Saturday, 27 August 2016

August 28th 2016. TWENTY SECOND SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
GOSPEL: LUKE 14:1,7-14
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio

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GOSPEL: LUKE 14:1,7-14
On a Sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully.
He told a parable to those who had been invited,
noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet,
do not recline at table in the place of honor.
A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him,
and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say,
‘Give your place to this man,’
and then you would proceed with embarrassment
to take the lowest place.
Rather, when you are invited,
go and take the lowest place
so that when the host comes to you he may say,
‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’
Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.
For every one who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Then he said to the host who invited him,
“When you hold a lunch or a dinner,
do not invite your friends or your brothers
or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors,
in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.
Rather, when you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . In the parable, a guest takes a prestigious position at the table but is asked to move to the lowest place when a more important guest arrives. Jesus encourages us to take the lowest place in life. What is the lowest place? It is the position we occupy when we are in correct relationship with God. Adam was not in a correct relationship with God because he placed himself before God. We are in correct relationship with God when we choose the lowest place, putting God’s will before our own. The parable then moves on to talk about recompense. What kind of recompense are we looking for in life? Do we serve others only in the hope of being rewarded for our efforts? Jesus tells us to invite people to our party who cannot repay us for our kindness to them. This is the mark of true service, efforts expended that cannot be rewarded! How miserable our life is if it is lived in the hope of earthly recognition or reward! The recognition that the Lord will give us is so much more wonderful than the esteem of human society! In summary, the Lord is holding up two ways of life before us: We can seek our own position in life in which we receive human recognition for our impoverished works. Or we can take the “lowest” position in life, the position of one who is obedient to the will of the Lord. This position is the most wonderful of all and leads to a recompense that is beyond our dreams.

The parable teaches us about our rightful position in life and about the right kind of rewards we should aspire to,
Jesus tells a parable about a dinner party and the problem of knowing where we should sit. This parable teaches that we need to be much less concerned regarding the position we occupy in life. As well as that, we need to think hard about the kind of rewards we are aspiring to receive. In the parable, the guest sits in an important position. But when a more important guest arrives, he is forced to give up his place and move to the most humble position. In other words, we should leave it to the master to decide our place in the pecking order. Let God decide where we are in life! Let God decide how important we are! Let us stop being preoccupied about whether other people consider us important or not! Let us stop being offended when other people overlook us or appear to forget that we are there! All that matters is that we witness to our faith in Christ. The Lord will one day give us a wonderful place that will exceed all of our expectations.

Jesus tells us to take last place. What is last place? It is the place one occupies when one orients oneself correctly to God
The parable encourages us to take “last place”. What is “last place”? It is the position one assumes when one is in correct relationship with God. Adam put himself in first place, assuming the place of God himself. When Peter tries to impose his own will on affairs, Jesus says “Get behind me Satan!”  To go behind Jesus means to follow him. This is “last place”, the place one occupies when one is in correct relationship with God, the position of following the Lord. We are all called to be disciples, called to follow Jesus. When Jesus is leading, then he will take us to our proper place. When we refuse to be led by Jesus, then we assume positions ourselves, positions that are not ours to take. It is not so much that we need to take the last place with respect to the others around us. Rather we must take last place with respect to the Lord. It is not a question of being in competition with the others around us for the more prestigious place in life. It is a question of being in correct relationship with the Lord.

A life that is lived in the hope of the esteem of others is empty and vain
If one of my preoccupations in life is the respect that is given to me by others, then I am living an existence that is fixated on things that have no value whatsoever. The respect that I gain as a result of my impoverished works is something vain and hollow. The respect that the Lord gives me is something of a different sort altogether. The relationship that the Lord wishes to forge with me is something of a more profound sort altogether. What a different thing it is to have friendship with the Lord!

