Friday, 21 August 2015

GOSPEL: John 6:60-9
 (Translation of a homily by Don Fabio  Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio)

Check us out on Facebook – Sunday Gospel Reflection

Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel.

GOSPEL                                    John 6:60-9
After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’ Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, ‘Does this upset you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?
‘It is the spirit that gives life,
the flesh has nothing to offer.
The words I have spoken to you are spirit
and they are life.
‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the outset those who did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. He went on, ‘this is why I told you that no one could come to me unless the Father allows him.’
After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him. Then Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’
Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?
You have the message of eternal life, and we believe;
we know that you are the Holy One of God.’

THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . In this Sunday’s Gospel, many of the disciples find Jesus’ teaching too hard to accept and they turn away. Don Fabio concentrates on two questions that arise from the passage: Firstly, why is Jesus teaching so hard to accept? And secondly, is assent to Jesus’ teaching something that can be given once and for all? In response to the first question, Don Fabio says that Jesus’ Eucharistic teaching does not fit in with our self-referential logic. We live lives that are directed towards ourselves. We find it hard to believe in a God that gives himself to us so completely that he becomes our food and drink. And we don’t really want to enter into an uncontrollable relationship of that sort where God gives himself to us regardless of whether we deserve it or not. But if we do assent to Jesus teaching, that doesn’t signify that we are going to follow him for once and for all. In the first reading the people of Israel declare their loyalty to God in beautiful words. In the Gospel, Peter declares that Jesus has the words of eternal life. But both the people of God and St Peter will deny the Lord many times before they arrive at a more complete state of assent. My “yes” to God is fragile. I can never be sure that it is definitive or that I will not fail in the future. My entire life is a tapestry woven of the mercy of God who forgives my denials and calls me to an ever deeper assent to him.

Why is the Eucharistic teaching of Jesus so hard to accept? Because God’s giving of himself to us so radically as food and drink does not fit in with our self-referential logic. If we accept this teaching then we will have to change our whole narrow way of looking at the meaning of life and action
This Sunday’s Gospel contains the final part of Jesus’ discourse at Capernaum and records the negative reaction of his disciples to his teaching. They say, “This teaching is difficult. Who can accept it?” What exactly has Jesus said to provoke such a reaction? The words of Jesus have been quite radical. He has offered himself completely to them, as bread and drink to be consumed as a pure gift. Why is this teaching so hard to receive? Because this radical attitude associated with the love of God does not sit well with the mentality of humanity. Such a teaching requires each one of us to change the central point of reference in our lives. It is simply not true that we find it harder to accept ugly things than beautiful things. On the contrary, we have little trouble believing in the malice or ulterior motives of others, whilst we can have difficulty seeing the good in things. To accept the wonderful good contained in Jesus’ words, we must listen with the spirit, not with the flesh. The flesh interprets everything from the self-referential viewpoint of the individual who is utterly focused on his own interests. The spirit of the human being, by contrast, is that part that is closest to God. The Holy Spirit is God himself and operates according to another kind of logic altogether, the logic of God which revolves around self-giving and mutual love. In fact Jesus says, “No one comes to me unless the Father draws him.” If we follow the flesh then we cannot be drawn to God. In this sense the flesh “counts for nothing”. The activity within the Trinitarian relationship is thus implied by Jesus’ words in this discourse. The human being is called to make a leap beyond his normal way of looking at things, to leave behind his fearful, suspicious mentality and cast himself upon the love of God. Jesus is offering himself completely, but he does not impose himself on us.

God gives us the freedom to assent to him or deny him. But assent is not something that we give definitively for once and for all. It is something that must be renewed constantly.
In the first reading we hear how the people of Israel decide to choose God as the Lord of their existence, renouncing the gods of the Canaanites that their fathers had followed on the other side of the river. It is a curious thing, of we think about it. God is God in the sense that he is all powerful and has dominion over all things. But he still leaves space so that the human being is completely free to choose him or to go with other gods. One of the themes of the Gospel reading is our freedom to say “No”. Jesus makes a scandalously beautiful offering of love. This is nothing less than an invitation to enter into the life of God which the Father is offering to each one of us through the gift of the Son. But this is a gift that can be refused. In the first reading the people of Israel express their loyalty to God in beautiful terms. In reality, the history of the people of Israel is the history of humanity itself; it is the story of a thousand betrayals. In the Gospel we find a continuation of this story. Many of the disciples turn back in response to Jesus’ hard teaching. The fact is that we can say yes or no to God. We are dizzyingly free before God and a permanent faithful response can never be guaranteed from any one of us. Even Peter, who confesses Jesus as having the words of eternal life and being the holy one of God, will nevertheless one day betray his master. We have the rather mediocre opinion that the choice between good and evil is made once and for all. If God shows himself to be God then we follow him for once and for all. If I discover that a certain course of action is just, then I follow it, full stop. The truth is completely different. I am weak and fragile and my entire life is a tapestry woven of the mercy of God. The Lord cannot work with me unless I give my assent, but my assent is something that vacillates constantly. It is never given once and for all but must be renewed constantly. The assent of the people of God in the first reading did not last long in reality. The confession of St Peter in the Gospel did not entail that he had given his assent to Jesus permanently. We must assent to God over and over again.

