Friday, 3 April 2020

April 5th 2020. Palm Sunday
GOSPEL: Mt 21:1-11
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio

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Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel

When they were near Jerusalem and had come in sight of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village facing you, and you will immediately find a tethered donkey and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you are to say, “The Master needs them and will send them back directly”.’ This took place to fulfil the prophecy:
‘Say to the daughter of Zion:
Look, your king comes to you;
he is humble, he rides on a donkey
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’
So the disciples went out and did as Jesus had told them. They brought the donkey and the colt, then they laid their cloaks on their backs and he sat on them. Great crowds of people spread their cloaks on the road, while others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in his path. The crowds who went in front of him and those who followed were all shouting:
 ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heavens!’
 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil. ‘Who is this?’ people asked, and the crowds answered, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee’.
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . .  Matthew is constantly citing the Old Testament, showing how Jesus fulfils the Scriptures. Why? Is it a way of defending the authenticity of Christ? But Scripture doesn’t need to certify itself! The main reason for these citations is to show that Christ is following the plan laid out for him long ago by the Father. He is not just improvising as he goes along. Christ doesn’t come in his own name but in the name of the Lord. As the people said when Jesus entered Jerusalem, “Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!” All of the sufferings that Jesus undergoes were foreseen by the Father and it was ordained that he would accept them. This does not mean that the evil that was inflicted on Jesus was willed by God. Sin is never God’s will. But the response that we make to evil is something that is desired by God. Jesus is faced with great evil, but he responds to it with the Father, in the Father, according to the Father.  In our lives too, a plan of salvation is unfolding. But we spoil that plan unless, like Jesus, we live as children of the Father. Since the Garden of Eden we have tried to be like God and act with complete autonomy. The coronavirus is an evil, but we have the choice to follow Jesus and respond to this evil with the Father, in the Father, according to the Father. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, if we manage to live the events of our lives according to the Father, then the path of our lives becomes the plan of God, the story of our salvation. If I respond to the evil of the coronavirus with faith in God, hope in God and love for God and others, then the situation becomes an occasion of salvation. Don’t forget, the greatest evil in history, the killing of Christ, the most innocent of all people, became through faith the springboard of salvation. In these desolate days, if I can choose to make acts of faith, acts of abandonment  to God, acts of fraternity with others, then all of this darkness can be transformed into light.

Matthew is constantly citing the Old Testament, showing how Jesus fulfils the Scriptures. Why? Is it a way of defending the authenticity of Christ? But Scripture doesn’t need to certify itself. The main reason for these citations is to show that Christ is following the plan laid out for him long ago by the Father. In our lives too, a plan of salvation is unfolding   
If we try to listen in a united way to the Passion of Jesus according to Matthew, we note that many times, explicitly or implicitly, the scriptures are quoted. This feature pervades almost every paragraph of the story. In the other evangelists this element is also present, but in Matthew it is very pronounced. Why? Perhaps the evangelist wants to emphasize: "Have you seen? Jesus fulfilled exactly what was written. He was in the right and our testimony is confirmed by Scripture". No, the Word of God is not so trivial. It does not need to certify itself. It is not on the defensive, but it is proactive, creative. So why does Matthew make all of these citations to the Old Testament? Because they demonstrate that Jesus is not merely improvising. Like a musician he is following a score. He is carrying out the Father's plan. According to Matthew, the last word that Jesus says is the quotation from Psalm 22, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" This is not only an expression of his pain but the key to everything. In fact, if we go to read that psalm, we will see the entirety of his passion expressed as a prayer, right up to the glory of the resurrection. To understand where his pain is leading, you must read that psalm. It is quite true what Saint Jerome said: "Ignoring the Scriptures means ignoring Christ". But how does this perspective help us? When salvation enters our existence, it begins to reveal that our history is not just a succession of human acts, There is, inexplicably, a plan of God unfolding in our lives. And this plan is always a plan of salvation. Human responsibilities exist, our faults exist, injustices exist, and evil must not be done, and those who commit injustices will account for it to God. Pain must be alleviated, cured and, if possible, avoided. But there is a plan that God, despite the evil that we do or suffer, still carries out.

The current passion that we are experiencing can become an occasion of salvation if we can unite ourselves to Christ and live it in love.
God knows how to draw good out of evil. And he has only one project, as St. Paul says: "He wants all people to be saved" (1 Tim 2: 4). Salvation is being offered to us always, in all the things that happen to us, even in those of which he will then ask for an account.
Where does Covid-19 come from? We may never know. But the hidden pathway towards our salvation can also be found in this situation. If God has saved the world by means of the greatest of crimes, the cross of Christ, then our faith announces that even in the immense pain of our present world, salvation can be won. The evil that is being suffered by many people is reversed by God when this painful situation becomes an occasion for a person’s conversion and salvation. But this disaster for health and the economy is not an automatic mechanism that leads to salvation. It is an offer from God and the choice is ours. The cross in itself is only a gallows, Christ made it an act of love. This is the opportunity being presented to each one of us now. We are undergoing a passion, but it can be lived in love. Ours always remains a salvation story.

