out into the fresh air. He speaks to us in our own native language. The listeners at Pentecost heard tell of the great works of God. When we bring the forgiveness of God to others, we bring them to the awareness of the wonderful works of God. They no longer see life as a succession of chance events, but as the working out of the providential plan of God. They begin to see the hand of God hidden underneath things and they finally open themselves to this activity of God. They feel a sense of contact with the love of the Father, a Father who is working constantly in subtle ways to take care of them. The gift of the Holy Spirit which we celebrate at Pentecost marks the victory over solitude, especially in terms of our relationship with God.

Friday, 26 May 2017

GOSPEL: Matthew 28:16-20
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

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

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GOSPEL: Matthew 28:16-20
The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
"All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

 Kieran’s Summary . . . A good father does not do everything for his child. He educates his child, gives structure to his life, and then eventually allows his child the space to act for himself. A good parent does not solve his child’s problems, but teaches him how to solve problems for himself. When Jesus ascends into heaven, he entrusts his mission to us, and gives us the space to follow him in freedom. He promises that he will be with us to the end of time, but not in a way that dominates our actions. He wants us to perform his works on earth, and he wants us to have the joy and privilege of performing them in freedom, exercising our own initiative and responsibility. St Augustine says that Christ becomes incarnate twice. The first time was when he took on flesh within the Virgin Mary. The second time is when he takes on “flesh” through his Church, through our actions, words and our way of relating to others. Christ gives us an incredible mission! He wishes us to immerse people in the relationship with the Father Son and Spirit, the relationship into which he has already called you and me. We ascend with Christ by leaving aside our human works and doing the works of God. We ascend with Christ by turning people’s hearts from this earthly life towards the heavenly Father. Satan has power over the things of the earth, but with Jesus on our side we can infuse the things of this earth with heaven. We can immerse people in the Father, Son and Spirit by inviting others into relationship with the Lord.

Christ goes away in order that his works might be done through us. He trusts us and therefore entrusts us with his mission. If he stayed with us and did everything for us, then that would be a sign that he didn’t trust us at all, nor really want us to have the freedom to imitate him fully. He goes away in order to be with us in a richer and more life-giving way
This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Ascension. The first reading gives the presentation of the event in Acts, and then we go on to read the account which is found at the end of Matthew’s Gospel. Matthew’s Gospel has a beautiful structure and he arranges the material in  such a way so that it culminates in this final encounter with Jesus: “Behold I am with you always, even to the end of time”. This seems to be in contrast to the account of the Ascension in the first reading which emphasizes the Lord’s departure. There is a paradox here which our liturgy on Sunday tries to hold in the correct tension: Christ ascends in order to remain with us. We must never forget the importance of the theme of “Christian ascent” - the notion of the person who progresses to the point where his works attain completion and bear fruit. In human relationships we have an analogous situation. A father encourages his son, helps him to grow, provides a structured life for him, until the son reaches the point where he is able to do things by himself. A good father is not one who solves his son’s problem but who teaches his son to solve the problems by himself. Jesus’ disciples have been given the mission to bring to others the life that they have received from him, and they must bring this life to the ends of the earth. They are assured that Christ will be with them until the end of the world, but our God is not a paternalistic father who distrusts us and tries to do things for us. At first Christ educates us, but once the time for mission comes, then he steps back and allows us to act.

God wishes us to bring his work to completion. He trusts us and remains with us, but allows us the space to serve him in freedom
When someone is shown trust, then he becomes “infused” with that trust. But if a person is not trusted, if they are continually being checked, then they are not given the space in which to be themselves or to grow. Psychologically, we grow when we are shown paternal trust. There are two extremes in education: the teacher who distrusts his pupil and does not allow him the space to make mistakes, which are so necessary for growth; and the teacher who shows no interest in his student, perhaps because he has little to teach or simply does not love his pupil. Jesus differs from these two extremes. He has so much to teach us, but allows us the room to act for ourselves. What liberty, but, at the same time, what care he shows us! God gives us everything, but he also gives us space for our own identities to be developed. “I am with you always to the end of the world, but I will allow you to act”. This is the great experience of all who spread the Gospel: the Lord is ever present and ready to help, but he gives us the wonderful experience of being protagonists in the works of God. God brings his works to completion through us.

Christ became incarnate by taking on our flesh. But now he can become incarnate again if we carry out his works in our flesh, our actions, our words, our way of relating to others.
St Augustine speaks of the two incarnations of Jesus. Firstly, Jesus takes on our flesh and becomes man. And then, in an analogous way, he takes on “flesh” by entrusting himself to the Church, entrusting his works to us. These works now pass through our hands, our bodies, our words, our relationships. What a great responsibility we have, what trust has been shown to us, what great help we have at our disposal!

We ascend with Christ by leaving aside our human works and doing the work of God. We ascend with Christ by turning people’s hearts from this earthly life towards the heavenly Father. Satan has power over the things of the earth, but with Jesus on our side we can infuse the things of this earth with heaven. We can immerse people in the Father, Son and Spirit by unveiling the true and eternal significance of things.
Christ ascends to heaven and gives us the space to follow him in freedom. We too are called to ascend with him. First of all we ascend from the old man to the new man, from works that are purely our own to works that have their origin in God. Secondly, we are called to bring people to God, to bring them from this earthly existence towards the heavenly Father. This process requires an experience of the power of Christ, a power that is not simply of this world. It is a power that unites heaven and earth. As Jesus says, “All power in heaven and earth has been given to me”. With Jesus, the things of this world are infused with heaven, infused with paradise. But the powers of this world are of this world and nothing more. During the temptations of Christ in the desert, Satan claims to have power over the things of this earth. And this is not mistaken. It is a sad fact that the things of this world are under the sway of evil, violence, deceit. Who has the power to unite heaven and earth? To make heaven manifest in the things of this world? The one who seeks to dominate others? The one who uses violence? No! Rather, it is the one who fills things with divine love, who unveils the hidden divine significance of things. This is our mission! To immerse people in the Father, Son and Spirit. The term “baptize” refers to full immersion. To take people where they are now and to help their hearts take the road of ascent to heaven, to show them that they can ascend to the Father through these very things. This is our wonderful and important mission.