Everything does not depend on us, but God cannot achieve anything without our cooperation. Our assents to God have immense value, but they cannot be taken for granted. We must remain aware that we need to renew them on a daily basis and that we always incur the risk of denial.

God, thankfully, does not operate according to our logic but according to his own, which is rooted in generosity. St Peter will eventually give his assent to God in a more complete way, and the Father and the Holy Spirit will work marvels within him, but Peter will arrive at this assent only along the path of multiple denials of Jesus. The people of Israel see many marvels wrought by God, but sometimes they will say no and will see absolutely nothing at all. This is how we are made. Everything does not depend on us, but without our cooperation nothing can be achieved – this is a more balanced way of looking at things. Our actions have genuine value. The faith is not a mechanism that automatically brings about a good result. It requires constant growth and correction. It requires awareness that our adhesion to God is a matter of freewill and is never definitive – it is always in need of further strengthening. This is a good thing! No one among us can ever place himself in the presence of God and pretend that he has understood everything or achieved everything. We are all magnificently in the state of requiring further development. None of us can ever assert that we are immune to the risk of doing a particular bad action. The fact is that we do not know if we are or not. We might well be drawn into such a course of action in a minute, if the circumstances change. None of us can even look disparagingly on others and claim that we could never do the evil things that they do. In a flash we could deny Jesus in exactly the same way. But the wonderful thing is that - if we do fall - we can immediately renew our bond with the Lord. Our denials of God are dramatic, but our assents to him are marvellous indeed.

Friday, 14 August 2015

GOSPEL: John 6:51-58
(Translation of a homily by Don Fabio  Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio)

Check us on on Facebook – Sunday Gospel Reflection

Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel.

GOSPEL                                    John 6:51-58
Jesus said to the crowd:
‘I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that 1 shall give
is my flesh, for the life of the world.’
Then the Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said. Jesus replied:
‘I tell you most solemnly, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man
and drink his blood, you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life,
and 1 shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me
and 1 live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven; not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . This Sunday’s Gospel continues the dialogue between Jesus and the people after the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. The people are following Jesus because they want him to provide more food, but Jesus is now proposing a new kind of food altogether. This new food does not perish and brings eternal life. Jesus is proposing a food that requires a deep personal relationship with him. In this sense his body is real food and his blood is real drink. But the people are not interested in this new and challenging type of food; they want Jesus to satisfy their immediate desires; they are not looking for the adult food that brings true growth and authentic life. Do we feed our children only with that which they want? Or do we try to feed them with food that truly nourishes? Jesus wants to give us the bread of life, but we are not interested and expect him to provide us with a very earthly type of bread instead. Jesus offers himself to us in a radical way that is expressed by the gift of his body and blood. But we are scandalised! We don’t want to be loved, pardoned, and served totally! Such love does not fit in with our see-saw way of measuring things. We prefer to be given that which we deserve, and to give to others (including God) only that which they deserve, and no more. If God gives himself to me totally, then I risk losing my autonomy and the self-referential focus of my life. The sweet suffering of the saints is to be aware that God has given himself to them totally and they can do little in return.

Jesus is proposing an ultimate kind of nourishment, but we would prefer if he would give us the kind of nourishment that fits in with our interests and expectations
The first reading on Sunday from the Book of Proverbs makes a contrast between the food that comes from wisdom and the sort of food that results from foolishness. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us that he is the living bread come down from heaven; whoever eats of this bread will live forever, the bread that Jesus gives is his flesh for the life of the world. The people begin to protest: how can he give them his flesh to eat? We all have our own fixed ideas regarding what we should eat, how we should dress, what we should expect in any given situation. The Gospel reading comes after the account of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes in chapter 6 of John’s Gospel. The people are following Jesus because they are hoping that he will continue to feed them in this earthly way. But Jesus proposes a very different type of food, something wonderful and unexpected: whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood will have eternal life. Bread and wine nourish us in a temporary way, but now the providence of God is proposing nourishment of an ultimate kind. Jesus is inviting the people to to a relationship with him on a deeper level, but they are only concerned with their own interests. “Don’t tell us about a different kind of bread to the one that we are interested in. Give us the bread that we want!” Jesus’ response is to implore the people to consider him as nourishment in a much deeper sense. “My flesh is real food, my blood is real drink”. Jesus implores to be understood but he has difficulty in overcoming the “customs house” of the expectations of people. “I expect this from you, Jesus. Don’t try giving me anything else!” Jesus desires to give us more that we want or expect from him. But we are in love with our own solutions and our own projects. Jesus is telling us, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, you will not have life in you”. We search for this authentic and complete life in everything that we do, but we never find it fully. This eternal life not follow the logic of human affairs; it cannot be obtained by our own wily strategies. It derives from the strategies and nourishment associated with the diet that God prepares for us.