Friday, 27 March 2020

March 29th 2020. Fifth Sunday of Lent
GOSPEL: John 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33-45
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio

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John 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33-45
The sisters Martha and Mary sent this message to Jesus, ‘Lord, the man you love is ill.’ On receiving the message, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death but in God’s glory, and through it the Son of God will be glorified.’
Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, yet when he learned that Lazarus was ill he stayed where he was for two more days before saying to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judaea.’
On arriving, Jesus found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days already. When Martha heard that Jesus had come she went to meet him. Mary remained sitting in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you’.
‘Your brother’ said Jesus to her, ‘will rise again.’
Martha said, ‘I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.’
Jesus said: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?
‘Yes Lord,’ she said ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.’ Jesus said in great distress, with a sigh that came straight from the heart, ‘Where have you put him?’ They said, ‘See how much he loved him!’ But there were some who remarked, ‘He opened the eyes of the blind man, could he not have prevented this man’s death?’ Still sighing, Jesus reached the tomb; it was a cave with a stone to close the opening. Jesus said, ‘Take the stone away.’ Martha said to him, ‘Lord, by now he will smell; this is the fourth day.’ Jesus replied, ‘Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus lifted up his eyes and said:
‘Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer.
I knew indeed that you always hear me, but I speak
for the sake of all these who stand round me,
so that they may believe it was you who sent me.’
When he had said this, he cried in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, here! Come out!’ The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with bands of stuff and a cloth round his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, let him go free.’
Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what he did believed in him.
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . Jesus deliberately delays visiting his friend, whom he knows is ill, and when he arrives, Lazarus is already dead. Everyone scolds him! Why did you delay, Jesus? Why did you abandon your friend? Jesus wants to show us that his mission is not simply the physical healing of people. Rather, he wants us to see that his desire is to enter into the darkness and absurdity of our lives and bring light and life. Many of us now feel the “captivity” of the coronavirus lockdown. But maybe it is a different kind of captivity that Jesus wishes to liberate us from? It is the voice of Christ that frees Lazarus from the tomb. In the same way it is the voice of Christ speaking to our hearts that frees us from our real captivity. It is not the door of our houses during the coronavirus lockdown that Christ needs to open. The stone that must be removed is from the door of our hearts, and we must allow the word of Christ to penetrate there. It is in the midst of our absurdities, our death, that Christ wishes to come and bring life. No human strategy can give life to a dead person. If we wish to have the life of Christ we must abandon our own strategies. Our strategies try to eliminate problems. But Christ’s strategy is different. He is not an insurance policy against misfortune! Rather he enters into that which we fear the most and illuminates it in a life-giving way. A spouse whose main preoccupation is to avoid difficulties will not make a good spouse. It is through these difficulties that the greater things of life are illuminated. In order to save us, the Lord must often ignore our pleas for help, because we are asking him to take away those things that would actually lead us to him if we tackled them properly. At such times, we think God has abandoned us. We think he is in “flight mode”, but in reality he is leading us to something much greater than the little “solutions” that we are demanding of him. God wants a relationship with us on a beautiful and deep level, from the perspective of eternity, not from the perspective of our temporal fixations and worries. We become fixated by the “emergencies” that surround us, but the Lord wishes us to live according to authentic priorities. His mission is to love us and save us. Our response must be to abandon ourselves into his arms and allow ourselves to be redeemed. It would be sad if, at the end of the quarantine, we walk free from our houses, but still have the stone across the door in our hearts. Even while we remain locked in our houses, we can still abandon ourselves to the voice of Christ and enjoy freedom and light.