Do I act in the hope of being rewarded by others? Or do I act with the intention of serving others?
What sort of compensation are we looking for in life? Jesus talks about organizing a party and not inviting friends, family or wealthy neighbours. In last Sunday’s Gospel he spoke about the necessity of bringing the sword of division into families for the sake of the Gospel. In other words, there is a kind of earthly “family” that we must separate ourselves from. And to enter into relationship with God we must forge relationships with the poor, the crippled and the blind, persons with whom we can be instruments of love. The real distinction is this: I can concern myself with the people that the Lord has entrusted to me; the people that are part of the mission that the Lord has given to me. Or I can concern myself with people who can reward me for my works. Am I seeking to serve others? Or am I seeking to be served? If a wife finds herself with a husband who is looking for whatever he can get from her, then that is something dramatically different from a husband who is willing to serve. Is your husband willing to care for you when you are blind, lame, tired, feeling weak, feeling misunderstood? Or is he always seeking what is beneficial for him? What a wound in the heart this is! It is the same in the case of friendship and parenthood. People do a certain amount for the other, but then comes the day of reckoning when they exclaim, “Look at all the sacrifices that I have made for you!” It is as if the efforts they expended for the sake of the other were only done in the hope of some reward, and when that reward is not forthcoming they wish to have all of their sacrifice returned to them. A deed done in the hope of reward is not love, but an investment.
We must live our lives against the backdrop of the generosity of God, not in the hope of earthly rewards. How often we seek to have other people recognize our merits! This happens also in ecclesiastical circles. What a bore! How much more beautiful it is to contemplate our Lord Jesus who makes himself our servant and asks for nothing in return except love! The Gospel tells us that we will be repaid for our efforts towards others at the resurrection for the righteous. If we fail to be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous then that would be a serious thing, for it would signify damnation.

Two ways of life are presented to us: We can forge our own position in life and earn our impoverished rewards. Or we can let God assign a place to us and bestow us with our eternal reward.
The Gospel holds up two very different ways in which we can live. We can seek to occupy our own place in life and gain our own recompense. Or we can let God assign our place to us and wait for our reward from God. God repays immensely more than people! God gives us a much more wonderful position than human society can! The place that God assigns to me is close to his heart. His reward is eternal life.


Thursday, 18 August 2016

AUGUST 21st 2016. TWENTY FIRST SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME
GOSPEL: Luke 13:22-30
_________________________________________________________
 (Translation of a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio)

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Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel.

GOSPEL: Luke 13:22-30
Jesus passed through towns and villages,
teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. 
Someone asked him,
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?” 
He answered them,
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough. 
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door,
then will you stand outside knocking and saying,
‘Lord, open the door for us.’
He will say to you in reply,
‘I do not know where you are from.
And you will say,
‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you,
‘I do not know where you are from. 
Depart from me, all you evildoers!’
And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth
when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
and all the prophets in the kingdom of God
and you yourselves cast out.
And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. 
For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last.”
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . Jesus tells us that the door leading to salvation is “narrow”. What could this mean? Does he mean that only certain types of people will get through? The door to salvation is narrow in the temporal sense. The Lord is standing in front of us inviting us to enter into a relationship with him, and time is passing quickly. We tend to think that we have plenty of time to respond to the Lord, so we remain immobile, frozen in our own securities, reluctant to place our hand in his and follow him radically. We are hurtling rapidly towards our deaths and the door that is open to us will soon be closed because our earthly lives will come to an end. We may well be aware that we are not responding to Jesus in a full and authentic way, but we take salvation for granted and think that we still have time. We remain absorbed in ourselves, pursuing our own infantile obsessions. But life can end in an instant and the narrow door will then be closed. Let us not take it for granted that our marriages will survive or that our Christian lives will come to fruition. If we do not take the opportunity today to enter through the door that the Lord has opened for us then we may well lose everything. There is no need to be concerned that we may not recognize the door that the Lord is opening for us. Usually there is nothing dramatic or difficult about it. The good Lord is already today speaking to our hearts and our consciences. It will not be difficult for us to discern what we need to do if we are to respond fully to him.