Real nourishment does not involving eating only that which we feel like eating: it requires eating that which we do not like. God prepares an adult and challenging nourishment for us that goes beyond our desires and expectations.
The question of the diet that leads to eternal life is present from the first pages of the Bible. In Genesis, Adam and Eve are warned not to eat a certain food or they will die; now we hear the admonition in reverse: “Eat this food and you will live forever!” But what is our response? “No, sorry, I don’t feel like eating that”. The fundamental issue is that we like to decide for ourselves what we need. God, instead, presents us with a food that is adult, substantial and challenging. The food that God gives us that brings authentic life often involves things that we do not want to have anything to do with. If we only gave our children that which they wanted to eat, then we would destroy their health. We should nourish a child with food that is good for them, not with things that they hanker after. In the same way the spiritual human being is nourished by that which the wisdom of God sends our way.

Jesus offers himself to us in a radical way that is expressed by the gift of his body and blood. But we are scandalised! We don’t want to be loved, pardoned, and served totally! Such love does not fit in with our see-saw way of measuring things. We prefer to be given that which we deserve, and to give to others (including God) only that which they deserve, and no more. If God gives himself to me totally, then I risk losing my autonomy and self-righteous pride!

The Jews refuse to believe in the words of Jesus because they cannot accept this God who gifts himself totally to them. We have difficulty believing in love, believing in the gift of God. What we are inclined to believe in are the things that are compatible with our way of measuring things, our inner weighing scales in which everything is accounted for in perfectly just terms. But God is not simply just, he is a father to us who gives us more than we deserve. This includes the gift of his own Son who sacrifices himself for us: “My flesh is real food, my blood is real drink”. This is what we celebrate in the central sacrament of our Christian lives: that God is for us; that he is our food and we are nourished by him, that he is our servant in an utterly total way. But we cannot accept this; we are scandalised by it. We find it difficult to allow ourselves to be served in a radical way by God. We feel that the acceptance of such a relationship will compromise our autonomy. We feel that we will lose ourselves if we allow ourselves to be loved in such a total way; if we allow ourselves to be pardoned and to be the recipient of such wonderful gifts. The sweet suffering of the saints is to accept this gift and to be aware that they can give nothing in return; to be aware that their love is little compared to the way in which they have been loved. This sweet suffering of the true disciple is something that is worth bearing.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Gospel: John 6:41-51
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel

Check us out on Facebook -  Sunday Gospel Reflection

GOSPEL                                  John 6:41-51
The Jews were complaining to each other about Jesus, because he had said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ ‘Surely this is Jesus son of Joseph’ they said. ‘We know his father and mother. How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven” ?’ Jesus said in reply, ‘Stop complaining to each other.
‘No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me,
and I will raise him up at the last day.
It is written in the prophets: They will all be taught by God,
and to hear the teaching of the Father, and learn from it, is to come to me.
Not that anybody has seen the Father, except the one who comes from God:
he has seen the Father.
I tell you most solemnly, everybody who believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the desert
and they are dead; but this is the bread that comes down from heaven,
so that a man may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.’

Kieran’s summary . . .  It is hard for our minds to grasp how Jesus becomes bread from heaven for us in the Eucharist. One of the great obstacles to faith, according to Don Fabio, is over-attachment to my own presuppositions about things. But God's saving action cannot be limited to what we can understand on the basis of our own presuppositions! That would be like confining a doctor to treatments that his patient could understand. In order to come to a deeper understanding of how Jesus is bread from heaven, we must be willing to accept new teaching from the Lord, opening ourselves to things that go beyond our normal categories of understanding. Eventually a deeper understanding of the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist will come, but only if we take the leap of faith first, opening ourselves to where Jesus wishes to lead us.

Attachment to my own narrow convictions is an obstacle to growth in the faith
Jesus offers himself as a life-giving bread from heaven. The Jews begin to murmur among themselves. "Murmur" is a word that comes from the Greek and refers to the sound that pigeons make. It came to signify also the grumbling sounds made by people who do not want their complaints to be directly heard. Their main bone of contention is that Jesus has said "I am the bread that has come down from heaven". They react to this claim, stating that they know Jesus' family circumstances, and therefore they know exactly where he has come from.
 Here we are presented with one of the major stumbling-blocks to growth in the faith: the obstinate attachment to what I "know". Sometimes the things we are convinced about are obstacles to belief in certain truths of the faith. Maturity in the faith requires the acceptance that our most deeply-held convictions cannot be the ultimate criterion for what is the truth.