Jesus behaves strangely in this passage. Why? Because he does not merely want to heal Lazarus but to show that his mission is to enter into the most unattractive areas of our lives and bring new life.
“Lazarus, come out!” In the context of the coronavirus quarantine, these are impressive words. Many of us are waiting to be able to leave our homes, and it evokes emotion to read the text of Ezekiel saying: “You will recognize that I am the Lord, when I open your tombs and let you go free”. Could this correlation between the liturgy and the ongoing world drama be a coincidence? In any case, the passage relates how Jesus pursues an unusual strategy in the way that he goes to the aid of Lazarus. He intentionally delays in helping his friend and then makes strange speeches to his disciples and Martha, the sister of the deceased, arousing bewilderment and dissent around him. Then Jesus gives thanks to the Father, just at the time of the removal of the stone in front of the tomb. At this very moment most people would have thought that Martha’s fear was about to materialize: "Lord, there will be a bad smell: it has been four days".
At this dramatic moment, Jesus gives thanks. For what? To be able to fulfill his mission, that of communicating with a dead person and bringing him back to life, precisely from that place where nobody can approach him anymore. Jesus is full of gratitude for being able to complete his mission of speaking to the poorest, the smelliest, the ugliest, the most unpresentable part of man, and love him in the areas where nobody is lovable. The places where only God can enter. Where only Christ has the strength to regenerate life.

What will bring us out of our tombs? Will government decrees, vaccinations, health regulations? What brings us out is the voice of Christ. The door that encloses us is not the door of our house but the door of our hearts. Christ wishes to open that door with his word
But there is a further aspect to this story: it is the voice of Christ, crying out loud, that has the power to liberate from the tomb. It is this voice of Christ, which goes beyond the tombstone, beyond the stench, beyond the strategies, and reaches Lazarus, the friend of Christ. What will get us out of our quarantine will not be a government decree, but a word that enters our heart, the word that changes everything from within. If that word enters the depths of man, one becomes truly free, even if one remains imprisoned. If we leave our "tombs" without God’s word in our hearts, we will remain whitewashed tombs. This is the great occasion of the present time: to be freed from within. The door to liberation is not the one of the house in which we are enclosed, but that of the heart. The stone to be removed is right there.

Lazarus, come to the Father, entrust yourself to him. For God brings life in the midst of absurdities, if only we abandon ourselves to him .
Jesus said to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live; whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha replied, "Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the son of God." Earlier Jesus had said: “This disease will not lead to death, but it is for the glory of God”. What do these words mean? They seem strangely apt, these first words of Jesus in the Gospel of this Sunday without public Mass, in a time of modern plague. Jesus was warned of Lazarus’ illness in good time, and could have intervened to save him, yet he stayed where he was for two more days. What was he waiting for? The sisters of the sick man, seeing Jesus arrive so late, will say: “Lord, if you had been here, our brother would not have died!” And the people, for their part, also complain: “He, who opened the eyes of the blind, could he not also make sure that Lazarus did not die?” Things happen that seem unfair to us, that shouldn't be allowed. Often these things are errors or misfortunes, like this coronavirus with a somewhat monarchical name. Meanwhile, we are journeying towards the Easter triduum, to celebrate a judicial error - the killing of an innocent man - which would become the greatest news in all of human history. Here is the point: the glory of God works like this, and what looks like a path to death is instead the path of life. This is beyond our human capacities; people cannot achieve these things. Man cannot attain eternity with his projects and strategies. In order for a story of death to become a triumph, it is necessary to go through something that seems an error, an injustice that should not have been made, and to see the power of God manifested precisely in that absurdity.

Even while we are quarantined, we can already walk free from our inner prisons by abandoning ourselves to the Father
There are solutions and then there are resurrections. These are very different categories. It is one thing to heal from an illness but another to enter into glory, to save Lazarus from death and to do something that is beyond biology, an experience of eternity. There is a serious danger with any healing: that of not taking advantage of this moment, that of experiencing the physical healing but not being reborn from above. Many of us are in quarantine, and from our rooms we wait for someone to say: Lazarus, it's over, you can come out! Sooner or later it will happen. But there is something more important, definitive, glorious: that we come out of our tombs while we are still inside. Father Tonino Bello said: God does not save from death, God saves through death. We cannot waste this opportunity to make that great journey, the going out through a secret door, of discovering endless spaces in which we can run, even if we are on a bed of illness, even if we are in quarantine. Otherwise, it could happen that we will eventually leave our rooms, but we will be trapped in our fears. We will have experienced a pardon, but not a resurrection. There are those who were free even while they were in prison; there are those who died young but lived a life that was resplendent. Lazarus, come out right now, not when the pandemic is over. Come to the Father. Abandon yourself to him.