The prophet Isaiah tells us that the door to salvation will be opened for peoples of all nations
The first reading announces a great gathering of people who speak many languages. We are told that the Lord will select priests and Levites from among them; in other words they will be a sacred people. This goes against a mentality that was prevalent in Old Testament times, and with which Jesus clashed in many respects, even though he is the fulfilment of the Old Testament. There is still a religious tendency that seeks to make a sharp division between those who are the elect and those who are cast away, the righteous and the unrighteous, the good and the bad, the saved and the lost. In the Old Testament, in addition, there was a contempt for those who were not ethnically Jewish. The reading from Isaiah, which comes from the third and final part of the book, is extraordinary. It speaks of the sacred office of priesthood being extended universally to all peoples. This point here is that it is no longer bloodline that decides one’s destiny. In the Prologue of John we hear that those who become children of God are born, not of blood, nor of the will of man, nor the will of the flesh, but of God. One’s family line is no longer the parameter of who will be saved.

Jesus is not interested in answering the question of how many will be saved
This week’s Gospel presents us with a question that is typical of the religious mentality. “Who will be saved? Will there only be a few?” Jesus does not respond directly to the question but makes the discussion evolve to a new level. He says: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” And as we are trying to understand what the Lord might mean here, he goes on to say: “And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.” The issue for Jesus is not the quantity of those who will be saved, but neither is it any particular quality. Those who are saved, indeed, will “see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves cast out”. In other words, those who seemed to have the right quality, the very descendants of Abraham, are in danger of being left outside.

The door to heaven is narrow because time is flying by more quickly than we imagine. Jesus is the door, and has been standing in front of us, but we are putting him off, delaying entering into relationship with him, while our lives hurtle rapidly towards their end.
What point does Jesus wish to make? Is the narrow door narrow in the spatial sense? Does it prevent obese people from entering, or those who are too tall? No, the door is narrow in the temporal sense. Jesus Christ is passing by and people are asking, abstractly, who will be saved and who will not be saved, as if it depended on some a priori personal characteristic. No, we enter heaven by availing of the opportunity presented to us by the passing of Jesus. The Kingdom of Heaven is very close to us. We can enter the banquet of the Kingdom through the door that the Lord opens for us. The door is narrow for those who are questioning Jesus because the Lord is passing them by at just this moment, and now is the time! Jesus is saying: “I am the open door! Follow me! Leave the life you are leading! Begin living according to the Good News that I have brought!” People at that time could well have replied: “But we have done great things, stood in your presence, ate with you!” However, if they have not entered into relationship with the Lord, then they have not actually taken their opportunity to enter the narrow door.

God is opening doors to us where we can leave our infantile securities behind and pass into an authentic relationship with the Lord. But we delay and remain absorbed in ourselves, thinking that we are just a step away from real salvation and we can stay as we are for another while.
All of us are born to die in the sense that we are destined to be with the Father. One thing that most people in the world agree upon is that we are born to love, but what is true love if not to lose one’s life? Living is to struggle against that primordial anguish in which I root myself in one spot and cling onto my own certitudes. But God opens doors for us, through the experience of charity, acts of faith, glimmerings of hope, where I can leave my infantile certainties behind, my attachment to the things that give me security, and pass into a relationship with God and my neighbour. Jesus tells us that people will come from east and west to enter the banquet of the Kingdom, whilst we are rooted in the one spot. We will not go through the door whilst others will come from afar to enter. It is a curious thing that when something is more distant we tend to desire it more. The more difficult it is to achieve, the more importance we give it. If something is at arm’s reach, we look upon it as something banal. We think we are just one step from salvation and we don’t bother to take that one step! When we feel very far from salvation we begin to run towards it. The convert in his zeal often has the enthusiasm and energy that is lacking in those who were raised in the shadow of the church steeple and who tend to take everything for granted.