God's saving plan for us involves things that we will not be able to understand immediately
In the text the Jews attach too much significance to what they know. "We know everything about you," they say. "We know that you are the son of Joseph and Mary. Don't start telling us that you are something different" This is the narrow-minded insistence that Jesus is exactly as they understand him to be. But if God is restricted to doing only that which we can understand, then how can he possible hope to save us? That would be like limiting a medical practitioner to treating his patients only on the basis of that which his patients could understand. Just as a doctor must use his superior level of understanding when curing his patients, so too God's saving action towards us must involve steps that we will not be able to understand immediately.

I must broaden my conceptual categories and allow myself to be taught by God. A student does not understand everything before he enters the classroom, so why should we think that God should conform to our presuppositions about him before we discover who he truly is?
Jesus does not condemn the hard-heartedness of his listeners in this passage. He tries to explain himself as clearly as possible. "Don't murmur among yourselves," he says. "You grumble because you cannot understand. But what is at stake here is the resurrection, and that is something that you cannot understand, nor is it something that you can make present in your lives by your own efforts. Only the Father can achieve this in you."
 Grumbling is an illness that is very prevalent among us. There is a widespread tendency to continually interpret things in a negative way, based on a narrow perspective on life. Jesus wishes to counteract this tendency towards grumbling, this habit of understanding things on the basis of a narrow set of criteria. The set of criteria can be broadened, he says, by allowing ourselves to be taught by God. It is essential that we allow ourselves to be taught by him. It is vital that we rediscover the type of learning attitude that was typical of our childhood when we naturally allowed ourselves to learn new things.
 Jesus is not part of the conceptual categories with which I normally interpret life. We must throw open the doors of our minds in order to be able to come to an intuition of Christ, and such an intuition will only come if we allow God to instruct us. A student does not enter a lecture believing that he knows everything already. We must cultivate the capacity to be able to continually learn and be continually surprised. We cannot understand the mysterious and holy Eucharist, the wonderful presence of Christ among us in the Mass, the celebration of the events of Easter, without stripping away our natural presuppositions, abandoning our original intuitions, and accepting a new way of looking at things from God.

Understanding of the Eucharist will come, but first we must take the leap of faith and believe that Jesus is the bread from heaven that gives life to the world
"I am the bread of life," says Jesus. "Your fathers ate the bread in desert and they are dead." In order to eat bread and not die, we must emerge from the narrow confines of our own intellects and be open to something that God wishes to bestow on us - understanding of a more profound sort. That understanding will eventually come, but only if we make the leap of faith first.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

August 2nd 2015.  Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL John 6:24-35
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

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

(Check us out on Facebook – Sunday Gospel Reflection)

GOSPEL John 6:24-35
When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs
but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.
Do not work for food that cannot last, but work for food that endures to eternal life,
the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you, for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal’
Then they said to him, ‘What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?’ Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’ So they said, ‘What sign will you give to show us that we should believe in you? What work will you do? Our fathers had manna to eat in the desert; as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’
Jesus answered:
‘I tell you most solemnly, it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven,
it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread;
for the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.’
‘Sir,’ they said ‘give us that bread always.’ Jesus answered:
‘I am the bread of life.
He who comes to me will never be hungry;
he who believes in me will never thirst.’
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . Don Fabio tells us how the history of the relationship between God and humanity is the story of a people (us) who attach themselves to God to the extent that their appetites are satisfied. The people in the Old Testament have faith in God for as long as he rains manna from heaven. The people in the New Testament are happy as long as Jesus multiplies loaves and fishes. But Jesus asks the people to go beyond this way of relating to God. He asks them not to prioritize the bread that perishes. This “bread that perishes” is really our faith that wavers whenever God does not do what we want him to do. We will never learn to live mature and healthy lives until we learn to go beyond our sensations and appetites and develop a relationship with God on a different level. For as long as our lives are dominated by our efforts to gratify the senses, we cannot develop a fully authentic relationship with God. At times when we are hungry, at times when our appetites are not being gratified, at times when things are not going our way – these are the moments when we must learn to go beyond the senses and place our trust in the One the Father has sent, the true bread from heaven that gives life to the world.

In the Old Testament, the people had faith as long as their bellies were full. The people in the Gospel story similarly place a priority on the satisfaction of their appetites. This is the “bread” that they long for, but Jesus wants them to strive after a different bread.
In all of Scripture there is only one occasion when an act of faith is made in someone who is not the God of Israel. After the Passover we are told that the people believed in God and believed in Moses. There is a sense of this in the background to Sunday’s Gospel. Jesus wishes to get away from the people after the multiplication of the loaves and fishes because they want to take him and make him king by force. He crosses the lake but the people follow him. Jesus addresses them by getting to the very heart of the issue: “The only reason you are following me is because you had all the bread you wanted to eat. You did not appreciate that this was a sign that that points to something beyond merely physical satisfaction. Food of this sort does not endure but you are in pursuit of something that is ultimately transitory.” All of this discourse about a food that endures to eternal life is lost on the people and they ask him to explain how they can do what God requires of them. In any case, their bellies are full and they see little need to seek anything further. Jesus replies that they must believe in him who the Father has sent. The Gospel then begins to evoke the Old Testament passage regarding the Passover in which the people placed their faith not only in God but also in Moses. The people ask Jesus, “What sign will you give to show us that we should believe in you? What work will you do? Our fathers had manna to eat in the desert.” The people, in other words, consider bread to be their main priority. They cannot see what Jesus is complaining about. After all, the ancient people of Israel had manna to eat in the desert, and now their more modern counterparts simply want something of a similar sort.