Saturday, 21 March 2020

March 22nd 2020. Fourth Sunday of Lent
GOSPEL: Jn 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio

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Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel

GOSPEL: Jn 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38
As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.
He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva,
and smeared the clay on his eyes,
and said to him,
“Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” — which means Sent —.
So he went and washed, and came back able to see.
His neighbours and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said,
“Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”
Some said, “It is”, but others said, “No, he just looks like him.”
He said, “I am.”
They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees.
Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath.
So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.
He said to them,
“He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.”
So some of the Pharisees said,
“This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.”
But others said,
“How can a sinful man do such signs?”
And there was a division among them.
So they said to the blind man again,
“What do you have to say about him,
since he opened your eyes?”
He said, “He is a prophet.”
They answered and said to him,
“You were born totally in sin,
and are you trying to teach us?”
Then they threw him out.
When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out,
he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
He answered and said,
“Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”
Jesus said to him,
“You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.”
He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshipped him.
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The healing of the blind man in chapter nine of John’s Gospel can best be understood by reading the accounts in chapters seven and eight of Jesus’ presence in Jerusalem during the Festival of Tents (I encourage you to read below Don Fabio’s full account of this important context). During the festival, Jesus makes two pronouncements. Firstly, he invites everyone who thirsts to come to him and drink. Secondly, he declares that he is the light of the world. These two elements, water and light, were essential to the Jewish celebration of the festival, and they are combined in the healing of the blind man. Jesus anoints the man’s eyes with saliva and clay. It is impossible to speak without saliva, so the saliva of Christ clearly represents God’s word. In this image of saliva and clay, we have an unambiguous symbol of creation. In Genesis, God’s word acts on the dust of the earth to create humanity. With the healing of the blind man, Jesus shows that he is completing his creation of this person by bringing him to the light. But the healing is not completed until the man goes to bathe in the pool whose name signifies “sent”. And then the man truly becomes “sent”! He proclaims the good news of his healing and even defends Jesus to the point of being expelled from the Temple. To summarize: each one of us has painful and difficult aspects of his life, just like the man born blind. Jesus wishes to act on these very areas with his word. When we allow Christ to touch these areas, when we bathe in the waters of regeneration (in other words, allow the Holy Spirit to operate in us), then these things are transformed, they are illuminated by the light of Christ, and they become the place where we proclaim the good news of God’s love for us. We discover that the absurd areas of our lives are the very places where we learn to trust, to love. None of us can be said to be truly educated in the faith until we have made peace with the things we have not understood about our lives. We need to discover that those difficult elements in our personal existence were needed in order to encounter the Lord. These things will serve us all our lives to be instruments of the Lord, to be the way of his love, the way of his light. In this way, the “blind” find their sight, whilst whoever thinks he can see, so the Gospel passage tells us, will become blind. Those who are in love with their own interpretations of everything, those who do not accept an alternative reading of their lives, remain blind. 

The story of the healing of the blind man can only be understood properly if we consider the Festival of Tents that is mentioned in the previous chapters of John’s Gospel
On the fourth Sunday of Lent, we listen to the extraordinary story of the man born blind. One thing that is often not underlined about this text is to emphasize that it comes after the account in chapters seven and eight of John’s Gospel, which recount how Jesus behaved during the important Feast of Tents. It is in this context that the healing takes place. According to the scholars, what was basically performed in Jerusalem at the time of the Feast of the Tents was a double ritual. The first was about water. In fact, the Festival of Tents recalled the time living as nomads by the providence of God, who gave water to an entire people and quenched their thirst in the desert. The other element on which the festival was based was a ritual that involved light. During the time in the desert, the people were led by a luminous cloud that indicated the path to the people as they came out of Egypt. To commemorate this, many torches were lit on the side of the temple and from that light the city was illuminated by night. Another light was also celebrated: the light of the law, of wisdom, the light that came from the cult of the true God. The ritual of water began with the priests going to fetch water from the Silom pool using containers. This pool had its source in a spring that had been brought back inside the city walls. It was very important in the time of sieges, war, or other moments of difficulty which a city like Jerusalem was subjected several times. Consequently, the priests came up from the lower part of the city where the pool of Siloam was situated and sprinkled this water around on the ground, as a sign of abundance. We must remember that water, in an area like Israel, is very important, more valuable than gold. This ceremony of abundance, this sprinkling of water in the evening, was illuminated further by ritual of the braziers, which gave light to the whole city.