Do we fret that we will not recognize the door of salvation when it is open to us? God is good and is already speaking to our hearts and our consciences. We already know deep down what we need to do to go through the door that the Lord has opened for us today
Jesus is telling us in this Sunday’s Gospel that it is not to be taken for granted that we are saved, that we should not think naively that we are going to move out of our own mediocrity. It is not a sure thing that our marriages will hold together, that our religious vows will be lived authentically, that our pastoral initiatives will come to fruition, that the Christian life will finish well. No-one can be sure of the outcome of what they are doing. Each one of us is challenged to enter or refuse to enter through the narrow gate of the holy will of God, to transcend ourselves or become enclosed within ourselves, remain frozen in our own certitudes or allow ourselves to be led out, cling on to our own securities or go out into a new world. The door is narrow and the opportunities are less than we think. In one instant everything can come to an end. That which is taken for granted can easily be lost. Let us welcome the authentic message of this Gospel passage and exploit the opportunities for following the Lord that our consciences reveal to us. There is no need to look for dramatic ways of responding to the Lord, or to be concerned that the Lord will not present us with the opportunities to follow him. God is good and is already speaking to our heart. He tells us, “This is the moment to start moving, to cast down the demon of indolence”. Life – the Christian life of responding to the Lord - involves movement, not standing still.

Friday, 12 August 2016

AUGUST 14th 2016. TWENTIETH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME
GOSPEL: Luke 12:49-53
_________________________________________________________
(Translation of a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio)

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Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel.

GOSPEL                                    Luke 12:49-53
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing! 
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! 
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? 
No, I tell you, but rather division. 
From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . In the first reading we hear how the prophet Jeremiah was thrown into a well because people didn’t like what he was saying! The prophets challenged people and were rejected as a result. Jesus, too, challenges us. He wishes to bring a division into our lives between what is holy and what is not, between the heavenly and the earthly. Christ comes to separate us from that which does not lead to heaven. Sometimes it is said that inner peace is a sign of progress in the spiritual life, but this is simply not true! It is inner restlessness that drives the spiritual life, drives us to go beyond where we are now. In a marriage, the relationship either grows or stagnates. The couple either learn to love each other more, bearing each other’s weaknesses, or they retreat from each other to a safe distance where a sort of false peace prevails. There is no such thing as peaceful standing still in the spiritual life! The greatest of saints are most aware that there are things in their lives that must be eliminated. Each one of us, right up to our last breath, must engage in the combat between that which leads us to God and that which leads away. This Sunday may the Lord help us to accept the division that Christ brings to our hearts, separating us from that which does not lead to heaven.

The prophets challenged people and were rejected as a result. Jesus, too, challenges us. He wishes to bring a division into our lives between the good and the bad, the heavenly and the earthly. Christ comes to separate us from that which does not lead to heaven.
The first reading tells of the occasion when Jeremiah was locked up because he told the truth and discouraged the people. The prophet is simply saying what he must: that the human way of looking at things is not the way that things really are. Finally, a wise member of the community tells the king to take Jeremiah out of the well because without the prophet they will not know what to do. To listen to or not to listen to the prophet? - this is the question that the first reading puts before us. In the Gospel, Jesus asks: “Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth? Not peace but division!” What can this mean? In the context of the early Christian community, people were living at a time of persecution when the acceptance of the Gospel often meant going against one’s own relatives. But the same is true in every age. St Francis had to separate himself from his Father who had opposed his following of the Lord in the harshest way possible. Even reading the Gospel today, we can see how Jesus came to bring about a separation. A superficial dictum from the spiritual life goes as follows: “If you are at peace, then what you are doing comes from God”. This is simply neither true nor false. Growth in the spiritual life does not mean a lessening of life’s tensions. Everyone, to the last day of their lives, is locked in internal combat between the old and the new person. Right to our last breath we must engage in the agony of passing from bad to good, and from good to better, and from better to sublime, and from sublime to heavenly. We must always choose the greater above the lesser, and this entails interior combat and inquietude. It is simply not true that spiritual progress consists in an ever greater acquisition of tranquility! Peace of this sort often comes from the demon, because the weight of the very real contradictions in our lives can be obscured only by substances (like alcohol) that lead to our delusion, or hours in front of the television that dull our apprehension of reality.

In the spiritual life the goal is not inner peace! Inner restlessness drives on on to become purer, closer to God, more capable of love
In the spiritual life, the feeling of restlessness is not simply a collateral effect; it is something proactive that stimulates growth. If people are not placed in uncomfortable circumstances, they will not be motivated to do anything. The spiritual life is something that must always be moving towards something new. If two spouses are content with the love they have for each other, the marriage will become predictable and banal. The relationship will begin to deteriorate. Many people interpret this phenomenon to be the result of the calming down of the passions after the couple has been married for some time, but this is an incorrect interpretation. A couple marries with all the zeal of the newly weds. Then they either grow or they wither; there is no middle way. We either go for that which is beyond, with a continually greater understanding of the other, with a greater capacity to compromise and bear with the weaknesses of the other; or the marriage declines into a situation where the couple keeps a respectable distance and maintains a sort of tranquility in the house, cut off from the inner turbulence of the other.