The history of the relationship between God and humanity is the history of a people (us) who attach ourselves to God to the extent that he helps us to satisfy our appetites. If our appetites are left unsatisfied, our faith wavers quickly
The first reading tells of the first occasion when the people were given manna to eat. It all arose because the people were complaining about their situation. They had lost faith in Moses, despite their act of faith in him after the Passover. They moan that it would have been better for them to die in Egypt than to be hungry in the desert. John’s Gospel passage takes us back to precisely this kind of situation. The people vacillate between complaining to God and placing their faith in him. They submit to God, but not fully. They see the extraordinary power of God being manifested, yet immediately afterwards they become unsure. Often we think of this Gospel passage from John as holding up the contrast between different kinds of bread, but the “bread that doesn’t last” referred to in the Gospel is our faith that fails quickly. When all is going well, I believe. When things go against me, I am quick to lose heart. Children behave in exactly this way. They do not have the logical capacity to comprehend the extension of time. Everything is in the present. As long as I am contented in the present moment, then all is well. But if the immediate source of my contentment is taken away from me, perhaps for safety reasons, then it becomes an absolute tragedy. But if I am distracted by a new source of contentment then my previous state of dissatisfaction disappears as if it were never there in the first place. This is “the food that does not last” – the satisfaction of the appetites. For as long as I am satisfied I believe; if I become dissatisfied then I cease to believe.

We cannot live mature, healthy and robust lives until we learn to detach ourselves from our sensations and place our faith in God regardless of whether our appetites are satisfied in this moment or not. It is when we are hungry, when we are not being affirmed or gratified that we must learn to place our trust in God, the food that endures to eternal life.

It is not possible for the Father to sow something stable, worthwhile, and good in us if we cannot learn to detach ourselves from our sensations. Our appetites must cease to be absolutes. The human being is more than his appetites and it is essential that we come to open ourselves to something greater. We have the capacity to enter into a relationship with God himself, and it is here that we come to fulfilment as persons. Moses had to live with this discontinuous relationship between God and the people, a covenant that was continually being broken and betrayed because the people made an absolute out of the present moment. The Son of God then becomes incarnate and demands that the people, we, go beyond the food that perishes. How can God be the God of our lives and complete his works in us if we do not begin to submit ourselves at the very moment when we are hungry, at moments when we do not have the solutions we crave for? This is the time to show faith! The previous day, Jesus had multiplied the loaves, but today he does not intend to do so. He considers his discourse to the people to be more important than another multiplication of loaves and fishes. But the people just want more bread; they don’t seem interested in interior growth or a continuous faith relationship with God. It is not possible for us to develop mature, beautiful and healthy lives unless we can make this leap beyond the immediate “bread” of instant gratification. How can we truly think of others or give real nutrition to others if our stomachs are an absolute, if our own wellbeing is our priority. We live in an epoch that had made itself a slave to comfort and personal wellbeing. We must learn to disobey this common logic if we are to enter into an authentic relationship with God.

Friday, 24 July 2015

July 26th 2015. Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Gospel: John 6:1-15
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio
Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel

(Check us out on Facebook – Sunday Gospel Reflection)

GOSPEL                                  John 6:1-15
Jesus went off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee or of Tiberias and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he gave by curing the sick. Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples. It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover.
Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?’ He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, ‘There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Make the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted. When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, ‘Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.’ So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves. The people, seeing this sign that he had given, said, ‘This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, escaped back to the hills by himself.
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . John’s Gospel reveals that this story of the multiplication of the loaves and fish contains within it the very secret of Easter! The story of Easter is the story of salvation, a series of events in which God manifests his power in situations where humanity comes up against a brick wall. How often do we say things like: “I have done what I can, but it’s no use. I can’t go any further. The situation is lost. The relationship is doomed. We’ve done our part, now all we can do is wash our hands of the situation.” But if we look at life properly, we see that it is a series of situations in which God’s paternal providence is powerfully at work, in small things as well as in large. It is the surprises of God that make life meaningful and beautiful! And it is a fundamental axiom of the Christian life that God wishes to make use of our meagre contribution in order to manifest his plentiful bounty. This is the perennial mystery of Easter at work in our lives. From this Easter point of view, the desperation of the situation is not a reason for despair. Five loaves and two fishes are not a motive for resignation to defeat; they are the perfect opportunity for the loving providence of God to be manifested. If my life is merely the collection of the logistics and means that I have at my disposal, then I am indeed in a desperate situation! But if I take the meagre five loaves and two fishes that I am able to contribute and offer them willingly to the Lord, then he will manifest his providence and bring them to great fruit.