It is Jesus who is the living water and the light of the world. These two signs of light and water are united together in the healing of the blind man
This background helps us to understand chapters seven and eight of John's gospel. In chapter seven, Jesus, in the middle of the feast, gets up and says: "Whoever is thirsty come to me and drink. As Scripture says, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’" (John 7, 37-38). What is the message? That the real water is him; it is he who will quench everyone's thirst. In chapter eight, reference is made to the second part of the rite. Jesus stands up and says another solemn phrase: "I am the light of the world, those who follow me will not walk in darkness but will have light of life”. And then we come to chapter nine, where these two signs are united together in the experience of the blind man from birth. This man has never known light but he will find it bathing in the water of Siloam's pool. These eyes that never before functioned are touched by the earth, combined with the saliva of Jesus. This is an image of creation, because God created man from the dust of the earth. It is as if God completed the creation of this man in Jesus. But we must remember that all this is fundamentally symbolic. Significantly, every person is enlightened in baptism. In fact, the ancient name of the baptized was the illuminati. They received the light of faith which afforded them another entire way of looking at life. After all, we are all blind from birth and we must receive light, which is received only by gift, by grace. Curiously, this man receives the light by going to wash in the pool of Siloam, which means "sent". It is interesting that he walks in the opposite direction to that of the priests when they take the water during the festival, scattering it around the city and then arriving to light up the torches in front of the temple. The blind man begins his walk from the external steps of the temple where he encounters Jesus and is “anointed” with mud and saliva.

Jesus performs an act of re-creation on this man. Using his word (saliva) and earth, he anoints the part of the man that is maimed (his eyes) and invites him to walk in faith to the waters of regeneration. Following this, the man becomes a proclaimer of the Good News. It is his very wound that becomes for him the occasion of his salvation.
The mud, as we mentioned, is a symbol of creation. The saliva of Jesus represents his word. One cannot speak without saliva. If your mouth is completely dry, you cannot speak. Man is created from earth when matter encounters the word of God. In this Gospel account, everything starts with a question from the disciples. Why was this man born blind? Who is guilty? Maybe he is to blame, or maybe his parents are to blame? Jesus replies: "Neither he has sinned, nor his parents, but in him the works of God will be made manifest”. And what follows is a clear work of God. After applying a mixture made of word (saliva) and matter (earth), Jesus sends the blind man to the pool where he receives his sight. The pool of Siloam means “the one who is sent”, that is, the one who is sent by the Father. In fact, Jesus says: "We must do the works of the one who sent me". What will this born blind man become? He will become a proclaimer of the Good News. This man is passive at the beginning, then slowly begins to take possession of what happened to him, until he becomes completely free and capable of answering the opponents who insult him. The very place where he was maimed (his eyes) become the place where he discovers that he is sent, once he immerses himself in the pool which signifies “mission”. In fact, there is a clear association of Jesus with this man. He will even be associated with the rejection of Christ, who was also driven out of the synagogue. And this connection comes about all because he made the journey that Jesus asked him to make. Christ is the one that brings light to every man. When Jesus sent him to the pool of Siloam, he was really telling him: “Walk to your mission”.

The most painful thing in my life is actually the place where the Lord wishes to heal me and show me the path of light, love and mission.
There is a lot of information here, so perhaps it is time to summarize. The Gospel this Sunday  illuminates us in showing us that the thing that seems most absurd in our life is actually a call. With the help of the word of God, the absurd and broken things in our life must be washed in the waters of Shiloam (“the one who is sent”) and be transformed into mission. We have in our daily lives, in the most incomprehensible things of life, the seed of prophecy, a ray of light on our existence. We discover that what we thought was the absurd rejection of meaning is actually the place in our lives where we begin to love, to fulfill our mission. Many times, God transforms our pain and the absurdity of our history into something that makes us love our neighbor. To make us capable of doing his own works, God manifests himself in us in the midst of what seemed absurd, wrong to us. But, in order for this to be brought to fruition, we must be immersed in this pool of Siloam. In other words, it is a work of the Holy Spirit in us. None of us can be said to be truly trained, raised, educated in the faith until he has made peace with the things he has not understood about his life. He needs to discover that those difficult elements in his personal existence were needed in order to encounter the Lord. These things will serve us all our lives to be instruments of the Lord, to be the way of his love, the way of his light. In this way, the “blind” find their sight and whoever thinks he can see, so the Gospel passage tells us, will become blind. Those who are in love with their own interpretations of everything, those who do not accept an alternative reading of their lives, remain blind. In fact, what they think they are seeing becomes increasingly opaque, increasingly irresolvable. This Sunday, we celebrate the waters of regeneration that illuminate us and lead us to completion, making us all into prophets, people who walk according to faith, people from whom life emanates and does not end.