From what must I be separated? What is present in my life that Christ wants to eliminate?

Life must be a continual process of purification, a continual detachment with that part of us which Christ came to separate us from. Christ came to separate us from the confusion in our lives and to bring light, to remove that which is for heaven from that which is not for heaven, that which is for love from that which is not for love. No one on this earth has yet arrived at their destination. Even the holiest and purest of people are aware that there is still something which must be eliminated from their lives; in fact it is the holiest of people who are most conscious of this fact. A wonderful question that this Gospel raises is: “From what must I be separated?” The true prophet and the false prophet never say the same thing. To listen to the true prophet means to listen to someone who is critical of me, If, as in the first reading, I refuse to accept criticism, then I will lose the prophecy, throwing the prophet into the well. I must accept correction and accept my need for growth. This Sunday may the Lord help us to accept the division that Christ brings to our hearts, separating us from that which does not lead to heaven.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

AUGUST 7th 2016. NINETEENTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME
GOSPEL: Luke 12:32-48
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(Translation of a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio)

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Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel.

GOSPEL                                    Luke 12:32-48
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,
for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. 
Sell your belongings and give alms. 
Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out,
an inexhaustible treasure in heaven
that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. 
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

“Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding,
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. 
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. 
Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. 
And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants. 
Be sure of this:
if the master of the house had known the hour
when the thief was coming,
he would not have let his house be broken into. 
You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect,
the Son of Man will come.”

Then Peter said,
“Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?” 
And the Lord replied,
“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward
whom the master will put in charge of his servants
to distribute the food allowance at the proper time? 
Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so. 
Truly, I say to you, the master will put the servant
in charge of all his property. 
But if that servant says to himself,
‘My master is delayed in coming,’
and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants,
to eat and drink and get drunk,
then that servant’s master will come
on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour
and will punish the servant severely
and assign him a place with the unfaithful. 
That servant who knew his master’s will
but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will
shall be beaten severely;
and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will
but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating
shall be beaten only lightly. 
Much will be required of the person entrusted with much,
and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The theme of this Sunday’s Gospel is the eternal significance of each and every human action. Either an act leads me towards paradise or it leads me towards the void. How often we tend to be caught up in the immediate significance of our acts! But an act cannot be understood properly unless we see it from the perspective of its eternal dimension. We spend so much effort on storing up treasures, accumulating possessions, making purses for ourselves that will soon wear out. The Gospel challenges us to create purses for ourselves in heaven, ones that will never disappear. It is the eternal aspect of our actions that gives sense and meaning to our lives. If our existence is just a succession of acts that lead nowhere, then how shallow and empty it is! But if my life is lived in the expectation and hope of liberation by God, of encounter with the master who will return, then how much depth my existence acquires! I cease to go around in circles; I begin to behave as one who comprehends the eternal import of each and every action. Then, like St Francis of Assisi, every difficulty in life becomes a delight because we see in that difficulty the announcement of something greater that is to come.  

The Gospel challenges us to be focussed on that which is to come
The first reading from the Book of Wisdom speaks of the Exodus, an event that had been preannounced to the people of God so that they might have courage when the happenings began to unfold. The Gospel reading, too, speaks of the relationship between the present and the future. Jesus tells us that we can be serene and courageous in the face of our present problems because our Father in heaven has been pleased to grant us the Kingdom. This is the same sort of logic that we find in the Beatitudes – “Blessed are those who are afflicted now for they shall be consoled. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”. The entire Gospel challenges us to be ready for that which is to come: to be ready for the master who will one day return; to be prepared for the prize that awaits in the future, the spouse who is expected to arrive, the reward that is due to us. The beginning of the passage tells us to sell our belongings and give alms, to make purses for ourselves that will not wear out.  There are purses that grow old and those that do not; treasures that fade away and those that remain; possessions that criminals can take from us and those that cannot be stolen.