John heralds the fact that there is something in this story of the multiplication of loaves that is key to the mystery of Easter? Just what is this connection with Easter?
There is an evident parallel between the first reading and the Gospel this Sunday. In both texts a similar phrase is used in response to the same problem. In John’s Gospel, the Apostles are confronted with the question of how to feed the multitude of people who have been following to Jesus. Andrew points to the five loaves and two fishes and says, “What is this among so many people?” Similarly, in the first reading (which recounts the multiplication of bread by the prophet Elisha), the servant refers to the loaves that they have in their possession and remarks, “How can this be sufficient for one hundred men?” How often in the challenges of Christian life do we discover that our resources are insufficient! We regularly find ourselves in circumstances where there seems to be no human solution. And the significance of this Gospel story for our lives in general is heralded by a key phrase towards the beginning of the passage: “It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover”. John wants us to know that there is something in this story that holds the key to Easter itself; that Easter, in fact, is a manifestation of God, a passage from the human dimension to the divine dimension. From the time that the Lord led Israel out of Egypt, the Passover experience is a reminder that God can bring about that which is absolutely impossible for humans alone. The story of salvation is a series of interventions by God in which he manifests his power.

How often we fail to invoke the transcendent! We approach problems from the perspective of our own capabilities and capacities. If the problem cannot be resolved in this way, we tend to give up, wash our hands of it, resign ourselves to failure.
We have the tendency to try to keep our lives contained within that which is controllable and manageable. The challenges that we undertake are measured to fit us. We should not be surprised therefore if many people lose the faith and fail to maintain a sense of the extraordinary. There is a tendency on our part to invoke the power of Easter only when the situation is desperate. No one will deny that it is important in life to be reasonable, prudent and realistic. These qualities are fundamental to a human way of behaviour. But salvation and the manifestation of God are always beyond that which we are capable of thinking or doing. If we rewrite this text so that it no longer reflects the mystery of Easter, it can be quite revealing for the way that we commonly approach problems. Let us imagine that Jesus looks at the crowd and doesn’t do the Easter thing, but says instead, “These people want food but we have no bread. Maybe we should send them away. It would be better if we didn’t take their problems upon ourselves. What do you think Philip?” Philip shrugs his shoulders and admits that they do not have sufficient money to procure food for such a crowd. Andrew is in agreement, pointing to the fact that they have only five loaves and two fishes. “Okay!” Jesus announces loudly. “It’s time to head home everybody! It’s time to go and look after yourselves! We can only do so much. Now you are on your own!” Isn’t this exactly our attitude when we are confronted with so many situations in life? We will go so far, but no further. We do what we are able but do not invoke the transcendent. We do not have faith in the surprises of God.

Life is actually made up of incidences of the surprising providence of God, if we could learn to appreciate it properly. From the point of view of the providence of the Lord, five loaves and two fishes are not a reason for despair but a perfect opportunity for a fruitful cooperation between humanity and God. The very meagreness of our capacities becomes a manifestation of the provident nature of God.

But life is actually made up of these surprises, if we learn to look at it properly, and it is the surprises of God that make life beautiful! In small things and in large things we have the opportunity to experience the paternity of God, his providence, his surprising action in our lives. In the real Gospel story, Jesus does not think like a son of man but like the Son of God. Five loaves and two fish are a good point of departure. It is a fundamental axiom of Christian action that God makes use of our meagre contribution in order to manifest his plenty. God always operates in this fashion; Easter is always of this sort. We cannot reduce our lives to a collection of logistics – we must open ourselves constantly to the power and the providence of God which often surpasses all measurement. How can a man and woman marry each other if they do not believe in the “extra” that God supplies to the relation? The purely human basis of such relations is always lacking. How can a man or woman consecrate their lives to God if they do not focus continually on this transcendent aspect? How can a couple bring a child into this threatening world if they do not have faith in something that goes beyond their capacities to provide and protect? How can we attempt to build the church if we do not believe in the surprising providence of God? All that we have in our pockets is our meagre contribution of the five loaves and two fish. But let us give it willingly, and from our modest input God will bring his fruit in plenty.