Friday, 13 March 2020

March 15th 2020. Third Sunday of Lent
GOSPEL: Jn 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio

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Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel

Jn 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42
Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon. A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”
His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
The Samaritan woman said to him,
“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—
Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God
and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘
you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep;
where then can you get this living water?
Are you greater than our father Jacob,
who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself
with his children and his flocks?”
Jesus answered and said to her,
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty
or have to keep coming here to draw water.
“I can see that you are a prophet.
Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain;
but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You people worship what you do not understand;
we worship what we understand,
because salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour is coming, and is now here,
when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth;
and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.
God is Spirit, and those who worship him
must worship in Spirit and truth.”
The woman said to him,
“I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ;
when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”
Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him.
When the Samaritans came to him,
they invited him to stay with them;
and he stayed there two days.
Many more began to believe in him because of his word,
and they said to the woman,
“We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves,
and we know that this is truly the saviour of the world.”
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that he is thirsty. But his real thirst is that she would receive life from him, the “living water” that he longs to give each and every one of us. This is how it always is with God. When he asks for something from us - our obedience, our trust - it is only because he wants to give us a thousand times more. In fact, he says to the woman, “If you knew the gift of God . . .” God thirst for us, but where or how can we encounter him? Not in a particular place but with an attitude of trust and intimacy. The story of this woman with her five husbands reveals that she had tried to resolve her incompleteness through relationships that ultimately failed. Following her encounter with Jesus, however, this woman begins to drink from the authentic source of life: relationship with the true God. We need this blessed period of Lent in order to make the same leap of quality ourselves! It is time for us to start seeking the true God, to overcome our fixations with self-referential relationships that do not resolve our existential woes. It is time to give up the useless search for illusory sources of life. These false sources of “life” are generally objects that we accumulate, desires that torture us, or fixations that alienate us from what is good and true. The real God seeks our heart, our spirit, the deepest truth of our being. In short, he wants you and me.

Jesus seems to be looking for something from this woman. He is thirsty. But his real thirst is that our thirst for life  be satisfied!
"If you knew the gift of God and who it is that says to you: Give me a drink! You would have asked him and he would have given you living water." The Samaritan woman has heard Jesus ask for water and thinks she has met someone who wants something from her, but discovers that he is someone who only wants to give. This is the remarkable thirst of God.  The Catechism says an important thing about this text: “Jesus is thirsty; his question to the woman arises from the depths of this God who desires us "(C.C.C. 2560). This is an experience we have a thousand times with God: when it seems that he is asking for something, we discover the opposite. In every act of obedience or trust, what we receive is always much more than what we give, and when we feel we are doing something for God, that is precisely the moment when the Lord is doing something for us . . . "If you knew the gift of God." To know the generosity of God is to know God.

God thirsts for us, but where or how can we meet him?
Where or how do we truly encounter God? The Samaritans had their rites and the Jews equally, but "the time is coming - and this is it - in which true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth". In Greek the word "adore" is the same as for "kiss". Worship implies approaching God with an intimate attitude, not with a ritual formality. Where can we meet God in an intimate way? Jesus says that this does not happen in a particular place, but in a particular way, not here or there but in an attitude that can be had everywhere. So this woman's thirst is quenched unexpectedly, and she runs away to tell everyone what happened to her: she met the Messiah. And, notably, she leave the jug there. But Jesus does not take this jug to have a drink. He no longer needs it. His thirst to give this woman living water has been satisfied.

When Jesus reveals to the woman that he is aware of her emotional incompleteness, of her failed search for satisfaction, she begins to speak on a more profound level and demonstrates that she is longing for an encounter with the true God
What happened to the woman during the encounter? The dialogue with Jesus had brought her story to the surface. It is revealed that she had a series of emotional failures and five husbands, a paradoxical image of a solitude never definitively overcome and a bitter succession of disappointments. She had drunk that water that never quenches her thirst, and Jesus had revealed it all to her. But she had not felt judged by Jesus. Instead she felt understood, recognized. We all encounter this risk: to go through life with a fixation on relationships, husbands who are not true husbands, accumulating incompleteness and dissatisfaction. The Gospel text contains a play on the ambiguity of the word "husband", which in Aramaic also means "idol". It is at this point that the woman stops trying to evade being up-front with Jesus and she makes a leap in quality. Now she has begun to look for more: “Lord, I see that you are a prophet! Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; but you say that the place of worship is in Jerusalem". She is looking for an encounter with the true God.

This Lent, may we turn away from the false sources of life and turn to the God who seeks us
We need this blessed period of Lent in order to make the same leap of quality ourselves.  It is time for us to start seeking the true God, to stop accumulating spouse-idols who do not resolve our existential woes. It is time to give up the useless search for illusory sources of life. These false sources of “life” are generally objects that we accumulate, desires that torture us, or fixations that alienate us from what is good and true. The real God seeks our heart, our spirit, the deepest truth of our being. He is searching simply for you and for me.