Jesus bestows power upon us, but it is not a worldly power; it is not a power than can be imposed on others. This transforming power of living in relationship with Father, Son and Spirit can be experienced by people who are defeated, sick, or in prison. Christ gives us this power and bestows upon us the ability to extend it to others, as we call others to live in relationship with him.
Jesus ascends to heaven so that we can become the road to heaven for others on this earth. As the Our Father says, “Your will be done of earth as it is in heaven”. What a wonderful life the Lord Jesus call us to! What incredible, beautiful, consoling things we have been promised! But we must be careful. It is not worldly power that the Lord wishes to bestow upon us. It is not a power that imposes itself on others. The power that the Lord gives can be experienced by a sick person in his hospital bed. The power of Christ can be lived by a person behind prison bars, or a person that has been defeated in worldly terms. It is the power to encounter heaven in this place where I find myself, in this sick bed, in this prison, in this setback, in this reality. This is the power that the Lord Jesus bestows on us, and, incredibly, enables us to extend to others.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

GOSPEL: John 14:15-21
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­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 14:15-21
Jesus said to his disciples:
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father, 
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
In a little while the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me, because I live and you will live.
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father
and you are in me and I in you.
Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me.
And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him."
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kierans summary . . . We are inclined to think that the discovery of truth involves intelligent reasoning, investigation and analysis. We think that the human being is a source of truth, that he is capable of working out the truth by himself. But Jesus tells us that the truth is something that we must receive. It comes from without. It does not take intelligence to comprehend it; rather it requires openness so that we are able to welcome it. It involves the reception of a person. How do we receive this Holy Spirit? Jesus tells us that he will not leave us orphans. He goes away so that the Spirit will be sent, the Spirit that makes us children of the Father. This Spirit is not received by rational reasoning, no more that you can get to know me by just thinking in an intellectual way about me. You will only get to know me if you allow me to reveal myself to you. We can only receive the gift of the Spirit if we allow the Spirit to reveal himself to us. Once we do that, then we are entering into a relationship of love with him. Jesus says, “If you love me then you will keep my commandments”. This is not a moralistic threat by Jesus: Show me you love me by keeping my commandments! Rather, it expresses the truth that if I allow myself to be led into a relationship of love with Christ, then I will be led away from sin and will keep his commandments naturally.

We think that the discovery of truth is a matter of intelligent reasoning, but Jesus tells us that the reception of truth involves allowing God to reveal himself to me. The knowledge of the truth involves the docile reception of a person.
In the Gospel, Jesus says that he will go away and then come back again by means of the gift of the Spirit. In this way he will be with us always. This definitive gift, we are told, is something that the world cannot receive because it neither sees nor knows him. According to the world-view that has arisen in our rationalistic times, the human being is a producer of truth. Through his understanding and investigation, man discovers the truth. It is something within the reach of his rational capacities. But Jesus tells us that the truth is a gift, something from without that must be welcomed. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, who comes from the Father and the Son, is the source of truth. I cannot come up with the truth by myself. We often think that the problems concerning truth are problems requiring comprehension and analysis. But Jesus tells us that truth involves the welcoming of a person! Let us consider a simple example. Say that someone analyses us in a purely cerebral way, using only the powers of his intellect, and then tells us that he understands us. We would be justified in feeling that we have not truly been understand. How often we hear people say, “You don’t understand me!” To understand another person we must allow the other to reveal himself. For me to know who you are, you must first show me. And that is how it is with God, and with everyone else. If we do not permit the other to come close to us, to reveal himself to us, then we remain in a process of purely speculative reasoning. The truth is something that comes to us. The problem is not how intelligent we are in understanding it, but how simply we can receive it, how willing we are to allow God to speak to us.

Jesus goes away but then comes back to us through the gift of the Spirit. This is a gift that transforms us from being orphans to being brothers and sisters of Jesus and children of the Father
Jesus tells us that he will not leave us orphans. What does this mean? If we are in a relationship of sonship with the Father then we are not people who begin with ourselves and finish with ourselves. Jesus does not want to leave us orphans because he wants to give us the gift of his relationship as Son of the Father, a filial relationship that is evident in very act and every aspect of his existence. This beautiful state of being is the opposite of solitude. It is something that the world cannot achieve on its own.

If we love Jesus, this means we have been led into a relationship with him. In so doing we will have been led away from vice and so will naturally keep his commandments
The first words of this Gospel are, “If you love me you will keep my commandments”. Often the sense of this is turned upside down and it is understood in a moralistic way. “If you love me then keep my commandments!” Like this it sounds like a scolding. But a more coherent reading would be, “The one who loves me keeps my commandments because when we love someone then we naturally wish to do that which the person desires”. The key to this entire discourse is not about being righteous or perfect or having a clear conscience. The key is love. It is not about a preoccupation with keeping certain rules or changing certain habits. Rather it is something that begins by focussing on the relationship with Jesus, that seeks to allow him to reveal himself to us. Then, once we experience how good it is to be with Christ, then the good actions and the keeping of his commandments follow. If we allow ourselves to be led into a relationship of love, into reciprocal joy, then it won’t be any problem to move away from vice! This Sunday we focus on allowing the development of this relationship with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the relationship between the Father and the Son. May the Holy Spirit descend upon us and transform us from orphans to children of God!

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