Friday, 17 July 2015

July 19th 2015.  Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL Mark 6:30-34
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

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

(Check us out on Facebook – Sunday Gospel Reflection)

GOSPEL Mark 6:30-34
The apostles re-joined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while', for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . Don Fabio focusses on the compassion shown by Jesus in this passage from the Gospel. Sometimes we think we have power or influence in the world, but the only worthwhile power we have is the power to serve and to give our lives for others. It is acts of compassion for others that make the world a beautiful place. If we only did what we were obliged to do towards others, or if others only respected our rights and nothing more, then the world would become a very banal and unbearable place. The pastors that are condemned by Jeremiah in the first reading probably did exactly what they were obliged to do. Yet their failure to go beyond the rules destroyed and scattered the people. If the members of a family all acted only out of obligation, then the family would be a miserable place. Compassion takes us beyond mere adherence to rights and expectations. It is love, mercy and patience that holds relationships and society together. None of us could stand before God if it were not for his mercy!

Salvation is not just between God and me, it is something we participate in as a community. We mediate salvation to each other and we do so by service and self-sacrifice. If we obstruct the transmission of the love of God to others then the world can become a terrible place.
The first reading from Jeremiah consists in a prophecy against the pastors of the people. Not only have they failed to shepherd their flock: they have allowed the people to be destroyed and scattered. The issue at stake here is the manner in which God saves us. We are not redeemed in an individual or vertical way directly by the Lord. God saves us through the mediation of others. The world is a wonderful place, made so that we might love each other and go to God together. But when we obstruct the love of God and fail to mediate that love amongst each other, we make the world into a terrible place, a veritable torture chamber. The Church is a place where people minister the salvation of God; they do not have ownership over redemption. None of us has even a crumb of true authority if it is not given to us by the Lord and is not administered in his name. We tend to think we have power, but the only thing we are truly able to do is to be of service and to give our lives for others. If our work in the Church becomes something else then it does not come from God. In fact, often what we do becomes reduced to something extremely repugnant.

It is acting from compassion that is the mark of a true follower of Jesus. As long as we limit ourselves to fulfilling our obligations, then we exclude and drive away others.
The disciples come back from their mission and tell Jesus what they have done. Jesus wants them to rest and takes them away in the boat. Rest is necessary for all of us. We have an obligation to get away every now and then in order to rest and be recharged. The disciples and Jesus head for a lonely place but when they disembark they discover that the crowd has followed them there. Here we discover what was lacking in the shepherds described in the first reading from Jeremiah, and it is often missing in our choices and actions too - Jesus has compassion on them. Here we are not merely talking about human compassion. What is referred to here is something that comes from the very interior of God, and is reflected in an inadequate way in our acts of compassion. The compassion of Jesus is something that prompts him to live and move for others. It is something that goes beyond rights and obligations. As long as we are fixated with rights and obligations we exist on a level of banality that is incompatible with love. If we only do that which is expected of us, we become exactly like those pastors spoken of by Jeremiah. This is true of priests, but also of the baptized, and also of men and women in general. For as long as we limit ourselves to doing only that which we are obliged to do, we exclude and drive away others. In a diocesan meeting in Rome, Pope Francis warned about the parochial house becoming a sort of parish customs house in which rules are used to exclude people who are looking for a simple word of salvation. If we cannot get beyond regulations and bureaucracy, then everything becomes ugly and devoid of love.

It is compassion and mercy that keeps families and societies together, not regulations and protocol
If the family became a place in which we merely counted expectations, obligations and rights then it would lose its humanity. It is compassion and mercy that drives the healthy family. Let us prepare ourselves for the Year of Mercy by focusing on the one thing that resolves all problems! It is not precision, regulations or perfect proportionality that keeps things moving along in life. What makes situations productive is patience and compassion. In the Western world there is the myth of the ideal world in which the person does everything according to protocol, respecting all his obligations and having all of his rights respected. But no human being has ever been capable of being obedient to all laws to the very letter. Laws are cold, it is only the heart that truly motivates.

All of us are utterly dependent on the mercy of Christ. Without it, who among us could stand before the Lord? We too must become mediators of that compassion.

Jesus goes beyond rights and obligations. He and his disciples had the right to rest themselves. For the salvation of the family, for the salvation of the parish, for the salvation of the Christian community, for the salvation of ordinary friendships, we must all go beyond rights, and it is only compassion that enables us to do it. If any of us were to place ourselves before God according to our own merit, then who among us would not be shamed? All of us live by the mercy and compassion of Christ.

Friday, 10 July 2015

July 12th 2015. Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL: Mark 6:7-13
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio
Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel

(Check us out on Facebook – Sunday Gospel Reflection)

GOSPEL                                  Mark 6:7-13
Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses. They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Do not take a spare tunic.’ And he said to them, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set off to preach repentance; and they cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . Just as the prophet Amos called for conversion of hearts, so too the disciples of Jesus are sent to preach a pure Gospel that will transform people’s hearts. Jesus gives the disciples a very well-defined power: the authority over impure spirits. What does this refer to? Something that is impure is something that contains within it a mixture of good and bad elements. The most powerful forms of deception often contains elements of truth or goodness in them. How often we try to sweeten the Gospel, compromising it so that it fits in with our self-interested plans! Woe to the Church if it does not preach true conversion to the pure message of the Gospel! Jesus tells the disciples that if people reject the Gospel, then they are to shake the clay of that town from their feet. Is this a condemnation of those people? No, it is a statement of the purity of the Gospel and a way of testifying to that town that they are being called to embrace the pure ground of the Gospel. It is a way of saying: “The ground of our faith cannot be mixed or compromised with the ground of the way of life that you lead, so I shake that ground from my feet as a message to you that the Gospel must be accepted in its purity”. This Gospel also calls each one of us to conversion. We are called to allow ourselves to be cultivated and pruned by the Lord so that we too are converted to a pure observance of the Gospel.