Friday, 6 March 2020

March 8th 2020. Second Sunday of Lent
GOSPEL: Mt 17:1-9
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio

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Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel

GOSPEL: Mt 17:1-9
Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.
As they were coming down from the mountain,
Jesus charged them,
“Do not tell the vision to anyone
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . Sunday’s Gospel recounts the event of the Transfiguration, while the first reading tells of the call of Abraham. What has the call of Abraham got to do with the Transfiguration of Jesus? Every time God calls us, he wishes us to be transfigured! Peter and Andrew are transfigured into fishers of men. Abraham is transfigured from a sterile old man into the father of a great nation. We too can be transfigured completely by God’s call, but how does it work? “Transfiguration” is not so much transformation as the revelation of the beauty that was already inherent in Jesus. At the event of the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah are present, representing the Law and the Prophets. Adherence to God’s word, fidelity to the life of prayer, is essential to transfiguration! Then the Father says, “Here is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”. It is the relationship with the Father that is the source of the light and the beauty of Christ! And it is also the source of our light and beauty. If we immerse ourselves humbly and obediently in God’s word, reflecting on the Father’s love for us, then we too can be transfigured along with Christ. When a woman knows that she is loved by her man, then she becomes beautiful and radiant. We too will become radiant with the light of God if we reflect on the Father’s love for us and humbly adhere to his word. Then our inherent beauty will become manifest.

God’s call is always an act of transfiguration. He is also calling you and me. If we respond we will be transfigured. In the transfiguration of Christ, we see the way in which God is transforming humanity into light and beauty .
The second Sunday of Lent reflects on the Gospel story of the Transfiguration. As we travel the penitential journey that prepares us for Easter, it is important to confront our own ugliness with the hidden beauty of Jesus; it is essential for us to fix our gaze on the true face of Christ, and to say with Peter: “It is good for us to be here!” Interestingly, the first reading recounts the call of Abraham, but what does this have to do with the event of the Transfiguration on Tabor? The word Transfiguration - meta-morphe - indicates a fundamental change in the form of something. When the Lord calls Abraham, he says: “Go forth from your land, away from your kinship and from your father's house, towards the land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation and bless you, I will make your name great so that you be a blessing." What the Lord is doing here is announcing the transfiguration of Abraham: he was a sterile old man, but he will become a father of multitudes. And this will be God's work. The phrase "I will make of you ..." is at the centre of every vocation. When Jesus calls Peter and Andrew, he says: "I will make you fishers of men". The call is a work of God and whoever is called is transformed by His power. In the Transfiguration we see that, in Christ, the Father completes His work in humanity: human nature is transfigured into light, into beauty. It is not only the body of Christ that has changed, but it is the human body that is transfigured, and its hidden truth is revealed.

Our transfiguration is achieved by intimacy with God and adherence to the word. Ultimately, it is our relationship with the Father that transfigures us, reveals the secret of our inherent dignity
This process is a journey that requires intimacy with God and contact with the Word – that is why Moses and Elijah appear on the mountain, representing the Law and the Prophets. Furthermore, Jesus' relationship with the Father is revealed: "This is my Son, the beloved". It is in our relationship with the Father, our adherence to the word, that human nature is transfigured. When Peter, James and John see Jesus transfigured, they are discovering what is hidden in human nature, what is hidden in each of us. We are with the Lord so that our hidden secret will be revealed: the great dignity we possess as children of God.

Lent gives us the opportunity to unveil the hidden beauty within us. Jesus’ beauty comes from the fact that he knows he is loved by the Father. We too are loved by the Father! If we reflect on that love, then we can permit God to act in our lives, transfiguring us into children of God with immensely fruitful lives.
Through the journey of Lent, each of us has the opportunity to regain possession of his hidden treasure, of his deep spiritual dimension. Through fasting, prayer and almsgiving, we return to the source of our nobility and rediscover ourselves to be beautiful. It should be noted that, on the previous Sunday, Satan questioned the status of Jesus as Son of God - "If you are the Son of God ..." -, but now it is the Father himself who proclaims him as such. "This is my Son, my beloved, in him I am well pleased": this is the hidden light of the Lord Jesus, the love of the Father. But this is also our light since the Father loves us as well. You can see when a woman feels loved by her man: she is bright and radiant. You can see when a child feels loved by his parents: he is stable and free. And you can see when a person knows and feels God's love for himself: he is transfigured, he becomes light and radiates peace. He is free from that veil of doubt that burdens many people; finally he knows that he is wanted, loved, important, precious.

Friday, 28 February 2020

March 1st 2020. First Sunday of Lent
GOSPEL: Mt 4:1-11
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio

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Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel

GOSPEL: Mt 4:1-11
At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert
to be tempted by the devil.
He fasted for forty days and forty nights,
and afterwards he was hungry.
The tempter approached and said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
command that these stones become loaves of bread.”
He said in reply,
“It is written: One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth
from the mouth of God.”
Then the devil took him to the holy city,
and made him stand on the parapet of the temple,
and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.
For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you
and with their hands they will support you,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.”