All my acts can only be understood in the light of their consequences
Every human act has a consequence; in fact an act can only be understood fully in the light of its consequences. How often we tend to be superficially caught up in the present moment and the immediate aspect of our behaviour! We need to be aware that every act leads somewhere. Every act I do is bound up with the reality of what God intends to do with me. If each and every act I do is not directed towards a definite end, then it is a stupid and blind act. Our existence is either a succession of disordered events or it is something that has sense and meaning. If I believe that the events in my life are the result of chance, then life becomes ugly and shallow. Our lives develop depth when they begin to be directed towards a goal, when we begin to expect liberation from God, when we begin to await something wonderful with expectation and hope. Pope Francis often exhorts us not to lose hope. If hope becomes obscured, if I lose sight of the goal of my existence, then everything becomes dry and tasteless. St Francis of Assisi said, “The good that awaits me is so great that every pain has become a delight”. We become cheerful in difficulty when we realize that those difficulties announce something wonderful to come. In the spiritual life, once of the fundamental things is to clarify my ultimate goals. Any act that takes me away from this ultimate goal is useless in itself. In fact it is dehumanising and takes the soul out of what I am doing.

Before doing anything, I should ask myself, “Does this act lead me towards paradise or towards the void?” If it does not lead towards paradise then it is something dehumanising

The Gospel exhorts us to be ready to depart, to be ready for the return of the master, to be attentive to the will of the master. All of this points to a mode of existence that is directed towards a wonderful goal. We are challenged to ask ourselves where we are going. If I continue behaving and living as I am now, where will I end up? What will be the outcome of my behaviour? Am I heading towards heaven or towards the void? Every act I commit is either leading me towards heaven or it is not. It is either directed towards paradise and greatness or it is not. Once there was a lot of emphasis in Christian preaching on death, judgement and salvation. These themes are less common nowadays because they are considered negative, but they are important and can be illuminated in fruitful ways. Everything I am doing must be seen in the light of the fact that the master will one day return and he will ask me what I have been doing, if I have been preparing for his coming. Have I been behaving as one who wishes to enter into his house? Or as someone who belongs outside? Did I act with eternity as my goal? Or with the void as my goal? In this season of summer we can often lose ourselves and follow after things that are empty and vain. But there is another way. If we have extra leisure time on our hands, we can use it to pull ourselves together and redirect our lives. Instead of going around blindly in circles, we can accept the challenge of this Sunday’s Gospel and fix our eyes firmly on our goal, leaving aside everything that is secondary.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

July 31st 2016. EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME
GOSPEL: Luke 12:13-21
_________________________________________________________
 (Translation of a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio)

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Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel.

GOSPEL                                    Luke 12:13-21
Someone in the crowd said to Jesus,
“Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” 
He replied to him,
“Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” 
Then he said to the crowd,
“Take care to guard against all greed,
for though one may be rich,
one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

Then he told them a parable. 
“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. 
He asked himself, ‘What shall I do,
for I do not have space to store my harvest?’
And he said, ‘This is what I shall do:
I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. 
There I shall store all my grain and other goods
and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years,
rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’
But God said to him,
‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves
but are not rich in what matters to God.”
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . Jesus is interrupted by a man who demands that Jesus intervene in a dispute about inheritance. The Lord responds with a parable about a rich man who rejoices over his bountiful harvest but dies that very night. The fact is that Jesus is not interested in mediating between us over our worldly disputes: he wishes to call us to focus on the true purpose of our lives. If we think about it, all of us “interrupt” Jesus while he tries to speak to us. Our heads are so filled with our own preoccupations on a daily basis that we cannot hear God talking to us. In order to follow the Lord properly, we must detach ourselves from our worldly concerns and anxieties, and focus on the things that are of eternal significance. It is no accident that St Francis of Assisi made poverty his starting point. He was not poor for the sake of being poor but in order to devote himself completely to eternal things. One day, the Lord will call us to account for our lives. This doesn’t have to be at the moment of death. It can be at a moment of crisis, tragedy, or even achievement. At that moment, we can be given a perspective on the true substance of our lives and on the things that really count.