The Gospel purifies in the sense that it is not compatible with a mixture of good and evil
The theme of Sunday’s Gospel is the acceptance and the rejection of the evangelizing mission of the disciples. The first reading contains the celebrated passage in which the prophet Amos is banished by the king for preaching conversion. But first let us consider the Gospel. Jesus calls the twelve to himself and sends them out two by two. This is a sign of communion; no one goes out by himself; the disciples must know how to cooperate with another and not insist on working in a purely individualistic way. It is communion, after all, that brings salvation to the world. Jesus gives the disciples a very precise power: the authority over unclean spirits.  The heart of the human being is very prone to allowing itself to be confused. An impure spirit is one that lacks discernment and confounds good with evil, mixing them in an illegitimate and deceptive way.

The Gospel must be delivered in a simple and pure way, not for profit or with a concern for material gain. We must not “wear other hats” when we preach the Gospel.
The disciples are to carry only a walking stick, no bread, no haversack and no money. The Church, thus, is expected to carry out its mission without foraging for profit, without being weighed down with material baggage, money or structures. Evangelizing is a business that requires constant journeying from the Father towards humanity. We must engage in this movement from within, not in a self-referential way. The order to bring only one change of clothes refers to the point that we must only seek to be that which the Father sends us to be; we must not try to take on or usurp other roles.

What does it mean “to shake the dust of that town from one’s sandals”?
The evangelizer must go into people’s homes, to the places where people eke out their existence. And the preacher will discover that people know how to welcome God. Humanity knows how to open its heart wide to salvation. The Gospel passage, in fact, recounts the success of the mission of the disciples. They receive a great welcome and manage to heal people’s infirmities. The word of God is something that can be well received. It can also be refused, and in this case Jesus instructs the disciples to shake the dust of that town from their feet as a testimony to them. Shaking the dust off of the feet is a sign that there is no relationship between the disciples and the people of that town. There is no happy interchange between us; you and I are not of the same ground; I come from one land and you from another. There is a temptation when we preach the Gospel to seek a compromise with those to whom we preach. Common ground is all too often not the ground of conversion but the ground of banality. It is important to state clearly that I come from a different sort of land. If you do not welcome me, then your ground remains yours; it does not become mine. This shaking off of the dust is not a condemnation onto death; it is a genuine witness to those townspeople that is directed towards illuminating them of the pure nature of the Gospel.

The true prophet teaches a hard message of conversion but leads the people to life and joy
It is in this vein that the prophet Amos speaks. He does not react with condemnation to the order of banishment from the prophet Amaziah. Instead he says, “I was not a prophet nor the son of a prophet. I was a shepherd and a cultivator of sycamores”. This work of tending sycamores consisted in piercing the fruit of the tree and allowing some of their juice to escape so that they would develop correctly and become edible.  In other words, Amos did not come from a school of prophets; he had no great theological formation; his only talents consisted in tending sheep and piercing sycamores. He knew how to improve the fruit of the tree and how to lead the flock to water and grass. Instead of condemning Amaziah, Amos is saying that his skills are these and he has come to apply them here in this other context.

We must allow ourselves to be pruned by God so that we develop an authentic relationship with him. Then we are in a position to call others to conversion. And we must call them to conversion instead of compromising what we believe or “sweetening” the Gospel to make it more palatable to others

What must the person who wishes to receive the Gospel be prepared to accept? He must be prepared to be pierced, to be made to bleed a little, but also to be led to life. We must be willing to allow God to cultivate us, to plant us, to prune us (as John 15 tells us); we must be ready to accept the challenge so that the ground of God becomes our ground. These two grounds must become one. In the Incarnation, the man made of clay becomes a divine being. This involves welcoming the prophetic spirit, allowing ourselves to be corrected and to be led into true pastures. How many people look to pasture only themselves, becoming the focus and centre of their own lives. We must recognize that we need to be led by God. The twelve disciples who are sent out are characterized by their relationship with God, calling others to obedience and conversion. Woe to us if we are a Church that does not call to conversion but instead agrees and compromises with everything. How blessed we are if we become signs of this relationship, not having other roles or outfits that we wear, focusing instead on calling people to the ground of God, calling them to be transformed and transfigured by the good news of Jesus.

Find us on facebook

Sunday Gospel Reflection