Jesus answered him,
“Again it is written, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain,
and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence,
and he said to him, "All these I shall give to you,
if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”
At this, Jesus said to him,
“Get away, Satan!
It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship
and him alone shall you serve.”
Then the devil left him and, behold,
angels came and ministered to him.
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . .  When Adam and Eve were tempted in the garden, Satan was using the same strategy that he would use once again with Jesus in the desert. One of the traps hidden in every temptation is the false idea that fidelity to God is incompatible with fidelity to ourselves. In other words, the idea that obeying God means hurting yourself, curtailing yourself, diminishing yourself. The reality is the exact opposite: sin is the tragic road to self-destruction. Temptation makes us pursue an idolatrous image of ourselves which is at odds with the true dignity and beauty that God has given us. In order to follow that image, we are encouraged to make ourselves the focal point of our lives and the masters of our own destiny. The three temptations of Jesus in the desert share similar characteristics to the temptation in the garden. Through these temptations, Satan tries to tell Jesus that it is ok for the Son of God to exploit objects to satisfy his own needs; he is told that God ought to be ready to facilitate and support his most frivolous decisions; he is assured that possessions and worldly power are a worthy goal in themselves. Temptations such as these alienate us from our true identity as children of God. They make us feel inadequate and dissatisfied with who we are and with what we possess. They make us lose sight of our deepest identity. In place of that identity, they set up a deceitful image of the human being as an absolute in himself, absolute in his individual rights, and in the way he can manipulate things for his own ends. Satan encourages us not to accept our condition as creatures of God. His temptations proceed by making us feel ashamed and inadequate for who we are. The Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving help restore us to the right relationship with God that can be destroyed through temptation. The sobriety, generosity and walking in right relationship with God that are typical of Lent restore us to our proper place in creation. They fill us with the peace, freedom and beauty that are integral to our true identity as God’s children.

The obedience that restores our true identity
Lent is a journey to freedom and truth; the journey involves the struggle described in the text of the three temptations of Jesus in Matthew. This story is prepared for us in Sunday’s liturgy by the first reading recounting the fall of Adam and Eve. One of the traps hidden in every temptation is the false idea that fidelity to God is incompatible with fidelity to ourselves. In other words, the idea that obeying God means hurting yourself, curtailing yourself, diminishing yourself. The reality is the exact opposite: sin is the tragic road to self-destruction. The temptations of Jesus use the same strategy used with Eve: Satan tells a lie according to which the affirmation of self is the real urgency. In the first temptation, Satan says: "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread". It would be like saying that the true children of God have the right to manipulate reality; stones cannot remain stones; their existence must be changed to respond to our hunger, therefore they must become loaves of bread. The idea of ​​the second temptation, that of throwing oneself from the top of the temple, is that the true children of God can expect the Lord to go along with their initiatives. Whatever looks like a good plan should be possible, even if it's a jump from the roof. The third temptation concerns the possession, power and splendor of the world: Satan claims that it is beneficial to compromise with evil in order to have power and possessions, perhaps even to achieve things that are “worthwhile”. These temptations assign absolute roles to appetites, projects and possessions. Satan tells us that these ways we can obtain satisfactory results, but we only become slaves to cravings, ideas and things. All this is hidden in the invitation to Eve to make the grotesque attempt to become "like God". This temptation is an escape from reality, it represents an elaborate and desperate process of alienation from ourselves.

Lent is not simply about rules and practices. It restores us to our true identity and brings happiness.
In fact, what should be noted is that Eve, in the end, tries to be different from what she is, and enters into a state of self-deception. Her attempt to be something "more" ultimately leads to shame, to the loss of the happy relationship with oneself, to the loss of one's true identity. Eve is ashamed of being Eve, what a curious thing! During Lent the Church asks us to perform acts of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These works are real calls to return to the truth and beauty of our dignity, a dignity that is threatened by the deception implicit in every temptation. Sobriety, generosity and walking in the right relationship with God - typical of Lent - bring us back to our true place in the world. They fill us with that peace, with that freedom from ourselves which are integral parts of our true identity. Temptation tries to transform our dignity into pretence, pride and greed. Obedience to God restores us to ourselves. Fasting makes us clear and free from our ego, prayer breaks the pattern of loneliness, almsgiving is a way for us to show love to our brothers and sisters. Lenten practices are not a question of perfectionism or rules, but of happiness.

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Sunday Gospel Reflection