Is Jesus a judge? Is he interested in sorting out our worldly disputes? Or is he more interested in calling us to abandon worldly concerns?
Jesus is preaching to the crowd when a man interrupts him and tells him what he ought to be preaching about. “Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me!” This, according to the man, is the kind of catechesis that Jesus should be engaging in. There may well be a time when it is right to talk about these things, but Jesus replies: “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” 
Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” The curious thing is that Jesus is our judge, the judge of all things in heaven and earth! He is the mediator between God and man in the fundamental priestly act of the sacrifice on the cross. So he is a judge, but in the sense of establishing the true authority of God, the victory of the things that really matter. The problems that arise in families, the disputes over inheritance, the sadness that envelopes the human situation, are all linked to greed, to our self-indulgence. Jesus is not interested in mediating between us as we dispute over worldly things: he wants us to fix our gaze on heavenly things.

Our preoccupation with ourselves prompts us to interrupt Jesus while he is speaking to us. We cannot hear what Jesus wishes to say to us while our heads are filled with our own fixations
What is greed? Where does it lead? In the first reading from Ecclesiastes we are told: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!” In Hebrew the word for “vanity” is “Vapour”. Everything is vapour, a non-entity. Everything for which we work disappears. We become greedy, avaricious, if we lose sight of that which really counts, that which is eternal. We interrupt Jesus while he is trying to speak to us, cajoling him to speak to us of other things that interest us, little things that count for nothing. We can be sure that we are fixated with these little things when we are unable to listen to Jesus because we have our own music playing in our heads.

The right way to judge our lives is not in terms of what we possess but in terms of the eternal significance of who we are and what we do
Jesus tells the parable of a man who has a bountiful harvest and places his trust in his own possessions. Possessions are the wrong parameter by which to measure one’s life. That very night the man dies and all of his possessions are of no use to him. The parable may seem a little macabre, but it sets in relief an important fact. If we wish to evaluate the true importance of things then we must reflect on their eschatological aspect, their ultimate purpose. Jesus is the one who shows us the ultimate purpose of all things. He is the ultimate judge and he lives in order to go to the Father through the passage of death. The Father is the ultimate purpose of life. We tend to make the things we possess today into the ultimate meaning of our lives, but life is only a passage and we will have to answer for it one day. It can be interesting to stop asking questions of life and instead allow one to be interrogated by life. “Will this behaviour of mine permit me to appear before God in a confident and serene way? Or will it make me feel ashamed? What do I care if my brother robs my inheritance! What really counts here is my heart, the way that I am, the way I live!” “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!” says Qoheleth. Of all the glory of this world, nothing will remain.

Detachment from things gives us true freedom. We are not poor for the sake of being poor but so we can concentrate on being rich in the eyes of God
To attack the roots of greed is to enter into great freedom. It is no accident that St Francis of Assisi made poverty his starting point. Everything in his spirituality is rooted in poverty. In every epoch of the Church, this has been a key to salvation for many souls. Detachment from things might mean poverty in this world but great riches in heaven. Jesus’ parable ends with these words: “Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” We are not poor for the sake of being poor, but for being rich in eyes of God. Poor in this world means being detached from things, ready to lose everything in order to be in the presence of God. Possessions lead us away from God with the anxieties and self-fixation they provoke. And what about the wonderful reputations we have in the eyes of others? A simple rumour and it all collapses! All that you earned during your life will soon be forgotten once you go on the pension - and it is probably good that things are like this, otherwise we would become slaves of our personality and reputation and never become an authentic person. We must be ever ready for God to come and ask us for an account of our lives. It doesn’t have to be at the moment of death: our true substance can be measured in moments of crisis or tragedy, or even achievement; we can be seen for who we really are when confronted by the things that really count. This Sunday’s splendid liturgy of the word calls us to be free, to live life from the right perspective. We are heading towards heaven; let us not waste time with things that do not last.


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Sunday Gospel Reflection